I know a lot of you won't want to let go of the notion that the worst The New York Times has to offer on its op-ed page is David Brooks, or Ross Douthat, or Tom Friedman, or Maureen Dowd, but at a moment when all of those columnists are recoiling, at least to some extent, from a right wing that gave us the campaign of Mitt "47%" Romney, along comes Frank Bruni with his best Colonel Blimp imitation:
IN a few days, as you may have heard, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will go head-to-head in their first presidential debate. What I most want from it isn't fireworks, though I'm as big a fan of political theater as the next hack. It's a word, one that has gone sadly out of vogue over recent decades and been mostly absent from this campaign.Yes, that's right: After a four-year near-depression, during which millions of people have either lost their jobs, experienced cuts to pay and benefits, or found themselves having to run twice as hard at work just to stay in place, all while many of them have suffered foreclosures and others have seen their houses lose value and 401(k)s shrink, we are told by Mr. Bruni that we haven't sacrificed enough -- Mr. Bruni being, I would remind you, a man who has sailed effortlessly through a time of great news-business austerity, having been offered job after job by the Times, even though he's notoriously unqualified for most of the jobs he's been offered.
And I'm not holding my breath.
He's certainly not sacrificing: for the princely sums he's paid, he writes two columns a week; yes, like many Times op-ed writers, he's tasked with generating extra content by maintaining a blog, but this month he's written a whopping six posts, and none in the past eight days, in addition to his month's quota of eight columns. (Paul Krugman, by contrast, has supplemented his column quota with 98 blog posts this month. And Krugman also teaches and writes books.)
You can read the column if you must; I can't bear to quote it. I'm sure I won't surprise you when I tell you it's classic both-sides-do-it-ism: Romney and Ryan won't tell the rich they have to sacrifice, but Obama won't demand sacrifice of everyone else. Bruni gives the game away when he writes this:
What once made Paul Ryan exciting even to some moderates was his readiness to sing a more somber song and say: folks, we can't have it all.That just leaves me speechless.
If sacrifice has to be doled out by government, it ought to come after the economy is on its feet and the population feels more prosperous. Telling people now that sacrifice is good for them is like telling Europe in 1946 or America in 1866 that what it really needs is a good, cleansing war.
The vast majority of Americans have sacrificed plenty in the past few years. If Frank Bruni hasn't, he needs to realize how anomalous and lucky he is, rather than projecting his awareness of his own soft life onto the rest of us.