-- Patti Smith
Everyone knows that before you go prospecting for a job these days you have to build a resume, if you are trying your luck at several different fishing holes, you probably have to build several.
It is a subtle and complex thing, building a resume. Over the years I've helped hundreds of people put theirs together and it's always a very personal matter. It calls for you to puff up or barber down the work of a lifetime into a couple of crisp, error-free pages cleverly interleaved with all the stickiest of current human resources' keywords, and balanced carefully between not too literate and not too lumpen. It is the tentative first kiss which, nine out of ten times, will be ignored or rebuffed; the opening gambit in a game where the rules are always changing and the changes are often made in secret.
However, there is one profession -- writing -- where building a resume is superfluous. In this domain, the quality of the writing itself -- what you said and how you said it -- is ultimately the only thing that matters.
Or, as Patti Smith said, "What Matters is the Work."
So with that in mind, instead of a single, awful column stripped to the studs, I propose an assay of the written work that constitutes the pre-"New York Times" public resume of America's Greatest Conservative Public Intellectual, Mr. David Brooks.
In four parts.
Part I: Faith of Our Fathers.
Track Mr. Brooks writing career -- his public resume -- over time, you will quickly notice several, recurring characteristics.
First, Mr. Brooks has no sense of humor. At all. Humor, to David Brooks, is making snide remarks about people who wear sandals and drive Volvos, which might slay 'em around the Cato Institute water cooler, but just comes across as bitter and bitchy to anyone not in the club. Second, Mr. Brooks develops an icky, public crush on a new Great Man about every few months, which makes perfect sense in light of Mr. Brooks' third compulsive topic: National Greatness.
So no surprise that as Senior Editor at Bill Kristol's "Weekly Standard" wingnut treehouse, Mr. Brooks carefully built his public resume on three, foundational subjects:
National Greatness.The implacable anarcho-communism of the hilariously feckless Liberals.The awesomeness of Great Men and the Elite Institutions they command.
In Mr. Brooks' gooey, pubescent imaginary History of America, all of these subjects all deeply interrelated: National Greatness was destroyed in the Great Hippie Fire of 1969
'I don't think it was just a Penn State problem. You know, you spend 30 or 40 years muddying the moral waters here. We have lost our clear sense of what evil is, what sin is; and so, when people see things like that, they don't have categories to put it into. They vaguely know it's wrong, but they've been raised in a morality that says, "If it feels all right for you, it's probably OK." And so that waters everything down. The second thing is a lot of the judgment is based on the supposition that if we were there, we would have intervened'
and can only be restored by Great Men
"The national mission can be carried out only by individuals and families -- not by collectives, as in socialism and communism. Instead, individual ambition and willpower are channeled into the cause of national greatness. And by making the nation great, individuals are able to join their narrow concerns to a larger national project."
pursuing Great Tasks.
"It almost doesn't matter what great task government sets for itself, as long as it does some tangible thing with energy and effectiveness. The first task of government is to convey a spirit of confidence and vigor that can then spill across the life of the nation. Stagnant government drains national morale. A government that fails to offer any vision merely feeds public cynicism and disenchantment.
Of course, for most of his tenure as one of Bill Kristol's most prolific, neocon mules, Mr. Brooks had to hunt like a truffle hog far and wide for occasions to bash hippies and glorify the rule of patrician Conservatism.
Mr. Brooks had to travel to the wilds of Tennessee:
Bill Frist's New SouthThe revenge of the patricians.Not all that long ago, the old-money residents of Belle Meade dominated Nashville. Their institutions--the Belle Meade Country Club, the annual Swan Ball, the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust--were the city's power centers. From the 1960s through the early 1980s, a secret society called Watauga made many of the important decisions about city life. As it's since been described by Nashville journalist Bruce Dobie, Watauga comprised the CEOs of the town's banks and businesses, and a few selected others such as Jack Massey who built Kentucky Fried Chicken and then, with Bill's older brother Tommy, built the Hospital Corporation of America. They recruited mayoral candidates, gave them money, and organized the business community's efforts to recruit companies to the city and shape growth....In most northern cities, the WASP aristocracy, if it exists, is basically irrelevant. New York and Philadelphia are no longer dominated by Episcopalian blue bloods with honking accents. But in Nashville the old Belle Meade elite is diminished but still cohesive and important. It is diminished because the old financial institutions have been bought up by national firms. Now health care is the booming sector in Nashville's economy, along with private prisons and music. No group like Watauga exists, nor could it....Some of us thought we'd had a cultural revolution in this country that had destroyed the WASP establishment. But maybe that was only in the North. Maybe the cultural revolution of the 1960s was a temporary phenomenon, and it's the country club Republicans of the New South, with all their virtues and sins, who will have the last laugh.
Mr. Brooks had to invent wild, gratuitous theories about how "the Woodstock generation" killed Jimi Hendrix:
From Jimmy to JimiAn unearthed letter from the great guitarist gives some insight into the Woodstock generation....Maybe what was phony about Woodstock was not the pretense that somehow it was above money and material things. Perhaps what was phony was the pretense it was being led by rebellious young people against a corrupt establishment. Perhaps most people at Woodstock, like Jimmy Hendrix, really were quite happy with their upbringing and loved their families. But when they got amongst each other and the rebellious pose became de rigeur, they began to convince themselves they felt more alienated than they actually had any cause to be. Then their behavior become unmoored from normal family-influenced constraints; Jimmy Hendrix lost control and became Jimi, and that ambitious boy who only set out to become rich and make his father proud, ended up dead.
Mr. Brooks was forced discover previously unrecognized lessons about National Greatness buried on "Gilligan's Island", which he then transmogrified into a paean to George W. Bush:
Farewell to GreatnessAmerica from Gilligan's Island to The X-FilesI'D NEVER REALLY CONSIDERED the way George W. Bush resembles Gilligan of Gilligan’s Island until I read Paul A. Cantor’s brilliant book, Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization. As Cantor points out, Gilligan is not the smartest one on the island. He doesn’t have the obvious leadership résumé. Yet the audience instinctively sympathizes with him, and the show’s creators were right to put him in the center. In episode after episode, the fate of the islanders usually rests in his hands and he usually serves them well.That’s because Gilligan possesses a subtle but important set of virtues: the democratic virtues. He is agreeable. He is decent. He never looks down on people; instead he gives others the benefit of the doubt. As Bush would say, he has a good heart.He is also public spirited. Though humble, he is forever filled with good-natured plans to make other people happy. He doesn’t have a narrow perspective, like the other characters—the Professor, or the Millionaire, or the Movie Star. He doesn’t want to mold other peoples’ lives for them. But because of him the island is a happy community—happier, the show continually implies, than the world the castaways are stranded from.Though Cantor doesn’t make the connection, Bush is a lot like that....
And most frequently of all, Mr. Brooks lumbered over and over again to the ippy-tippy top of the mountain of his own self-righteousness to sneer at those Stupid Liberals!
Stupid Liberals, who cooked up some crazy "brainless, self-destructive" fantasy that Bush Administration policies were about to wipe out the Clinton surplus, run up a gargantuan deficit and put Social Security under the gun:
The New Stupid PartyLONG AGO, the Republican party was nicknamed the Stupid Party, and at times Republicans have done their best to live up to the label. But after the past week, it is perhaps time to acknowledge that when it comes to brainless, self-destructive behavior, the Democratic party has achieved a level of excellence that will be unsurpassed in our lifetime.Last week the Congressional Budget Office came out with a budget forecast. The report immediately got submerged in a chatterstorm about whether Congress or the White House would dip into something called the Social Security trust fund, but the essential facts are these: The CBO economists estimated that the federal government will run a surplus of about $150 billion in 2001. That’s a lower surplus than the CBO estimated a few months ago, before the economic slowdown, the Bush tax cut, and the recent congressional spending splurge. But even in these adverse circumstances, the surplus is still projected to grow to about $200 billion a year in 2004 and close to $300 billion a year by 2006.The Democratic party proceeded to work itself up into a collective aneurysm. Dick Gephardt—who, when given the chance to play the demagogue, never goes halfway—said that the United States now faces "an alarming fiscal crisis." Democratic national chairman Terry McAuliffe said on Face the Nation that it had taken Bill Clinton eight years to build up the surplus, but Bush was able to "blow it in eight months." Other Democrats rose up en masse to declare that the Bush administration was going to bankrupt Social Security/the federal government/western civilization because the administration was going to have to "raid the Social Security trust fund."
Stupid Liberals who wandered stupidly around stupid Paul Krugman-land!
The Pelosi Democrats
Are they going to become the stupid party?
ARE THE DEMOCRATS about to go insane? Are they about to decide that the reason they lost the 2002 election is that they didn't say what they really believe? Are they about to go into Paul Krugman-land, lambasting tax cuts, savaging Bush as a tool of the corporate bosses? Are they about to go off on a jag that will ensure them permanent minority status in every state from North Carolina to Arizona?...
And then back we go again to the fucking Bush tax cuts and Mr. Brooks' brilliant command of post-causality economics (March 2001):
Yes, There Is a New EconomyThanks to once-in-a lifetime productivity gains, Bush's plans are easily affordableMAR 19, 2001...This year's tax and budget debate really comes down to one essential question: Is the money going to be there? The Congressional Budget Office projects surpluses of about $ 5.6 trillion over the next 10 years. The Republicans insist that those projections are conservative, so the government can afford to return $ 1.6 trillion to the taxpayers and still have money left over for Social Security, Medicare, and an $ 800 billion contingency fund. The Democrats cry that projections are notoriously inaccurate, that the tax cuts will blow a hole in the budget, and that the Bush administration's risky scheme (which sailed through the House last week) would cast us back into the days of piling debt.
....even if today's productivity improvements are only on the scale of, say, the improvements our economy saw after World War II, we may be in for a long and sunny ride. There is a rough historical pattern here. A new technology is invented. It takes a long time before people figure out how to use it. The electric motor was invented in the 1880s, but it didn't transform factories until the 1920s, economist Paul David has noted. Once the technology is fully deployed, however, there are decades of positive results. Daniel Sichel of the Federal Reserve points to previous technology-driven surges that lasted 10 and 25 years. That suggests we may still be near the beginning of this particular period of bounty.
If we are, an occasional period of slower growth or even a recession may occur, but the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong, and both laymen and legislators have good reasons to believe it will remain strong for many years. Industrial productivity is surging. Americans are not only the hardest working people on earth (the average American works about 10 weeks a year more than the average European) but also the most productive workers -- by far. If you measure value added per hour worked, Americans do about 20 percent better than Germans and the French, and 40 percent better than the Japanese.
In other words, if you wade through the economic literature, it's hard not to agree with the Cleveland Fed's Jerry Jordan: We are living at a once-in-a-generation moment of economic opportunity. As productivity grows, the economy will grow. As the economy grows, revenues will grow, maybe beyond what the CBO projects. The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, Can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?
In Mr. Kristol's service, Mr. Brooks dutifully pined for the loss of Great Men and their Great Ideas. Like...Reaganomics!
Stimulation InfatuationCongress is going to pass a bad stimulus package--and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them.11:01 PM, NOV 29, 2001...The second depressing feature of the debate is the death of the supply-side ethos. The supply-siders' greatest achievement was not to win arguments against liberals. It was to win arguments against corporatists. They insisted that Republican economic policy should serve some higher purpose than simply pouring money into corporate bank accounts. They put forward plausible and idealistic notions of how tax policy could be changed to stimulate industriousness, productivity, and other virtues.
And raged against the Liberal media's "deranged" misrepresentation of the Bush Administration's noble intentions:
Bush, as Advertised
FEB 5, 2001
What on earth has gotten into the liberals and the media? Perhaps affected by some sort of post-Palm Beach stress disorder, reporters and activists on the left have depicted George W. Bush as the leader of some sort of arch-conservative jihad. They've portrayed his tax plan as dangerously radical, some of his nominees as Confederacy-loving loons, and his voucher plan as a menace to the future of public education. To put it bluntly, this is all deranged. You get the impression that the left has actually started believing its own direct-mail fund-raising letters....
Mr. Brooks praised the enlightened reforms which Great Men were infusing into the Republican Party:
Pabulum with a PurposeBeneath the much-mocked superficiality of the Philadelphia convention is a serious effort to transform the GOPAUG 14, 2000The GOP is not intolerant...
And praised them...
ONE NATION CONSERVATISMHow George W. Bush and John McCain -- without quite realizing it -- are creating a new Republican philosophySEP 13, 1999
...together, Bush's Compassionate Conservatism and McCain's New Patriotic Challenge are steps toward a fresh vision for the Republican party. Indeed, if you meld the core messages of the two campaigns, you get a coherent governing philosophy for the post-Clinton age.
And praised them...
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary LiberalsJAN 15, 2001
We seem to be entering a period of competent conservatism and reactionary liberalism. George W. Bush has put together a cabinet long on management experience and practical skills. But liberal commentators and activists, their imaginations aflame, seem to be caught in a time warp, back in the days when Norman Lear still had hair....
While always remembering to leaven his sloppy, lap-dop praise of Great Conservative Men with non-sequitor potshots at the silly habits of those Stupid Liberals.
Birkenstock Man vs. The Sprawl People12:00 AM, OCT 18, 2002
...Your perfect Bay Area denizen dresses in open-toed sandals with advanced polymer soles for extra traction during Sierra Club-sponsored day hikes amidst endangered coastal wetlands. He wakes up in the morning in his $4 million Victorian home with the renovated minimalist interior that cleverly recycles reclaimed poplar wood from a 16th-century monastery in the exposed ceiling beams. The Thai religious figures on his raw cedar mantelpiece make a statement about the need for inner peace in a world of commercial excess, and are widely admired when he holds mushroom tasting fund-raisers for Native American/Chicana Lesbian Dance troupes.
Those precious Liberals:
THE LIBERAL GENTRYBeing an Article Which Describes the Habits and Mores of a Newly Landed Aristocracy11:00 PM, DEC 29, 1996The Liberal Gentleman stands atop his private mountain, fuming because the planes far overhead are disturbing his tranquility. He ponders the irony that the Unabomber, who had so many good ideas, nonetheless went astray. The wind comes up, and so, snapping up his all-cotton Labrador Field coat, he bids a silent farewell to the family of moose he has brought in to graze on his northern slope. As he sidles down toward the house, his bandanna-wrapped dog, Rugby, cavorting at his side, he reflects as usual on the links between himself and Tolstoy, who also bonded with nature and was so nice to his serfs.The sun gleams off the kayak rack on his Land Rover as he walks gingerly around his trees, careful not to compact the soil over their roots. His garden has been subtly terraced, using recycled concrete risers taken from an old slaughterhouse. Rows of wildflowers are meticulously maintained alongside.A sense of peace and beauty sweeps over him as he sees his wife practicing her flute on an old bench in the wood-sculpture garden. Since she became corresponding secretary of the Montana branch of the Urban League, she's had little time for self-expansion, and the winter will be busy when the bidding starts for her screenplay on the life of Bill McKibben, the Thoreau de notre temps who somehow manages to collect a living wage from the New Yorker (perhaps his paychecks arrive by oxcart). The Liberal Gentleman thinks it's good to see his wife getting in some artistic time, and she looks lovely in the oak-framed sunglasses she bought for only $ 135 from the Herrington catalogue.The Liberal Gentleman ponders what to do with his afternoon. Paint? Prune? Go down to the Inipi? But soon a vague longing overcomes him. For to be an artist of the spirit, as all members of the Liberal Gentry are, is to be perpetually on the watch for ever deeper communion with the essence of Being. Somewhere out there in the infinity of Patagonia, there is a purer piece of wool outerwear, a more organic coffee bean, a more rustic pine table to be had, a more interesting way to recycle 19th-century fish netting into a shower curtain...
Those intolerant Liberals:
THE NAKED PUBLIC CAVEAPR 22, 1996THE LOS ANGELES TIMES PRIDES ITSELF on being Sensitivity Central in American journalism. Its editor, Shelby Coffey III, created a media frenzy when he championed a new stylebook for the paper that epitomizes political correctness. What, then, explains the paper's decision to pull three "B. C." comic strips around Eastertime because of their religious content?
...As usual, the effort to enhance diversity merely creates uniformity. Instead of living in a world of complicatedand diverse religious sentiments, in the name of diversity the Times helps construct a public square that is monolithically secular.
HAVING MORAL SEX?12:00 AM, SEP 18, 1995
You buy a brand of ice cream that sends proceeds to benefit the rain forest. You channel your savings into socially responsible investment funds. Your bath products do not rely on animal testing and you rarely go to a " rock concert that isn't sponsored by Amnesty International. Yet every other day, after the credits roll on Charlie Rose, you and your partner engage in an activity that has no social implications. For nearly an hour every week, you are expending energy in a way that will aid neither the endangered rain forests nor the oppressed women on the Indian subcontinent. Of course this puts a strain on a consciousness so finely tuned as your own.
Thank Gaia, the forces of social concern have enabled us to mobilize our commitment to larger 'moral questions every second of every day, including in our sex lives. In the back of magazines such as Mother Jones, Harper's and the New Republic, there are advertisements from organizations that can help us put our phallus in touch with our consciousness. Some of these organizations, such as Good Vibrations, sell the tools that allow "thinking persons" to experience sexual energies in enlightened ways. Journals such as Blue Moon and Libido merge sex and sensibility, and offer turn-ons that fuse with larger concerns, such as environmental degradation and income inequality. Finally, there are many how-to guides that offer exhaustive advice on performing sex acts in high-minded ways...
Those godless Liberals:
Religious Impulses, Good and Bad
The atheists attack the cross, the CFR folks attack soft money, and Jesse Ventura folds like a cheap tent.12:00 AM, JUN 21, 2002...It's true that environmentalism is pretty poor as religions go, since it produces little more than a series of "spiritual" moments before nature's beauty that don't accumulate to anything.
And just to insure that no "The Weekly Standard" reader could ever accuse him of being a little wobblie or light-in-the-wingnut-loafers, Mr. Brooks would sometimes take a day off from shitting on Liberals to fire a little shart in the direction of those mushy, Centrist, non-partisan , "no labels" types too:
THE LAND BEYOND LEFT AND RIGHTOCT 2, 1995People with definite creeds don't have to reinvent the wheel. Conservatives and liberals inherit intellectual traditions; they can learn from lines of thinkers who shared their basic precepts." Conservatives go around wearing Adam Smith neckties. They cite Burke or Jefferson or Aquinas. More recently, Milton Friedman, Lionel Trilling, James Burnham, and others did some heavy lifting; it's not necessary for today's conservatives to do it all over again. Beyondists have to start from scratch.
The labeled have an even greater advantage over the labelless. Liberals and conservatives join movements. A free marketeer can go anywhere in the world and have dinner with somebody from the local free market think tank -- in London, Jerusalem, Capetown. Domestically, conservative and liberal magazines form their own communities. Conferences and bulletin boards, parties and dinners reinforce the bonds. "
It is this web of friendships that gives a creed its dynamism. People gossip, people talk. Look at the newsletters put out by the CATO Institute or the American Enterprise Institute; there will be photos of politicians and think tankers and academics standing in happy conversational klatches, clutching cocktail glasses against their stomachs. That's a political movement in action.One of the virtues of being a member of a movement is that it takes you outside your own narrow concerns and forces you to consider others unlike yourself. An evangelical Christian finds himself linked with, and learning from, Orange County libertarians and New York Jewish neoconservatives. This breeds a sense of tolerance for those whose brand of conservatism may differ. It also explains why members of the Christian Coalition are more tolerant of outsiders than outsiders are of them.
Beyondists point to contradictions between those who call themselves conservatives, and so declare that the labels have no meaning. Asking that categories be as rigorously enforceable as scientific taxonomy is asking too much. They are loose groupings -- conservatism emphasized Kempism in the 1980s and emphasizes Kasichery in the 1990s. They contain diversity (from Ralph Reed to P. J. O'Rourke) while maintaining solidarity.
Movements nurture the young. They offer mundane things like job opportunities, but they also impart education and give their members a sense of higher purpose. In the war of ideas, battalions do well. Each foot soldier makes an unconscious deal: He dispossesses himself of the privilege of being uncategorizable and completely autonomous, and in exchange he gets a place in the larger movement.
The Beyondists are above the compromise that membership in a movement entails, as they are beyond partisan politics. In short they are above the fray. At their worst, they seem like Kevin Phillips -- solitary complainers who inveigh against a world that will not live up to their standards. At their best they are acute observers, but observers only....
Then perhaps a refreshing pivot back to another example of our ongoing loss of National Greatness because of...uh...the Olympics!
We can't get our National Greatness up anymore because Elite Institutions like the Olympics have degenerated into a fucking multicultural Commie hoax:
Olympic FarceOnce upon a time, the Olympics were about patriotism and the celebration of virtue. Now they're a multi-culti festival.11:01 PM, FEB 7, 2002...there is a certain sort of person who chokes on the stark inequality that is inherent in competition--the fact that some are better than others. That sort of person only knows how to celebrate cooperation.So now we have a whole propaganda machine built up to spread the distortion that the Olympics exist to bring people from all over the world together to enjoy togetherness--when the reality is that the Olympics are there to bring people from all over the world together so we can see who is best.The propaganda machine reaches its climax during the only two ludicrous moments of the Olympic games, the opening and closing ceremonies. These ceremonies were fine when their major feature was the parade of nations. You could see the teams, the diversity of nations and cultures, the spirit of friendly but determined competition that is supposed to dominate the games. But over the years this parade has taken a back seat to the great propaganda show, often featuring cute children, multicultural cliches, and Up With People-style dance routines. The whole thing is designed to spread the message that we are all just one great big loving human family.This is true on an abstract level--we do all share a common humanity--but in practice it's just sentimental goo. And we know it is sentimental goo because it is the kind of effortless emotion that is completely detached from real life situations and difficulties. What is happening to the Olympics globally is a large scale version of what happened to the Olympics in the Communist world during the Cold War.Communism is predicated on this phony ethos built around equality, worker solidarity, and cooperation. Communists were not allowed to acknowledge any ethos that celebrated and thus regulated individual striving and accomplishment. So when Communist officials found themselves competing with the rest of the world, they cheated on a massive scale, pumping their athletes full of steroids, lying to their own athletes.
And then a short Public Service Message reminding all "Weekly Standard" readers that our Elite Beltway Overlords (into whose ranks Mr. Brooks has spent his entire adult life clawing himself) can never really be trusted because they are shallow, money-grubbing, status-obsessed twats::
THE TRAGEDY OF SIDMAY 6, 1996Our editor, a composite, was suffering from Status-Income Disequilibrium (SID). The sufferers of this malady have jobs that give them high status but low income. They lunch on an expense account at The Palm, but dine at home on macaroni. All day long the phone-message slips pile up on their desks -- calls from famous people seeking favors -- but at night they realize the tub needs scrubbing, so it's down on the hands and knees with the Ajax. At work they are aristocrats, Kings of the Meritocracy, schmoozing with Felix Rohatyn. At home they are peasants, wondering if they can really afford to have orange juice every morning.Status-Income-Disequilibrium sufferers include journalists at important media outlets, editors at publishing houses, TV news producers, foundation officers, museum curators, moderately successful classical-music performers, White House aides, military brass, politicians who aren't independently wealthy, and many others. Consider the plight of the army general, who can command the movements of 100,000 men during the week but stretches to afford a Honda Accord for weekend outings. Or of poor John Sununu, who ruled the world when he was White House chief of staff but had to feed, educate, and house eight children on $ 125,000 a year. The disparity is not to be borne.There are two sides to the status/income equation. On one end is the Monied Class, those with plenty of dough who can use it to acquire status. But I am concerned with the Titled Class. Historically, when we think of the Grand Titles, we think of Prince, Duke, Earl, and Baron. But in the age of meritocracy, the Grand Titles are Senior Fellow, Editor in Chief, Assistant to the Secretary. Or titles that include an employer's name -- the New York Times, the White House, Knopf -- in which case it scarcely matters which position the individual holds.The Titled Class has always resented and secretly envied the Monied Class. But for journalists, writers, and politicos, the pain now is acute. Until recently, a person who went into, say, the media understood that he or she would forever live a middle-class life. But now one need only look at Cokie Roberts or David Gergen to see that vast wealth is possible. Once it becomes plausible to imagine yourself pulling in $ 800,000 a year, the lack of that money begins to hurt.
For journalists, media types, and other SID sufferers, there is no easy solution at hand. One can envision the rare high-income/high-status people -- William F Buckley, Martin Peretz, Lewis Lapham -- getting together to form charitable organizations to benefit their deprived brethren. These organizations could give out prestigious awards to low-status billionaires. Or they could give six-bedroom homes to high-status/low-income types....
Followed by yet another timely reminder that George W. Bush is not merely a Great Man...
This Is SeriousDominance for Republicans. Vindication for the president. And a good showing from the American people.12:15 AM, NOV 6, 2002
Finally, never, ever, ever underestimate George W. Bush. It took me two years of being wrong about Bush before I finally got sick of it. The rest of the pundit class had better catch on. He is a leader of the first order...
... but a Great Man who is on his way to almost single-handedly purifying an Elite Institution so that it can get on with the business of restoring our National Greatness.
The Reemerging Republican MajorityWill Bush's popularity transform his party?FEB 11, 2002
...President Bush has broken the libertarian grip on the GOP.
And one more plea for Democrats to stop trying to scare people into thinking that George W. Bush is not a Great Man but is instead is part of some Corporate Conspiracy against Ordinary Americans already!
Why Republicans Should Be Afraid
A lot can go wrong for them this fall.
JUL 29, 2002
...the Democrats seem to think that there is this organized entity called Corporate America, made up of senior executives, Republicans, white country clubbers, and people who were cheerleaders and prom kings in high school. If they can get the rest of the country to hate these people as much as they do, then they will win elections. Because they have this category in their heads, Democrats see the corporate scandals as tainting the whole Republican party.
But Americans who have not been suckled on the "Marx-Engels Reader" do not carry these categories around in their heads. They perceive no one organized entity, Corporate America, that ruthlessly exploits another, Ordinary Americans. Most people believe, rather, that there are some dishonest people who have done horrible things in corporate America. But also that George W. Bush is an admirable man who is doing his best for the country, even though he once worked for a corporation, and has friends who are in business. In other words, they see the scandals as a crisis of character, not a crisis of capitalism
And so, returning to the thesis of this essay, what we have just riffled through is a fair sampling of the public record of Mr. David Brooks, established during his career a Senior Editor for "The Weekly Standard".
This was Mr. Brooks' public resume, as it stood on the eve of the Invasion of Iraq.
Part II: The Man in the High Castle
With a Great Man in the White House, the Elite Institutions of the United States Congress and the Supreme Court safely in the hands of a Responsible Conservative Majority, and the invasion of Iraq smoothly underway, the harmonics among Mr. Brooks' three, perennial subjects finally fell into perfect synchronization. No longer would he need to scamper all over the map to glean stories that sorta fit his rigid, ideological template, or just make stuff up about smelly, wanton Hippies to keep his employer and his readers happy.
With the invasion of Iraq, Mr. Brooks was handed an unprecedented opportunity to moon over Great Men, rhapsodize about a Great Cause and slam the shit out of Dirty Hippies to his heart's content, all under one roof and all from the comfort of his own navel.
And he ran with it.
Mr. Brooks' mercilessly chastised the Liberal Media's for refusing to recognize our imminent success in Afghanistan:
"Tragedy" in Afghanistan
A close reading of news reports shows a remarkable turnaround in Kabul. Not that you'd know it from the headlines.
11:00 PM, NOV 21, 2002
While for much of the media, all news out of Afghanistan must be bad news, it's clear that there is a lot of promise to the place. The old problems of inactivity and despair are being replaced by the new problems caused by crowding, growth, and dynamism. There is now income inequality in Kabul. Were things better when nobody had anything? Because of the terrible transportation system workers struggle to get to and from work. Was it better when there was no work?
Constable quotes one Syed Hashimi, who moved back from California and now owns a construction firm. "Kabul is so exciting now," he says, "I'd love to be a Home Depot, a supermarket downtown, but it's hard to get government cooperation." Welcome to normal life.
Kabul is now a draw, not only to Afghans but to international aid organizations. Constable mentions the amazing fact that there are now over 1,000 nonprofit agencies registered to do work in the city. Some are fake organizations, designed to skim off aid money. But most are genuine, an astounding army of people trying to rebuild the place. Why despair?...
He berated the Liberal Media's refusal to recognize the pure, patriotic nobility of George Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech --
Cynics and the USS Abraham Lincoln
The pundits are so sophisticated that they see the Abraham Lincoln speech as nothing more than a campaign stump.5:00 AM, MAY 2, 2003BY DAVID BROOKSBOY AM I in a terrible mood. I watched and listened to the punditry on President Bush's speech on the USS Lincoln. The people he was standing before have been away from their families for ten months. That's mothers away from their kids, fathers away from their kids, men an women away from their spouses, their mothers, fathers, and siblings. One hundred and fifty fathers on the Abraham Lincoln missed the birth of their child.That's called sacrifice. Most of us are basket cases if we're on a business trip away from our families for four days. These people were gone nearly a year. And they did it to defend the country. They did it to liberate the people of Iraq, so that 25 million Iraqis would be emancipated from a sadistic regime, the greatest victory for human rights since the defeat of the Soviet Union.And what do my fellow pundits say? They sit in the studios and point out sagely that the speech was a tremendous photo-op, and then they go home to the safety of their beds and the comfort of their families.Somehow the sacrifice of those men and women never registers. It's not worth commenting on. The only thing that matters is that this was a campaign event and it's to be judged as just another rally on the way to the convention. The ship, the soldiers, the ocean--all of it is treated as mere bunting, as a Deaveresque device to provide pretty pictures. This is what passes for wisdom.Now I'm not denying that this was in part a political event or that President Bush is a politician. But this was first an American event, a recognition of the noble deed this country is accomplishing. And it was an act of recognition for those soldiers, and through them all the soldiers who fought, including those who were injured and died.And much of punditry treated those soldiers as mere props, as not even human. I understand that most pundits don't know too many of the people on that ship, but it doesn't take a huge act of imagination to feel what they have been through and to at least register their idealism and what they have suffered for it.Somehow the cynicism and the churlishness of the savvy campaign commentator makes that impossible....
-- a stance which regular readers will remember Mr. Brooks abandoned instantly and completely when the President in question was named "Obama" and the mission in question was the killing of Osama bin Laden:
... David Brooks' celebrated "Mission Accomplished Day" today by once again putting millions of innocent New York Times readers at risk of accidentally taking him seriously:
...Both sides are extraordinarily willing to flout respectability to show that they are tough enough to bare the knuckles.
In November, the Romney campaign ran a blatantly dishonest ad in which President Obama purportedly admits that if the election is fought on the economy, he will lose. ...
Last week, the Obama campaign ran a cheap-shot ad on the death of Osama bin Laden. ...Oh it is a thing of pure, Centrist bullshit glory my friends:
"Maybe a campaign is like a courtship." ... "Maybe a campaign is like a big version of 'American Idol.'"..."Maybe, on the other hand, hiring a president is like hiring a plumber."..."You could make a case that most campaigns are a little of all three."
Pure Centrist "Both sides do it" air pudding, specifically designed to do what all of Mr. Brooks' endless, endless, endless New York Times-sanctioned sludgetide of Centrist bullshit is always designed to do: take the sting out of some act of Republican perfidy, hypocrisy or treason by drawing an utterly false equivalence between it and some imaginary sin or slight on the part of Democrats.This time he tarted it up with some not-so-subtle shouts out to the raving, Michele Malkin, "OMFG! Obama is a Chicago gangster!" crowd --"The slam made Clinton look small, it made Obama look small, it turned a moment of genuine accomplishment into a political ploy, but it did follow the rules of gangland: At every second, attack; at every opportunity, drive a shiv between the ribs.
"This martial-, gangland-style of campaigning apparently makes the people in the campaigns feel hardheaded, professional and Machiavellian. But it’s not clear that it’s actually the best way to win an election."-- but such distinctions are just the gingerbread on the slaughterhouse.By now, "Both sides do it" is almost literally the only column David Brooks ever writes....
Mr. Brooks went so far as to haul the long knives all the way out when he dismissed criticism of Great Man Paul Wolfowitz as nothing but anti-Semitism and the "socialism of fools".
The socialism of fools has returned to vogue not just in the Middle East and France, but in the American left and Washington.
11:00 PM, FEB 20, 2003...
I mentioned that I barely know Paul Wolfowitz, which is true. But I do admire him enormously, not only because he is both a genuine scholar and an effective policy practitioner, not only because he has been right on most of the major issues during his career, but because he is now the focus of world anti-Semitism. He carries the burden of their hatred, which emanates not only from the Arab world and France, but from some people in our own country, which I had so long underestimated.
In the trademark, passive/aggressive style behind which Mr. Brooks hides when he doesn't want to leave his fingerprints on any of his opinioneering, "one hears" that "Americans" are repelled by those Dirty Hippies who are "trying to divide the country" and mess up our journey back to National Greatness:
From the April 4, 2003 London Times:
Suddenly, things don't look so grim.
10:25 AM, APR 6, 2003...Second, one hears of a growing distaste for the peace marchers, again from people who don't necessarily support the President. Their objections are not so much substantive as tonal. These peace marchers seem driven by bile and self-righteousness, and are fundamentally out of step with a country that wants, now that the war is on, to back the troops.
In short, the mood feels a bit as it it did after September 11. Americans are pulling together. There is a yearning to perform some act of public service. There is greater revulsion at those who are trying to divide the country. There is no tolerance for alienated poses.
But like so many Conservatives, Mr. Brooks' most giddy obsession during these critical years was speculating on the exact size and velocity of the Hell the Dirty Hippies were going to catch -- and how warped and pathetic their vicious, mindless denial would be -- now that they had been proven wrong!-wrong!-wrong! Because (in case you weren't there or don't remember), during this period Conservatives like Mr. Brooks genuinely believed that the Conservative Millennium was at hand -- that in the Bush Presidency and the Iraq War they had at last found their Movement's Holy Grail: a final, irrefutable, public, slam-dunk vindication of their Grand Unifying Theory that Dirty Hippies really are awful people who really do hate America, are responsible for every bad thing that has every happened and deserving of every horrible thing that Conservatives like Mr. Brooks had ever said about them.
And once again, the nakedly opportunistic David Brooks grabbed that grail with both hands and gleefully beat the shit out of the Dirty Hippies with it.
Today's Progressive Spirit
The scenes in Baghdad flow from understandings realized at the American founding.
1:00 PM, APR 9, 2003
... I'm curious about how all the war opponents are going to react if things continue to go well. Sure, they opposed Saddam, they will say. They just didn't want to do anything about him. They had no practical suggestion for how to end his murderous reign and spread freedom. They were tolerant. Tolerant of tyranny. They doubted, and continue to doubt America's willingness and ability to serve as a force for good in the world. That was their crucial mistake.
I suspect they will not even now admit their errors. I doubt the people of Europe will say: We were wrong. You really are the liberators of the Iraqi people. I doubt the Arab propagandists will say: We will never spread such distortions again. We will never again be so driven by resentment and dishonesty.
Sad to say, human nature doesn't work that way. The rump 15 percent of Americans who still oppose this war may perhaps grow more bitter, lost in the cul-de-sac of their own alienation.
The Phony Debate
The pundits are arguing about everything except what's interesting.
MAR 31, 2003
AS I WRITE, a couple of days into the war, the hawks are optimistic and the liberals are bracing to get beaten about with sticks. The hawks are optimistic because the Iraqi regime seems to be crumbling. None of the terrible things the doves predicted has yet come to pass: no mass riots on the Arab street, no coup in Pakistan or Jordan, no Scuds landing on Tel Aviv, no surge in oil prices, no fierce resistance from the Iraqis, either from the soldiers or the men in the streets. "Surging hope" is how Andrew Sullivan describes his mood.Meanwhile on the left, it's like settling in for a long, cold winter. "Brace yourself for a round of I-told-you-sos from Iraq hawks," Robert Wright writes in Slate. "In the foreseeable future," Al Hunt concedes in the Wall Street Journal, "the Bush critics will be very much on the defensive."War opponents emphasize that while things might go well in the short term, in the long term, Iraq is likely to be a mess.Honorable liberals also find themselves twisted into an emotional pretzel, hoping that their forebodings about the war are proven wrong, but not quite looking forward to a moment when Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz might be proven right.
The Fog of Peace
The evasions, distractions, and miasma of the anti-war left...
And, holy fuck, yet again.
The Collapse of the Dream Palaces
Mass destruction of mistaken ideas.
APR 28, 2003
... Now that the war in Iraq is over, we'll find out how many people around the world are capable of facing unpleasant facts. For the events of recent months confirm that millions of human beings are living in dream palaces, to use Fouad Ajami's phrase. They are living with versions of reality that simply do not comport with the way things are. They circulate and recirculate conspiracy theories, myths, and allegations with little regard for whether or not these fantasies are true. And the events of the past month have exposed them as the falsehoods they are.
Finally, there is the dream palace of the American Bush haters. In this dream palace, there is so much contempt for Bush that none is left over for Saddam or for tyranny. Whatever the question, the answer is that Bush and his cronies are evil. What to do about Iraq? Bush is evil. What to do about the economy? Bush is venal. What to do about North Korea? Bush is a hypocrite.
In this dream palace, Bush, Cheney, and a junta of corporate oligarchs stole the presidential election, then declared war on Iraq to seize its oil and hand out the spoils to Halliburton and Bechtel. In this dream palace, the warmongering Likudniks in the administration sit around dreaming of conquests in Syria, Iran, and beyond. In this dream palace, the boy genius Karl Rove hatches schemes to use the Confederate flag issue to win more elections, John Ashcroft wages holy war on American liberties, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and his cabal of neoconservatives long for global empire. In this dream palace, every story of Republican villainy is believed, and all the windows are shuttered with hate.
My third guess is that the Bush haters will grow more vociferous as their numbers shrink. Even progress in Iraq will not dampen their anger, because as many people have noted, hatred of Bush and his corporate cronies is all that is left of their leftism. And this hatred is tribal, not ideological. And so they will still have their rallies, their alternative weeklies, and their Gore Vidal polemics. They will still have a huge influence over the Democratic party, perhaps even determining its next presidential nominee. But they will seem increasingly unattractive to most moderate and even many normally Democratic voters who never really adopted outrage as their dominant public emotion.
In other words, there will be no magic "Aha!" moment that brings the dream palaces down. Even if Saddam's remains are found, even if weapons of mass destruction are displayed, even if Iraq starts to move along a winding, muddled path toward normalcy, no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, "We were wrong. Bush was right." They will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future. Nevertheless, the frame of the debate will shift. The war's opponents will lose self-confidence and vitality. And they will backtrack. They will claim that they always accepted certain realities, which, in fact, they rejected only months ago.
And so, returning once again to our thesis, what you have slogged through (bless your heart!) is Mr. Brooks' public resume as it stood at the apotheosis of Bush Era Conservative Triumphalism.
As it stood at the very moment that the "The New York Times" offered him the job of a lifetime atop one of the most prominent and influential media platforms on Earth.
And then history happened, and all of it fell apart.
Part III: Total Recall
No. Not "fell apart".
So, so much worse than "fell apart".
What happened was...this (me, from seven years ago):
You Bought it. Now Live In It.
...in five short years, the Moderates have lived to become everything they detest. Every word of clucking reproach they yelped in snickering glee during the Clinton Age has gotten caught up in the Bush Treason Cyclotron, sped up to light-speed, and is now coming screaming back at them like a sack of radioactive axe-heads.Their worst nightmare is in the process of coming true, big as a mountain in stilettos, carrying a sledgehammer in one hand and a 40-foot-long straight razor in the other, and there is not shit all they can do about it. Because everything they believed or touted or crowed about or tried to rub in our faces is in the process of coming down around their ears.Every. Single. Thing.Every justification that they were fed about their Great Ay-rab Safari is now spilling out into the sunlight and can clearly be seen -- even from High Earth Orbit -- to have been a willful lie.The leaders who swore to them it was holy and justified to scream their lungs bloody in ecstasy at the thought of their two dearest fantasies -- piles of dead brown people and Low! Low! Gas prices -- coming to pass in One Glorious War are outed as a Confederacy of traitors and liars and fools.Their pet media, nothing but perambulating pustules, refilled with hate and mendacity every night by White House messengers.That they have never been anything to the GOP but chumps: little sacs of cash and votes and “mandate” to be squeezed dry with impunity, because Moderates are basically beat-down whores who will always go wriggling back to their abusers.But now it’s not one thing that’s melting down; it’s everything. The serial cons that have kept the grubby Mods goggle-eyed and heroin-loyal are all falling apart simultaneously and there’s nothing but decibels left in the Shiny Object Bag to keep them from noticing the awful truth.That their Leaders are traitors.Their heroes are liars.Their dogma is a joke.Their President is a feeble-minded creep who has fucked up everything he has ever touched.It’s as if their mothers suddenly ripped of rubber masks and have shown themselves to be the spree killers they’ve always been.How terrifying that must be. I mean, I’m wrong about a lot of stuff...but everything?Every God Damned Thing?And worse – so very much worse – not only were they utterly wrong about everyfuckingthing, but the Evil Liberals were right all along.The big picture. The fussy details. The arithmetic. The real, racist heart of the GOP. The various myriad, casual betrayals by the Bush White House.All of it.The Liberals were right, and the Moderates had been given no fewer than 30 years of warning that this is precisely where their idiocy would land us.I can’t even imagine how it must feel to know at some level that your whole world is a farce, and your whole belief system is a Ponzi Scheme run on you by thugs who never gave a shit about you, or your family or your dearest peon dreams....
Part IV: Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
And so we find Mr. Brooks, America's starchiest defender of Institutional Power and the ethos of Elite Meritocracy --
"I’d say today’s meritocratic elites achieve and preserve their status not mainly by being corrupt but mainly by being ambitious and disciplined."
-- being handed a job he clearly does not merit at the apex of one of America's most powerful elite institutions even as the public resume that got him the job begins turning into a steaming pile of shit and blood and FAIL right before our eyes.
Fortunately for him, Mr. Brooks is almost always cushioned on every side by suck-ups, enablers and fellow establishmentarians who can be counted on to never ask him any uncomfortable or volatile questions about his previous career as a liar and war pimp which might cause the professional dominoes to begin falling. Still, sitting on a throne of disintegrating lies is inherently precarious, which is why new themes and observations suddenly started showing up much more frequently in Mr. Brooks' bi-weekly columns.
Themes like "civility" (Translation: Don't you dare mention truthful things about me that will hurt my career!) and "bipartisanship" (Translation: Can't we all agree to not blame Conservatives?)
Observations about how the world was divide into people of "good character" (Translation: someone who would never be so rude as to bring up the subject of Mr. Brooks' previous career as a liar and war pimp) and people who "who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness" (Translation: someone rude and shrill enough to bring up Mr. Brooks' lying and war pimping even though all of the Beltway's very best Serious People have agreed to let officially bygones be bygones.)
Observations about how every "sensible people" understands that we are all flawed (Translation: Don't blame me!) and we all make mistakes (Translation: Everybody got it wrong!); that everything is a "process" and every "sensible person" should just be grateful for that process ((Translation: You suck my dick, I'll suck yours, and we'll both pretend the last 10 years never happened!) and not try to single anyone out for special condemnation or anything because after all, the real problem is that 40 years ago people were deprived of "a sense of their own sinfulness" (Translation: The Dirty Hippies ruined everything! Again!)
Tree of FailureBy DAVID BROOKSPublished: January 13, 2011...Of course, even a great speech won’t usher in a period of civility. Speeches about civility will be taken to heart most by those people whose good character renders them unnecessary. Meanwhile, those who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness will temporarily resolve to do better but then slip back to old habits the next time their pride feels threatened.
Civility is a tree with deep roots, and without the roots, it can’t last. So what are those roots? They are failure, sin, weakness and ignorance.
Every sensible person involved in politics and public life knows that their work is laced with failure. Every column, every speech, every piece of legislation and every executive decision has its own humiliating shortcomings. There are always arguments you should have made better, implications you should have anticipated, other points of view you should have taken on board.
Moreover, even if you are at your best, your efforts will still be laced with failure. The truth is fragmentary and it’s impossible to capture all of it. There are competing goods that can never be fully reconciled. The world is more complicated than any human intelligence can comprehend.
But every sensible person in public life also feels redeemed by others. You may write a mediocre column or make a mediocre speech or propose a mediocre piece of legislation, but others argue with you, correct you and introduce elements you never thought of. Each of these efforts may also be flawed, but together, if the system is working well, they move things gradually forward.
Each individual step may be imbalanced, but in succession they make the social organism better.
As a result, every sensible person feels a sense of gratitude for this process. We all get to live lives better than we deserve because our individual shortcomings are transmuted into communal improvement. We find meaning — and can only find meaning — in the role we play in that larger social enterprise.
So this is where civility comes from — from a sense of personal modesty and from the ensuing gratitude for the political process. Civility is the natural state for people who know how limited their own individual powers are and know, too, that they need the conversation. They are useless without the conversation.
The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves. The nation’s founders had a modest but realistic opinion of themselves and of the voters. They erected all sorts of institutional and social restraints to protect Americans from themselves. They admired George Washington because of the way he kept himself in check.
But over the past few decades, people have lost a sense of their own sinfulness...So, of course, you get narcissists who believe they or members of their party possess direct access to the truth. Of course you get people who prefer monologue to dialogue. Of course you get people who detest politics because it frustrates their ability to get 100 percent of what they want. Of course you get people who gravitate toward the like-minded and loathe their political opponents. They feel no need for balance and correction.Beneath all the other things that have contributed to polarization and the loss of civility, the most important is this: The roots of modesty have been carved away....
And so, with his toxic resume safely entombed by his colleagues inside an epistemic sarcophagus (the sanctity of which is never breached except by vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers no one listens to anyway), we finally catch up with the Great Man as he is today: fully settled into his new digs at an Very Elite Institution, and giving hypocrisy a Z-axis by not merely building one third of his career out of being publicly, catastrophically and immodestly wrong about George W. Bush and Iraq and then refusing to acknowledge or apologize for it...
...and not merely building another third of his career out publicly speculating that the Dirty Hippies would refuse to acknowledge or apologize for being wrong about George W. Bush and Iraq and then lying about it...
...but by building the final third of his career out of publicly whining that this country is going to Hell in a Prius because other people -- usually Dirty Hippies and the poor -- refuse to live up to the sterling standards of moral rectitude, modesty, civility and honorable conduct as laid out by Mr.David Brooks.
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