For most people the "and that's when I clicked close tab" moment in David Brooks' column today is going to take place in the first paragraph:*
President Obama and Paul Ryan are two of the smartest, most admirable and most genial men in Washington. It is sad, although not strange, that in today's Washington they have never had a serious private conversation. The president has never invited Ryan over even for lunch.
Gads. Washington is full to the brim with pundits who lament the fact that America's problems are not getting solved because lawmakers aren't doing enough socializing. Think about the difficulty President Obama has had getting his nominations through the Senate: One would think that this is the result of one side of the aisle being relentlessly reflexive in their obstruction or something. But it's actually the end result of not taking Mitch McConnell out to dinner at Charlie Palmer's Steakhouse a sufficient number of times.
But Brooks is the undisputed king of this style of thinking. His affinity for Obama is entirely driven by the fact that White House officials talk about his columns, and walk into meetings with him carrying his favorite books, and Rahm Emanuel would call him on the phone all the time. "Every conversation, short or long, was a headlong rush," Brooks gushed.
So he sees Paul Ryan's pain, and naturally thinks it's terrible that Ryan and Obama have not bonded over sandwiches. For reasons that I cannot fathom, he honestly believes that Obama and Ryan are not far apart on their disparate visions of budgetary priorities, and if the two men would just socialize a little more, then each man's "cold contempt for the other's position" would dissolve. And then what would happen?
If they met, would they resolve their differences? No, but they would understand them better.
Oh, great! I can't wait for that future speech Obama makes when this matter is settled in whatever "grand bargain" is to come:
"My fellow Americans," the president will say, "I know that this deal will have an immeasurable impact on your lives that you may be justifiably fearing. The good news, though, is that Paul Ryan and I are getting along great! So, you've got that going for you."
* I mean, the lead paragraphs of New York Times columnists have been amazing lately, right? But go ahead and read Brooks' whole thing, and then head on over to Dean Baker's blog at the Center for Economic and Policy Research for the essential picking apart.