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Brooks and Krugman on the State of the Campaign

The New York Times had two useful columns this morning – one by  Paul Krugman explaining how McCain’s lies about Obama are even worse than Bush’s lies about Kerry or Gore:

[T]he muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

But there’s another answer, which may be even more important: how a politician campaigns tells you a lot about how he or she would govern…

I’m talking…about the relationship between the character of a campaign and that of the administration that follows. Thus, the deceptive and dishonest 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign provided an all-too-revealing preview of things to come. In fact, my early suspicion that we were being misled about the threat from Iraq came from the way the political tactics being used to sell the war resembled the tactics that had earlier been used to sell the Bush tax cuts.

I give Krugman a lot of grief for his attacks on Obama – which resemble small-minded tantrums. But despite these frustrations with Krugman, I have always acknowledged he can be quite effective. He is simply a polemicist – and he will force the facts to fit into his pre-conceived arguments (except perhaps on economics where he is more subtle.) But when the facts happen to fit his pre-conceived arguments well – then his columns are a thing of beauty, like this past one, making a very important point.

David Brooks, conservative, writes the other column worth reading today. He attempts to explain the next steps the Republican party has to take in order to seriously address the major issues facing the nation:

If there’s a thread running through the gravest current concerns, it is that people lack a secure environment in which they can lead their lives. Wild swings in global capital and energy markets buffet family budgets. Nobody is sure the health care system will be there when they need it. National productivity gains don’t seem to alleviate economic anxiety. Inequality strains national cohesion. In many communities, social norms do not encourage academic achievement, decent values or family stability. These problems straining the social fabric aren’t directly addressed by maximizing individual freedom.

And yet locked in the old framework, the Republican Party [has a] knee-jerk response…

The irony, of course, is that, in pre-Goldwater days, conservatives were incredibly sophisticated about the value of networks, institutions and invisible social bonds. You don’t have to go back to Edmund Burke and Adam Smith (though it helps) to find conservatives who understood that people are socially embedded creatures and that government has a role (though not a dominant one) in nurturing the institutions in which they are embedded.

Brooks is describing here Barack Obama’s economic plans. Although I think he still is prejudiced enough against liberals and Democrats – assuming they will act irresponsibly if they are in power – that he cannot support Obama. And he seems to have a very positive feeling towards McCain that will lead him to hope that McCain will adopt Obama’s economic plan with a slightly more conservative tilt – despite what McCain is promising now – rather than to back the man with the plan he agrees with.

But despite this, it is because he writes columns like this that I truly look to David Brooks as an almost independent-minded thinker – even if he still remains tethered to the Republican party.

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