The first days out of rehab can be the hardest. Backsliding is common, and the shame of having to face those you hurt can seem unbearable.
So having scared the hell out of his friends and colleagues just two weeks ago with his terrifying public truthblurt about the ugly reality of the American Fascist Party you will be relieved the learn that Mr. Brooks of the New York Times has successfully fought his way back to sobriety and passed his mandatory Beltway Both Siderist urine test with flying colors (which, admittedly, is an odd way to pass a pee test.) He has been pronounced once again 100% Very Serious by the friendly, professionals at the Villager Nervous Hospital for the Temporarily Forthright and earned his Two Week Broder Chip for successfully abstaining from sharing uncomfortable truths in public.
The Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio Moment
OCT. 30, 2015
So after all the meshugas on the right over the past few years, the Republicans could wind up with two new leaders going into this election, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. That’s a pretty excellent outcome for a party that has shown an amazing tendency to inflict self-harm.
Ryan is the new House speaker and right now Rubio is the most likely presidential nominee. The shape of the presidential campaign is coming into focus. It’s still wise to expect (pray) that the celebrity candidates will fade as the shopping phase ends and the buying phase begins.
Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda, but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda...
Yes, back in peak form, our Mr. Brooks is. Not since Georgi in The Inspector General has there been a more cheerful shill for furniture polish and rat poison being sold to the sick and the poor as medicine:
See, you don't need to know the details of Marco's Golden Elixer. You just need to know that it exists.
Longtime readers know that documenting the atrocities within this particular, tony corner-office of the sprawling Republican Fraud Complex usually falls to me. And for years it has been a rather lonely beat. But this year, just for my birthday, the New York Times apparently installed a big, beautiful, Trump-sized immigrant door in the privet hedge they use to discourage their op-ed writers from talking smack about each other.
And through that door boldly strode Dr. Krugman, who took a direct swipe at Mr. Brooks' grotty little column...
David Brooks writes a pro-Marco-Rubio column, and in passing says this:
David Brooks writes a pro-Marco-Rubio column, and in passing says this:
At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities.
It won’t surprise you to learn that I disagree deeply.
My view here is strongly influenced by the story of George W. Bush. Younger readers may not know or remember how it was back in 2000, but back then the universal view of the commentariat was that W was a moderate, amiable, bluff and honest guy. I was pretty much alone taking his economic proposals — on taxes and Social Security — seriously. And what I saw was a level of dishonesty and irresponsibility, plus radicalism, that was unprecedented in a major-party presidential candidate. So I was out there warning that Bush was a bad, dangerous guy no matter how amiable he seemed.
How did that work out?...
Younger readers also might not remember that this is not David Brooks' first time at this particular rodeo.
Younger readers might not remember that back when Dr. Krugman was warning about the dire consequence of Dubya's crackpot economic schemes, David Brooks was the managing editor of Bill Kristol's filthy neocon warporn rag, The Weekly Standard.
Younger readers might not remember that David Brooks was not only an enthusiastic defender of every dishonest, irresponsible and radical iota of Dubya's crackpot economic schemes, but also had plenty to say about Dr, Krugman specifically back in the day.
Younger readers might not remember, but I do :-)
From David Brooks in 2002 (with emphasis added):
The Pelosi Democrats
Are they going to become the stupid party?
ARE THE DEMOCRATS about to go insane? Are they about to decide that the reason they lost the 2002 election is that they didn't say what they really believe? Are they about to go into Paul Krugman-land, lambasting tax cuts, savaging Bush as a tool of the corporate bosses? Are they about to go off on a jag that will ensure them permanent minority status in every state from North Carolina to Arizona?
Other liberals were less interested in a political strategy. They thought it was time to crush the centrists and utter the truth, damn the consequences. Paul Krugman, who helpfully headlined his column "Into the Wilderness," announced that the Democrats must declare class war on the plutocracy. Times will be hard, he warned. The corporate criminals in the White House will rape and pillage. Children will be denied porridge in their orphanages. But someday the middle classes will emerge from their false consciousness and vote for the one true church and its guiding angel, Al Gore! At this point many Democrats eagerly mention Barry Goldwater. Wasn't his crushing defeat the prelude to victories?
Younger readers also might not remember what a truly colossal dick David Brooks can be in and how he successfully rode his colossal dickishness into a job-for-life at America's newspaper of record.
We now rejoin Dr. Krugman in the present day, trapped inside the suckiest Beckett play ever, still vainly trying to explain math and character to the intractably dishonest and dishonorable David Brooks:
So now we have candidates proposing “wildly unaffordable” tax cuts. Can we start by noting that this isn’t a bipartisan phenomenon, that it’s not true that everyone does it? Hillary Clinton isn’t proposing wildly unaffordable stuff; Bernie Sanders hasn’t offered details about how he’d pay for single-payer, but you can be sure that he would propose something. And proposing wildly unaffordable stuff is itself a declaration of priorities: Rubio is saying that keeping the Hair Club for Growth happy is more important to him than even a pretense of fiscal responsibility. Or if you like, what we’ve seen is a willingness to pander without constraint or embarrassment. ...
And because I suspect that Dr. Krugman is just god damn sick and tired of being trapped inside the suckiest Beckett play ever with David Brooks, he also throws some serious shade at Mr, Brooks on the subject of "character", carefully calibrated to sting like hell given the fact that Mr. Brooks has spent the last year hawking his book on the importance of people other than David Brooks getting to work on developing good character (with emphasis added):
Policy and Character
... My experience is that the best way to figure out a candidate’s true priorities — and his or her character — is to look hard at policy proposals.
...Policy proposals tell us a lot about character — and the history of the past 15 years says that journalists who imagine that they can judge character from the way people come across on TV or in personal interviews are kidding themselves, and misleading everyone else.
Which is a lovely thing.
Jonathan Chait also has some booms to lower, which I suspect will be lauded and linked far and wide:
...This is how Republican budget logic works in general. When you add up fanatical opposition to higher revenue, a political need to protect current retirees and a commitment to higher defense spending, you wind up either blowing up the budget deficit or inflicting massive harm on the poor. There are different ways to handle that problem. One of them is the Paul Ryan–circa-2011 plan of just proposing enormous cuts in anti-poverty programs. Another is the Paul Ryan–circa-2014-to-the-present plan of keeping those cuts in the budget but insisting they’re not your actual ideas.
Then you have the Rubio-Dubya method. The downside of this plan is that you don’t get Ryan-esque praise as a serious budget hawk who’s willing to look America square in the eyeball and tell us hard truths. But liberating yourself from any pretense to obeying the laws of arithmetic provides certain upsides that seem profitable for Rubio. You can give your party’s financial base the lucrative policy substance it craves, and craft your public message to the needs of the general election, by talking up your modest background. Bush in 2000 made a habit of taking photo opportunities with African-Americans all the time, a smart gambit that contributed to his image as a centrist. Rubio’s personal identity gives him a leg up in this regard. The only flaw in the plan is the possibility that reporters will focus on the substance of your agenda instead of the “signals” you send with your political messaging. If David Brooks is any indication, Rubio doesn’t have much to worry about.
But really, the most glorious aspect of Mr. Brooks' entire return-to-Weekly-Standard-form is that it is set against the backdrop of a sweeping, fawning, cover-article in the Columbia Journalism Review on the spiritual transformation of Mr. David Brooks.
According to the CJR, Mr. Brooks modern career as the spiritual thought leader began about ten minutes ago, before which Mr. Brook wrote about "politics":
In general, Brooks contends, journalists balk at sharing moral viewpoints, and readers bristle upon receiving them. His critics find him an insufferable scold, a pompous sermonizer. “I think there is some allergy our culture has toward moral judgment of any kind,” he reflects. “There is a big relativistic strain through our society that if it feels good for you, then who am I to judge? I think that is fundamentally wrong, and I’d rather take the hits for being a moralizer than to have a public square where there’s no moral thought going on.” There is at least marginal evidence that this is changing. His book, published in April, spent 22 weeks on the Times best-seller list.
Brooks made his way to The New York Times two years later on the editorial pages overseen by Gail Collins, known today for her faithfully left columns. Initially, he felt obliged to act as a spokesman for mainstream conservatism. As the base shifted to the right of him, carrying its banner felt disingenuous, so he shucked that duty. “When I did that, I stopped being part of the team. I lost a lot of conservative friends, and a lot of conservative readers, probably.” Right-wing Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, once asked to name his favorite liberal columnist, replied, “David Brooks,” partly in jest.
Whatever forces led to his transformation, it seems at least partly propelled by his disillusion with politics. Brooks was once infatuated with Capitol Hill. An unexpected bond formed between Brooks and the president, and he estimates that he visited the White House on 40 occasions during Obama’s tenure. But over time, Brooks came to find traditional political analysis to be trivial. “Who the hell cares about what Trump said to Ted Cruz?” he says.
A career immersed in those issues, even at the highest levels of journalism, was not as fulfilling as planned. One close friend is Yuval Levin, whom the New Republic calls “the right’s new favorite intellectual” and who Brooks calls a mentor. Levin says Brooks has come to believe “ultimately, it isn’t really politics that shapes an advance toward justice. It’s moral improvement.”
For the record, the word "Iraq" is used only once in this very long article and only to explain the pedigree of The Weekly Standard, where Brooks was a senior editor.
The name "Bush" is mentioned only once in this very long article, but only to explain the credentials of Peter Wehner, who is quoted therein.
And Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News, Bill Kristol, deficits, etc ad nauseum are never mentioned at all.
In the case of The Inspector General (movie, not the book) the virtue of Georgi is that he is a classic fool. Meaning that he is an honest fool with a decent heart. At the beginning of the story he is a powerless man who genuinely feels bad for the people his boss is cheating. By the end of the story, thanks to a case of mistaken identity and other turns of the plot, Georgi gains considerable power and tries to use that power to bring various malefactors and oppressors of the peasantry to justice.
In case of Mr. Brooks of the New York Times, having groveled his way into a position of real, unfettered influence --
Times columnists are afforded academic-like independence. Brooks says he’s never been to a meeting or received a performance review. When he began drifting into unconventional moral territory, Andrew Rosenthal, the editorial page editor, didn’t intervene, though he does want Brooks to maintain some focus on politics. There’s no formal quota, but when Brooks writes a political column, he feels he’s allowed himself a moral one.
-- and having cooked himself up a thin veneer of false piety, he has gone right back to his first and highest calling -- hawking wingnut snake oil from a much bigger and finer patent medicine wagon than The Weekly Standard could ever afford him.
(Crossposted at driftglass.blogspot.com where you can wish him a belated happy birthday or contribute to his fundraiser as well.)