Not that I want to beat up on David Brooks yet again, but he just doesn't stop....
The other flash I saw was at a Romney event at the Lincoln Financial Group in Concord. Romney had slipped away from the policy chunks of his stump speech and was talking about his success in business and in running the Olympics. He was talking about how you assemble a team of people with complementary skills. How you use data and analysis to replace opinion. How you set benchmarks and how often you should perform self-evaluation.I am far from the first to observe that while Romney is happy to talk himself up as a great businessman, venture capitalist, near-omnipotent being, etc., he actually does have experience which seems directly relevant to how he would operate if he were in charge of a unit of government. Yes, folks, although he seems to have blacked out that portion of his résumé, Romney actually was Governor of Massachusetts. We don't need to look at abstract theories of what he might do, because we can look at his actual track record.
It wasn’t impassioned or angry (he doesn’t do anger). But it was Romney losing himself in something he really cares about, and it opened up a vista of how government might operate.
Brooks deems the Republicans as having an "Uphill Struggle", commenting on this and another "flash" in which John McCain expressed frustration that his party isn't deemed credible - "Nobody trusts us to do what we say we’re going to do!".
The McCain and Romney flashes weren’t about policy. They weren’t part of the normal Republican vs. Democratic dynamic. They were about leadership, honor and intelligence. If Republicans are going to have a chance, it’ll be because, by focusing on the state of American politics, they reshape the battleground under everyone’s feet.To the extent that the McCain "flash" is about intelligence, it is perhaps the type of intelligence that Lincoln recognized. Bush ran on a platform claiming he "trusted" the American voters, yet his every action since has been illustrative of deep distrust of the voters. Much of his conduct in office, and that of his Vice President and advisors, has been contemptuous of the public's right to honest answers from government officials about even the most mundane of government matters. As for running government like a business? Some joke that Bush failed in every business venture in which he participated, save for his exceptionally profitable minor investment in the Texas Rangers, so perhaps taken literally he did run government in the same manner he would have run a business.
To pretend in the manner of Brooks that Romney's presentation shows that he "cares about" issues of organizational efficiency - an implicit argument that he'll "run government like a business" - without directly relating that claim to Romney's actual actions as Governor of Massachusetts, reflects either an astounding ignorance that Romney has been a governor or dishonesty.
The "flashes" were about leadership - the lack of it in the Republican Party and Bush White House. The "flashes" were about honor - again, the lack of it in the Republican Party and Bush White House. And the flashes were about intelligence - in McCain's case, a recognition of the consequence of trying to fool all of the people all of the time, and in the case of Romney and Brooks, the persistent belief that it remains possible.