Friday, July 25, 2008

Mickey Mouse messianics

It's good for him that David Brooks is well-paid because it eases the pain of having to listen to Obama's speech in Berlin yesterday. Brooks, who has softened his conservative bite on a number of issues since being hired by the NY Times, has no particular use for Sen. Obama's brand of kumbaya-based fluff. Some excerpts from Brooks's column today:

Obama’s tone was serious. But he pulled out his “this is our moment” rhetoric and offered visions of a world transformed. Obama speeches almost always have the same narrative arc. Some problem threatens. The odds are against the forces of righteousness. But then people of good faith unite and walls come tumbling down. Obama used the word “walls” 16 times in the Berlin speech, and in 11 of those cases, he was talking about walls coming down.

The Berlin blockade was thwarted because people came together. Apartheid ended because people came together and walls tumbled. Winning the cold war was the same: “People of the world,” Obama declared, “look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together and history proved there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.”

Other than the historic revisionism and lack of factual support for those statements, Obama is on firm ground. More Brooks:
When John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan went to Berlin, their rhetoric soared, but their optimism was grounded in the reality of politics, conflict and hard choices. Kennedy didn’t dream of the universal brotherhood of man. He drew lines that reflected hard realities: “There are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin.” Reagan didn’t call for a kumbaya moment. He cited tough policies that sparked harsh political disagreements — the deployment of U.S. missiles in response to the Soviet SS-20s — but still worked.

Unfortunately, JFK was the last strong anti-Communist the Democrats fielded as a national candidate (RFK's stance was not nearly as strong). The Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party is merely a memory -- and that's the wing that had a realistic view of foreign policy.

Still more Brooks:

The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn’t matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.

Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama’s lofty peroration.

* * *

Obama has benefited from a week of good images. But substantively, optimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.

Brooks also claims that Obama doesn't really think this way, that there is a practical side of him. But the evidence for that is thin -- all his actions, public statements, and positions comport with the lofty idealistic Wilsonian rhetoric he constantly utters that ignores reality and would endanger the nation if turned into policy.

Image courtesy of -- buy some; The Monk has about a half dozen.

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