Throughout the 2008 campaign and the beginning of the Obama presidency there was no more admiring moderate pundit than David Brooks. Gradually, however, he has become less enamored of the man he saw as a pragmatic moderate (but turned out to be a liberal statist). In Tuesday’s column on entitlement reform he wrote this advice to moderate voters:
By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has put Medicare at the center of the national debate. Possibly for the first time, he has done something politically perilous. He has made it clear that restructuring Medicare will be a high priority.
This is impressive. If you believe entitlement reform is essential for national solvency, then Romney-Ryan is the only train leaving the station.
Moreover, when you look at the Medicare reform package Romney and Ryan have proposed, you find yourself a little surprised. You think of them of as free-market purists, but this proposal features heavy government activism, flexibility and rampant pragmatism.
The federal government would define a package of mandatory health benefits. Private insurers and an agency akin to the current public Medicare system would submit bids to provide coverage for those benefits. The government would give senior citizens a payment equal to the second lowest bid in each region to buy insurance. . . .
You’re still deeply uncomfortable with many other Romney-Ryan proposals. But first things first. The priority in this election is to get a leader who can get Medicare costs under control. Then we can argue about everything else. Right now, Romney’s more likely to do this.
All of which causes you to look over to the Democrats and wonder: Why don’t they have an alternative? Silently, a voice in your head is pleading with them: Put up or shut up.
If Democrats can’t come up with an alternative on this most crucial issue, how can they promise to lead a dynamic growing nation?
Oh my. Did Brooks just make the argument for himself and other like-minded, diligent middle-of-the-roaders to get off the Obama bandwagon? I think so.
Essentially, Brooks is pleading with persuadable Americans to prioritize and figure out who the grown-up in the race is. If you cut through all the nonsense in the political rhetoric, the distractions, the tangential issues and the attacks, the choice for those who think, as Brooks does, that there is no more important issue than entitlement reform shouldn’t be hard.( “Entitlement spending is crowding out spending on investments in our children and on infrastructure. This spending is threatening national bankruptcy. It’s increasing so quickly that there is no tax increase imaginable that could conceivably cover it.”) Brook frames the question properly: Do you really think this is the most critical domestic issue, and if so, is there really any doubt who is more serious and more capable in facing up to it?