David Brooks announces the Triumphant Return of National Greatness Conservatism!
First, a little introductory piccolo from the Washington Examiner to give those of you who have never heard of it a quick history lesson in "National Greatness Conservatism":
What is, or was, National Greatness Conservatism? As Brooks described it, NGC was a muscular, nationalist ethos devoted to "great projects designed to physically and spiritually unify the nation." In a 1997 Weekly Standard cover-story "manifesto" entitled "A Return to National Greatness," Brooks decried limited-government conservatives "besotted with localism, local communities, and the devolution of power" and insisted that "energetic government is good for its own sake.""Wishing to be left alone isn't a governing doctrine," he and co-author Bill Kristol (editor of The Weekly Standard, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner) argued later that year in the Wall Street Journal. Instead, Americans needed grand federal crusades to pull them away from private, parochial concerns and invest their lives with meaning.Compulsory national service, a Mars mission and "a neo-Reaganite foreign policy of national strength and moral assertiveness abroad" were among the specific causes championed by NGCers. But "it almost doesn't matter what great task government sets for itself," Brooks wrote, so long as it's busy dragooning us into causes greater than ourselves."Ultimately, American purpose can find its voice only in Washington," Brooks maintained. And Washington is never louder or more powerful than when it has a war to fight. Sept. 11, 2001 brought that war, and the possibility of the grand crusade NGCers had hungered for. "Does anybody but me feel upbeat, and guilty about it?" Brooks wrote less than a month after the towers fell....
Of course as we all know (but only some of us dare say) between September 11, 2001 and today Mr. Brooks' grand, Neoconservative delusions were all very thoroughly bench-tested on a global stage and the entire, appalling butcher's bill in blood and treasure and tragedy and failure and treason of that debacle has still not been reckoned. So small wonder that it has been awhile since Mr. Brooks has dared to haul his Neoconservative wig and costume jewelry out of the closet and walk the streets in full, Leo Strauss drag.
But then today this happened and, well...
The Big DebateThere is so very much wrong with just that paragraph that starting with "It's now clear that..." I could burn out a dozen of my remaining ration of quills just chasing this shambling mess down the Simpson-Bowles Majyck Rabbit Hole --
MAY 19, 2014
It’s now clear that the end of the Soviet Union heralded an era of democratic complacency. Without a rival system to test them, democratic governments have decayed across the globe. In the U.S., Washington is polarized, stagnant and dysfunctional; a pathetic 26 percent of Americans trust their government to do the right thing...
The quickest way around all this is to use elite Simpson-Bowles-type commissions to push populist reforms.-- into which Mr. Brooks often shovels the twitching zombie corpora of his most patently ridiculous ideas.
Fortunately for me, Jonathan Chait has already cut that aspect of this idiocy off at the pass --
...Brooks believes that the drumbeat on behalf of Simpson-Bowles is but a small taste of what is needed to reshape the face of American politics. He foresees a future in which we “Gather small groups of the great and the good together to hammer out bipartisan reforms — on immigration, entitlement reform, a social mobility agenda, etc. — and then rally establishment opinion to browbeat the plans through.”If Simpson and Bowles failed, it is only due to a surfeit of hammering and browbeating. This can be fixed for future Simpson-Bowles commissions. For instance, why is Morning Joe a mere three hours long? It should be on 24 hours a day, and all Americans should have to watch it, Clockwork Orange–style....
-- thus freeing me to rack my lens further out and focus on the broader theme of Mr. Brooks' dangerously unreconstructed Neoconservative tendencies.
Now a cockeyed optimist might believe that a clever, well-read person like David Brooks who consorts with kings and potentates and captains of industry...who went all-in with Operation Endless Clusterfuck...and who used the substantial media megaphone which his boss and fellow Neoconservative Bill Kristol provided him to go full-tilt/scorched-earth Agnew on anyone who questioned the inerrant wisdom of George W. Cheney...might have wised the fuck up since it all blew up in his face.
After all , in recent years Mr. Brooks has built an entire second career for himself packing around the country like the Beltway's own Billy Sunday Morning Gasbag --
-- sermonizing on the virtues of things like modesty, humility and reticence. And so it would not be unreasonable for a cockeyed optimist to believe that maybe -- just maybe -- having been so publicly humiliated by the disastrous blow-back from his zeal to push the Neoconservative Compassionate Conquistador agenda to the ends of the Earth, Mr. Brooks might have actually internalized a small fraction of those sermonettes.
But of course, that cockeyed optimist would be wrong.
Because here in the real world, Mr. Brooks has nothing to feel bad about because Mr. Brooks never actually said or did any of the awful things he said or did. And if you don't believe it, you can just ask him:
But more importantly, as a committed, lifestyle Neoconservative,
it is ideologically impossible for Mr. Brooks to give up on the dream that maybe, one day, he can help kickstart another Cold War by invoking another, largely-imaginary existential threat. Because only by conjuring the boogeymen hiding under our national bed can neoconservatives generates that sweet, sweet fungible terror which they believe makes all of that awesome marching and conforming and sense of national purpose under the rule of a neoconservative elite possible.
In the 1980's it was the decrepit and dying Soviet Union that the neocons fitted out with brand new seven league boots, invisible super-weapons and inhumanly implacable purpose in order to rise to power:
...Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of powerful new Soviet WMDs were unproven - they said the lack of proof proved that undetectable weapons existed - they nonetheless used their charges to push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan administration.But, trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs.Not only do we now know that the Soviets didn't have any new and impressive WMDs, but we also now know that they were, in fact, decaying from within, ripe for collapse any time, regardless of what the US did - just as the CIA (and anybody who visited Soviet states - as I had - during that time could easily predict). The Soviet economic and political system wasn't working, and their military was disintegrating.
With the fall of the USSR, the Neocons of the 1990s were stuck making this guy over into the Greatest Threat Our Republic Has Ever Faced. Lord knows they tried their best and spent a fortune on it, but in retrospect pretty much everyone who went big on the Impeachment of Bill Clinton ended up looking like raving idiots. And having spent so much time and money on something so petty and trivial, as the Bush Administration took power, the neoconservatives found themselves with a seemingly insoluble political problem.
As I wrote back in 2009:
...After conspiring to bring about two of the most destructive events in modern American history -- the impeachment of a US President over trivia, and the probable theft of the subsequent Presidential election -- to what God could Republicans possibly pray that their eight years of insanity, venom and violence "might be wholly blotted out?”On 09/11/01, their dark miracle came winging its way out of a clear, blue sky.Eight years ago, this is what we all saw.
All of us, all together across all political, cultural and religious spectra watched the worst thing many of us had ever seen.Together.But in what now seems like less time than it took to wipe away our tears, the same depraved thugs who sponsored eight years of "Clinton Murdered Vince Foster!" hysteria began hijacking of our pain and patriotism to serve their partisan interests right before our eyes.The minute the Bush Administration began trying to stretch the war they got into an excuse for the war they wanted, 9/11 stopped being merely a national tragedy and started being the Bush Administration's bottomless political ATM machine.The minute the Party of Personal Responsibility began using the mantra "9/11 changed everything" as the political equivalent of the Blood of Christ -- as a means to absolve themselves of their personal responsibility for eight years of malice and derangement -- for them September 11, 2001 stopped being a moment of shared, national anguish and started being a suit of cultural body-armor which magically deflected any criticism of their lies and their hypocrisy.An impervious sniper's nest from which they could cynically escalate --"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.
-- their war on the Left.Or don't you remember the day the Right robbed the graves of all those who perished on 9/11 to turn this
into their all-purpose
"Get Out of the 90s Free" card?
And of course, since the election of the Kenyan Usurper, the Right has done nothing but pour hundreds of millions of dollars into rebooting their 1990's Destroy The Commie Murderer Who Stole Our White House franchise, but this time in black-face.
Without a ginned-up existential threat, neoconservatism collective dick would fall off, which is why I commend to your attention at least the first 10 minutes of this classic, 1963 episode of The Outer Limits entitled "The Architects of Fear" (video comes with embedded ads):