With Hank Paulson scheduled to speak at the 92 St. Y next week, it seemed fitting that Larry Summers, the incoming head of Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, should offer his views on the state of the global economy across town at the Jewish Center. But Summers apparently has bigger fish to fry, so he was replaced for evening by New York Times columnist David Brooks.
As seems required at such events, Brooks, black yarmulke perched comfortably on his head, began with a laundry list of his Jewish bona fides: childhood in Stuyvesant Town, kids in day school, his converted wife serving as the mikvah lady and contemplating a career in the rabbinate. After his secular upbringing, Brooks now claims to lead a "reasonably observant life."
After dispensing with such crowd-softening pleasantries — Brooks said Summers had planned to offer everyone present a $50 billion bailout, as part of the Isaac Bashevis Singer Recovery Act of 2009 — he proceeded to describe the zeitgeist in Washington on the eve of the Obama administration.
Though he leans conservative in his columns, Brooks was not above offering high words of praise for Obama, though he also couldn’t resist several (and in this reporter’s opinion, one too many) references to Obama’s exalted status as the Savior of mankind, calling him the "Messiah" and predicting he would be carried to Capital Hill for his inauguration by cherubs.
But the comment that really seemed to send a hush through the crowd was his opinion that efforts to halt Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon were likely to fail. To Jewish ears, that prediction is tantamount to expecting the apocalypse.
UPDATE: In case you missed the Brooks speech, he graciously summarized it in his Friday column.