One of the most depressing parts of this Sunday morning's political fare was the sad sight of Tom Brokaw flying halfway around the world just so he could dully recite Friday's David Brooks column from the New York Times at a Barack Obama who must have been wondering if the National Broadcasting Company bought all their airtime at wholesale prices or something that it could be so wasted. Many commenters and emailers had the same head-cradled-in-hands-moaning sensation at the sight of it, and today, you can all say that you have been of the same mind of this site's founder, who emailed me soon after, stating her own incredulous disbelief.
Brokaw read more or less the entire column, panning the Berlin speech on the air, and Obama basically scoffed, citing the fact that there are nine good reviews of his Berlin speech to every negative one. He goes on to point out numerous examples in the speech that undercut Brooks' central thesis, insofar as he can be said to have one.
Really, when you read the piece, you hardly worry about Obama. You worry about Brooks! That Brooks is no longer impressed with Obama seems to be, by and large, a function of his own boredom. But, even if we take him at his word (and in fairness, it's completely understandable to be bored by Obama), one worries that Brooks is replacing "being rapt with Obama's rhetoric" with blank-headed cynicism:
Much of the rest of the speech fed the illusion that we could solve our problems if only people mystically come together. We should help Israelis and Palestinians unite. We should unite to prevent genocide in Darfur. We should unite so the Iranians won't develop nukes. Or as Obama put it: "The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."
As Obama goes on to point out, Brooks is a McCain supporter. Here's Brooks providing his best version of McCain's campaign slogan: "Don't hope for a better life!"
Worse, Brooks goes on to make some terrifyingly myopic conclusions about history:
The great illusion of the 1990s was that we were entering an era of global convergence in which politics and power didn't matter. What Obama offered in Berlin flowed right out of this mind-set. This was the end of history on acid.
Since then, autocracies have arisen, the competition for resources has grown fiercer, Russia has clamped down, Iran is on the march. It will take politics and power to address these challenges, the two factors that dare not speak their name in Obama's lofty peroration.
Of course, the autocracies that have arisen, the resources which have dwindled, the clampdown in Russia and the rise of Iran are just four of the malign things that happened on the watch of President Bush, as a result of his "my mandate is to project blunt American power into the world forever and ever" doctrine One of the reasons Obama went to Europe was to signal that this great delusion of the 2000s was nearing an end.
That's why so many people cheered!