I tend not to read David Brooks's columns in the New York Times because they have never impressed me. So I wouldn't have bothered commenting on his recent column were it not for the fact that someone I do generally respect, Tyler Cowen, stated that he agreed with the column. In particular, Tyler wrote:
I agree with this David Brooks column on Obama.
That caused me to read the column.
There are so many assertions in the Brooks column that taking them all on would take a long post. So I want to focus on two assertions.
The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton.
Integrity? Really? In his State of the Union address, Obama attacked the Supreme Court justices sitting in front of him for their defense of free speech, when they could do or say nothing to defend themselves. That's not integrity.
But that's not the worst. Among the worst is his administration's use of the Internal Revenue Service to go after Tea Party groups. After claiming in May 2013 that any IRS targeting of political groups, if true, was outrageous and that he would hold the relevant people accountable, he has not. Lois Lerner has not been charged. That's a scandal. It's true that the scandal did not swallow years from Obama. Is the relevant criterion for a scandal whether it uses up a president's years or whether the president's employees use their discretionary power to go after political opponents? If the former, then a president can avoid a scandal by being evasive and shifting the topic, as Obama has done. That's not integrity, by the way.
Second, a sense of basic humanity. Donald Trump has spent much of this campaign vowing to block Muslim immigration. You can only say that if you treat Muslim Americans as an abstraction. President Obama, meanwhile, went to a mosque, looked into people's eyes and gave a wonderful speech reasserting their place as Americans.
Notice what Brooks doesn't write about: the fact that Obama kept his pledge not to put more Muslims at Guantanamo by, instead, killing them with drones. Obama even has a kill list. I'm guessing that Brooks actually reads the New York Times. So he can't claim not to know about what New York Times reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane have written about the kill list.
Obama can look into Muslim Americans' eyes all he wants. That is nothing compared to his murderous actions in the Middle East.
I probably assumed more knowledge on the part of the reader than I should have. A long-time friend called and told me that Obama is focusing his killing on known terrorists. Not quite. Here's a quote from the New York Times article on the kill list:
It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Having one's innocence proved "posthumously" is, of course, useless.