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David Brooks and Obama: Will the President Listen to the Columnist?

You know when David Brooks writes about the quick collapse of Barack Obama’s popularity, that the President’s approval is really on the decline.  Brooks, after all, is a man who from the start fell for Obama’s charisma and was ready to be seduced.  As Gabriel Sherman reports in the September 9th issue of The New Republic, his romance with the future President began in 2005, when Brooks met with Obama in his Senate office, and found him to be a man with whom he was in philosophical agreement.

“These days,” Sherman wrote, “the center-right Brooks frequently seems more sympathetic toward Obama than the liberal Paul Krugman.” Indeed, Brooks thought at the time of his interview with Sherman that the Obama team’s decisions were ninety-five per cent “good and intelligent.” 

Brooks has for a long time distanced himself from “movement conservatism,” and become the conservative whom liberals love the most. And he admits to thinking that on many issues- particularly ones like inequality, “liberals have been right.” And like Obama, whom he thinks is a Burkean by temperament and philosophy, and a real intellectual like himself, that he has finally found a kindred spirit in the White House. Thus, as Sherman puts it, “Brooks’s sympathetic columns help to validate the key myth of this White House: That it is fundamentally post-partisan.”

It must have been a shock, therefore, when the White House read today’s column. Obama, he has concluded, has moved too far to the Left and has begun to lose “the affection of the 39 percent of Americans in the middle.” Instead of governing from the center, Brooks writes, his administration “has joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress….the president has promoted one policy after another that increases spending and centralizes power in Washington.” Acknowledging that all presidents fall in the ratings when the honeymoon is over, Brooks notes that “in the history of polling, no newly elected American president has fallen this far this fast.”

A majority of Americans, some 59 per cent, now think our nation is headed in the wrong direction. This, of course, is giving Republicans hope. Brooks notes that the political expert Charlie Cook thinks the Democrats could lose more than 20 house seats. “The public,” Brooks concludes, “has soured on Obama’s policy proposals,” and independents who once backed him have swung against reform.