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David Brooks Pleads: Don’t Blow Yourself Up

David Brooks pleads with the president he’s been rooting for not to blow it — or blow it any more. In a conversation with Gail Collins, he warns:

Go out and tell the voters of Massachusetts and the people answering all the polling questions that you hear them. Go out and say that maybe it’s not a great idea to pass the most complicated and largest piece of domestic legislation in a generation when the American people don’t like it. Show doubt. Don’t show arrogance. If President Obama comes out swinging, it will be his Katrina moment, the moment when the elitist tag will be permanently hung around his neck.

He confesses fondness for another health-care measure, but in the end Brooks comes down firmly on the side of not ignoring the loud voices of the voters shouting, “Stop!” He cautions: “If the Democrats act like the country hasn’t voiced a judgment, if they try to ram this through, there will be an explosion the likes of which we haven’t seen.”

One has the sense that he’s nervous, very nervous, that Obama and his crew won’t listen but will instead take that Katrina plunge. It is strange to have to warn a supposedly savvy politician — one with such a superior temperament, we are told — not to bury his head in the sand and show contempt for the voters. But Brooks is right to be nervous. So insular and ideological rigid are the Obama crew that they might just try to muscle their way through.

But on Brooks’s and ultimately the president’s side is the natural inclination of most politicians not to short-circuit their political careers for no good reason. Obama might prefer to press on, but who’s going to follow? We learned today that Rep. Barney Frank, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Evan Bayh, and many others are having serious reservations about ignoring the public. That’s a good thing for the country, and it’s what may ultimately save Obama from himself.


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