Prominent and popular commentator David Brooks of the “New York Times” and PBS television reporting has been a favorite pundit of mine for some time. He scored with his book “BoBos in Paradise,” a bestseller for many years. Brooks describes BoBos as a marriage of 1960s liberal idealism with 1980s self-centered narcissism.
The acronym for “BoBo” is Bourgiose-Bohemian, meaning a conventional lifestyle of consumerism with a bohemian attitude.
Brooks’ commentaries on business published for years in the “Wall Street Journal,” “Washington Post,” and now the Times provide insights that may be overlooked with the deluge of media hype. He always seems to find an alternative viewpoint on many political and economic issues of the day that others overlook.
I was inspired to prepare this commentary based on a recent editorial from the Times called “Where’s the Beef?” Using his deft choice of words and penetration of personal characteristics, Brooks wrote an absorbing profile of the Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Despite all the accolades she has captured for a feisty debate style, he does not see that the ambitious presidential hopeful really has much to say underneath the bravado statements in the recent public debates
I tend to agree with Brooks after watching the third cattle-call Republican debate and comparing the multiple candidates’ positions on national issues. Carly gave the impression that business school tactics could run the federal government. I think she would find this to be a pipe dream under the standard attitude of politics as usual.
With so many candidates in the field, Brooks believes what matters most is the ability to grab the spotlight. The digital age of FaceTime and YouTube provides the power of a candidate to create significant moments. Carly is good at it, the columnist reported.
The same can be said about Donald Trump’s bluster. The difference is, Trump has rounded up support from significant political groups that like what the self-appointed prophet is dishing out to capture media headlines. Can that campaign style capture the nomination?
Carly sounds good in front of a camera, but where’s the substance, or as Brooks puts it, “Where’s the Beef?” Her product development is totally unimaginative and so completely conventional Republican. On policy grounds her views are Orthodox and hardly send an innovative message to win a Republican primary.
In a later commentary published in the Times, David Brooks zeroed in on the useless efforts of our elected officials to run the government in his editorial, “The Ugovernable’s.” It refers to Congress and its constant deadlock without past leadership by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. There is some hope that the recently appointed Paul Ryan can pull together the various Republican factions that have enough power to create a gridlock on most controversial legislation.
Some of Brooks’ sage remarks about the right-wing conservatives taking control include, “These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed.” That’s pretty strong stuff, but the writer is trying to define a true conservative. He observes that conservation stands for intellectual humility. Consequently, conservatives of this disposition can be dull but they know how to run institutions, he concluded.
Applying this criteria (especially humble) does not seem to qualify either Carly Fiorina or Donald Trump as a suitable conservative leaders of the Republican Party. I’m sure we will hear more over the next 12 months of campaigning as the field of candidates is narrowed down.
The Republican caucus was in total disarray when John Boehner resigned as Speaker and the logical replacement candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew from being nominated for the post. When the next choice, Paul Ryan who had a comfortable position as Chairman of Ways and Means and demanded concessions, the insurgents were forced to realize nobody really wanted that job.
Ryan declared “We have an opportunity to turn the page” as he accepted the post with only a few dissenters voting against him. That’s a very strong prediction based on the past failures of the current Congress to govern.
He already flexed his muscles by opposing President Obama’s immigration policies, declaring that any reform will have to wait until the new administration is in place in 2017.
In two following “Wall Street Journal” commentaries, Brooks noted that the celebrity candidates were fading as the shopping phase ends and the buying phase began. Donald Trump and Ben Carson seem to go invisible when the subject of actual governance comes up, while Ted Cruz looks likely to be the favorite candidate of disaffected white working class, the non-college-educated voters who are now registering their alienation and distrust.
The commentary than focuses on Mark Rubio following his favorable performance in the third debate. stressing that Rubio has natural skills, but his greatest weakness is his greatest strength: his youth. Among the gaggle of candidates, Rubio appears to be the only child of this century with a serious focus on the real major issues.
One of Rubio’s principal campaign messages is the unemployed and workers living at the poverty level. Brooks believes the candidate wants to reward people who get on the ladder of opportunity. That also touches on the fact that the Republican debates rarely touch on education, but Rubio has a slew of ideas for reform marking him as a balance of marketing and product, according to the columnist.
Shortly after that endorsement, Brooks showed some reservations on Marco Rubio’s efforts to being “a little on both sides.” He opened with a review of the Republican Party future with the question whether the Republican Party can become the champion of the new America that is rising around us or will they recede back into the old America that is never coming back?
The most contentious debate currently is how Americans view outsiders. There is no question that the most conservative (or should we say reactionary) group wants to build a wall to exclude foreign immigrants. The same group simply lacks the ability to acknowledge the reality that you cannot deport 11 million people, or build a high enough fence to keep them from entering.
Brooks maintains that most of the problems the country face already have laws that are not being enforced. Going further, he believes most of these laws are dysfunctional. As the Republican candidate debates continue there should be more light shed on each candidates true position on immigration, abortion, tax reform and federal deficit.