This can be seen as a kind of light-hearted-fluff piece by David Brooks, but I like it, and it means much. I like it because--even if some of the details are not simply true or are exaggerated--it points to a very interesting phenomenon in politics: The winners are always looking ahead, for new projects and political battles to fight, while the losers (the Demos in this case) are looking back trying to figure out why they lost the last battle.
What this means for the Bush White House is that these guys have an up-to-something-mentality about them. They are reinvigorated by their election victory and by the cabinet changes. They are game. Brooks thinks they are in a "springlike, postwar mood." This will sound odd when you consider the problematic nature of the election in Iraq (our embassy
just got hit with a rocket, two Americans died), for example, but it shouldn’t. One of the prime requirements of the high art of politics is to make sure you are doing what you can about today, but to never let that so immerse you that you drown in it. Planning for future actions is critical, especially if such actions are not directly related to the current "crisis" (and there is always one), whatever that might be. It is clear that Bush’s opponents do not understand this. That explains why Boxer and Kennedy are so preoccupied with who lied about Iraq, and who didn’t; darn it, why did we have to go into Iraq in the first place? These guys let the past overpower both the present and the future. They are forever trying to fix the past (not only understand it, but change it to their liking). They cannot move forward until they have had their revenge on the past (you lied to us about WMD’s, etc.). As a result, they can’t think clearly and, of course, they can’t act in the world as it currently reveals itself. Very silly and dangerous view, this.
Those who have just renewed their authority through the election--in part explained by their own appeal to their own virtues--are full of dynamism and mental movement: They are keen to act in the world and wait for the world’s reaction to those acts, and then decide how to act again. This doesn’t mean that they are going to ignore Iraq or the pending peace between Israel and Palestine--on the contrary--but things are in place now that will move such items in exactly the direction that they intended. Now make some moves toward Venezuela, China,
and India--never mind Social Security or taxes--that will allow you even greater impact and flexibility.
A sophisticated (so he thought) student recently asked me to define history for him. He was looking for a convoluted and tricky answer having to do with these kinds of forces or those kinds movements, maybe for the unterbau and the oberbau, the progress of the consciousness of freedom, with some Weltanschaung stuff thrown in. But he was dissapointed. I said this: "History is what Abraham Lincoln did, and what happened to him." I intentionally turned and walked away because I wanted him to get the simplicity and truth of what I had said to him sink in. It did. He came back the next day and said: "That was awesome. I think I understand what you meant." In his own own way, so does David Brooks.