This time it wasn't his fault.
This time, the eleMMent Palazzo's tanks were topped off and the bar was fully stocked. His suits were pressed and closeted. He had gotten his shots and one of those Sky Mall dealies that is supposed to translate the language of even the most primitive fly-over tribes into High Beltway.
Ready to go, bitches!
But the god damn GPS kept blinking "Recalculating Route" whenever he asked it to show him how to get to Real Murrica. And the hand-calligraphed map his neighbor had given him turned out to be just a big Smiley Face drawn over DuPont Circle with "Seek Within" written below it in Elvish. And the "OnStar" lady just laughed at him.
Nothing for it, really, but to toddle on down to the basement and pull another paean to "National Greatness" from his moldering stack of "Weekly Standard" columns from back in the day.
See, David Brooks loves National Greatness. Loves it like Paul Ryan loves "Atlas Shrugged". Loves it like Brick Tamland loves lamp. So whenever he gets jammed up trying to cobble together his 800 contractually-obligated words for the New York Times, he defaults to crying into the same fucking beer into which he has been shedding maudlin little tears for the last 20 years.
And by "20 years", I mean that Mr. Brooks has literally been recycling this same fucking column for the last 20 years.
A RETURN TO NATIONAL GREATNESSA Manifesto for a Lost CreedMAR 03, 1997 | By DAVID BROOKS...
And so, 20 years later, after borrowing the credibility of others by meandering through Ancient Greece and the Talmud and neuroscience --
Big and Little LovesDavid Brooks MAY 31, 2016Ever since the days of ancient Greece, philosophers have distinguished between the beautiful and the sublime.Recently neuroscientists have shown...The distinction between the beautiful and the sublime is the distinction between...
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote that God is...In daily life we have big and little loves, too...
The small attachments serve as the foundation of our emotional lives, but when you have a big love for your country or a cause...
Alexis de Tocqueville wondered if democracy would dampen Americans’ big love.
I’d say that in America today some of the little loves are fraying, and big love is almost a foreign language. Almost nobody speaks about the American project in the same ardent tones that were once routine.
Big love involves thinking in sweeping historical terms. But today the sense that America is pursuing a noble mission in the world has been humbled by failures and passivity...
Big love involves politics, and thus compromise, competition and messiness. Americans today are less likely to discern the noble within the grittiness of reality...
-- America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual inevitably gets around to landing on that National Greatness thingy once again. However this time, National Greatness actually means "Big Love"(?), and "Big Love" means a return to Big Gummint Projects:
...Young people now want to join start-ups or NGOs, or eat locally grown foods, but I’m writing in defense of the big love that once inspired big projects, like NASA, the national railroads and the creation and maintenance of the postwar, American-led world order, with the free movement of people, goods and ideas.
Before the country can achieve great things it has to relearn the ability to desire big things. It has to be willing to love again, even amid disappointments — to love things that are awesome, heroic and sublime.
What is hilarious about Mr. Brooks' decades-long, truffle-hog pursuit of National Greatness is how the time line of its imaginary rise and fall and rebirth keeps jumping around based on Mr. Brooks' political mood of the moment.
See, originally, our 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'
Then, National Greatness was restored by St. Ronald Reagan, but was again torn down by Bill Clinton --
Finally, the national-greatness ideal was based on iron discipline over the passions. But cultural liberalism mistook self-control for unhealthy repression.
And so, at the end of liberalism, we find Bill Clinton. Longing to personify greatness but too easy on himself, trained to discard the qualities that comprise it, he is the opposite of vigorous, the opposite of reticent, the opposite of self-disciplined.
-- and various small-minded Conservatives:
But it is primarily the fault of conservatives that America has lost a sense of national mission and national greatness. After all, this is a conservative era, and one shouldn't expect the Democrats to come up with the energy that animates a conservative era. But since Ronald Reagan returned to California, conservatism has shrunk.
Of course, in Brooks' 1,0 version of National Greatness, National Greatness was not business of Big Gummint: National Greatness could only come when Strong Men rose up and used the instrumentalities of Gummint to force the country back into the right road:
"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."
And 16 years ago, Mr. Brooks found just such a hero in George W. Bush -- a Great Man from a Great Family with Great Virtues:
I'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...
A man who would, by sheer force of will, overcome the nay-saying brainless and self-destructive "New Stupid Party" of whiny Democrats who stupidly worried about stupid things. Like, say, that gargantuan, unpaid for tax cuts might lead to "deficits"
The real question about the Bush tax cuts, then, is not, Can we afford them? The real question is, Why are they so small?
A man who would create an enduring "One Nation Conservatism" that would usher in the New Age of National Greatness.
A man whose brilliant and completely successful conquest of Iraq was going to lead to a new, golden age of American Unity and Global Leadership:
Optimism RediscoveredFrom 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.
So how exactly does "one" hear these things when "one" has buried oneself so deep inside the Beltway bubble that a bunker buster couldn't rattle the china in cabinets?
Who cares! It's 2003 and it's Morning in Murrica again bitches because George Goddamn Bush is finally gonna shock and awe those damn Dirty Hippies onto the ash-heap of history and make us all Great again!
The Collapse of the Dream PalacesMass 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...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...
Of course, none of that happened. Or, rather, the exact opposite of all of that happened.
It turned out that it was Conservatives like Mr. David Brooks for whom there never was (and will never be) a "magic 'Aha!"' moment".
It was Mr. Brooks Republican Party that was America's shithole of haters, dupes and imbeciles all along.
It was the base of Mr. Brooks Republican Party whose "hatred is tribal, not ideological" and whose every "window is shuttered with hate". Who now exercise a "a huge influence over [Mr. Brooks' Republican Party], perhaps even determining its next presidential nominee" and for whom no day will ever come when they will turn around and say "We were wrong. Liberals were right".
This is the dark heart of the Real Murrica that awaits Mr. Brooks beyond the end of his driveway.
Which is why it is ever so much more satisfying to just sit in the Sky Lounge of the eleMMent Palazzo, sipping 30 year old single malt and rubbing one out to the 20 years old, dog-eared National Greatness porn of his youth,