NY Times columnist Brooks kicks off Distinguished Speaker Series
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Two out of three college students would choose to have a lot of fame over the choice to have a lot of sex.
“I’m on TV a lot; I’m sort of famous,” said David Brooks. “I’m 51, [and] I remember sex. Sex is a lot better.”
Nineteen percent of Americans believe they’re a part of the top 1 percent of wealth, according to a survey done by Time Magazine. The United States ranks No. 36 in the study of mathematics, but the country is No. 1 in thinking students are “really good” at math. Men drown twice as much as women because men have tremendous confidence in their ability to swim after they’ve been drinking.
It’s this self-confident culture that is changing America in every aspect, according to Brooks – a New York Times op-ed columnist and political analyst – from the way we act, the way we think of ourselves and the way we govern our country. And, according to Brooks who cited all these facts, this self-absorbance has only increased since World War II.
Brooks opened UB’s 26th-annual Distinguished Speakers Series in the Center for the Arts on Wednesday evening. In front of hundreds of community members, he spoke of America’s current state – morally, economically and politically – while connecting these ideals back to the current presidential race.
“This has been a cultural shift, and we don’t necessarily want to go back, but there is a sense of first – that we live in closed loops in the midst of our own rightness,” Brooks said.
Brooks, though he leans toward the right of the political spectrum (think Theodore Roosevelt/Alexander Hamilton ideology), has made a career of analyzing how the government works and – more importantly – why it doesn’t work. But Brooks remains optimistic, yet pragmatic, as the current presidential race approaches; this college-aged generation and younger generations are becoming the ones who matter and the ones who can change the system.
Brooks, after about 30 minutes of speaking on America’s current state, shifted focus to the presidential candidates and his take on the Obama-Romney battle and the Republican Party’s attempt to gain governmental control back from the Democrats.
Romney is a “hidden man,” according to Brooks.
“I think he’s generally a good guy, but I think because of Mormonism, he’s a hidden man,” Brooks said. “He doesn’t want to show that side.”
Obama’s campaign has hit Romney hard with ads, but it hasn’t been able to run a single personality ad; Romney does not show his true self. Romney’s pretending to be something he’s not – he’s a non-ideological person in a highly ideological time – and he’s disconnected from reality and he’s faking it, according to Brooks.
Especially in the wake of secret Romney videos that surfaced earlier this week, thanks to Mother Jones.
“That 47 percent comment – I find it morally offensive,” Brooks told the crowd when speaking on Romney’s comment that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the government and don’t pay taxes.
In his Sept. 17 column, Brooks wrote: “First, it suggests that he really doesn’t know much about the country he inhabits … it suggests that Romney doesn’t know much about the culture of America.”
Although insincerity lies at the heart of it, Brooks believes Romney would have a decent campaign if he ran as himself.
Brooks wasn’t only critical of the Republican nominee; he has his qualms with Obama and how he’s changed over his four-year tenure in the White House.
“In 2008 and 2007, he was bursting with ideas – 61 proposals in six months,” Brooks recalled. “He was also a self-confident person. In 20 years, the word ‘Obama’ will be a unit for self-confidence.”
But Brooks has noticed Obama wear down – mostly because he’s not a natural politician.
He’s distant, and members of Congress often feel the president looks down upon them, according to Brooks. Obama’s sick of Washington, D.C., he’s realized the president doesn’t hold as much power as the public assumes and he’s become much more insular and detached as he keeps to his own, cut-off world.
“[Obama] hasn’t refreshed his batteries,” Brooks said. “He’s been consumed by a negative passion in this campaign – he really wants to beat the Republicans.”
Is there a second act for Obama? Brooks isn’t sure of that answer. If America voted today, Obama would stay another term, but the vote could swing come November.
A hidden man and a cagey man – two good men in horrible circumstances who are not running campaigns they are capable of, according to Brooks. A big versus small government debate reminiscent of 1964’s presidential race and both parties are returning to the polls.
The next generation of voters is wholesome and responsible and though they may be self-centered and materialistic, they have an energy that can be seen through any falling statistic – divorce, abortion and teen pregnancy rates have all decreased – and there’s a lot of good behavior, according to Brooks.
“That energy still propels America,” Brooks said. “And it gives us the energy to correct all of our mistakes.”