Retrenchment

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Well, since the New York Times chose to bury itself behind a subscription wall, you can’t read David Brooks online anymore unless you pay the paper. Too bad. He moved a column last week that’s a gem. It opens with a question:

After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?

And when you begin thinking this way, you find yourself emotionally disengaging from the exhausted clans that dominate the present. You find yourself going back to basics and considering the fundamental questions: What visions originally excited me about politics and government? If it were completely up to me, where would I plant my flag?

Clearly, in the ebb and flow of American politics, this is a season of retrenchment. More than levees broke when the hurricane plowed into the Gulf coast at the end of August. Many people evidently felt the ground give under their willingness to give the Bush administration the benefit of their doubts.

A ripple or a sea change? We’ll begin to know around this time next year.

Meanwhile, it’s an excellent column, and if you can find it, read it. Brooks answers by planting his standard somewhere where the shadow of Alexander Hamilton crosses that of Teddy Roosevelt. As usual, he’s not far from me in that. What’s your answer?

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