The PJ Tatler

David Brooks Almost Figures Out that a Great Pants Crease Doesn't Make a Great Man or President

David Brooks, the NYT’s resident faux conservative, is almost there. Almost.

The columnist who worshiped Obama’s fine pants leg creases and who admitted that he “divides people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us” — the essence of Gruberism — almost sees the light. In his column today, Brooks wonders why President Obama is being so “superaggressive” on immigration after losing the mid-terms in a landslide.

Usually presidents use midterm defeats as a chance to rethink and refocus. That’s what Obama did four years ago. Voters like to feel the president is listening to them.

Obama signed a healthcare law that the majority opposed at the time, and has defended it with smears and lies. When was he ever listening?

But Obama’s done no public rethinking. In his post-election news conference, the president tried to reframe the defeat by saying the turnout was low, as if it was the Republicans’ fault that the Democrats could only mobilize their core base. Throughout that conference, the president seemed to detach himself from his own party, as if the Democrats who lost their jobs because of him were a bunch of far-off victims of some ethereal malaise.

That’s how this president sees the whole country. It’s how he has always seen and treated the red states. He not only does not feel our pain, he is often the instigator of it. Now Obama has gotten around to loathing his fellow Democrats, too.

Usually presidents with a new Congressional majority try to figure out if there is anything that the two branches can do together. The governing Republicans have a strong incentive to pass legislation. The obvious thing is to start out with the easiest things, if only to show that Washington can function on some elemental level.

But the White House has not privately engaged with Congress on the legislative areas where there could be agreement. Instead, the president has been superaggressive on the one topic sure to blow everything up: the executive order to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws.

Brooks notes the obvious, which is that Obama is only treating immigration as an urgent issue now, not when he could have had the Democrat supermajorities in both houses of Congress pass an actual law. Instead, Obama is treating it as an urgent issue only when he can break the Constitution and pick a massive fight over it.

And that’s where Brooks loses the plot.

This move would also make it much less likely that we’ll have immigration reform anytime soon.

Obama does not and never did want to pass a law. He wanted it as a live issue, and now a means to another end. He does not care about immigrants, legal or illegal, or the rule of law.

White House officials are often misinformed on what Republicans are privately discussing, so they don’t understand that many in the Republican Party are trying to find a way to get immigration reform out of the way. This executive order would destroy their efforts.

Which is exactly what Obama wants.

The move would further destabilize the legitimacy of government. Redefining the legal status of five million or six million human beings is a big deal. This is the sort of change we have a legislative process for. To do something this seismic with the stroke of one man’s pen is dangerous.

Instead of a nation of laws, we could slowly devolve into a nation of diktats, with each president relying on and revoking different measures on the basis of unilateral power — creating unstable swings from one presidency to the next. If President Obama enacts this order on the transparently flimsy basis of “prosecutorial discretion,” he’s inviting future presidents to use similarly flimsy criteria. Talk about defining constitutional deviancy down.

I’m not sure why the Obama administration has been behaving so strangely since the midterms.

Brooks muses that it might be anger at losing, or the Gruberism that everyone else is dumber than those in the White House (an elitist position that Brooks shares). He misses the most obvious possibility: That division and chaos are exactly what Barack Obama has always wanted. He is picking this fight because he wants to pick this fight.

Brooks finishes up, wondering if Obama will look back at his presidency with regret because of all the damage he has done, but again Brooks absolves Obama of blame.

I wonder if, post-presidency, Mr. Obama will look back and regret that he got sucked into the very emotional maelstrom he set out to destroy.

Obama did not get “sucked into” anything. What part of “fundamentally transform America” did David Brooks miss when Obama issued that threat? All of it, apparently.

The mysterious cipher, the great divider, the angry community agitator, the shameless liar — this is who Barack Obama is. He never intended to be a unifying figure, and he never intended to stay within the bounds of American law or tradition. “Fundamental transformation” necessitates destruction first.

Six years later, David Brooks the intellectual still doesn’t even have the very first clue.