Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Long, Dark Nap Time Of David Brooks' Soul

It was tough out in the Bad Bush, man.  Hard to talk about it.  You hadda be there.  At night, we had fonts incoming from every direction.  Bloggers probing us in force.  Shit flying so thick you could saw it off, fry it up and feed a family of ten for a month.

That's when you get the stare.  That thousand-dollar-an-hour-stare.  A pundit gets it after he's been in the shit for too long.

It's like you've really seen...beyond.*


As a public service to future historians, I have transcribed this exchange from the "David Brooks raps with Jeffrey Goldberg about morality 'n stuff" portion of the Aspen Institute's fourth annual New York Ideas thingie, which bills itself as:
...devoted to highlighting the biggest people, ideas and trends that will change the future. Exploring the possibilities that charm and challenge human intelligence and ingenuity, this year's festival will investigate how today's questions become tomorrow's answers.
Well alrighty then!
Jeffrey Goldberg: So answer this question.  When is a time in you life when you told the truth and it hurt you.

[nervous laughter]

Jeffrey Goldberg: You've written this book and you talk about other people but I want to talk about you a little bit.  I mean, do you live up to this book?

David Brooks (shifting and shrugging uncomfortably):

Jeffrey Goldberg:  No getting back to that question -- and it's an important question -- have you done something to subvert your resume... that could have subverted your resume.

David Brooks: Well... I mean the things that one does that hurt you are, um, there are a lot of things in private life that I won't get into, but in public life, I mean this is something we did (gesturing to Goldberg) a couple years ago when the Iraq War went bad I wrote a series of columns about what I got wrong.  And, uh, what I found in that exercise was that your friends are really mad at you and the people who opposed the war are even madder.  They sense weakness and they pounce on you.  And I remember a...

Jeffrey Goldberg: You don't get rewarded for telling that kind of truth necessarily in the public arena?

David Brooks: No.  And I understand why politicians never admit error because the people who disagree with you just sense vulnerability.  And so I went... I remember weeks of really in the whole column career those were the weeks of sleeplessness.  And, uh, I suppose that was a time I told the truth and it hurt me.  It hurt my feeling anyway.
For the record and to be crystal clear, Mr, Brooks has never told the truth about Iraq or about his own, despicable record as one of it's chief cheerleaders and go-to libeler of Iraq war opponents.


See, like most Liberals, I am afflicted with this damned "memory" thing where I actually "remember" what ghouls like Mr. Brooks wrote at the time he wrote them.

For example, I remember how much glee he took in slandering people who were not his Iraq reacharound buddies.

I remember how much he and his kind profited lavishly from eagerly parroting and embellishing the lies and slanders the Rove Administration threw around so recklessly.

I remember in 2007, four years after the invasion of Iraq and well after it became clear that the Cheney Administration had launched us into the greatest foreign policy disaster in a generation, Mr, Brooks writing (emphasis added):
Nonetheless I still think the foray into Iraq was one of the noblest endeavors the United States, or any great power, has ever undertaken.  When American conservatism is at its best it understands the pull of these two opposing impulses -- it is ambitious to chart a progressive future tempered by an awareness of what we cannot know.  And it understands that there is no real way to finally reconcile the competing cries of hope and experience.  We just have to keep the opposing truths alive in our mind and maneuver day by day.  I still believe in the Iraq effort, but I should have listened to Burke's caution a bit more and understood that certain people in the U.S. government were total innocents when it comes to the complexities of foreign cultures and worlds.
I remember five years after the invasion of Iraq how eerily silent Mr. Brooks had suddenly gotten on the subject the war he had so giddily endorsed.  How the most "truth" he could muster on the subject were the few, grudging sentences he wrote about how poorly the slaughter and chaos he had cheered on had been administered.

From Greg Mitchell in 2008:
David Brooks: No Apologies 5 Years Later

Given the current tragedy in Iraq -- hell, given the past five years -- you would think the many pundits who agitated for an attack on Iraq, largely on false pretenses, would have take the opportunity of the arrival of the fifth anniversary of the war (or the 4,000 dead milestone) to drop to their knees, at least figuratively, and beg the American public for forgiveness. With more than 60 percent of their fellow Americans now calling the war a "mistake" and agitating for troop withdrawals -- and the president's approval rating still heading south, thanks to their war -- it would seem to be the right thing to do. We won't even mention the maiming of more than 20,000 young Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Let's take David Brooks of The New York Times, for example, and what he wrote exactly five years ago when he was writing for The Weekly Standard. Ironically, he even attacked his present employer, The Times. The Weekly Standard, of course, was edited by Bill Kristol, who has an even worse track record on the war. Naturally, not one, but both, of them were later rewarded with key New York Times op-ed slots. Two for the price of -- two!

Brooks is among those who have long argued that they actually got the war right, but Donald Rumsfeld made it wrong. In other words, war good, Rummy bad. He has emphasized that he and many of his fellow pundits had it right at the time in urging more boots on the ground. They were "prescient," he relates. But Rumsfeld and his crowd "got things wrong, and the pundits often got things right."

He never cites any of his own views at the time, obviously hoping that readers will place him among those pundits that "got things right." And also: please forget that he was a strong supporter of the invasion to start with.

In fact, he bears special blame -- shame -- not only for his writing, but for serving as senior editor of the most influential pro-war publication, The Weekly Standard.
Finally getting up the gumption in 2006 to blame Donald Rumsfeld for screwing up The War Of Your Dreams ("Rumsfeld's Blinkers") --
The officers on the front lines saw the same thing the smart pundits saw, and in more detail. But Rumsfeld and Franks stifled the free exchange of ideas, and shut out the National Security Council. They dismissed concerns about the insurgents and threatened to fire the one general, William Wallace, who dared to state the obvious in public. The military brass followed the war in real time on computer screens. As long as the blue icons representing U.S. troops were heading north to Baghdad, the U.S. was deemed to be winning. The technology seemed to provide real-time information, but it was completely misleading.
-- would not be the stuff of "weeks of sleeplessness" for any seeker after truth.  But David Brooks has never told the truth about Iraq because as both a fundamentally weak and cowardly man who would disintegrate in the first five minutes of any honest debate about Iraq and one of America's premier Very Serious Persons and Conservative Public Intellectuals, David Brooks is not interested in the truth. 

David Brooks is only interested in cobbling together an Iraq War alibi sufficient to allow him to weasel out of any uncomfortable questions which may slip past his buffers and let him get back to making enormous piles of money telling captains of industry, religious leaders and various mentally infirm Upper East Side billionaires comforting lies about Austerity and Morality and Centrism.

Of course, when the interlocutor is his fellow AIPAC/Neocon pal, Jeffrey Goldberg --
In 2002, as neoconservatives and other foreign policy hardliners were gearing up to push the United States into war with Iraq, Goldberg published a high-profile article in the New Yorker entitled"The Great Terror," which spotlighted the case for invading the country, in part by using discredited sources—both in Iraq as well as in the George W. Bush administration—to argue that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda.[27]

Despite the article's severe flaws—many of its claims proved to be erroneous[28]—it proved influential among war hawks and credulous media outlets. In awarding Goldberg a prize for best reporting on human rights, the Overseas Press Club (OPC) stated: "In this exposé of the crimes of the Iraqi regime, Goldberg described Saddam Hussein's horrifying gas attacks against Kurdish villages, investigated ties between Iraq and al Qaeda terrorists and explored the scope of Iraq's chemical weapons arsenal. Goldberg spent six months on this assignment, often from places that were off limits to western journalists. A former CIA director, James Woolsey, called the story 'a blockbuster.'"[29] The OPC neglected to note that Woolsey was one of the key neoconservative proponents for attacking Iraq.

During the lead-up to the Iraq War, Goldberg made media appearances and published several articles criticizing opponents of an invasion for being naïve about Middle East politics. He made exaggerated claims about the Hussein regime's efforts to weaponize biological agents and grossly underestimated the impact of an invasion. The effort prompted one observer to write: "In urging war on Iraq, Goldberg took highly dubious assertions—for example, that Saddam was an irrational madman in control of vast quantities of WMDs and that Iraq and Al Qaeda were deeply in bed together—and essentially asserted them as fact. From these unproven allegations, he demonstrated that an invasion of Iraq was the only rational policy."[30]
-- any tissue-thin scrim of bullshit would suffice to let Mr. Brooks play the poor, put-upon victim of of those terrible partisans on Both Sides!

But I remember back in 2010 when the questioner was just a nice lady who wanted to know how Mr. Brooks squared his modest, reticent Niebuhrian world-view with his relentless war-mongering and his ridicule of those who opposed the war.

And you know what?  He just stood there in the pulpit of the Hammerschmidt chapel and casually lied his damn ass off:

And, finally, I vividly remember just fucking yesterday when Mr. Brooks once again took to the pages of the New York Times to once more prop up the same Big Lie off of which he and his fellow refugees from accountability have been parasitically feeding for the last 10 years.

And, as usual, the collective, indignant criticism of my indisputable-evidence-waving Liberal mob were as spitballs fired at the mighty Acela Corridor supertrain as it speeds Mr. Brooks in upscale, undisturbed, 150 mph comfort back and forth between his New York Times offices and his suburban mansion, over and over again, forever.

*Your humble scrivener realizes that between the title of this post, its header graphic and its first few lines he has mashed together three different movies and books.  Your humble scrivener doesn't care.


Kathleen O'Neill said...

You are so on a roll! Moar, please.

moeman said...


Yastreblyansky said...

Any idea what he thinks he's talking about when "the war went wrong" "a couple of years ago" (2013????) and he wrote "a series of columns about what I got wrong"? Slipped right by me.

Also, is "it hurt my feeling" a typo or does he really only have one?

Stay humble, scrivener! And thanks for the link yesterday, which helped make it a pretty exciting couple of days at the Rectification laboratories.

wagonjak said...

Youse are a fucking genius dg...I laughed so hard at those first three paragraphs I nearly wet my Depends!

bluicebank said...

I can but speculate as to the how and why of David Brooks being in the Gray Lady's inner sanctum.

I have met this sort of writer before, a high school editorial writer of sorts prone to fancy, who never grew up, beyond adding sophistic words and phrases to his limited mind.

Back in the day, I cut the feet from that idiot and took his job. Later on, those idiots were promoted. It started in the early 1990s. The newspaper industry reaped the whirlwind. My only solace today is knowing that David Brooks is a harbinger of the end for the NYT.

I can see it from a mile away. Keep up the faith, Driftglass.

bowtiejack said...

I love you man and I LOVE your work and I enthusiastically second all the other comments, but:
As gently as I can put it, if you cannot appreciate Brooks and Kristol's brave new world and the obvious culture of meritocracy that has lifted them up, perhaps your need to have your soma dosage tweaked. I'm sure Dr. Pangloss would be happy to help.

OK, I admit it, I'm not as good at this mashing as you are.

jim said...

"I love the smell of ethical depravity in the afternoon ... smells like a new house."