Wednesday, February 25, 2009

David Brooks dreams up a revolution

Yesterday, David Brooks put up a characteristically compelling -- and characteristically misleading -- frame for a set of events -- in this case, Obama's first-month initiatives. Starting with a primer on conservative scepticism about the unintended consequences of rapid government-initiated change, Brooks lumped together Obama's emergency measures and broad social goals to paint the President as head of a coterie of technocrats launching a "domestic revolution."

Brooks neglected to mention that Obama takes office in the wake of a revolution -- rightward. Obama is proposing a restoration -- in his own terms, of balance, fairness, commitment to shared prosperity. It's hardly revolutionary to seek to repair crumbling infrastructure, or to bring health care delivery to a level of efficiency approaching that of every other wealthy country on earth, or to establish a measure of oversight for a financial industry run amok -- or even to use taxes and government research funding to grapple with a clear and present danger like global warming.

To the extent that Mr. Obama is an innovator, it's in his determination to hold government action accountable to outcomes analysis -- to accept the "diet" that he once said that Ronald Reagan imposed on liberalism.

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