Sorry for the poor substantive blogging today. After the McRaven/Allen hearings, I got caught up in a Bob Gates retrospective piece for Danger Room that'll go up in a few days, in time for his departure. Turned out to be trickier than I anticipated.
But meanwhile: did you see David Brooks shitting all over JFK? I'm nothing close to a Brooks fan -- I keep reading people assuring me that he takes social science "seriously," but on the occasions I read his column, I see him treating it with total frivolity, like he skimmed something on GoogleScholar and convinced himself he put in his research. Still, this is a hobbyhorse of mine, so I'll take it:
In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave an Inaugural Address that did enormous damage to the country. It defined the modern president as an elevated, heroic leader who issues clarion calls in the manner of Henry V at Agincourt. Ever since that speech, presidents have felt compelled to live up to that grandiose image, and they have done enormous damage to themselves and the nation. That speech gave a generation an unrealistic, immature vision of the power of the presidency.
Mr. Brooks, I will buy you the potent tipple of your pleasure for that. People look at JFK and see a visionary leader. I see a guy who recklessly promised to pay any price and bear any burden for American power, a surefire way to squander and restrict it. Better historians than I can debate whether there's a line that runs from that speech to Vietnam, but suffice it to say JFK wrote a rhetorical check that the country will never be able to cash. We've labored under its debt ever since. (That said: Cuban Missile Crisis, etc., even if he didn't face down Magneto.)
It's one thing for a liberal to put forth such a contention. But for a "national greatness" conservative to accept it? Good for Brooks.