David Brooks on McCain: Who’s Talking, Who’s Doing?

In his NYT Op-Ed today, David Brooks makes a very good point:

McCain has infinitely better grounds than Obama to run as a do-what-it-takes reformer. He has a long record of taking on not only the other party, but his own.

Case in point: McCain voted against the farm bill, a bill that’s uniformly vilified by everyone except the legislators who vote for it, and the lobbyists who cause them to do so. Obama voted for it.

But as for the title of the piece, "Talking versus Doing," it’s not clear that McCain is quite the paragon that Brooks suggests. Brooks quotes McCain, for instance, using words that make my heart sing:

“In all my reforms, the goal is not to denigrate government but to make it better, not to deride government but to restore its good name.”

That’s the right contra-Reagan message–government is not the problem, bad government is the problem. He’s singing the hymn that Obama should be owning. But McCain’s proposed tax cuts–equal to total nondefense discretionary spending–say something very different: that bleeding the beast and further eviscerating our government is the answer to our problems.

McCain also makes very nice sounds about multilateralism in foreign policy. But his specific proposals suggest a continuation of policies that have resulted in the greatest decline in American power in living memory.