One of the old haunts I almost never visit anymore is the Charlie Rose Show.
Back in the days when the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was trying on new names. I would drop in every now and then to enjoy the show's leisurely pace and unusual cross-section of authors, artists, entrepreneurs and political-types. But that was many years ago, and the life has long since leaked out of the old place, and what was once interesting and distinctive has become waxen and moldered: the Bransen of political opinion shows where the stars of yesteryear can still wow their octogenarian fans with their greatest hits of the 1990s.
Hey look, there's Tom Friedman talking about China...jobs...and the internet!
And there's Donald Rumsfeld talking about fucking app development?!
And there's David Brooks playing name-drop bingo with Charlie Rose and crying softly into his $36 artisanal craft beer over how sad it is that Both Sides...Both Sides...Both Sides...have let him -- and, by extension, every Reasonable Person in America -- down so terribly (sorry, no shorter clips were available, so watch or don't watch, I get paid either way!)
But here's the thing. This interview -- which, I'll grant you is mostly a meandering hot-air balloon excursion through the usual Brooks flapdoodle -- does have both real, morbid entertainment value and provides (what I am sure was) unintentional insight into the Broken Beltway Brain. Because once you jettison all of Brooks' ponderous blather about The Nature of Love and God and Man and subtract out the side-trips through his "writing process" (Piles, Charlie. Lots and lots of piles all over my living room.) what you have is a living portrait of a Substance-D junkie from "A Scanner Darkly".
A split-brain impairment in which the two haves of the patient's brain no longer even speak to each other but instead are in a state of constant conflict.
So, during the first part of the interview, the left half of David Brooks' brain was deeply shaken by the discovery that his Republican party is full of...well...Republicans!
At the 2:30 mark, Brooks cops to having missed the rise of Trump completely.
Brooks: I messed up big time in not knowing Trump was coming. And so when something like that happens you take a look at yourself and you think "What did I miss about America?" And...I'm...too much in the Acela corridor. I've gotta get out. That's one thing.
But he's gonna do better!
Brooks: Believe me, I travel every week, but I'm at a college here...so I'm always within the bubble. And so I've gotta get out. But then the other thing is, like, I've achieved way more career success than I ever thought I would, so it's time to take some chances on the spiritual realm, on the personal -- the emotional realm, and I've...got nothing to lose...
Carmine Falcone would disagree:
People from your world have so much to lose. Now you think because your Thatcher and your Reagan have gone tits up you know about the ugly side of life, but you don't. You've never tasted desperate. You're David Brooks, the prince of the Acela Corridor, you'd have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn't know your name. So don't come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you don't understand. And you always fear what you don't understand.
Carmine speaks truth. Brooks is incapable of doing better because he can still afford to keep what he fears on the other side of a mountain of money and privilege.
At the 13:47 mark, Mr. Rose gets back to asking how in the name of TED Talk Jesus did all of this awful shit happen!?
Rose: So tell me back to what you referenced...how has your evolution taken place on the question of Donald Trump? Where was it? What was the interim? And where are you now?Brooks: Well I just...Rose: Because you've been very strong...
Brooks: Well, I mean, I didn't take him seriously for the longest time. 'Cause I knew there was dislocation -- there was this coalescence of the dispossessed out in the country. But I didn't take...think they would turn their dispossession to him. Just 'cause I don't think he answers any of their problems.
Rose: But do you know why they think he does?Brooks: Yeah. I think...Rose: That's almost a more crucial point.Brooks: That's correct. And so I think there are a couple of things going on here. One, people are into manners. They...they're...they're...attracted by revolutions in manners more than revolutions in policy. And he has revolutionized the manners of how you run for president.Rose: What does that mean, "the manners of how you run for president"?Brooks: Well, so the first debate he had already insulted Carly Fiorina's face. And Rand Paul was over there saying that "I'm not going to insult his looks, but I have a lot to work with over there." And that's just a way of talking that nobody had ever run for president that way.Brooks: So it's hyper-aggressive. He took the style of professional wrestling, and he brought it to politics.
There follows a long discussion of masculinity which I will spare you.
Rose: ...but does he mean what he says and say what he means?Brooks: [Trump] has a heartless view. I get increasingly repulsed by him, to be honest. I've rarely been this motivated, frankly, by a political figure in a negative way. Also partly because I think he is taking a lot of people who have taken their economic lumps and he's telling them...Rose: He's telling them "I'm your hero".Brooks: It's authoritarian. "They're all stupid and I can solve it simply". But also, "You may not be thriving, but at least you're better than women, , and you're better than Muslims, and you're better than Mexicans."
After that, more yadda yadda yadda but, yes, Mr. Brooks grudgingly admits that Donald J. Trump will probably be the nominee of his party.
Rose: So how did it happen?
Yes indeedy, that is the question. How the name of God and Calvin Coolidge did this horrifying slab of fucking-awful come to be the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination of your party, David Brooks?
Brooks: I think there are two big things. One, much discussed, there is a Nicholas Confessori piece in the front page of the NYT that the Republican party was basically the party of the white working class and they spent 25 years harvesting their votes and offering them nothing. And so that's one.The second thing is that there is a slow-building, anti-political wave in this culture that's been going on for 30 years. We live in a diverse country. There are two ways to govern a diverse country. One is through politics, which is through negotiation and style and compromise -- which is unsatisfying. You do a deal with people you disagree with, but you have to listen to them, you acknowledge [them]. So that's politics. The other way is through force. You just get a strong man to bully his way through. And so we've gotten sick of politics, sick of compromise, and especially in the Republican party, the willingness to compromise has become sort of a sign of weakness. And so the only alternative is force. And so there has been this tolerance of an authoritarian personality type...
Mr. Brooks loves his passive voice like a dog loves licking his junk, and he'd rather chew his own arm off before bringing Hate Radio and Fox News into this, but buried in this pile of words was at least an acknowledgement that 1) GOP elites like David Brooks have been conning the base into voting against their own interests for 25 years, 2) "Compromise" has become a deathword within the Republican party and, 3) the GOP base are flocking to "an authoritarian personality type":
Brooks: Do we think the State Department is filled with idiots right now? I mean, problems are complicated and the big problems of the world are not a question of one person calling another and being really tough on the table. The big problems of the world are structural.Rose: So you think you were wrong? That you had somehow been on the Acela too much and had not done what?Brooks: As I say, I'm out in the country ... every week I'm somewhere ... but somehow I didn't see it coming. I'm...I'm...I'm...I was not alone in that. A lot of us didn't see it coming.Rose: Oh I don't know anybody that saw it coming.Brooks (smirking): Yeah, I'm sure now there are people claiming they did but...um...
Hey, laughing boy, I'm not surprised that you have no idea who we are since we're never asked to pull up a chair at the Big Acela Table. but some of us really did see this coming. And that scares you shitless.
Brooks (continues): ...in part because we've seem this kind of candidate rise and fall. And the party that has nominated Mitt Romney and John McCain and Bob Dole and George W. Bush nominates a certain kind of person, and suddenly we've got a black swan. Nontheless, there are a lot of Trump voters, and I would run into them but I wouldn't...I didn't take it seriously. Enough. Just maybe blinded by my own prejudices. And I've had trouble trying to think through the people who do vote for him. How does one regard them? And so I have some level of sympathy becaus obviously they're...they've been dislocated by the modern economy and technology. On the other hand, I think they're supporting a guy who is polluting the cultural atmosphere in which we our kids are raised... And I think voters have to have some culpability for that.Brooks: The Republican party had grown obsolete. It had been imprisoned by Reaganite categories which were great for the 1980s but, hey, it's 26 years later. And Donald Trump was the agent of Death for that old structure. And that old structure is never coming back. ... The problem with the Reaganite Orthodoxy which imprisoned the Republican party was that you had all these big problems -- wage stagnation, inequality -- and the Republicans couldn't have any response because they didn't believe in government for anything.
Thus concludes the left brain portion of our show. And what have we learned?
That for 25 years the GOP base has been too stupid or brainwashed to notice that they've been screwed, blued and tattooed by their leadership.
That they're dumb enough and angry enough to elect an outright thug and fascist.
That they believe you can't spell "compromise" without "Dirty Commie Bastard!" and Better Dead than Red, bitches!
And that while the lowliest Liberal bloggers have been warning about these conditions within the GOP for years, America's Most Respected And Highly Paid Conservative Public Intellectual was caught completely by surprise. But he promises to sojourn into the heart of American darkness and compare notes on Edmund Burke with shit-shovelers in Nebraska and pawn brokers in Kansas, so it's all cool.
And then, around the 33:10, the Beltway factory default Both Siderist setting in Mr. Brooks right brain kicked in and the lying begins.
Brooks: I have come sympathy for Sanders because he is a man of integrity and consistency. But we have to think for all of our candidates, "execution strategy". How is any of this going to happen? And I'm not sure any candidate really solves it. I'm not sure the primaries allow them to solve it. How ya gonna get 60 votes?
Stop. Stop right there and unpack why you need "60 votes".
You need 60 votes to overcome the Republican strategy for the last seven years of obstructing and filibustering every single fucking thing Barack Obama has proposed, no matter how reasonable or moderate. A strategy to which the Republican party has been so lockstep asshole dedicated that they have been willing to filibuster their own bills just to they could deny Barack Obama anything that resembles a "win".
From Media Matters:
Quite predictably, that problem has only worsened since 2012, which is what Mann and Ornstein address in their latest offering, "It's Even Worse Than It Was."
"It is the radicalization of the Republican party," they recently wrote, "that has been the most significant and consequential change in American politics in recent decades."
"The radicalization of the Republican party" -- talk about the topic the Beltway press simply doesn't want to dwell on, let alone acknowledge. Instead, the press has clung to its preferred narrative about how the GOP is filled with honest brokers who are waiting to work in good faith with the White House. Eager to maintain a political symmetry in which both sides are responsible for sparking conflict (i.e. center-right Republicans vs. center-left Democrats), the press effectively gave Republicans a pass and pretended their radical, obstructionist ways represented normal partisan pursuits. (They didn't.)
Today's Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. We saw it with the GOP's gun law obstruction, the Violence Against Women Act obstruction, the sequester obstruction, Supreme Courtobstruction, minimum wage obstruction, 9/11 first responder obstruction, government shutdownobstruction, immigration reform obstruction, Chuck Hagel's confirmation obstruction, Susan Rice secretary of state obstruction, paid leave obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees...
Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Rose. Please proceed....
Rose: You would think that somebody running for president would have thought of it. That's what you would hope. ...
Brooks: I think what Barack Obama taught us, it's not enough to be a skilled politician. He came in wanting to transcend every line you could imagine and create a governing majority. But his policies that he came in with were orthodox Democratic policies. So you have to have a set of policies that cuts across lines. That's a little from column A and a little from column B.
As everyone (except, apparently, Charlie Rose and David Brooks) remembers, Barack Obama's signature first term achievement was the passage of the Affordable Care Act to fulfill his signature campaign promise of fixing our tragically broken health care system, The ACA was in no way orthodox Democratic policy -- it was a scaled-up version of the Conservative Heritage Foundation's health care proposal from the mid-1990s, which had been proudly implemented in Massachusetts by its Republican governor, Mitt Romney.
The ACA also infuriated President Obama's Liberal base because it unilaterally eliminated both the possibility of a single-payer system, and even the much-weaker alternative of the so-called "public option". In addition. President Obama went hat-in-hand to his vanquished opponents and asked them pretty, pretty please to participate. To bring their best ideas to the table, because while he had a sweeping mandate to get 40 million uninsured Americans covered and control health care costs, he made it abundantly clear that he didn't care how we did it.
The "loyal opposition" told him to fuck off, and instead of constructive dialogue we got two years of wingnut-media-driven death panel and birther hysteria and other poison fruits of the Caucus Room conspiracy: that well-documented cabal of GOP leaders who met in secret to plot how best to destroy the newly-elected President as he tried to navigate the worst financial debacle in 74 years and get us out of two, disastrous Republican wars.
And the thing is Mr. Rose and Mr. Brooks know all of this perfectly well. They're simply lying -- lying automatically -- because when facts run inconveniently contrary to their Beltway fairy tales...those facts are tossed out the nearest window.
Rose: He thought he could prevail. He thought his own pursuit of bipartisanship ...would overwhelm the opposition.
Brooks: I think he had a genuine transpartisan aspiration but his policies were not transpartisan. They were very predictable.
Mr. Brooks then makes up a completely imaginary "poverty policy" for which he provides absolutely no details but which he is sure would definitely get 60 votes by giving both "progressive Democrats" and "evangelicals" something.
Brooks: ...but you've got to be willing to step outside of the orthodoxy of your party and say I'm going to take a little from them, and a little from us.Rose: And why was he incapable of that?Brooks: Because the people in your own party go crazy if you step outside.Rose: How do we change the politics then? So that it's not destructive.Brooks: Partly it's the donors. The people who rise in Congress tend to be partisan. But it's also leadership. You have five people at the top of this society -- the four congressional leaders and the president -- and they have to say "This is over". We have to cling together...grab you by the hip and walking through this. And we are going to govern in a bipartisan way.
Let's let Media Matter have the last word, shall we?
The 2014 obstruction of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was especially galling, as a single Republican senator blocked a vote on the crucial veterans bill.At the time of the bill's blockade, Media Matters noted that there was virtually no coverage of the radical obstructionism on CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC or PBS, as well as news blackouts in the nation's six largest newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, The Denver Post, and Chicago TribuneIn other words, the GOP's radical brand of obstructionism not only doesn't get highlighted as something notable, radical, and dangerous; it's often met with a collective shrug as the press pretends these kind of nonstop impediments are commonplace...
“They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed--run over, maimed, destroyed--but they continued to play anyhow.”
-- Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly