Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My dream Obama

David Brooks writes:
The original Handsome Dan, purchased by Yale tackle Andrew Graves from a local blacksmith in 1889. From Wikipedia.
In my column last Friday, I inadvertently said that President Obama had no plan for helping Speaker Boehner control his caucus and averting the sequester other than his usual program of taxing the rich, or at least that's what I'm told I said, although it doesn't sound quite right. But apparently it actually wasn't quite right, is the thing, strange as it seems, and the White House actually does have some ideas that they have informed the Republicans about. Obama is still useless, obviously, but not in exactly the ways I described.
But since humiliation is good for the soul, I want everybody to know that I'm fully capable of acknowledging when I'm wrong, and I thought I would do that today by working it over in my mind and showing how my conclusion—that Obama is a [jump]
totally unsatisfactory president—is correct, even though I derived it from false premises. And then of course I'll append a lecture on what Obama ought to do instead. Or maybe just make do with the lecture. I mean, why does it have to be about me all the time?
First, he should not be Clinton. Clinton's policies were all very well for his time, but in the two decades since he was president [note to intern: who was president after Clinton? try to get back to me before teatime] our society has greatly changed, with massive increases in income inequality, infrastructure disrepair, and debt. Those wussy Clinton policies could party like it was 1999, because it actually was 1999, which is no longer the case.
Second, he should not be the socialist Reagan. This is the rut he has fallen into in his second term. He keeps pushing the collectivist, pro-government ideas favored by the people who voted for him, instead of the Republican ideas his supporters hate. In this way he consistently coddles his base, leaving them with the complacent belief that they're just as good as their opponents. He needs to challenge them, toughen them up, and teach them something about humility.
But my real problem with his current approach is the old stale-debate dilemma. Where we just go on having the same stupid argument we've been having since 1980. Obama promised in 2008 that he was going to come up with some fresh new debates and as far as I'm concerned he has just not done that.
But I have a dream. I have a dream that Obama will forget about being the conservative Clinton and the liberal Reagan and decide to be the centrist Teddy Roosevelt, packaging my ideas about maintaining the power structure exactly as is and making them sound as fresh as Baby out of the bath. I have a dream that Obama will be the Mao Zedong of the Tea Party, taking all the undeserved wealth from rich old people and turning it over to rich middle-aged people. I have a dream that Obama will one day remember what the philosopher George Santayana said, about how Americans don't solve problems, they just leave them behind. I have a dream that he'll just pack all our troubles in an old kit bag and drive on to the next frontier, of means-tested Medicare, VAT,  and telling the girls to hold tight until they get that M.R.S. degree.
Actually, according to the intern, Santayana didn't say that: I did, back in 2004. Or even 2002, when I was still an employee of that Billie Kristol, speaking of leaving your problems behind. Santayana was just my beard. What Santayana said was totally different. But that's not my problem, and if it is I can leave it behind too.
College girl--a Penn fan.
Editor's note: What Santayana actually said, in a somewhat light-hearted essay of 1892 attempting to explain Yale to his own university of Harvard, was that whereas the Harvard man is always anxiously trying to solve problems, the Yale man is above such preoccupations:
Yale has a religion. The solution of the greatest problems is not sought, it is regarded as already discovered. The work of education is to instil them revealed principles and to form habits congruous with them Everything is arranged to produce a certain type of man.  The mope of study, it ix true, is becoming very wide, and a glance at the programme of courses would riot suggest much more bin in the instruction than there is at Harvard or at a German university. But in reality these miscellaneous studies are at Yale merely incidental; they am "frill" concessions to the foreign idea, to the new desire of being a university and of leaving nothing out. lie essential object of the institution is still to educate rather than to instruct, to be a mother of man rather than a school of doctors.
[This text seems to have been digitized at a time when scanners were less reliable than they are now. Rather than try to correct it—to figure out what is meant by the "mope of study"—I'll leave it to readers to enjoy.]

I love to think of Brooks being the Professor of Humility, busily making himself into an artificial Yalie in just this complacent, snooze-in-the-armchair sense, frills and all, and misquoting the great philosopher without even realizing that Santayana was being funny.

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