David Brooks vs. David Brooks

It was obvious almost immediately that David Brooks’ latest column would be problematic — the conservative New York Times writer described Mitt Romney as “earnest” in the first paragraph.

Love Romney or hate him, earnestness isn’t one of his strong points.

Alas, the column only got worse, with Brooks praising Romney’s “impressive” campaign and “serious” candidacy. The columnist seemed especially pleased by the former governor’s speech on debt-reduction last week, which Brooks described as “his most important speech yet.”

It was politically astute and substantively bold, a quality you don’t automatically associate with the Romney campaign. Romney grasped the toughest issue — how to reform entitlements to avoid a fiscal catastrophe — and he sketched out a sophisticated way to address it. […]

Romney’s plan still has some holes in it (how fast would premium supports grow?), but it exemplifies the sort of big reformist vision that should be at the center of a serious Republican campaign.

It’s tough to know where to start with this, so let’s get some of the basics out of the way. First, Brooks praises Romney’s ability to eliminate the 2002 Olympics’ deficit, without explaining that Romney sought and received a congressional bailout for the games (it’s easier to eliminate a deficit when lawmakers start directing tax dollars your way). Second, Brooks overlooks relevant details of Romney’s so-called debt-reduction plan, including the fact that it’s impossible to shrink the deficit if a Romney administration follows through on its promise to increase defense spending and approve trillions in additional tax cuts.

There’s also the small matter of this “serious” candidate thinking he can improve the nation’s finances by gutting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and eliminating Planned Parenthood — which is practically the definition of being fundamentally unserious.

But let’s put all of that aside, and instead debate this on Brooks’ turf.

The columnist is impressed with Romney’s approach to Medicare. He shouldn’t be. For all of his alleged “seriousness,” Romney falsely (and cheaply) attacked President Obama for “cutting” Medicare, endorsed raising the eligibility age (which would make matters worse), and threw his support behind Paul Ryan-style vouchers. How much would the vouchers be worth? Romney didn’t say. Would they keep up with escalating costs? Romney didn’t say.

For Brooks to consider this “sophisticated” is to strip the word of all meaning.

But what I’d really love is for David Brooks to remember previous columns written by David Brooks.

In April, for example, the columnist trashed the Ryan plan that Romney’s agenda mirrors. Three months later, Brooks said Republican debt-reduction plans that don’t focus on revenue are irresponsible, and sure enough, Romney’s speech made no effort to bring in additional revenue.

November Brooks seems awfully impressed with Romney’s conservative agenda. Would July Brooks have said the same thing?