Thursday, October 23
NORTH ADAMS — Fourteen days before the election, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks predicted that Sen. Barack Obama will defeat Sen. John McCain in the Nov. 4 presidential election by nine percentage points.

During a chat with local press prior to a question-and-answer session with students at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts yesterday, Brooks went on to say that this election will be the end of a national Republican power arc that has been largely in place since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and on the decline since 1995.

He said this election will mark a "sea change in American politics" and that the Democratic reign could last as long as 10 to 15 years.

Brooks was in town as last night's speaker in the school's Hardman Lecture Series. He is a commentator on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer" and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," and the author of "Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There" and "On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense," both published by Simon & Schuster.

The first question of the day was, "Who will win the election?" a student asked.

Without hesitation, Brooks said, "Obama by nine. I have a wager with an Obama pollster, who says he'll win by seven."

He said what strikes him about Obama is that he is "an extremely even-tempered guy. McCain is not an even-tempered guy.


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He is the total opposite of Obama — when he sees something he thinks is dishonorable, he gets angry. And nowadays, he's always angry."

Brooks has some experience covering McCain when he's running for president. He was there in 2000 when McCain lost the Republican primary to George W. Bush.

He said that McCain is a "jovial guy," and recalled when McCain took him out to shoot craps, and another time when the two went out drinking.

But since those days, Brooks said, three things have changed McCain's disposition:

  • The Iraq War. "He's a less jovial guy since the war started."

  • The eternal presence of phones and cameras. "Now there is a camera or phone around every second of every day and so he can never be open — he's closed down."

  • Reporters are no longer his favorite people. "He loves hanging around reporters, better than politicians or anyone else. But over the past six months, his perception is that the press is very hostile to him. I think his view is that they loved me when I was running against George Bush, they don't like me when I'm running against a Democrat."

    Brooks said he was disappointed in the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate because she lacks enough "life experience" for the kind of decision-making skills essential to a president.

    "I run into people every day who sort of like McCain, but will no longer vote for him because of Sarah Palin," he said. "To choose a running mate after two meetings, that's just weird."

    He noted that the Republican hold on national power started its decline in 1995, with its attempt to shut down the government over the budget debate with President Bill Clinton.

    President Bush tried to revive the conservative movement, Brooks said. "It was a noble attempt, but like a lot of things in the Bush administration, they didn't execute it very well and the revival failed."

    "I saw Republicanism rise and now I've seen it fall," Brooks continued. "It's become intellectually exhausted, incurious and the party is getting narrower and narrower. So the people who used to feel that they're Republicans no longer do."

    He noted that while Obama's candidacy has sparked a wave of new voter registration among the young and African-Americans, he doesn't believe that will substantially affect the political ideology of the nation.

    "This is a center-right country, and it still is," he said.

    As for the Republican party, Brooks said, there will be a period of infighting and power struggle until it becomes reorganized and finds its focus.

    "Defeat is a stern instructor," he said.

    To reach Scott Stafford: sstafford@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 664-4995.