From "Meet the Press" on Sunday
DAVID GREGORY: (LAUGHTER) Here's the head of the Republican Committee to Reelect Republicans in the House saying, "We asked you to do this, but now you've done it, and why are you going after seniors?"
DAVID BROOKS: Well, that was opportunism on stilts. (CHUCKLE) But I think he was more or less alone. I talked to some House leadership people. And they're still, "We should do reform." And so I think what Obama did is the right thing to do, but it was too small.
Some writers become enamored of certain expressions.
Especially the bad ones:
Mr. Brooks from 2010, on why "people" were stupid for pressuring the Obama Administration to do anything about the Deepwater Horizon disaster:
"In times of crisis, you get a public reaction that is incoherence on stilts."
In 2006, with Iraq stinking to high Heaven, America's favorite Very Serious Yale Professor of Humility is in full-on, frantic, rear-guard denial mode, once again dismissing Liberals as Bush-deranged imbeciles and Kevin Phillips' analysis that the Right was becoming a theocratic wasteland as rank conspiracy-mongering:
The Paranoid StyleBy DAVID BROOKSPublished: May 4, 2006There's always been a strain of paranoia running through American politics. Back in the mid-1960's, when the right felt powerless, the John Birch Society thrived. Today, when the left feels disinherited, liberals seize upon the conspiracy fantasies of Kevin Phillips, whose book "American Theocracy" is in its fifth week on The Times's best-seller list....This is intellectual dishonesty on stilts. Nonetheless, Phillips's books fly off bookstore shelves, and he's given respectable platforms in the major media and at universities.We're at a moment when crude conspiracy mongering — whether it is academic papers on the Israel lobby or George Clooney's "Syriana" — is emerging from the belly of the American establishment.And while many informed critics have picked apart Phillips's fantasies, other Americans, at once cynical and naïve, are willing to believe any whacked-out theory, so long as it focuses hatred on Bush....
In 2008, troweling out his trademark Centrist twaddle with both hands:
DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean partisan people -- this is the narcissism of partisan. You get furiously outraged at the other campaign's lies, and you love your own. Nonetheless, I do think it is fair to say that the McCain campaign has been more egregious than the Obama campaign.JIM LEHRER: Dishonorable, do you use Mark's word?DAVID BROOKS: No, you know, this is why I'm not a campaign guy.I would not have run the sex-ed ad. The lipstick stuff was just stupidity on stilts. But, in this time, I think exaggerating what McCain said about the rich or wanting to fight a 100-year war in Iraq, he never said that. So, all those things are dishonorable, if you want to say being misleading is dishonorable.
In 2006, while lying about the Minimum Wage:
DAVID BROOKS: Right, this was opportunism on stilts, taking two issues which should have been independent and marrying them together. The moderates wanted the minimum wage increase, which I have to say is a terrible way to help the poor because most people who make the minimum wage are middle-class teenagers. If you want to help the poor, raise the earned income tax credit or something like that.
In 2012, trying to deflect attaention away from the fact that, just maybe, Loot and Scoot capitalism is not an unalloyed blessing to democracy:
David: Obama’s ad is cynicism on stilts. Companies that outsource jobs become more competitive. They grow faster and then end up hiring more people at home. Outsourcing increases employment levels. Outsourcing increases productivity. It also decreases the prices consumers pay for stuff. Obama knows all this. He’s just paying the economic nationalism card for his own gain
In 2011 we once again find Mr. Brooks tirelessly pimping his Centrist poison while punching a few hippies along the way:
Over the past three years, the United States has been committing the planning fallacy on stilts. The world economy has been slammed by a financial crisis. Countries that are afflicted with these crises typically experience several years of high unemployment. They go deep into debt to end the stagnation, but the turnaround takes a while....The Democrats, besotted by the myth that the New Deal ended the Great Depression, have consistently overestimated their ability to turn the economy around. They regard the Greek crackup as a freakish, unlucky break, even though this sort of thing is a typical feature of a financial crisis.Republicans, who should know better, also have an inflated sense of the power of government. In the presidential debates, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman argue about which one oversaw the most job creation during his term as governor, as if governors have an immediate and definable impact on employers’ hiring decisions.
Future historians please note how Mr. Brooks's prose glows in 2005 when talking about the worst President in modern American history. For extra credit compare and contrast Mr. Brooks' casual and accurate mention of how Conservatives "admire" George W. Bush to later, widespread Conservative assertions that they had never even heard of him:
For the first years of his presidency, George Bush healed the division between Republicans and conservatives by pursuing big conservative goals with ruthless Republican discipline. But Harriet Miers has shown no loyalty to conservative institutions like the Federalist Society. Her loyalty has been to the person of the president, and her mental style seems to be Republicanism on stilts.
So conservatives are caught between loyalty to their ideas and loyalty to the president they admire.
Back to peddling Centrism again:
The result is that over the next two years we’ll probably see gridlock on stilts. The energized Republicans will try to reduce the size of government, but they won’t be able to get their bills past President Obama. The surviving Democrats will try to expand government programs, but they will run smack into a closely divided Senate and possibly a Republican-controlled House.
Here we find Our Mr. Brooks getting pissed at Mitt Romney for not being, say, Margaret Thatcher (forgetting that Margaret Thatcher was never Margaret Thatcher in the same way Reagan was never Reagan.)
David: I guess what’s been most depressing for me is the long string of mistakes the Romney campaign has made. They didn’t define their candidate over the summer, while Obama pounded away. They pick Ryan and then don’t make the case for the Ryan proposals. They waste the convention by offering nothing. Then when they say they are going to get more specific, they mostly end up just going small. As a growth agenda, they suggest they are going to crack down on Chinese trade. That’s triviality on stilts.
In another, desperately attempt to pin the Iraq Debacle on the the people who opposed it in the first place, America's favorite Professor of Humility flings the worst cussword in his lexicon -- Unserious! -- at "Democrats" for being unable to figure a way to unfuck-up Mr. Brooks' catastrophic failures to Mr. Brooks' satisfaction:
The Democrats have been fecund with criticisms of the war, but when it comes to alternative proposals, a common approach is social Darwinism on stilts: We failed them, now they’re on their own.
So we are stuck with the Bush proposal as the only serious plan on offer.
Mr. Brooks sloooowly getting around to gently suggesting that Operation Enduring Clusterfuck might not be going exactly 100% as advertised in those lovely, glossy brochures he was handing out on every street corner just a few years earlier:
In other words, when Bush is strategizing goals, he is assertiveness on stilts. When he is contemplating means, he defers to authority.
And the sad truth is, there has been a gap between Bush’s visions and the means his administration has devoted to realize them. And when tactics do not adjust to fit the strategy, then the strategy eventually gets diminished to fit the tactics.
Centrism again: this time trying to come to terms with the fact that unregulated looterism nearly killed the global economy without admitting that unregulated looterism nearly killed the global economy (or, worse, admitting that, once again, the Dirty Hippies who said this would all end badly were right all along):
As Sebastian Mallaby wrote in The Washington Post, spend too little and you’re not helping the banks. Spend too much and nobody else is going to play in the market.
Then you’ve got the vast majority of academic economists (it seems) who think that the Paulson plan is faulty from the get-go.
To sum it all up, we’re dealing with uncertainty on stilts while the wolf breaths down our neck.
President Obama and Afghanistan:
As for Afghanistan, Obama announced the policy pretending that he was scaling back and wouldn’t be doing nation-building. In fact, as everybody on the ground made clear, this was the most intrusive act of nation-building possible. In some ways it is the neocon policy on stilts — the idea that you can’t address a nation’s external security unless you improve the internal regime.
The last week or so I have largely left fast-turnaround forensic work of picking apart Mr. Brooks' latest dreadful offerings to others who, like me, do a fine job of it but who, unlike me, pick up a paycheck twice a month for doing it. For this I blame tax season :-) which was once a relatively-painless process but has now become an annual ritual compelling me to revisit all-in-one-massive-dose just how drastically my fortunes have changed over the last five years.
Like Burgess Meredith's character in "Finnegan's Flight", some days I am able to convince myself that, however thick the walls may seem, my fists are made of pig iron.
Or at least aluminum.
Or at least aluminum.
Other days I wake up to painful reminders that they are just tired flesh and old bone.