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David Brooks: Ghost Writer

David Brooks, perhaps anticipating a disaster for Romney in Wednesday night's debate, has thoughtfully provided an opening statement for the candidate. It begins: "Ladies and gentlemen, Id like to use the opening minutes of this debate a little differently. Id like to say that I wish everybody could have known my father, George Romney. He was a great public servant and Ive always tried to live up to his example. The problem is that you get caught up in the competitiveness of a campaign and all the consultants want to make you something youre not."And continues: "Ive allowed that to happen to me. Im a nonideological guy running in an ideological age, and Ive been pretending to be more of an ideologue than I really am. Im a sophisticated guy running in a populist moment. Ive ended up dumbing myself down. It hasnt even worked. Im behind. So Ive decided to run the last month of this campaign as myself."Brooks goes on to outline some interesting policy analysis and suggestions for the Republican candidate.I found it a refreshing, if unlikely, stance for Romney to take. Your views: Yes, especially you Republicans!Here: NYTimes, October 2.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I'm pretty sure that in order to see Romney as himself, we'd need some sunglasses like Roddy Piper's in "They Live."

Sigh. Politics has become a blood sport. Such an approach would immediately be seized on by the media as a mere tactic, "brilliant" or "desperate" or "clumsy" or some such quick cut down. It's all a show - two guys fighting it out on the stage for the bloodthirsty media and the jaded public.

I like Brooks's ideas. And because I'm a Democrat, or at least have always voted that way, I'd like to see Obama join him in this kind of mea culpa, helping to explain why this campaign, even more than prior campaigns, has turned into less of an explanation about what each candidate will do to help solve the country's problems, than litanies of reasons why his opponent will be a disaster. I'm sure Obama has the analytical smarts to do this, and no doubt Romney does too. But I think they're both terrified of awkward questions (not so different, perhaps, from those bishops who prefer not to engage such questions themselves).

If Mitt Romney were to deliver the speech that David Brooks has written for him, Republicans would be disappointed. It does not contain enough bluster and Republican baloney.

Well MOS, I'm no Republican - because I learned how to read when I was five years old. However, I quickly perused Brooks' op-ed this morning - I try not to give too much time to Brooks for mental health reasons. Yet, as is my want, I would like to take the opportunity for a few whacks at David Brooks.Brooks, I believe, is forever trying to make nice with his more neanderthal colleagues on the right (think WSJ) to justify his conservative bona fides and his dalliance with the liberal establishment at the NYT. While I believe that Brooks may be sincere in his attempts at intellectual honesty, I'm sure that he is just appalled at the craven state of the Romney campaign."Got any good "zingers," Mittens to hopefully humiliate the President?"What Brooks is essentially suggesting to Mittens is what we in the electorate have been waiting for from Mittens for lo these long last six years that he has been running for President: To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, "Is there any there there?"Sadly, as evidenced by Mittens' precipitous drop in the polls especially in the so-called "battleground states," we have learned that Mittens has not matured much beyond his days at that tony Michigan prep school where he used to amuse himself by bullying gay classmates. Mittens is, it would seem, what he is!It would certainly be a game changer if Mittens took Brooks' advice. But, wouldn't that tact in the debates just feed into the entrenched opinion of Mittens as shallow and a flip-flopper? I just hope that Mittens head is still facing forwarded after all the spinning he has been doing.I half-expect Mittens to announce in his opening statement that he's "going rogue!!!"

Everyone should make a habit of reading David Brooks just when the NYT slyly puts his column on the left side of Op-Ed, with his nemesis Paul Krugman on the right.This gives all fans of the Great Books Brooks on which Brooks cut his milk teeth a chance to see how essential a good background in a quantitative social science is to the formation of sensible opinions in the realm of contemporary politics.No question, David Brooks is a paradigmatic "Very Serious Person." But he should never be read without a healthy chaser of Paul Krugman.

Haven't seen Brooks and Krugman on the same page in a while. Have they been separated for fighting? Or just for the election?

From Brooks' column:"The second reason theres been no budget compromise is that Republicans have been too rigid, refusing to put revenue on the table. Ive been part of the problem. But, globally, the nations that successfully trim debt have raised $1 in new revenue for every $3 in spending cuts. I will bring Republicans around to that position. Theres no way President Obama can do that."I would love to hear Romney say that. Even more so, I would have loved to hear him say it at the time such a case should have been made: to the GOP faithful during the primary season. The party could have decided then whether it wanted to run under that banner, but unfortunately, Romney didn't give it that opportunity. Because Romney didn't even try to make that case then, he has no credibility to make it now.

"At last, Ive tried to be on the level with you."It's too late. If he said this, we'd rightly ask:What does it say about your character that you've run such a bogus and dishonest campaign for so long? Would you ever have leveled with us if you weren't convinced you were losing?

Excellent point by Jim Pauwels (10/2, 4:13 pm)---the time for Romney to give that speech was Jan. 3, not Oct. 3. As for David Brooks, the time for him to write that column was sometime in 2011. And then to regularly keep making those points for the past nine months. If Brooks and commentators, political operatives, elected officials and other Republican Party actors want a more centrist Republican Party, then they're going to have to do what centrist Democrats did in the 1970s and 80s to build the power necessary to counterbalance the ideological extremists in their party.

It looks like Krugman writes on Mondays and Fridays, Brooks on Tuesdays and Fridays.

@Abe: Once we get the glasses, what do you think all the no longer invisible signs will say?


Would give Brooks a B+ for creativity.But, beyond that, I have a bridge for sale in West Texas.Really, this merely reinforces a current Romney deficit - he acts like a well-oiled Weathervane. Going to war with his base, the Tea Party, Fox News, and Rush won't get him anywhere. And to base part of your arguments on Woodward's book? Really? Could have sworn that it was Cantor stopping Boehner from a decent compromise; much less grand bargain. Yes, Obama may have a specfic style but he appears to be able to negotiate and compromise when necessary and needed. In fact, Brooks seems to argue more against Congress than the President.His other arguments are not very persuasive - healthcare? As he states, most experts would not double down on the marketplace to solve our cost and outcome curve. Isn't this the same medical marketplace that got us into the current mess?Deficit and Medicare - again, non partisan groups indicate that deficits can wait - my guess is that Obama would enact his Simpson-Bowles recommendations if he had a Congress that would try to work with him. Why would Romney have any better chance - esp. if the Senate stays Democratic?Agree with JPauwels - what we needed 9 months ago was the party of Lincoln (diversity and human rights - think immigration and latino vote); of Teddy Roosevelt (Big Business, populism, reform - think the Gillded Age, commerce/banking reforms, defense of the working people - think unions, middle class, government workers such as teachers, safety, etc.) and Reagen (think boldness in terms of the Cold War; ability to negotiate tax policies, etc. - think bipartisanship). Romney allowed himself to be bought off by those who have skewed the Republican Party to the point that it is unrecognizable (can you say - Goldwater, John Birch Society, etc.).

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