Look I like David Brooks, a lot. But I am at a loss as to how anyone could think of Obama as a “Burkean,” if it means something beyond “someone who likes Edmund Burke” or “someone who can quote Edmund Burke” (and I’m not really even convinced that Obama likes Edmund Burke; more evidence please). For every sentence fragment the guy has offered that could be construed as Burkean (say, the bit about the moral arc of the universe being long or his nods to gradual racial progress) I can think of whole speeches and books that are not. Nothing about the man’s actual policies or staffing strikes me as remotely Burkean. Did I miss Van Jones proclaiming, “I must bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes”?
I’m open to correction on this. If Yuval Levin (my go-to Burke expert, since Gertrude Himmelfarb doesn’t know who I am) tells me I have this wrong, then I’m eager to hear it. In the meantime, remember those joke titles of really short books? Careers for History Majors, Famous Jews of the NFL, Amelia Earhart’s Guide to the Pacific? Well, it seems to me that you might add David Brooks’s Guide to Famous Burkean Alinskyites.