David Brooks is on the New York Times op-ed page because he's the kind of conservatives liberals like -- friendly, reasonable-sounding, uncomfortable with vilifying his opponents, even if he almost always comes down on the side of whatever Republicans want to do. Not that elite liberals (e.g. people who write for magazines like this one) don't find him maddening, but the Times' readers like him. Nevertheless, it's never comfortable to bash your own side, even when they deserve it. So Brooks should get some credit for his column today, which almost sounds like it could have been written by Paul Krugman:
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.
The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.
The only objection I'd raise is that these are no longer characteristics of a "faction" within the party, they have come to characterize the party itself. It may be true that heretofore responsible members of the GOP were backed into a corner where they felt they had to adopt the Tea Party position on things like shutting down the government and defaulting on the debt or lose their jobs to a intra-party coup or a home-district primary. But at some point, that can no longer be an excuse. When all the party bigwigs take the position that closing tax loopholes must be accompanied by further tax cuts elsewhere, to make sure we get no deficit reduction from revenues, even saying that the American people "don't want compromise" on maximalist Republican goals, then they can't point to the Tea Party and say, "They made me do it!"