Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stone walls do not a prism make

I wonder if David Brooks is looking a little enviously over at David Frum—the way Islamic Jihad might have looked at Hamas after Hamas got out of Syria—for freeing himself from the Republican yoke before it became really unspeakably embarrassing.
Infinitely long green cuboid seen through a Dove-prism array. From Wikipedia.
In today's column, he starts with a "look first upon this picture, then on this" that certainly makes you suspect something of the kind:
You look at the Romney-Ryan ticket and see that they are much more conservative than you. They don’t believe in tax increases ever. You think tax increases have to be a part of a budget deal. They want to slash social spending to the bone. You think that would be harsh on the vulnerable and bad for social cohesion.
You look at the Obama-Biden ticket. You like them personally. But you’re not sure what they want to achieve over the next four years. The country needs big changes, and they don’t seem to be offering many. Where’s the leadership? 
Tough decision, eh, Sparky? Which is it to be? Wrecking the weak and discombobulating the community, or getting only a couple of those beloved big changes? Six of one and half a dozen of the other, eh?

It's not easy for Brooks to work his way through to a decision either. He manages, but his heart may not be quite in it.

The chosen method is to look at the candidates through what he calls a "prism": that is, in terms of the one item he regards as the most crucial to be dealt with, putting a damper on escalating Medicare costs.
Looking at the candidates through this prism, you see that President Obama deserves some credit for taking on entitlement spending. He had the courage to chop roughly $700 billion out of Medicare reimbursements.... Still, you wouldn’t call Obama a passionate reformer....
When you look at Mitt Romney through this prism, you see surprising passion. By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has put Medicare at the center of the national debate. Possibly for the first time, he has done something politically perilous. He has made it clear that restructuring Medicare will be a high priority. This is impressive. If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.
Yes, by selecting his vice presidential candidate, Romney has demonstrated surprising passion for Medicare reform. (All Obama has done is to restructure the entire health care delivery system.) And not only that, but the Romney program is surprising, too:
Moreover, when you look at the Medicare reform package Romney and Ryan have proposed, you find yourself a little surprised. You think of them of as free-market purists, but this proposal features heavy government activism, flexibility and rampant pragmatism.
It's surprises all round! Especially the rampant pragmatism part. (Do you think Obama's pragmatism is more sejant erect—"Sitting, but with the front paws raised up"?)

So there you have it. Since Obama merely does things to hold down the growth in Medicare costs, without showing an adequate degree of passion, Romney is clearly the better man, since he picked a nominee for vice president. Moreover—and this is just icing on the cake—they have a plan, and not just any plan, but one that is directly opposed to their most passionately held principles. (Obama could presumably come up with something like that, given that he is himself opposed to those principles, but would it be passionate? Would it be surprising?)

But did you never look at anything through a prism before, then, Brooksie? (I know, I know, his mother made him go to one of those girly schools where you never get to touch anything--she was afraid, with his personality, he'd end up getting hydrochloric acid poured on his head.) Let's just say it's not the best way to find out what it looks like, on account of the light-bending.
Wedge prism. From Wikipedia.

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