David Brooks: Thinking About McCain

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Do I wish he was running a different campaign? Yes.

It’s not that he has changed his political personality that bothers me. I’ve come to accept that in this media-circus environment, you simply cannot run for president as a candid, normal person.

Nor is it, primarily, the dishonest ads he is running. My friends in the Obama cheering section get huffy about them, while filtering from their consciousness all the dishonest ads Obama has run — the demagogic DHL ad, the insulting computer ad, the cynical Rush Limbaugh ad, the misleading Social Security ad and so on. If one candidate has sunk lower than the other at this point, I’ve lost track.

No, what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.

McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsUS Presidential Election 2008

Posted September 26, 2008 at 6:02 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Chris Taylor wrote:

“what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument”—I respect David Brooks enormously, but I disagree with him on this point.  I think record is the central argument of this campaign.  We’re in a time of enormous flux and change.  I’m not sure it’s a time when you can even make a central argument about much that will make sense or last long.  In fact, today’s “central argument,” may look like tomorrow’s absurdity.  I’m not aware of a “central argument,” in the Obama campaign beyond “prudence and temperament.”  I don’t blame either candidate for this.  They’re both fine men and I think that they’re both right that “central arguments” may not be practical right now or as important as the personal qualities and record of the person we ultimately elect.  This is why I come down on McCain’s side.  He has a MUCH longer track record and in a time of great flux and complex challenges, I feel I trust McCain’s gut instincts more than Obama’s.

September 26, 9:19 pm | [comment link]
2. BabyBlue wrote:

He’s thinking like a BoBo - but guess what, the BoBo Era is over.  David Brooks, who I also have a great respect for, is thinking in his head.  But in this new generation, we think with our heart.

This battle between the two candidates is not for the mind of America, but for her heart.


September 27, 1:53 am | [comment link]
3. Boniface wrote:

No, we must think with our heads and our hearts. Please do not allow an election to corrupt your christian witness. It can. It will.
Campaigns intentionally inflame passions. We christians must be very, very vigilant. All that glitters is not gold. I am a christian, a minister, a husband, a father, a friend and an American.  In that order. I prayer for my country and its “leaders”.  But, I will not subordinate my christian witness to the subtle pressure of viewing the presidency and the pursuit of it as some quasi religious exercise. In other words, electoral politics thrive on getting folks to substitute politics for religion. Don’t take the bait. 

September 27, 3:52 am | [comment link]
4. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “But in this new generation, we think with our heart.”

I don’t know what generation you are speaking of but none of my 30 something friends and I are thinking with our heart. 

I’m not voting for either.

September 27, 8:58 am | [comment link]
5. Sarah1 wrote:

And if McCain’s “record” is his central argument, than that is unfortunate.

September 27, 8:59 am | [comment link]
6. Jeff Thimsen wrote:

We have fallen into the mistake of expecting our candidates to offer us a central argument, or a grand design. Our expectations then become over inflated, and no candidate can live up to them. Thus we are always disappointed with our leaders. While a central argument may be important, it is not as important as integrity and character.

September 27, 1:01 pm | [comment link]
7. physician without health wrote:

I watched most of the debate last night and catually did detect a central argument from McCain: a vision of small government, existing above all to defend and secure the country from military enemies (including terrorists), and letting free markets develop to their fullest thus ensuring economic security for the populace.  I do not agree with much of what McCain says, but his vision/central argument is abundantly clear, as he articulates it very well.

September 27, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
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