There's nothing wrong with being a centrist, if you find that your true ideology happens to lie between where Democrats and Republicans are at this particular moment in history. There are some people who feel that way. But far more common in Washington is centrism not as a sincere expression of beliefs, but as an attitude, or even a pose. The idea that wisdom is always to be found at the precise midpoint between what Democrats and Republicans are saying is a particular Washington curse, accompanied by its pox-on-both-their-houses handmaiden, the idea that both parties are always equally guilty of whatever sins are currently being committed in politics.
So when David Brooks of The New York Times wrote a column claiming that neither Democrats nor Republicans had a plan to replace the sequester and reduce the deficit, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, using the skills he learned as a writer for The American Prospect, decided to see if Brooks might want to have a chat about the topic. To his credit, Brooks agreed, though the results turned out deeply embarrassing for the NYT scribe. Not only was Brooks' grasp of the facts thin (for starters, Barack Obama does indeed have aplan), but like many centrists, he criticizes the White House for not being moderate enough, when the White House's position is almost exactly the same as his. "In my ideal world," Brooks said, "the Obama administration would do something Clintonesque: They'd govern from the center; they'd have a budget policy that looked a lot more like what Robert Rubin would describe, and if the Republicans rejected that, moderates like me would say that's awful, the White House really did come out with a centrist plan." Klein responded, "But I've read Robert Rubin's tax plan. He wants $1.8 trillion in new revenues. The White House, these days, is down to $1.2 trillion. I'm with Rubin on this one, but given our two political parties, the White House's offer seems more centrist."
It may be a bit too much to ask for David Brooks to be well-informed on the subjects he writes about. After all, he's just a columnist for the most prestigious opinion page in America, not some kind of omniscient policy god! We can only expect so much. It turns out, though, that if you start from the standpoint that everybody needs to move to where you are, certain inconvenient facts begin to blur at the corners of your vision until they disappear entirely. We know one thing, though: Brooks won't be accepting too many more invitations like Klein's.
So They Say
"Absolutely not. Any suggestion to the otherwise, to the contrary, might have been found in the minutes of the meetings of the Friends of Hamas."
—Jay Carney, when asked if Hagel would be withdrawing his nomination
Daily Meme: Snorequester
- Ugh. So, we have a week left until the sequester hits/Congress saves us at the last minute, and there is absolutely nothing new to say.
- I mean, we've been through this dozens of times already. Or at least twice.
- And, worst of all, sequester is bad for web traffic.
- Like, Mitt Romney running for president bad. It's not like you can stuff a piece with nine corgi GIFs and call it a day.
- Or can you? This Friday proved the day when even WonkBlog said goodbye to the charts and explainers and hello to the sad animal photos. Old stories that just won't die call for desperate measures.
- Huffington Post countered with 21 animals who don't give a crap about the sequester.
- Gawker made a cartoon with Kate Upton and Ryan Gosling explaining the sequester.
- The Wall Street Journal invested time in making graphics of Obama wearing a scary Frankenstein mask for Peggy Noonan's column on the sequester.
- We already explained David Brooks's weird dubstep analogy (Memo to David Brooks: Never mention dubstep again).
- The Atlantic Wire tried to give the sequester a trendy new nickname.
- Daily Intelligencer's Kevin Roose tweeted: "My sequestration explainer will just be celebrity nip-slips with CBO captions."
- TNR's strategy of getting through these hard times is re-reporting year-old news.
- We're almost there, you guys. Then you get another few months to think about what GIFs to use for your "Twelve '90s Sitcom Characters Sadder about Budget Cuts than John Boehner."
What We're Writing
- E. Tammy Kim says no one understands North Korea’s current nuclear moves better than those who live in the country next door, and who lived through the darkest moments of the 20th century.
- Jamelle Bouie explains why black voters are critical for the GOP.
What We're Reading
- Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz ruffled feathers when they made it to the Senate, but anybody who'd been listening to their campaigns shouldn't be surprised.
- "Securing the border" is always a prerequisite for starting immigration reform, and if you take a look at all the metrics, our border is safer than ever.
- They're looking to pass a sin tax on video games in Connecticut.
- Women's rights have come a long way since, you know, the Stone Age, but progress since Roe and the 1970s has been dodgy at best. MoJo examines our stops and starts.
Poll of the Day
Pew has a poll out testing the American waters on spending pre-sequester, and it seems that we're are losing the will to support the poor. In 2011, 42 percent favored increased spending to help poor Americans. Today that number is just 27 percent.