I thought the speech was fairly awful in that it is a continuation of Obama's centerist neoliberalism with his usual dose of competence, which is why I voted for the guy. Brooks doesn't really care about the speech's content, however. Here is a link to the number of times the great dolt used the words Burke and Humility in the same essay.It’s sad to compare that era of bigness to the medium-sized policy morsels that President Obama put in his State of the Union address. He had some big themes in the speech, but the policies were mere appetizers. The Republicans absurdly call Obama a European socialist on the stump, but the Obama we saw Tuesday night was a liberal incrementalist.There was nothing big, like tax reform or entitlement reform. There was no comprehensive effort to restore trust in government by sweeping away the tax credits and special-interest schemes that entangle Washington. Ninety percent of American workers work in the service economy, but Obama spoke mostly about manufacturing.Instead, there were a series of modest proposals that poll well. In that sense, it was the Democratic version of Newt Gingrich’s original “Contract With America” — a series of medium-size ideas with 80 percent approval ratings.
For Brooks, you see, the big, the grandeous, the game changing ideas are a violation of Burkean humility and, consequently, dangerous and ruled always already out of court. Like Burke, Brooks is the pickle-herring in the puppet-show of nonsense who defends the current manifest unfairness and tyranny in the present by insisting that rapid change is worse than the disease. Both accept that there is a disease but both reject any attempts to end it that require making the kind of fundamental alterations of things as they are. Why? Because the current manifest unfairness is the result of centuries of evolution in political, cultural, and social arrangements and to change them is a slap in the face to our ancestors, even if they were criminal thugs, and because the wrong sort might emerge as the new runners of things.
So Brooks castigation of Obama for timidity exposes his role in the current neoliberal intellectual world. It's his job to provide some pious bullshit that criticizes Obama without being the kind of race based crap that Gingrich and his ilk trot out. Furthermore, unlike George Will or Charles Krauthammer, Brooks has to appear to act more in sadness than in anger.
One final point, one of the few things in the speech that Brooks liked was the idea that community colleges should become the state supported apprentice programs of America's private sector. This is the kind of dangerous neoliberal clap trap that threatens to transform this country into China. We need to stop thinking that the purpose of humanity in a social situation is to increase the economic efficiency of the "free" market system.