I was worried when I saw the headline of David Brooks’ column calling for a “National Greatness Agenda.” Some of you may recall that Brooks (and Bill Kristol) led the charge for something called “National Greatness” in the mid-1990s. Not wanting to revisit old fights, the good news is that whatever that was, this isn’t it. I don’t know if his yearning for some new Brooksian mass movement is total fantasy or just mostly fantasy, nor do I much like it when pundits yearn for mass movements that reflect precisely their own policy priorities.
But, the important point is that the policy priorities Brooks lays out in his column are much different than the Teddy Rooseveltian stuff he was selling in 1997.
Policywise, I’m pretty much on the same page with Brooks. I’m impressed with the deficit commission report. Like everyone else around here, there are parts of it I don’t love or even much like, and there are parts that would hurt me financially. I think the Journal’s criticisms today are pretty compelling. But if given the choice of taking all the recommendations together or doing nothing, I’d opt for adopting the whole thing.
By all means, use the thing as a discussion document and try to improve it. But the country’s books are a mess. Making the perfect the enemy of the good strikes me as madness at this point.