'/> Uncommon Hours: David Brooks worries me
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Monday, November 24, 2008

David Brooks worries me

By Bob Sommer, Uncommon Hours

It’s like getting a pebble in your shoe during the victory lap. What do you do? Stop? Keep going? Try to smile through the irritation? It’s spoiling the fun.

Conservative columnist David Brooks is the pebble, and my discomfort is finding that I’ve agreed with him lately. For years I’ve been accustomed to clicking open his column at The New York Times website and knowing I’d disagree with whatever I read. It would sound smug, dismissive. It would miss the point. He was a kind of negative comfort food for the head. I counted on him.

And now this!

Here’s what he wrote about President Elect Barack Obama’s newest appointments:

“…the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory.”

Worrisome enough.

But then he enumerates their qualities—open-mindedness, professionalism, “not excessively partisan,” and notably, “not ideological.”

This is too much! What am I missing? Is Obama really a neocon mole?

This is the same David Brooks who edited The Weekly Standard—that bastion of ideological neoconservatism that stood in lockstep with W from “we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud" to cheerleading the march to Baghdad to “the surge” and beyond (way beyond!).

The same David Brooks who told Chris Matthews, “Whoever the Democratic candidate, that is the weakness of the Democratic party, they’ve got the blogs and the netroots who are semi-nuts and they insist on a Stalinist line of discipline”—the Republicans under Bush being, of course, more flexible and open-minded, by far.

The same David Brooks who portrayed liberalism as a cartoon show of stereotypes in Bobos in Paradise and often columnizes about America’s fatal flaws—baby-boomers, the 1960s, latte coffee, and Volvos (or Priuses).

But maybe being an ideologue proved too much. Sarah Palin was the final straw. He called her “a fatal cancer to the Republican party.”

The Republicans’ toxic strategy of demonizing their opponents and rabble-rousing angry mobs has officially failed. Their faux populism and flag-draped hyper patriotism look like ragged, stained costumes that they’ve worn through an eight-year orgy, but now daylight and fatigue, hangovers and recriminations overwhelm the partiers as they linger wearily over coffee and cigarettes in a diner somewhere on Route 17 in New Jersey.

Rabid evangelicals, Joes- and Josephines-the-whatevers, a-noun-and-a-verb plus 9/11, wild-haired old ladies calling a lifelong Christian a Muslim (as if there was something wrong with being a Muslim), the myth that Democrats are still working on LBJ’s Great Society, that liberals are “tax-and-spend liberals”; or that they’re communists, socialists, weak, unpatriotic, anti-family—none of this added up to one positive, constructive idea to rebuild this country, make it a better global citizen, or keep the planet from melting before it became uninhabitable for humans.

And none of it added up to accountability for the failures of the last eight years.

To Brooks’s credit, he’s taken the measure of these failures.

But he still seems to be looking for an idea that’s not there—like the kid in Ronald Reagan’s favorite story who keeps looking for a pony in a pile of manure. He’s a work in progress. There’s a lot of manure left, but the pony's long gone.


  1. I wrote to Brooks acknowledging that for the first time ever, I could agree with something he had written.

  2. This has been a continuing conundrum...
    Pat Buchanan is on my side of many issues...
    Your Mr. Brooks has surprised me as well...
    I'm almost OK with keeping Mr. Gates at DOD...
    I even like Rahm guarding the gates!
    Is there something wrong with me? Am becoming complacent?
    Or are we just now getting around to being serious about governance? Progressives are waking up to the reality that they are PART of coalition that now must govern, politics really is not an end of and by itself, it is merely the means to an end and that end is the opportunity to lead, to govern.