June 12, 2013

"[I]t’s time to move beyond the political style of the baby boom generation."

"This is a style... that is highly moralistic and personal, dividing people between who is good and who is bad."

That's David Brooks on October 19, 2006, paraphrasing Obama and encouraging him to run for President. It's a paraphrase of what Obama wrote in the then-just-out "Audacity of Hope" and something he'd said to Brooks in an interview.

Look at the contradiction even in those 2 sentences that Brooks put together to promote Obama. Obama would like to "move beyond" the politics that divides people into good and bad, even as he draws a line of division and portrays the Baby Boomers as bad.

I'm searching the text of "The Audacity of Hope" to see what Obama wrote about Baby Boomers. There are 2 mentions. First, at page 50:

Despite a forty-year remove, the tumult of the sixties and the subsequent backlash continues to drive our political discourse. Partly it underscores how deeply felt the conflicts of the sixties must have been for the men and women who came of age at that time, and the degree to which the arguments of the era were understood not simply as political disputes but as individual choices that defined personal identity and moral standing.

The fury of the counterculture may have dissipated into consumerism, lifestyle choices, and musical preferences rather than political commitments, but the problems of race, war, poverty, and relations between the sexes did not go away.

And maybe it just has to do with the sheer size of the Baby Boom generation, a demographic force that exerts the same gravitational pull in politics that it exerts on everything else, from the market for Viagra to the number of cup holders automakers put in their cars.

Whatever the explanation, after Reagan the lines between Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, would be drawn in more sharply ideological terms. This was true, of course, for the hot-button issues of affirmative action, crime, welfare, abortion, and school prayer, all of which were extensions of earlier battles. But it was also now true for every other issue, large or small, domestic or foreign, all of which were reduced to a menu of either-or, for-or-against, sound-bite-ready choices. No longer was economic policy a matter of weighing trade-offs between competing goals of productivity and distributional justice, of growing the pie and slicing the pie. You were for either tax cuts or tax hikes, small government or big government.  No longer was environmental policy a matter of balancing sound stewardship of our natural resources with the demands of a modern economy; you either supported unchecked development, drilling, strip-mining, and the like, or you supported stifling bureaucracy and red tape that choked off growth. In politics, if not in policy, simplicity was a virtue.

Sometimes I suspect that even the Republican leaders who immediately followed Reagan weren’t entirely comfortable with the direction politics had taken. In the mouths of men like George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole, the polarizing rhetoric and the politics of resentment always seemed forced, a way of peeling off voters from the Democratic base and not necessarily a recipe for governing.

But for a younger generation of conservative But for a younger generation of conservative operatives who would soon rise to power, for Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove and Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, the fiery rhetoric was more than a matter of campaign strategy. They were true believers who meant what they said, whether it was “No new taxes” or “We are a Christian nation.” In fact, with their rigid doctrines, slash-and-burn style, and exaggerated sense of having been aggrieved, this new conservative leadership was eerily reminiscent of some of the New Left’s leaders during the sixties. As with their left-wing counterparts, this new vanguard of the right viewed politics as a contest not just between competing policy visions, but between good and evil. Activists in both parties began developing litmus tests, checklists of orthodoxy, leaving a Democrat who questioned abortion increasingly lonely, any Republican who championed gun control effectively marooned. In this Manichean struggle, compromise came to look like weakness, to be punished or purged. You were with us or against us. You had to choose sides.

It was Bill Clinton’s singular contribution that he tried to transcend this ideological deadlock...
And a few pages later:
In the back-and-forth between Clinton and Gingrich, and in the elections of 2000 and 2004, I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation—a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago—played out on the national stage. The victories that the sixties generation brought about—the admission of minorities and women into full citizenship, the strengthening of individual liberties and the healthy willingness to question authority—have made America a far better place for all its citizens. But what has been lost in the process, and has yet to be replaced, are those shared assumptions—that quality of trust and fellow feeling—that bring us together as Americans. 
So that's what we were supposed to be saved from by the next generation, unburdened by the 60s psychodrama. Brooks said Obama should run not in spite of his young age but  "because of his age." Brooks seemed to worry that Obama was too indecisive, with his "compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue." ("He seems like the guy who spends his first 15 minutes at a restaurant debating the relative merits of fish versus meat.") But he liked "this style" as "surely the antidote to the politics of the past several years."And "the times will never again so completely require the gifts that he possesses."

65 comments:

Rich B said...

Sure, now we have a poisonous mix of leftist ideology and Chicago thuggery.

traditionalguy said...

The Great Obama is an elite community organizer. He uses the hopes and desires of group A to defeat group B to get their votes...and then vice versa.

His approach seems so relevant to both groups' world views that it becomes a major distraction to their ability to think straight.

That is Obama's moment. He then steals everything of real value while the kiddies have a brawl.

AReasonableMan said...

Two pandering posts in one morning. How dare he criticize us baby boomers.

jacksonjay said...


"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

Methadras said...

Rich B said...

Sure, now we have a poisonous mix of leftist ideology and Chicago thuggery.


That basically creates a political mob state, which is exactly what we have.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Blessed are the cheesemakers.

The Godfather said...

I've been reading Lynne Olson's "Those Angry Days", about the struggles prior to Pearl Harbor between the isolationists (represented in the book by Charles Lindbergh) and the interventionists (represented by FDR). Many on both sides came to portray their adversaries as evil -- and in particular FDR launched an effort after the 1940 election to demonize Lindbergh and the other isolationists as pro-Nazi. It all seems quite familiar.

YoungHegelian said...

Brooks seemed to worry that Obama was too indecisive, with his "compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue."

Is there actually any evidence in Obama's style of governance, as opposed to Obama's style of ruminating, that Brooks' fear of paralysis by analysis came to pass? This is not a rhetorical question, and I'd like to hear what others think.

By my lights, Obama seems as predictable as any other candidate of what he'll say & do.

edutcher said...

Choom is the ultimate Lefty Baby Boomer.

And Brooks may be the biggest idiot in public life today.

(no, wait, can't forget Joe)

AnUnreasonableTroll said...

Two pandering posts in one morning. How dare he criticize us baby boomers.

Troll is stuck on Ritmo today.

AJ Lynch said...

Obama has been nothing but the promoter of good vs. bad. He demonizes Wall Street, rich people, banks, oil companies, Repubs, Catholics, American exceptionalism etc etc vs his own peeps and various foreign audiences. Has Obama ever written anything where he does not do that? He rarely misses a chance to pound away at "some people" who "incessantly" warn against big govt. Most of us could write Obama's speeches for him and his speeches are devoid of new ideas just the same old we need more taxpayer money.

Marshal said...

Tripe. Obama isn't a step back from the conflict, he's an escalation.

As when he claimed Bush would not help Katrina victims because they were black, a reference to a bill's failure which had in fact already passed.

edutcher said...

Community organizer is longhand for rabble rouser.

Never forget that.

BTW, shouldn't we start calling it "The Mendacity of Hope"?

Jay said...

Laugh out loud funny:

“More Americans remember George W. Bush approvingly than negatively, according to a new survey released with Washington mired in scandals and President Obama under fire for expanding his predecessor’s surveillance of Americans. Forty-nine percent of Americans view Bush favorably while 46 percent view him negatively, Gallup reports. Democrats developing an appreciation for Bush at a faster rate than any other group, though his numbers are up among across the political spectrum.”

dreams said...

"Sometimes I suspect that even the Republican leaders who immediately followed Reagan weren’t entirely comfortable with the direction politics had taken. In the mouths of men like George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole, the polarizing rhetoric and the politics of resentment always seemed forced, a way of peeling off voters from the Democratic base and not necessarily a recipe for governing."

Obama is an extremely dishonest man. It is just basically dishonest to ascribe bad motives to those who don't share your view though it's typical behavior by the liberals.

Brennan said...

I'm not sure David Brooks thought he was going to elect Valerie Jarrett as shadow President.

The above comment is only directed at the white half of Ms. Jarrett.

Nonapod said...

It's sad that a fellow who obviously opined a great deal about polarization in American politics has gone on to become one of the most polarizing political figures in modern times (and arguably all American history).

edutcher said...

The best part is we're starting to see "Miss Me Yet?" posters of Nixon.

And Black Rock now tells us 58% of Americans disapprove of PRISM.

No split available, but I guess Sharyl Atkisson is keeping them honest.

Chip S. said...

I can see how anyone reading that book would've considered Obama a sensible moderate.

After all, who doesn't see the obvious parallels b/w the New Left and Newt Gingrich?

bagoh20 said...

The truth that people don't want to accept is that despite all our education, media, and believed sophistication, we are no brighter or wiser than our grandparents and probably a lot worse. We as a group are just dumber, and we certainly possess less intern fortitude and humility. Both Obama and Brooks are perfect examples of the paradox of our lost momentum, and lower standards.

Chip S. said...

we are no brighter or wiser than our grandparents and probably a lot worse.

It may simply be that the consequences of other people's stupidity are far greater today.

P.T. Barnum could only fleece the people who believed his hype.

Lem said...

Once upon a time, David Brooks was cast out of our good graces and while trying to get back in again he wrote directions to help us find our way, when we were a little lost and so Brooks was in again and all was good and dandy, for like a day.

Because then we remembered why he was cast out and we thought ‘the reasons why Brooks was out haven't changed... indeed, they have gotten worst.

So Brooks may be on the outs… again.

Bummer for Brooks.

Robert Cook said...

"And Brooks may be the biggest idiot in public life today."

He's got a lot of competition: everyone who really believes that Obama is any sort of leftist, (as opposed to those making knowingly untrue assertions to that effect to serve their political/rhetorical agendas).

AllenS said...

The more you read about what Brooks wrote about Obama, the clearer it becomes that Brooks is a fucking idiot.

edutcher said...

Chip S. said...

I can see how anyone reading that book would've considered Obama a sensible moderate.

After all, who doesn't see the obvious parallels b/w the New Left and Newt Gingrich?


A sociopath's real skill is that he makes you see in him whatever you want to see.

Willie does the same thing (remember all those "Conservatives" who kept calling him "pragmatic" and a "centrist"?).

William said...

I don't think Obama's model is Burke. Burke was an eloquent outsider who defined the limits of power even as he sought it. Perhaps Disraeli. Disraeli was known, early in his career, for his sartorial splendor. His canary yellow vests were as resplendent as the creases in Obama's trousers. Those Britons who wanted to be led by a well dressed man found their champion in Disraeli. Also Disraeli was a successful writer. He knew how to turn a phrase, and although those turns never achieved the grand beauty of Lincoln or Churchill, they were nevertheless quite witty.....There are, of course, other examples of outsiders achieving power. Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin spring to mind. Their unmediated status allowed them to look upon their chosen lands with fresh, clear eyes and to embark on ambitious reform programs to sweep away the debris of the past.



bagoh20 said...

The simple mistake is judging people by what they say or some credentials that supposedly prove they know what they're talking about. If you hire Wile E. Coyote to build your space station because his business card says "Wile E. Coyote - Genius", then expect to be surprised.

edutcher said...

Robert Cook said...

Brooks may be the biggest idiot in public life today.

He's got a lot of competition: everyone who really believes that Obama is any sort of leftist, (as opposed to those making knowingly untrue assertions to that effect to serve their political/rhetorical agendas).


Yes, we know. Only Cook has hewed to the pure faith.

Marxu akbar!

Henry said...

We can only wish that President Obama was like Bill Clinton.

It is instructive how Obama succored David Brooks. Brooks is an institutionalist. Obama uses institutions. The characteristic strategy of the Obama presidency is to corrupt an institution, then define that as normal.

You can see this abuse of normative language in the short passages quoted above. It is Obama's characteristic gambit: define a spectrum in which the right-hand limit is set squarely in the middle of the road and the left-hand limit is way off in the progressive weeds. Middle to left is normal. Anyone on the right is an extremist.

One passage stands out:

No longer was economic policy a matter of weighing trade-offs between competing goals of productivity and distributional justice...

Distributional justice?

When you split the middle in this formulation, where do you end up? Thus Obama.

Marshal said...

bagoh20 said...
We as a group are just dumber, and we certainly possess less intern fortitude and humility.


I don't think we're inherently dumber. I think we're subjected to vastly more propoganda of greater effectiveness than ever before. 50 years ago it took basically no effort to ignore the propaganda, simply going about your life protected you. That's why the left moved into the education system. Now virtually everyone is subjected to the program, and for most people it takes years of noticing life doesn't actually work as the program describes before they break free.

Methadras said...

Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

That's why Barack Obama is so resolutely aloof, he really doesn't want to engage in the style partisanship being foisted on him by the elders in his own party.

At the end of his second term, I imagine he will turn to his wife and say, "It was between the baby boomers Michelle, I had nothing to do with it".

Chip S. said...

When you split the middle in this formulation, where do you end up?

Somewhere a bit short of some imaginary state of egalitarian perfection.

Which is why RCook doesn't think Obama is a True Leftist.

bagoh20 said...

"The more you read about what Brooks wrote about Obama, the clearer it becomes that Brooks is a fucking idiot."

I get the impression he doesn't do much fucking by choice. It's hard to look good doing it, and it's kind of messy. I could imagine him explaining to the lady in great detail with historical context and extensive footnotes (actual notes written on his feet in latin).

Marshal said...

Methadras said...
Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.


Why such a grudge, just revenge? As we've seen with Obama it won't make a bit of difference. Any who remain in leadership positions will be replaced by the even nastier ideolologues they've trained.

bagoh20 said...

Marshal, I think you describe the mechanism perfectly. People like me think we actually know stuff because we saw it on TV, or read about it online or sat in a lecture. Consequently, we think other people might have done a lot more of that, enough to be experts at stuff which they have never actually done.

edutcher said...

Methadras said...

Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you for making the distinction of Leftists.

And I couldn't agree more.

Scott M said...

distributional justice

A Dave Clapper-level tell. I enjoyed his obvious expertise at pointing out the woes of the GOP while not mentioning how the Boomers have co-opted the Dems at all.

Scott M said...

Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

Didn't Occupy WS give you the impression that the lefty boomers shuffling off their mortal coils won't have much of an affect on things?

rcommal said...

So what generation is Obama in again?

rcommal said...

So what generation is Obama in again?

Inga said...

Methadras said...

"Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned."
----------------------------
"Thank you for making the distinction of Leftists.

And I couldn't agree more."

6/12/13, 11:26 AM

Rightist baby boomers are dying off at accelerated rates, whoopie! Death panels, dont'cha know? Lefties will get the good insurance, heheh.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Hanging with a guy whose favored means of political expression was the nail bomb may have given Obama a jaundiced view of Boomer politics.

Scott M said...

Any who remain in leadership positions will be replaced by the even nastier ideolologues they've trained.

The Tree is thirsty.

exhelodrvr1 said...

It's further proof that he's extremely hypocritical, even for a politician, further proof that he didn't write his autobiography, or both. Of course, this was all impossible to predict back in 2007/2008.

SteveR said...

"Despite a forty-year remove" Yeah he wrote that (eyes roll)

Larry J said...

Chip S. said...
we are no brighter or wiser than our grandparents and probably a lot worse.

It may simply be that the consequences of other people's stupidity are far greater today.


And at the same time, the consequences of an individual's own stupidity are less now than ever before. Stupidity should be painful. Instead, it makes you eligible for a host of government handouts of money, food, housing, health care, phones and so on. And their vote counts just the same as ours (sometimes twice).

AJ Lynch said...

I think is on the cusp re baby boomer birth year. He is no different than the average librul boomer.

edutcher said...

Inga said...

Rightist baby boomers are dying off at accelerated rates, whoopie! Death panels, dont'cha know?

So much for the tolerance, compassion, and empathy of the Left.

But at least the She Devil of the SS is still stupid enough to call us rightists, so we've the only ones actually fighting for people's rights.

Lefties will get the good insurance, heheh.

With a bump of 88 - 164% in premiums.

And I can't wait to see the "care" you get, standing in line with all the wetbacks AmnestyCare lets in.

Achilles said...

Robert Cook said...

"And Brooks may be the biggest idiot in public life today."

He's got a lot of competition: everyone who really believes that Obama is any sort of leftist, (as opposed to those making knowingly untrue assertions to that effect to serve their political/rhetorical agendas).

6/12/13, 11:08 AM

I have trouble understanding how any person with the critical thinking skills I thought you had could come up with that.

If you give the state more control, it is going to exert more power over the peoples lives. The inherent bias of people who work for government is going to push the bureaucracy to the left. Even if you give leftists the benefit of the doubt they will still exert more attention on those they believe are different from them.

But it is clear the bureaucracy and the lefties manning it do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Achilles said...

Inga said...

Methadras said...

"Leftist baby boomers can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned."
----------------------------
"Thank you for making the distinction of Leftists.

And I couldn't agree more."

6/12/13, 11:26 AM

Rightist baby boomers are dying off at accelerated rates, whoopie! Death panels, dont'cha know? Lefties will get the good insurance, heheh.

6/12/13, 11:56 AM

Mr. Robert Cooke, I would like to ask how this parallels your belief that any bureaucracy can be benevolent. I know Inga thinks she is being a clever troll, but she is really just speaking the truth for once.

And Inga, you are the reason I am sad for my country. You really are a disgusting person and I wish you entitled fucks would leave and go to a country I didn't defend.

Inga said...

Achilles, you are not the superior being you think you are, listen to yourself. I find you as disgusting as you seem to find me, probably more than you can imagine, actually.

Alex said...

What's the political style of the Gen-Xers? Occupy Wall Street type rage and shitting on cop cars?

Alex said...

Robert Cook believes in some mythical HUGE government that will not be corrupt and evil.

jr565 said...

The contradictions and inherent us vs. them style was inherent even at the beginning. Brooks, admiring the press of his pants didn't quite notice.

THe degree to which this guy fooled everyone was remarkable. The emperor never had clothes, David Brooks knew he didn't have clothes but still wrote about OBama's nice clothes.

You can fool some of the people some of the time.

Joe said...

Translation: We can move beyond divisive politics as soon as those asshole conservatives let us.

Robert Cook said...

"Mr. Robert Cooke, I would like to ask how this parallels your belief that any bureaucracy can be benevolent."

I don't "believe" or expect a bureaucracy or government will be "benevolent." I believe it can be to a significant degree, answerable to the people--we whom the government purports to represent.

However, this requires an energized, engaged, aware, informed, and rational citizenry.

It also requires that we do not shrug off criminality by government acting collectively or by individuals within government, that the law apply equally to society's favored as to its unfavored.

These latter necessary conditions are the most difficult to achieve or sustain.

Blue@9 said...

What's the political style of the Gen-Xers? Occupy Wall Street type rage and shitting on cop cars?

You're a decade or more off. The Gen-Xers are running Silicon Valley.

Achilles said...

Robert Cook said...

"Mr. Robert Cooke, I would like to ask how this parallels your belief that any bureaucracy can be benevolent."

I don't "believe" or expect a bureaucracy or government will be "benevolent." I believe it can be to a significant degree, answerable to the people--we whom the government purports to represent.

However, this requires an energized, engaged, aware, informed, and rational citizenry.

It also requires that we do not shrug off criminality by government acting collectively or by individuals within government, that the law apply equally to society's favored as to its unfavored.

These latter necessary conditions are the most difficult to achieve or sustain.

6/12/13, 3:41 PM

You say the most difficult, I say impossible. The human condition makes government control a surefire way to ensure repression. It has been tried repeatedly and failed every time. Sometimes quickly and with a lot of government sponsored killing, sometimes slow and demographic like Europe's current failure.

There are too many people like Inga out there who are stupid and vindictive and all too willing to use government power to get their way. They start out with redistribution of wealth, fairness, bureaucratic death panels, IRS style repression of the wrong points of view. Eventually her kind moves on to the final solution, or eugenics, or Jim Crow. Just watch as modern day Europe continues to once again purge it's Jews. Or democrats continue to justify IRS thuggery.

Achilles said...

Inga said...

Achilles, you are not the superior being you think you are, listen to yourself. I find you as disgusting as you seem to find me, probably more than you can imagine, actually.

6/12/13, 1:20 PM

Am I supposed to feel bad or even surprised? I know people like you and we never get along. Knowing that you support Obama and his fascist regime, I would feel dirty being appreciated by the likes of you.

David said...

It just became clear to me that Obama did not write this book. Five years of observing his communication style makes that clear. The prose is too clean, lacks the self referential trackbacks and too easy to understand. Obama, who wrote this?

Doesn't sound like Ayers either, though Ayers is a much better writer than Obama.

KenK said...

David Fucking Brooks is a turd that just won't flush. Astonishing how wrong Brooks is about everything, and how the NYT continues his employment.

SukieTawdry said...

Obama does not have a "compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue." He sees his side and finds opposing opinions annoying. It's Valerie Jarrett's job to keep opposition away from him. His "compulsive tendency" is to dismiss any opinion but his own.

All that "blank screen" business was artifice, an expedient ploy. He's never been interested in bringing people together, only in marshalling sufficient numbers to do his will.

When asked about some of the methods he's used in past elections to gain advantage (opponents eliminated on technicalities, divorce records), Obama said "I think if you can win, you should win." In other words, whatever it takes; whatever winning requires.

He really does consider those of us who oppose him politically and ideologically to be the enemy. We who did not fall in the thrall of "hope and change" are not citizens worthy of representation. The branch of government he heads actively harasses us (but, I'm sure he wouldn't know anything about that).

The media is an Obama cult. Brooks is a groupie. And Obama wrote those two books like Jack Kennedy wrote his.

Marty Keller said...

"Marxu akbar"--made my day!

kentuckyliz said...

Dividing people into good and evil is called splitting. Children usually outgrow it around adolescence. Infer what you will.

Someone who criticizes another person to you and flatters you as one of the good guys, to make a play for help or benefit to themselves, is displaying behavior characteristic of sociopaths and people with borderline personality disorder. Had it happen to me and a colleague this last year. This guy seriously needs to be educated about his destructive behavior because it will be a career ender.

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