Brooks’ mixed bag

BROOKS’ MIXED BAG…. The NYT‘s David Brooks explains in his column today that the Republican response to the economic crisis is “totally misguided.” Brooks explained that GOP lawmakers have “apparently decided that it’s easier to repeat the familiar talking points than actually think through a response to the extraordinary crisis at hand.”

So far, so good. Brooks’ take on the Republicans’ pre-recession mindset is both accurate and encouraging. Then, however, Brooks had to ruin things by presenting his GOP allies with an alternate agenda for them to embrace.

First, they’d take the current economic crisis more seriously than the Democrats. The Obama budget projects that the recession will be mild this year and the economy will come surging back in 2010. Democrats apparently think that dealing with the crisis is a part-time job, which leaves the afternoons free to work on long-range plans to reform education, health care, energy and a dozen smaller things. Democrats are counting on a quick recovery to help pay for these long-term projects.

Republicans could point out that this crisis is not just an opportunity to do other things. It’s a bloomin’ emergency…. Republicans could argue that it’s Nero-esque for Democrats to be plotting extensive renovations when the house is on fire.

Sigh.

Brooks presents this as if it were a novel idea, untested and ignored by Republicans. That’s clearly mistaken — GOP lawmakers have been pushing this exact line for a while now, which is why so many media figures are asking about Obama being “distracted,” and “doing too much at once.”

But more to the point, Brooks continues to see White House initiatives on health care and energy as annoying tangents. To even consider these policies is to give the economy short shrift. Brooks dismisses these measures as “renovations” to a burning house — as if health care and energy reform would be nice, were it not for the crisis.

It’s the exact same argument Brooks made just seven days ago, when he said Democrats seem to be “caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.”

Brooks continues to see these issues in isolation. He shouldn’t. As Ezra Klein said last week, responding to Brooks’ call for Obama to tackle problems more slowly, “If a patient has cancer and heart disease, her doctor doesn’t have the luxury of treating only one or the other.”