David Brooks endorses Romney, sort of

Jeff Poor | Media Reporter

In his Tuesday column in The New York Times, David Brooks gave a half-hearted endorsement of Mitt Romney, arguing that the former governor’s willingness to adapt and change his political positions could help him broker deals and end the gridlock plaguing Capitol Hill.

On Tuesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, co-host Willie Geist asked Brooks to elaborate on his endorsement and explain whether he was bothered by Romney’s apparent policy switches.

“It does trouble me,” Brooks said. “I mean, it disturbs me about how many different shapes he’s taken. It disturbs me, from a sheer management perspective. … If you work for a president who doesn’t know what he wants, then every policy decision has to start at square one, and there’s massive confusion. And so a lack of a consistency can really mess up a management structure.”

“The area where it doesn’t bother me is this — we’re no longer in the Cold War,” Brooks continued. “We had a Cold War leadership model, which was the forthright person who is stalwart, who never bends, who is just strong — sort of the Margaret Thatcher [and] Ronald Reagan Cold War leadership. We’re no longer in a Cold War. Maybe we probably need a little different style of leadership — a little less stalwart … a little more flexible to deal with. What are essentially cross-cutting problems we have — we have three big problems, we’ve got growth, and we’ve got debt and inequality. It takes a bit of subtlety to deal with these three cross-cutting issues, and a little more pragmatism if you want to put it that way, would be useful. Nonetheless, opportunism, a little troubling.”

Brooks predicted that government will still be divided next year, and even pointed to the possible benefits to a President Romney of a GOP primary challenger in 2016.

“Well, you know, there are going to be Democrats probably controlling the Senate,” Brooks said. “And there’s got to be revenues. Probably increase revenues, and you do a big tax reform, you fold in increased revenues on the affluent in that to make Democrats happy, and that’ll make a lot of Republicans unhappy. And I’d say the way to tell he’s had a successful presidency is if he gets a primary challenge on the right in 2016. I know primary challenges are bad predictions for incumbents. They’re pretty decent predictors of a losing candidate. Nonetheless, that’s a sign he’s broken out of Republican orthodox stagnation and done something original.”

Romney, if elected, would have more political capital and a greater ability to get things done than a second-term President Obama, Brooks added.

“If President Obama’s re-elected, how much leverage is he going to have? He’s going to have some. There’ll be no question about it, because he’s been reelected. But he didn’t exactly run on the fiscal cliff. He didn’t run on the actual challenges we’re going to face. So, I’m not sure the mandate’s going to be strong. And the other incentives for the members is going to be the same. I speak to very conservative members. They’re more afraid of being ‘primaried’ from the right than they are challenged from the left. That’s still their primary concern. So if it’s President Obama, it’s a pretty easy call for them.”

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