We already knew that David Brooks finds it "just too psychologically damaging" to read the comment sections of his op-eds at The New York Times. After listening to his remarks on the PBS Newshour this Friday evening, it doesn't look like he reads the rest of the paper either.
During a discussion on the recent protests and unrest in Ferguson, MO, Brooks told the viewers he really hopes there's someone at his paper investigating how these police forces became militarized. Maybe if he'd taken a few minutes to look before he came on the air knowing he was going to talk about his topic, he'd have known that there are indeed people at his paper looking into, and discussing that very thing this week, and others have been reporting on it for some time now.
Brooks (who apparently really does not like being called a Republican) also did his best to pretend that conservatives are the ones who support community policing, and that Rudy Giuliani has been part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem when it comes to the kind of tensions we've seen between the police and the people living in the communities they're supposed to be protecting.
Transcript via PBS:
HARI SREENIVASAN: So, let’s first talk about Ferguson, the thing that everybody in the country is talking about.
Dan Balz in “The Washington Post” this morning led with a story that was kind of interesting, that there’s almost this — a conversation that is happening between libertarians and liberals, agreeing on this particular issue. Rand Paul took out a column in “TIME” magazine yesterday about it.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
Well, first on this last point about Ferguson, Megan McArdle had an interesting piece in Bloomberg View pointing out the demographics of Ferguson have shifted radically. It was a couple decades ago three-quarters white. Then it became nearly three-quarters black.
And sometimes the hiring practices, it’s, you hire your friend, you hire your brother in the cops. And so they just didn’t keep up with this amazing population inversion that happened there.
As for the larger political thing, it’s almost unanimous. You look across left, right and center, people think it’s overreacting what happened in the nights subsequently. And that’s, a libertarian suspicion of really forceful and violent government. Liberals tend to I guess be suspicious of police power, especially against minority communities.
But for conservatives and especially traditional conservatives, there’s a community thing going on here. The traditional conservatives, led by a thinker named James Q. Wilson, many years ago, was to believe in community policing, getting cops out of cop cars and actually interacting with the locals.
And so that’s the traditional conservative position, that you don’t want to erect walls. You certainly don’t want to militarize things. You want to have an organic relationship between the community and the police force, and that clearly was ruptured here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it…
RUTH MARCUS: Well — I’m sorry.
But it’s really been fascinating, and I thought really one of the most interesting pieces this week was Rand Paul’s piece on TIME.com, where if you had not looked at the byline, you might have thought it was written by the Reverend Al Sharpton, because he was so anti-police.
And you think back. We have been talking a lot about Missouri Governor Jay Nixon this week. But you think back to Richard Nixon and the tough-on-crime strain of the Republican Party, which stood in such good stead for so long. In fact, it was copied by Democrats like Bill Clinton who tried to show themselves to be tough on crime.
And so I think that to the extent there is this blurring of kind of liberal-libertarian lines, it’s a piece of a very interesting strain within the party. And I think you are a little bit underselling it, David, because there is this tough-on-crime aspect to your party.
And so for this, this Rand Paul — it’s…
DAVID BROOKS: My party.
RUTH MARCUS: I’m sorry. I’ll take that back.
RUTH MARCUS: You know, when we’re done, we can hug it out.
HARI SREENIVASAN: We will get to that in a minute. All right.
RUTH MARCUS: But in any event, Rand Paul’s views on things like marijuana legalization, on same-sex marriage, on other issues that might attract, bring — not to David’s party, but to the Republican Party, to attract some younger voters, I think is a very interesting thing that my colleague Dan Balz did point out in The Washington Post this morning.
DAVID BROOKS: I would just say, Mr. Republican, I have my mace and my shield and my armored vehicle afterwards.
You look at Rudy Giuliani, and part of what they initiated there was, A, community policing, B, the broken windows stuff, which meant you do the small stuff, and that way, you prevent the big things later on.
And I do think that has been Republican police policy.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, was that an effective policy? Did broken windows actually…
DAVID BROOKS: Well, I think, certainly, if you remember — go back to early Giuliani, they were getting rid of the squeegee guys. Remember, there were guys who would come out and want to squeegee your window and then demand money.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right.
DAVID BROOKS: It was turnstile hoppers. And it was taking care of the small stuff as a way of preventing the big crimes. And I think that was completely vindicated. But it’s a model, in any case, for any sort of police force like the one we have just seen in Ferguson, which is the big, heavy, militaristic approach, as we have seen, is completely contradictory to sort of calm civil order and law and order.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. So, we know that certain authorities might have overstepped their bounds and been heavy-handed, but what about the state government, what about the federal government? What was their role? How would you grade them?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, the state government, in the form of Governor Nixon, very poorly.
He has been talked about a little bit as a potential national political figure. I think not. I think, if you want to nominate a national political figure as of this week, it would be Captain Johnson from the state police, who really came in and did exactly what you want a politician/public figure to do, which is to be a voice of calm and reason.
Governor Nixon was just late to the game. His state looked like it was a battlefield in Iraq or some terrible war zone someplace. He should have been in there getting the — getting these terrible SWAT team-type forces off the street, bring some calm earlier.
He sounded whiny, I thought, at the press conference today. I thought the president played a good role, a positive role in terms of not attacking the police, but expressing the horror that everybody feels about an unarmed young man being shot for no apparent reason that we have heard of yet, without going too far in prejudging the thing.
And — but I do think there is one interesting thing is wrapped up in something that David said about the federal government role. There’s a really important role here that we’re going to see going forward in terms of the Justice Department investigating this as a potential civil rights violation.
But the thing that is so fascinating is that, even though we have Justice Department investigating issues of police brutality, we also have the Justice Department and the federal government supplying these military-type, military-grade, actual military weapons as part of — it started in the war on drugs, but now it has turned into part of the war on terror.
I was reading today about the police department in Keene, New Hampshire, that had some sort of armored vehicle to protect against the threat of terrorism at the pumpkin festival.
And I was at the — I happened to be at the Keene pumpkin festival this year. It was lovely, but didn’t feel a great threat of terrorism.
I think, if one good thing comes out of this week, it’s going to be to dial back this militarization of police forces that would do much better off worrying about broken windows.
DAVID BROOKS: I hope there is somebody in my paper investigating why the militarization happened. Were there contracts involved, somebody was getting — making a lot of money selling this equipment to police forces?
HARI SREENIVASAN: We spoke to that guy yesterday on the program.
DAVID BROOKS: Yes.
And was it just people wanting to be all hyped with new toys?
RUTH MARCUS: Well, boys with toys are a dangerous thing, I’m sorry to say.
HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.
DAVID BROOKS: My party, my gender. It’s getting ugly.
RUTH MARCUS: It is ugly, but then there’s the hugs.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Do you think that — do you think that President Obama is in a difficult position because he carries the burden of being the first African-American president on, he’s criticized if he overreacts, he’s criticized if he doesn’t react enough?
DAVID BROOKS: I’m with Ruth on the way he has handled this.
I think he has a good record in general — with a couple exceptions of — not grandstanding, of saying what he needs to say, but not making it a theater about himself. And I do think — and I can think of — there have been several times where he had a little restraint about that. And I think he showed the proper restraint this time.
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