Friday, June 06, 2014

Even a Broken Pundit

Is right twice a decade.

Way back in 2005 in the Land Before History, I promised that
...if David Brooks stood up like a man and held the Bush Administration to account for its criminal incompetence twice in a row, I’d give him his propers in print, and make him a gift of a pair of long pants.
Well he did so, and just for the pleasure of shocking future historians, I have copied and pasted that 2005 writing below for your reading pleasure.

And now, a mere nine years later, the algorithm that generates David Brooks' bi-weekly column has generated another 800 words that are both true and readable, and so I make to him the gift of another pair of long pants:
President Obama Was Right
JUNE 5, 2014

It doesn’t matter if Bergdahl had deserted his post or not. It doesn’t matter if he is a confused young man who said insulting and shameful things about his country and his Army. The debt we owe to fellow Americans is not based on individual merit. It is based on citizenship, and loyalty to the national community we all share.

Soldiers don’t risk their lives only for those Americans who deserve it; they do it for the nation as a whole.

It is not dispositive either that the deal to release Bergdahl may put others at risk. The five prisoners released from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in a swap for Bergdahl seem like terrible men who could do harm. But their release may have been imminent anyway. And the loss of national fraternity that would result if we start abandoning Americans in the field would be a greater and more long lasting harm.

Israel once traded 1,027 Palestinian prisoners to get back one of their own. Another time they traded 1,150 prisoners to get back three of their own. They did it because of a deep awareness that national cohesion is essential to national survival. They did it because Israeli parents share a common emotional bond; the imprisonment of one of their children touches them all. In polarized countries, especially, you have to take care of your own. If you don’t, the corrosive effects will be cumulative.

It doesn’t matter either that the United States government ended up dealing with terrorists. In the first place, the Taliban is not a terrorist organization the way Al Qaeda is. America has always tried to reach a negotiated arrangement with the Taliban, and this agreement may be a piece of that. In the second place, this is the dirty world we live in. Sometimes national leaders are called upon to take the sins of the situation upon themselves for the good of the country, to deal with the hateful and compromise with the loathsome. That’s their form of sacrifice and service.
Kudos to you Mr. Brooks.  And while I fully expect you to snap back to full, "Both Sides" form like two yards of memory plastic temporarily warped by a strong breeze, before I finish my post on your execrable column from last week, I shall enjoy this moment of clarity.

And now, time to play "B" sides.  Me, from 2005:

I shot an Oliphant in my pajamas.

How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

Over at Gilliard’s House, I promised that if David Brooks stood up like a man and held the Bush Administration to account for its criminal incompetence twice in a row, I’d give him his propers in print, and make him a gift of a pair of long pants.

Well, he has done so – on the News Hour last night, portions of which I transcribed -- and I’m a man of my word.

And if you didn’t see it, it was one hugely weird teevee-from-an-Alternate-Universe moment.

Or maybe teevee from the golden age of Gilligan’s Island and I Dream of Jeannie...back when, if a series becalmed itself in the Horse Latitudes of tripe writing so badly that even the of the wisps of Cotton Candy that passed for plots had melted away, you could always dip into the hack screenwriter haversack One Last Time and come up with...

...everybody magically swaps personalities! And then the Hilarity Ensues!

So it was last night, with Tom Oliphant trance-channeling for Bad David Brooks and Bill Kristol...and Brooks being outright possessed by the spirit of some kinda Actual, Avenging Journalist!

(And for the record, Clarence Page was there too, and doing a good job; he seems strangely immune to the Sherwood Schwartz mind-swapping plot device.)

It was a sight to see.

Now it is a little-know fact (because I made it up) that Tom Oliphant’s dearest friend and constant companion is a gray-and-white bunny rabbit named – for reasons know only to himself and two other living human beings – Sniffy the Great.

Tom purely loves that rabbit.

So one possible explanation for his flinchy-to-the-point-of-hysterical performance on “The News Hour” last night might be that, having been worked over by White House goons before the show, Oliphant was pushed out onto the stage while Karl Rove waited in the wings with a pipe-wrench in one chubby hand and Sniffy the Great in the other, just in case Oliphant needed a tune-up.

Not to worry; Oliphant swung right into action, insistent to the point of quivering anti-"J'Accuse!"-edness that the still-unfolding nightmare down along the Gulf Coast is NOT a partisan issue.

Not, Not, Not, Not!

This is NOT a failure of the Bush Administration.

Eliding lightly over, y’know, actual facts, Oliphant squiggled around in his seat, nervously eyeing Rove off-camera (as Karl tapped poor, dear Sniffy with the business end of two-feet of galvanized steel and mouthed “Say, it bitch!”) and swore that New Orleans is a failure of all governments and all public institutions and human nature generally throughout all of history, forever and ever, amen. There is an element of fact in his thesis which was simply obliterated by his insistence on buttering blame for what has happened smoothly and evenly across the entire spacetime continuum.

Everyone is at fault...which means no one is at fault.

But it was Brooks – David Effing Brooks – who was considerably less charitable.

Here’s a link to the “News Hour” audio – the good stuff starts around timecode 1:20. Emphasis added by me, and all the stuff I have transcribed was said by Brooks except where otherwise indicated.

First, there was a bit of a history lesson about past American floods/disasters and how they changed the political landscape.


Timecode - 1:20
...(in) moments of extremis (?) people see the power inequalities, the poor suffering, the rich benefiting, and then they react, and so you get these political reactions.

HOST: And OK, now move it to Hurricane Katrina...

BROOKS: I just think it’s a huge reaction we’re about to see. First of all, they violated the social fabric which is, in the moments of crisis, you take care of the poor first. That didn’t happen. It’s like leaving wounded on the battlefield. 9/11, you had a great surge in public confidence. Now I think we’re going to see a great decline in public confidence in our institutions. And so I just think this is the ant-9/11, as one of the bloggers writes.
Timecode - 5:25..
First, of all it’s a national humiliation to see bodies floating in a river for five days in a major American city. But second, you have to remember that this was s delegitimization of institutions. Our institutions completely failed us. And it’s not as if this is the first time (?) in the last three years.

This follows Abu Ghraib, the failure of planning in Iraq, the intelligence failures, the corporate scandals, the media scandals. We’ve had over the past four or five years a whole series of scandals which have soured the public mood. You’ve (?) seen a rise in the feeling that the country’s headed in the wrong direction and I think this is the biggest one. The bursting one. And I must say, personally, it’s the one that really says, “Hey, it feels like the 70’s now.” Where you really have a loss of faith in institutions.

Let’s get out of this mess.

I really think this is so important (as) a cultural moment, like the blackouts of 1977. Its just...people are sick of it.
Timecode - 9:25.
...but to reiterate the point I made earlier, which is this is the anti-9/11.

Just in terms of public confidence. When 9/11 happened, Giuliani, was right there. And just as a public presence, he was forceful. No public presence like that now.

So you had a surge of strength; people felt good about the country even though we’d been hit on 9/11. Now we’ve been hit again in a different way (and) people feel lousy. People feel ashamed. And in part that it because of the public presentation. In part that is because of the failure of Bush to understand immediately the shame people felt.

Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window? That was terrible!

And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible.
Even today, I found myself -- and as you know, I support his policies quite often – (but I) look at him today, and earlier in the program...this is how Mark Shields must feel looking at them. I’m angry at the guy, and maybe it’ll pass for me, but a lot of people, and a lot of Republicans, uh, are furious right now.
(Shortly thereafter Oliphant pipes helpfully up with his explanation of how “deeply implicated Democrats are” and how there is “no partisan responsibility here.”)

Timecode - 14:00’s not a tipping point. It’s like a bursting point. People are going to go off in all directions. Just in narrow political terms, a month ago, Rudy Giuliani would have had trouble getting the Republican nomination. Now he could win is a walk if the primary were held soon.

Then on the Democratic side you’re going to see people like John Edwards talking (?) about poverty, which he had been talking about. You’re going to see people all around the country talking about poverty.
To be crystal clear, Brooks is comparing the serial failures of this Administration to “the 70’s”, because he cannot bear to shape his mouth to form the words “Watergate” and “Vietnam" and "Bush" in the same oration.

And Brooks takes the government to task for its behavior over the last four or five years: In other words the government of the United State has been a clusterfucking menace to the rest of Civilization since the day George Bush was sworn into office.

I myself would extend that timeline back into the heart of the reckless, berzerker Kill Bill movement that ended in the impeachment of Clinton at the hands of the same wretched, heartless, irresponsible bastards whose policies Brooks is otherwise so sanguine about.

Which also makes one pause to ask, when Brooks mentions as an aside, that, “I support his policies quite often --”... just what policies he could possibly be talking about?

As he lists the failures and scandals of the Bush White House -- “Abu Ghraib, the failure of planning in Iraq, the intelligence failures, the corporate scandals, the media scandals” – one might fairly ask, if you throw in a general fuck-the-poor mentality, an attempted evisceration of Social Security, outing and active CIA agent for personal pique, the no-bid looting of the Iraqi and American treasure-houses and the hands of the Vice President’s cronies...

...what else is there?

Plundering the planet, tax cuts for billionaires in the face of war, natural disaster and record deficits, and burning the last vestiges of a strong federal government to the ground to pave the way for Big Business and Big Religion to run amok...Brooksie mon ami, those are the policies.

That is the plan.

However, for the moment these are quibbles. And, as my mother always told me, never rake leaves in a glue-suit during a tornado, never get involved in a land war in Asia, and do not interrupt David Brooks while he is having what looks an awful lot like a Walter Cronkite/Tet Epiphany.

So I now officially retract 4% of what I have written about Brooks in the past. And, yes, if he were on fire, I now would whiz on him to put it out.

And not to worry: Sniffy was returned to Tom later that evening.

As of this writing, Oliphant and rabbit are both doing fine.


Anonymous said...

Driftglass, you are a better man than I. I think of myself as a fairly forgiving type of fellow, but, the thing is, just because DFB says something that is for all intents and purposes an obvious truth, once in a black and blue moon, doesn’t cut the mayonnaise with me. He is too far down the rabid rabbit hole, and it would require some real herculean / hammer of Thor effort on his part for him to escape the event horizon he has chosen to stand on. I know, I know, rabid rabbit hole and event horizon is problematic, but DFB seems more that capable of being in both places and unable to escape either given the gravity of his piles.

I have always expected you to be a man of your word, written and otherwise, so many kudos to you for cutting David ‘I have journalism piles’ fucking Brook a break. Also 4% seems overly generous to me.

steeve said...

Earlier i said that the only way Brooks can write a sentence that is true is if he writes a sentence that is absurdly obvious to the point of uselessness, such as stating his own name or citing the fact that food exists.

But now that half the country can't accept the absurdly obvious, i have to rethink the "useless" part.

JerryB said...

...and the beat goes on...

Yastreblyansky said...

Sorry, but he doesn't deserve long pants for that grudging acknowledgment. With the snide qualification "though he did it the wrong way":

"If he is to be faulted, it would be first for turning the release into an Oprah-esque photo-op, a political stunt filled with inaccurate rhetoric and unworthy grandstanding. It would next be for his administration’s astonishing tone-deafness about how this swap would be received.

Most of all, the Obama administration can be faulted for not at least trying to use the language of communal solidarity to explain this decision. "

At most maybe a pair of plus-fours (maybe you could work it up in the photo shop).