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David Brooks has some things to say about Obama in his newest piece at The New York Times:

As this primary season has gone along, a strange sensation has come over me: I miss Barack Obama.

[O]ver the course of this campaign it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

Aha. I think I see where this is going. ‘A decline in behavioral standards across the board,’ meaning that Democrats’ and Republicans’ behavioral standards are on par with each other, that either is just as bad and guilty as the other, right? Somehow, yes. Let’s have a quick look at the quotes and actions of Republicans and Democrats and see if they’re really at all comparable (hint: they’re not!):

So here are the swipes Brooks takes at Sanders:

Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has been so blinded by his values that the reality of the situation does not seem to penetrate his mind.


Sanderscare would take employer coverage away from tens of millions of satisfied customers, destroy the health insurance business and levy massive new tax hikes.

Of course Brooks doesn’t elaborate more on how precisely ‘Sanderscare’ would do this, nor does he explain exactly what ‘the reality of the situation’ is, but I assume he’s referring to Sanders’s call for free public higher education, increased taxes on the wealthy, a single-payer healthcare system, a higher minimum wage, etc. etc. What were some of Obama’s platforms in 2008? Oh, right. Reform student loan programs and a institute a $4,000 tuition tax credit, increased taxes on the wealthy, provide health insurance for 34 million uninsured Americans, pledged to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 (he didn’t), etc. etc. There was no shortage of people harping that Obama’s plans in 2008 were lofty and idealistic, and because Obama couldn’t just wave a magic wand to get what he wanted, had to compromise because of stridently stubborn and obstructionist Republicans.

If Sanders were elected, would he get everything he’s aiming for? No, because no President does, though it would largely be because Sanders is likely to face a Republican House and Senate. Still some of his platforms shouldn’t be unrealistic, at least in theory, because 53% of Republican voters, for example, support tax hikes on millionaires. And at least he’s consistent. He’s the only candidate paying his interns.

But even if you think every aspect of Sanders’s economic plan sounds loony, does its idealism compare to the nonsense of Republican candidates? It’s not comparable to Trump’s assertion that Mexican immigrants are rapists, that all Muslims should be barred from entering the country, accepting campaign donations from a white supremacist, having his supporters beat a protester at one of his rallies, or constantly referring to your opponents as losers. It’s not comparable to Ted Cruz’s camp perpetuating a rumor that Ben Carson was dropping out the same day as the Iowa Caucus, or his sending a mailer claiming a check is enclosed only to ask for donations, or to be so two-faced that he would assert overturning the decision on same-sex marriage is a top priority and then say the opposite to a gay potential donor. It’s not comparable to Ben Carson insisting universal health care is the worst thing to happen in the US since slavery, or that gun control is what allowed the Jews to suffer through the Holocaust. It’s not comparable to Carly Fiorina perpetuating the lies she’s been telling about Planned Parenthood. It’s not comparable to the extreme rhetoric of Cruz or Trump or Christie about what they’d do to ISIS. It’s not comparable to dismantling ACA while having nothing to replace it.

So no. Behavioral standards have not declined ‘across the board.’ They’ve been pretty static among Republican candidates; it’s exactly what you’d expect.

I’m glad David Brooks will miss Barack Obama. So will I. I just wish it hadn’t taken him eight years to realize that. Imagine if most other Republicans had the same realization a long time ago; what might have been accomplished if they hadn’t resorted to tribalism?