Brooks, following Jack Goldsmith, praises Obama for largely keeping Bush’s second-term policies while presenting them more attractively. But Brooks has some criticisms for Obama as well: “In his speech, Obama explained his decisions in a subtle and coherent way. He admitted that some problems are tough and allow no easy solution. He treated Americans as adults, and will have won their respect. Do I wish he had been more gracious with and honest about the Bush administration officials whose policies he is benefiting from? Yes.”
I think there’s an internal contradiction here. On Brooks’s account, Obama is misrepresenting the relationship between his policies and Bush’s. Does that really square with treating Americans as adults? And isn’t that misrepresentation fundamental to Obama’s ability to present his policies to liberals and to the world in an attractive light? The notion that his policies are a sharp break from the past is a large part of what is supposed to make them attractive. Dishonesty seems central to the maneuver that Brooks is commending Obama for — in which case he cannot then turn around and complain about the dishonesty.