So, today one of the biggest talking points on the blogs (at least the Corner) was a well written piece by Gabriel Sherman about the relationship between New York Times columnist David Brooks and the Obama Administration.
First admission, while I think the Times is an excellent news paper, I hardly ever get a chance to read it. Secondly, I’m not a big fan of David Brooks, for the obvious reasons that are stated in the article. As Sherman says:
Brooks has kept a certain distance from movement conservatism. “David is a conservative who is motivated by a deep distrust of ideology,” former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, a Brooks friend, says. “That is a strain of conservatism. It puts him in a position where he’s not taking views simply because they fit a party line.”
So, right there- I respect a thinker who breaks from the party lines (some of my favorite bloggers
are people associated with the American Scene
, where it can hardly be said they follow a standard “conservative” line. However, Brooks and Sullivan’s) insistence on Obama’s Burkean
qualities are strange. There is no denying that Obama has a strong intellect, but does he really have a Burkean
Maybe a different Obamacon will shed some light on this- at the Daily Beast, Jeffrey Hart also holds Obama up as a “prudential” politician- his first example- in relation the Iraq war:
Obama did understand. In his now famous 2002 speech, while he was still a state senator in Illinois, he said: “I know that a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, of undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without international support will fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. I’m not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
But, didn’t he also suggest invading Pakistan and aren’t we still at war in Afghanistan? Hart’s second point relates to abortion:
Ever since Roe vs. Wade, abortion has been a salient controversy in our politics. But the availability of abortion is linked to the long advancement of women’s equality. Again, we are dealing with social change, and this requires understanding social change, a Burkean imperative that Obama understands.
Defining social change is difficult in this instance. For a start, most states were enacting abortion laws before Roe vs Wade- the case simply nationalized the issue. Now, Obama’s
own position on abortion is stated on the 35th
anniversary of Roe V Wade
“I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president. “
The Freedom of Choice act
would prohibit all levels of government from interfering with abortion. Now, as Hart elequently
makes clear that pregnancy will always be a concern for young woman, so abortion will always be a social fact. This is a fair point- if only Hart acknowledged
the fact that the American public has become steadily more pro-life within the past twenty years. By forcing a law through congress is this not a form of social engineering? Or at least
a disrespect for organic change, one that is by nature Burkean
? Now, as the Wikipedia
article suggests, Obama quickly cast the bill aside after becoming President- I’ll leave that to a reader to decide if that’s Burkean
. Equally, Hart’s last point seems moot to me- as he addresses- McCain himself supported stem cell research.
So, to Hart, a Burkean is simply a politician who is “prudent” and understands social change.But But, neither of main points seem to align with any form of respect for “tradition”. It would seem to me, that Hart sees the true “conservative” as just someone who agrees with him. Fair enough.
As for Brooks, I don’t really see anything different between him and Hart. Maybe Brooks is less angry than Hart, just search through the archives at the New York Times
you will find many smart ideas, but also soft on the simple fact that Obama is a progressive. His column on July 21st, seems to throw the blame to Obama lazily following congress. In Sanders piece, it delves into Brooks’ personal relationship with members of the Obama administration; It’s not a stretch to infer that much of his feels are based off of a personal admiration
for the man, less than a substantively
” thread of policies. Obama is a lot of things- but Burkean is not one of them. Much of the Obamacon fan fair is just wishful thinking. I will explore this in my next post.