Gambling on Obama

Something is wrong with the universe when David Brooks is making more sense than Paul Krugman. After seeing a number of specious attacks on Barack Obama coming from Krugman it was good to see at least one op-ed writer at The New York Times making sense.

David Brooks tends to make far more sense when he approaches politics from an independent viewpoint and drops the need to take pot shots at Democrats which he far too frequently lapses into. Obama passes one conservative test–no flip flops:

Like most of the rival campaigns, I’ve been poring over press clippings from Obama’s past, looking for inconsistencies and flip-flops. There are virtually none. The unity speech he gives on the stump today is essentially the same speech that he gave at the Democratic convention in 2004, and it’s the same sort of speech he gave to Illinois legislators and Harvard Law students in the decades before that. He has a core, and was able to maintain his equipoise, for example, even as his campaign stagnated through the summer and fall.

In recent campaigns it seems that the highest crime to a conservative is to change one’s position (although they do ignore many examples of this among their own). I wonder if this is partially due to the manner in which many conservative views are accepted based more on faith than evidence. For example, many conservatives believe in creationism, the possibility of a military victory in Iraq, and deny the scientific consensus on global warming based on how these issues fit into their philosophy as opposed to what the evidence shows. Liberals who change their positions based upon changing evidence seem like flip-floppers in their world view.

Brooks proceeds with more reason to support Obama, which presents a welcome alternative to the recent attacks from Krugman and many liberal bloggers who express more concern with fighting Republicans than the actual outcome:

Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country’s future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. Though Tom DeLay couldn’t deliver much for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi, so far, hasn’t been able to deliver much for Democrats, these warriors believe that what’s needed is more partisanship, more toughness and eventual conquest for their side.

But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.

Brooks even agrees with Bill Clinton on one point:

What Bill Clinton said on “The Charlie Rose Show” is right: picking Obama is a roll of the dice. Sometimes he seems more concerned with process than results. But for Democrats, there’s a roll of the dice either way. The presidency is a bacterium. It finds the open wounds in the people who hold it. It infects them, and the resulting scandals infect the presidency and the country. The person with the fewest wounds usually does best in the White House, and is best for the country.

Picking Obama is a roll of the dice as we can’t be sure what he will do on a number of issues once in office, but that is true of all the candidates. At least Obama’s instincts were far better than those of Clinton and Edwards who backed the war and the Patriot Act. Obama’s instincts on health care are also far better as he tries to avoid mandates while Clinton and Edwards see government regulation and control as the solution to most problems.

It is this understanding of the views of others, including the skepticism of government prevalent today, that allows Obama to seek solutions to problems which might be objectionable to the least number. This approach has a far greater chance of success than engaging in a never ending battle with Clinton or worse, turning everyone you disagree with into an enemy who cannot be compromised with as John Edwards does. Picking Obama is a roll of the dice, but if limited to the current front runners that is our least risky gamble.


  1. 1
    Ryan says:

    Did you mean “…believe in creationism,… “?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes. I changed that sentence around a few times trying to get it to be all matters of belief or disbelief (as opposed to believing in creationism and not accepting the scientific consensus on global warming) but it never sounded right. When I settled on what was intended (not corrected) I missed changing it back from not believing in either evolution or global warming.

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