The PJ Tatler

David Brooks, Resident Conservative at the New York Times, Really Wants Romney to Attack Perry

David Brooks, nominally a conservative columnist at the New York Times, is really really worried that Rick Perry may win the GOP nomination.

His persona is perfectly tuned to offend people along the Acela corridor and to rally those who oppose those people.

That would be, people like David Brooks and Peggy Noonan.

He does very well with the alternative-reality right — those who don’t believe in global warming, evolution or that Obama was born in the U.S.

So now rejecting global warming hooey is part of an “alternative-reality”? I see what you did there, Mr. Brooks, and I don’t like it.

Since Brooks doesn’t like Perry, he decides to give Romney some tips for attacking him.

First, Romney could accuse Perry of being the latest iteration of Tom DeLay Republicanism. On the one hand, he is ideologically slippery. The man who sounds so right wing today was the Texas chairman of the Al Gore for President campaign in 1988. The man who now vows to appoint only anti-abortion officials to relevant administration jobs endorsed Rudy Giuliani four short years ago. On the other hand, he is unwavering in his commitment to the government-cash nexus. Even this week — amid much attention to his pay-to-play proclivities — Perry named two big donors to powerful state jobs.

The second line of attack is to shift what the campaign is about. If voters think Nancy Pelosi is the biggest threat to their children’s prosperity, they will hire Perry. If they think competition from Chinese and Indian workers is the biggest threat, they will hire Romney. He’s just more credible as someone who can manage economic problems, build human capital and nurture an innovation-based global economy.

If only Mr. Brooks had devoted such attention to strategizing against Barack Obama in 2008. But back then, Brooks was too smitten with Obama’s fancy pants-crease to notice what a hard-edged lefty Obama really is.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging,” Brooks recently told me, “but usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don’t know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me.”

That first encounter is still vivid in Brooks’s mind. “I remember distinctly an image of–we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

Not to put too tight a bow around that, but the lovestruck Mr. Brooks could not possibly have turned out to be more wrong.

For what it’s worth, it is evident that Romney will have to attack Perry now. He can’t get past Perry without launching some broadsides at him. I don’t think either of Brooks’ preferred lines of attack will work though. For the first, Perry can snap back about RomneyCare, a non sequitur that will put Romney on the defensive about his record while simultaneously pointing out that Perry’s record is solid. Former Democrat? Yeah, so are most Texas Republicans. Supported Gore? That’s way back when Gore was sane. Etc. For the second line of attack, anyone wanting an alternative to Nancy Pelosi would be hard pressed to find a more obvious one than the governor of Texas. Seriously. And neither Perry nor Romney are running against Pelosi anyway. They’re running against Obama.

Brooks would also do well to take a look at how Texas’ innovation-based economy has done over the past decade or so. There’s a reason companies as diverse as Caterpillar and Facebook have chosen to relocate to the Lone Star State. There are reasons more Americans are moving from other states to Texas than any other state. Romney just cannot beat Perry on that point, not when Massachusetts still has the reputation for being a tax-wild deep blue state while Texas boasts the nation’s most energetic economy.