Last Friday, while you were all presumably getting high and copping feels at what I can only imagine must have been a pre-OneNation Rally Bacchanal on the Mall (because why would there not be), I was out in one of Chicago's many exciting suburbs doing a little reporting.
At Elmhurst College's storied Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, New York Times columnist David Brooks gave a keynote address on the works of the late American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the meaning his teachings in modern life.
About 80% of what Mr. Brooks had to say was perfectly fine: considered, careful and all-in-all an even-handed overview of Niebuhr's ideas. (Although, I must admit that before the event began, being as how it has been awhile since I've been in a chapel during regular barroom hours, the surroundings did eerily remind me of the last five minutes of "Lost" [spoiler alert]
and not for the first time in my life did I fire off a brief and fervent prayer that I wasn't fictional...and dead...and in the hands of desperate writers.)
Of course, saying that I found 80% of what Bobo said on Friday agreeable or inoffensive is a tiny bit like saying that 80% of the 4/14/1865 Ford Theater production of "Our American Cousin" was terrific: it was a fine night out, right up to the part where the lunatic lurking in the shadows leaped from cover to mess it all up.
It was a fine night out, except for the bits where David Brooks utterly betrayed Niebuhr's most basic teachings by manifestly lying about his own horribly inconvenient past statements and beliefs (I never said what I said) and repeatedly drawing manifestly false equivalences between Left and Right positions and policies (asserting, for example, that while the invasion of Iraq may have been problematic, it was a largely a noble and well-intentioned effort that was poorly executed. Just like the Stimulus Package! Which, Bobo asserted, had also proven to be a failure because it was based on a similarly false model of human nature.)
Of course, if I had publicly shit myself as badly and repeatedly as David Brooks has over the years, I'd be kinda desperate not to have it publicly recalled and recounted either, which is why Beltway pundits and journalists are such fetishists about their Villager manners and rituals, and why they generally stick with their own species and rarely wander off into the weeds: out here in the Real World, people are liable to ask all kinds of rude, impertinent questions.
So why should anyone care?
Because standing at the pulpit of a church, invoking the name of Reinhold Niebuhr, America's leading Conservative public intellectual calmly lied about some things that are really important.
Because over the last 10 years, Cruel Reality has not merely demonstrated the fatuous dishonesty of the stereotypes which David Brooks has used to beat up Those Crazy America-hating Leftists, but it has let him lived long enough to see every single one of his dire observations and hysterical predictions about the insularity and irrationality of the Imaginary Hippie Left that lives under his bed instead take root in his own back yard and metastasize into the monstrous freak-show of the Actual Palin/Beck/Limbaugh/Angle/O'Donnell/Rand/Armey/Koch Family/FoxPAC Right.
Because, far-from being career Kryptonite, as Glenn Greenwald wrote a year ago, being wrong about everything actually gets Neocons like Brooks promoted:
All of this would be a fascinating study for historians if the people responsible were figures of the past. But they're not. They're the opposite. The same people shaping our debates now are the same ones who did all of that, and they haven't changed at all.
They're doing the same things now that they did then.
When you go read what they said back then, that's what makes it so remarkable and noteworthy. David Brooks got promoted within our establishment commentariat to The New York Times after (one might say: because of) the ignorant bile and amoral idiocy he continuously spewed while at The Weekly Standard. According to National Journal's recently convened "panel of Congressional and Political Insiders," Brooks is now the commentator who "who most help[s] to shape their own opinion or worldview" -- second only to Tom "Suck On This" Friedman. Charles Krauthammer came in third.
Ponder that for a minute.
Use it in a sentence.