Friday, January 27, 2012

Letter to David Brooks

By David Brooks, New York Times, January 26, 2012
It’s sad to compare that era of bigness to the medium-sized policy morsels that President Obama put in his State of the Union address. He had some big themes in the speech, but the policies were mere appetizers. The Republicans absurdly call Obama a European socialist on the stump, but the Obama we saw Tuesday night was a liberal incrementalist.

There was nothing big, like tax reform or entitlement reform. There was no comprehensive effort to restore trust in government by sweeping away the tax credits and special-interest schemes that entangle Washington. Ninety percent of American workers work in the service economy, but Obama spoke mostly about manufacturing.
Dear Mr. Brooks: You seem to have forgotten that Mr. Obama worked most of last summer to get a "grand bargain" with John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, on many big items. You also seem to have forgotten that it fell through because Mr. Boehner could not deliver the votes necessary in the House. You also seem to have forgotten that virtually since the passing of the Health Care bill, there has been gridlock in the Congress, with the Tea Party and the Republican leader in the Senate both publicly declaring their goal to be "Obama is a one-term president".
One of the basic rules of government is that, in an election year, you don't paint pictures the country is not ready for, lest in attempting to move the public too far when it is struggling for survival, you force them into regression.
Mr. Obama, unlike your Republican friends, seeks to make change whenever and wherever possible. For example, he brought the auto makers together, to secure a commitment that they would produce cars that achieve 52 miles per gallon of fuel by 2020.
That did not make loud and 72-point headlines; however, it is a significant achievement, and will result in a dramatic change both to the design of the auto as we know it, but also a significant reduction in demand for oil.
He has also generated a new industry, led by America, in the generating of car batteries, with various technologies still on the drawing board.
Let go of the past, Mr. Brooks, when the "Cecil B. deMille" version of political accomplishment was in fashion. We live in different times; technology is changing the micro managers into nano-micro-managers, and in that context Mr. Obama is still seeing both the forest and the trees, and acting, often without either fanfare or Congressional votes (which are unavailable to his ideas) to demonstrate he is the president of all Americans.
We know all Republicans will forever be disappointed in Mr. Obama; he is a Democrat and this is an election season when Democrats are "fair game" for all Republicans.
However, as a serious thinking and demonstrably intelligent writer with considerable heft in both your ideas and your position in the bully pulpit of the New York Times, you can be expected to surmount petty political partisanship at least once in a while. Today, you failed in to meet that expectation.
Yours truly,
JTA

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