After having dispatched Dean in his previous columns, NYT David Brooks appears to have set his sights on new Democratic frontrunner John Kerry:
If you look back over the span of John Kerry's career, you find that every few months or years he takes a hard look at some thorny public issue. Then, after some period of reflection, he unleashes his inner Moynihan and comes out with an interesting and politically dangerous speech.
The problem is that he almost never follows up. When he makes these speeches he habitually asserts that he will mount a long public crusade. But then he takes his controversial ideas, jams them into a jar and buries them in the backyard.
If you watch him campaign today, you will have no clue that he has ever had interesting thoughts on education, civil rights, poverty and so on. On these and other issues, he campaigns as an orthodox Democrat, comfortably in tune with Ted Kennedy and the party's major interest groups. Far from continuing in the reformist vein when it comes to education, he has a core platform plank that is pure pander: "Stop Blaming and Start Supporting Public School Educators."
Were these speeches just cynical efforts to inoculate himself from the charge that he's a conventional Massachusetts liberal?
Both John McCain and John Kerry nearly died in Vietnam. Both say that these experiences have made every day that has followed feel like an gift from God, and that they are going to take this extra time to do what is right. The difference is that once McCain latches onto an issue, like campaign finance reform, he sticks with it year after year.
John Kerry doesn't. He will momentarily embrace daring ideas, but if they threaten core constituencies, he often abandons them, returning meekly to the Democratic choir.
That is the difference between speechifying and leadership.
Brooks seems to not like any Democrat. Why he embraces Bush given Brooks' appearances on the News Hour in which he typically appears to be quite moderate is beyond me. Maybe his paychecks are quite nice.
In any case, I've got one thing to say to Brooks:
Buddy, I would take the presidential leadership of a speechifying, screeching monkey over Bush's any day. The outcome could hardly be any worse. And the monkey would probably exhibit orders of magnitude more compassion than W.
P.S. I like the stealthily moderate Kerry better than the progressive liberal Kerry too.