David Brooks is not happy about the way the negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" have been going so far and expressed some of that discontent on this Friday's PBS Newshour. Brooks apparently has President Obama mixed up with House Speaker
December 2, 2012

David Brooks is not happy about the way the negotiations over the so-called "fiscal cliff" have been going so far and expressed some of that discontent on this Friday's PBS Newshour. Brooks apparently has President Obama mixed up with House Speaker John Boehner when it comes to who has been "thumping" their chest during these negotiations.

He also accused President Obama of over-reading his mandate and attempted to link what's going on now to George W. Bush going out there and pushing his extremely unpopular views on privatizing Social Security, which Brooks called "reform" (a.k.a. privatizing) during this segment on PBS. Brooks now claims that it was a mistake for Bush to have done that back in 2004.

I looked around for any columns by Brooks after Bush made his statement that he had a mandate and didn't have any luck finding any. If any of our readers happen to come across commenting on the "mandate" remarks by Bush, I'd love to see what he was saying back then compared to now and if he's done a 180 on whether he thought actually thought Bush was wrong at the time, as he's saying he believes now.

I hate to bread it do David Brooks, but raising taxes on the wealthy is very popular with Americans. President Obama does actually have a mandate to do something about the income disparity in America, unlike Bush, where the more he talked about his plans for Social Security, and how wrong Al Gore was about the "lock box," and how the trust fund was nothing but a bunch of worthless I.O.U.s that those like him that borrowed against for wars and tax cuts should never have to pay back, the less popular his ideas became.

And I don't recall Bush campaigning on privatizing Social Security. So Brooks' analogy here is completely ridiculous, but that's about what I'd expect from someone who has spent his entire career trying to make Republican policies palatable to those they can con into voting against their own economic interests.

Here's more from Driftglass, who also flagged this segment and who thought as little of Brooks' remarks as I did:

Only in the precious, punch-drunk imagination of the Apostate Conservative is actually learning from your previous confrontations with vicious, reckless assholes considered an insulting affront to magnanimity.

Only measured by the dissolute sensibilities of the Apostate Conservative is opening negotiations by saying that you intend to do what you were just re-elected a stick in the eye.

Go read the rest for more on David Brooks' fellow Republican turd polisher, Andrew Sullivan's similar remarks.

Full transcript below the fold.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, David, where are we on the cliff? Over, under, sideways? What's your metaphor?

DAVID BROOKS: We're going backwards. We're going backwards.


DAVID BROOKS: I guess that is a good thing.

JEFFREY BROWN: Backing away would be good.

DAVID BROOKS: We're going toward the cliff.

JEFFREY BROWN: We're going towards the cliff.

DAVID BROOKS: And so what happened is, the election happened. Obama wins. Clearly, he ran on raising tax or raising revenue from the top 2 percent, centerpiece.

Republicans are not stupid. They sort of understand that. And so they went through a process. The day after, Boehner said, OK, revenues, but not rates, and some began to drift over, OK, rates.

And so you have had movement, until Friday or until yesterday, Thursday, when Tim Geithner goes up there and delivers an ultimatum, which is a chest-thumping stick in the eye to the Republicans.

And all the migration suddenly stops, and suddenly they get outraged. And so they are back -- they are going back to where Grover Norquist wants them to be, because they are outraged because they feel they have been insulted. They feel this is not a negotiation, this is a war.

And so I think what had yesterday from the administration was a bit of negotiation incompetence, because they have pushed us -- the psychological process the Republicans were going through, which they have to go through, has now been pushed way back.

JEFFREY BROWN: Where do you think we are?

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not quite clear as dire in my assessment as David.

I think that, first of all, David is absolutely right, that the president didn't run on big ideas or a grand agenda, but he did relentlessly, endlessly emphasize that he was committed to raising taxes and returning to the pre-Bush tax cut rates of the Clinton era.

I think that we are in a little bit of a chest-bumping stage. The process...

JEFFREY BROWN: You call it chest-bumping. He called it stick in the eye. So, it's different versions of...

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. That's right. Well, but I think what we're seeing -- I think you see some Republicans, no, we're not going to do a thing, we're just going do it with closing exemptions and eliminating exemptions.

And that is really what Mitt Romney ran on, that he was going to -- rates. I think Barack Obama is showing a different side of negotiation than he has in the past. He has been criticized by many, including me on occasion, for giving away the store.

JEFFREY BROWN: From his left.

MARK SHIELDS: From his left.

I mean, but on his health care bill, brought in farmers, brought in all the drug companies and said, OK, we're not going to invest with you. You support this. And he gave away -- first the negotiations on the debt ceiling, the same thing. He was negotiating with Medicare cuts right at the outset.

And people said, wait a minute. So here he comes in, he shows a little spine, a little steel, and he says, this is what I said I was going to do in the way of increases. And they say, well, wait, wait, but what about these Medicare cuts?

The only people who brought up Medicare cuts were the Republican, who talked about Obama was going to cut $716 billion. So now we're in a situation where nobody wants his or her fingerprints on the Medicare cuts.

OK? The Medicare cuts, I can assure you -- and this is going to upset a lot of people -- will appear in the negotiations. They will be -- paternity will be denied.


MARK SHIELDS: But they will miraculously appear. And I think we have got the outlines of what will go ahead as a deal.

JEFFREY BROWN: But who is playing what hand? Who is playing from strength here at this point?

DAVID BROOKS: Oh, on this, the president has the strength. There's no question about it.


DAVID BROOKS: First, he won the election.

Second, the polling shows that people are more likely to blame the Republicans.

Third, if you look at the way the rules of this fiscal cliff are structured, the Republicans lose big. The defense -- the cuts, the sequestration, the cuts come out of defense disproportionately. So they come out of Republican districts.

So a lot of Republicans have said, hey, this is not a great place to wage this fight. We would rather not fight here.

JEFFREY BROWN: But what do you think about Mark's point about his -- his coming on -- you are he saying he's got a strong hand, but he came on too strong still.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. And he has over-read his mandate.

The Republican -- the Democratic mantra now is, oh, I don't believe in mandates. I'm not going to over-read my mandate. And then they go in and over-read the mandate.

And the second mistake he is making, he is making exactly the mistake that President Bush made after he won reelection, when he tried to do Social Security reform. Instead of sitting down with the people you are going to need, he goes around the country, because, frankly, for recently a reelected president, it is a lot more fun to go out and give speeches around the country than to have a two-way conversation in Washington.

And so they have not had these two-way conversations. It is essentially -- the actual talking process is just in abeyance.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what do you think about this mandate question? Because earlier this week, I interviewed two congressmen on this question. And Keith Ellison, the Democrat, was talking about the mandate.


JEFFREY BROWN: The Republican was Tom Price. And he said whatever mandate the president and the Democrats think they have, it is no greater or less than the mandate that we as House Republicans also have. So there.

MARK SHIELDS: So, I mean, all respect to Dr. Price, the majority of Americans who voted in congressional elections voted for Democrats, rather than Republicans.

But because of the way the lines were drawn creatively in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, the Republicans ended up with the majority. He's right in the sense that -- and this is the problem that John Boehner has as he tries to craft a compromise within his own caucus.

And that is that the Republicans who are in that caucus, two-thirds of them won in districts of over 60 percent, so their only worry is a primary. They don't have to worry about Election Day in November. No Democrat is going to beat them. They are very safe Republican districts.

And so they are concerned about that. My quarrel with David is David is focusing on the process right now. And I'm saying the president is not good at congressional relations. He never has been. According to Mark Knoller at CBS News, who is the keeper of the flame in all of these things, he has played golf 104 times. Three times, he has played with a member of Congress, twice with Jim Clyburn, once with John Boehner.

I mean, he's not...

JEFFREY BROWN: That's a way of keeping score in Washington, right.

MARK SHIELDS: Yes. He's just not -- he's not somebody who schmoozes. He is not somebody who is good that way.

But what we judge is not the process. We judge the product. If the product that he comes out with is good, is balanced, is fair and is just, and moves the country's economy, and starts the decline of the deficit, then it's good. And the process will have worked.

If it doesn't, if it isn't, then we can go back and revisit the process and say the process was flawed.

DAVID BROOKS: Oh, the process getting there is the hard part.

We could all in our heads draw up a deal, but he has had people over the last couple of weeks, Republicans, taking risks. Boehner took a risk. Tom Cole, member of the House, took a risk. And he undercut them. He made them look stupid with what he did yesterday.

And they feel furious. They feel burned. And so you have got to help your people along. You have got to make it more possible. And so that's why I think it's -- you have just got to -- when he did -- what he offered wasn't only a balanced deal. That would be fine if he had offered something balanced.

He offered something even worse from the Republican point of view than what he had offered a couple years ago.

So he started withdrawing things off the table, and it seemed like chest-beating.

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