Monday, December 28, 2009
Personal Aside: The Murky, Quirky David Brooks.
Murky, Quirky, Jerky.
If youre a pretend conservative but dont make a fuss about it and are often unfathomable as is David Brooks, you can fit a small niche at The New York Times where the word gets passed that youre deep as in Deep with a capital D.
What do I mean by Deep with a capital D? To get anywhere in a U.S.s liberal society, you praise a Communist system. Brooks knows how the game is played. On the eve of Obamas trip to China, he wrote a serenade to China. America once had the drive that China has now, he wrote on Nov. 17 in The Times. Its not much different than what Walter Duranty of The Times wrote generations ago about the USSRs dynamism. Except much later we learned that Duranty who won a Pulitzer for his saccharine views of Russia, was in the Reds employ. I cant and wont say that about Brooks. Or that hes just a google-eyed idealist. Hes just an opportunist who knows what sells to The Times and PBSs lefty bosses.
Listen to Brooks:
The Chinese, though members of a famously old civilization, seem to possess some of the vigor that once defined the U.S. The Chinese are now an astonishingly optimistic people The Cultural Revolution seems to have produced among the Chinese the same sort of manic drive that the pioneer and immigrant experiences produced among the Americans.
Ah, they were so astonishingly optimistic about their future, these Chinese, that they let their leaders block their access to the American president. He spoke at a town-hall-style meeting in Shanghai, but Chinese censors blocked his comments online and only one local television station was allowed to air them. And the town-hall meeting was a tightly scripted affair. The Reds refused to allow Obama to speak directly to their people. His meeting with President Hu Jintao was his only chance to address the people directly.
Result: the trip which didnt produce substantive agreements didnt give the U.S. president a symbolic victory either. China blocks its citizens from using Twitter and Facebook. Wrote Isaac Mao in Britains Guardian: China can block Twitterand President Obamas remarksin the short term but the Bejing government will learn that containing the Chinese blogosphere isnt as easy as locking up dissidents.
Good old squishy Brooks never commented about the stonewalling given Obama in China (although Obama did). Its not popular to ridicule Red tyrants in The Times. Brooks can do it because in his past theres been a flavor of conservatism. Thats what The Times and PBS likes. And, hey, hes Deep. Deep-deep-deep.
His Romance with Obama.
You have to be Strange Deep if you do a column for The Times. Bill Kristol didnt last because hes not Strange. Being Deep-Strange from the University of Chicago and being Jewish without sticky about Israel got Brooks a permanent gig not just with liberaldoms newspaper of record but on taxpayer-paid PBS TV with Mark Shields (Shields being the hack Massachusetts Dem who went to Notre Dame, goofed up the Ed Muskie presidential campaign and the Sarge Shriver vice presidential campaign until he finally won one with the Kevin White Boston mayoralty, no big deal). Then with one major victory under his belt in a storied solid Democratic city, he cashiered all and became voila!...a news analyst).
Brooks conservatism is so silent the paper had to go ahead and hired another token, Ross Douthat, allowing Brooks to grovel in Red China- and Obama-worship consistent with the remainder of the paper. Still, he and Shields appear supposedly as pro-and-con on Jim Lehrers News Hour (you know, the guy whos referred to at the shows end by that heavy New Yawk male Brooklyn accent similar to Chuck Schumers as Jim Lah-rah).
Pro and con they arent. Shields, up there now at 72, is of the Massachusetts political generation that holds that Irishness is the glue that binds his Democratic fealty on one hand and his Catholicity on the other. He prays by putting these two hands together, the Irish-Democrat hand foremost. He says hes pro-life but doesnt allow it to disturb his politics. He comes from the same cocoon as the Kennedy Irish Democrats and the Daley-Madigan-Hynes people here.
A true con, he has a gift for making naïf Lah-rah believe hes an insider as he assured all that while the polls say Obamas fading, just wait for the future when ObamaCare is fully accepted. And what does the supposed conservative Brooks say?
Lah-rah leans forward eagerly to hear.
Now Brooks strains with hemorrhoidal concern striving to separate himself from Shields but in the end fails, talking murky, which leaves Shields the top-dog always. Brooks bleats that, you know, Obama is truly Intellectual. All the while Jim Lah-rah (whose from Kansas by the way where hes forgotten they roll their rs ) enjoys himself hugely because both men offer what public television form a consensus: Come let us adore him (the him being Obama).
Well as one comic of decades ago used to say Ex-cuse ME! David Brooks is often unfathomable, not because hes congenitally so since when he wrote for The Daily Standard he was crisp but as a makeover since The Times and Lah-rah hired him, hes switched to downright thoughtful appearing skittering around to please his liberal audiences where he strives to be pleasing to the Left as a Nice Man of Deep Thought.
In doing so, he has fawned over Obamas thought processes because the Messiah once referred to Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr offhandedly which thrilled Lah-rah because Niebuhr is a good name to drop at a Manhattan East cocktail party (so long as you dont mention God). But in the name of appearing oh so different from his conservative colleagues, is how Brooks writesmurky, quirky, jerkily-- and when you consider his stuff fairly, not just wrongheaded but as a con. Con not meaning conservative but Con for confidence man.
Now lets switch from to another column. Lets pick oh .the one he wrote for Dec. 4 in The Times. Its not particularly notable, just one I fished out of the basket.
Brooks vs. the Facts.
Heres the exegesis.
BROOKS: Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obamas 2008 presidential campaignfor the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervor But, of course, the Obama campaign, like all presidential campaigns, was built on a series of fictions.
ME: No kidding. Im shocked shocked!
BROOKS: The first fiction is that government is a contest between truth and error.
ME: Comon, Deep Liberal Man. Youre wrong. If it is anything, government IS most certainly and indisputably contest between truth and error. Take in my own long lifetime. Hoover adopted liberal means to supposedly cure the Depressionheavy federal spending. Error. He adopted tax hikes in the middle of an era of joblessness. Error. Roosevelt just compounded the Hoover errors. The Depression was not ended except by the advent of World War II. Errors-errors.
BROOKS: In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.
ME: Thats so much Deep hogwash, Introspective Liberal Man. Foreign-defense policy doesnt run on competing, unequal truths. The record is clear and uncompetitive: when you deal with your adversaries firmly, they respect you. When you try to placate your adversaries they defecate all over you.
Take the administrations that tried to placate during the Cold War: the early days of Truman in the China civil war where he send Marshall to encourage Chiang to welcome Mao into a coalition government the days of Carter where he said at Notre Dame that previous administrations have been obsessed with Communismdeclaring that he wouldnt be as such...only to change his tune when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and when the Iranian militants took over the U.S. embassy and held 70 Americans for 410 days while Carter dithered. Competing, unequal truths my eye. Thats the relativist in you where there are seemingly no absolutes: the liberal scourge which is why youre column-ing for The Times and on Jim Lah-rah.
Domestically, after the dot-com crash and 9/11, the economy entered a recession. To provide a soft landing, Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan made the wrong move nothing about competing, unequal truths. He took the federal funds rate down to 1%, the lowest it had been since the 1950sand held it there for a full year. Then he began moving the rate back up so as to contain inflation. His easy money policy fueled the housing boom. There were no competing truths therejust right and wrong. The Community Reinvestment Act which pressured banks to ok mortgages for unqualified borrowers wasnt a Act to meet competing truths. It was wrong. That led to the housing bust.
BROOKS: The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government, power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents actually get anything done.
ME: Not even remotely true, oh Liberal Intellectual One. FDR went off the gold standard in a decision made in 15 minuteswham! Another wrong decision not done by coaxing or persuading but by monolithic decision-making by wrong-headed Democrats and Republicans. Coaxing, prodding and compromise my eye. By that yardstick, Obama got ObamaCare through by coaxing. Baloney. He had Rahm rent the Congress, lock stock and barrel.
Now get this romantic view of Obama, much like Durantys view of Russia, Herbert Matthews of Castros Cuba.
BROOKS: The Obama White House revolves around a culture of debate. He leads long, analytic discussions which bring competing arguments to the fore. He sometimes seems to preside over the arguments like a judge settling a lawsuit. His policies are often a balance, as he tries to accommodate different points of view. He doesnt generally issue edicts. In matters foreign and domestic he seems to spend a lot of time coaxing people along. His governing style, in short, is biased toward complexity.
ME: Yeah, Ive noticed that culture of debate in the Obama White House revolving around ObamaCare. How do we know how does Brooks know he leads long, analytic discussions which bring competing arguments to the fore? In the campaign, we were told the process would be so transparent as to be aired on C-SPAN where we could witness the long, analytic discussions. What a laugh! Harry Reid held the ObamaCare bill to his chest up until the end. In fact we still dont know completely what the Senate passed. I knew at the time when Obama said it, it was all b.s. Evidently Brooks swallows what the press office has been feeding him.
Foreign policy? When did we hear a debate about pulling missiles out of eastern Europe? Did he share this with the American people? Or did he and I missed it? Was it held and we missed it? When did we have a debate about whether or not to spend $100 billion a year which the Messiah to help developing nations counteract supposed global warming? Did we miss that?
BROOKS: This style [complexity] has never been more evident than in his decision to expand the war in Afghanistan.
ME: Which by never using the word victory, he is complex. Howd you like to have a kid sent over there by a commander-in-chief to whom victory is an unspoken word? My-my, how complex.
BROOKS: Obamas emotional temperature cooled to just above freezing. He spoke [on his decision to raise the troop level by 30,000] in the manner of an unwilling volunteer, balancing the arguments within his administration by leading the country deeper in while pointing the way out.
ME: This is the war he declared all during the campaign was the important one as distinct from Iraq. The war whose management he gave to a general who recommended troop increase 90 days while he dithered.
BROOKS: The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.
ME: Pardon while I barf. Ninety days sitting on a recommendation from McCrystal and Petraeus before acting. The decision to try terrorists in a federal court with all the constitutional protections given to citizens when they are not citizens a decision made, it is said, by the U.S. Attorney General although it is uniquely a presidential decision. Obama had almost a full year in office to decide that one which he booted to the AGand resulted in a bad decision.
BROOKS: Most war presidents cast themselves as heroes on a white charger, believing that no one heeds an uncertain trumpet. Obama, on the other hand, cloaked himself in what you might call Niebuhrian modesty. His decision to expand the war is the most morally consequential one of his presidency so far.
ME: Modesty? As when he declared in his victory speech in St. Paul on June 2, 2008 that the oceans rise will slow and the planet will begin to heal. As in Harry, I have a gift which he told Reid. And can that stuff about Theologian Niebuhr will you, Brooks? I learned more about Niebuhr from Fr. Ernie than you ever learned from reading his pop fan, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
What might interest you even as a largely unobservant Jew is that early in his career as a minister, Niebuhr advocated Christians aggressively converting all Jews. That was when he was a member of the Socialist Party under Norman Thomas and tried to arrange a union between the socialists and the communists and certain Jews were standing in the way. The way to understand Niebuhr who did his undergrad studies at Elmhurst College in our Chicagoland suburb, by the way, is to realize that he is the forerunner of the liberal malaise of national guilt.
The Kennedy court historian Schlesinger explained it well (Schlesinger notes that theologian Niebuhr instilled guilt that has been ever since a key in the makeup of what I call decadent, apologize-for-America non-patriotism which fits Obama to a Tor make it an S for socialist) and Brooks an Innocent, gullible bad reporter: not like Duranty and Matthews who were on the take but much dumber. When he dies he should be placed standing up in a cubicle of alcohol at Harvard Medical School as the truest specimen of Dumb Liberalicus.
This is what Niebuhr really wasnot described by any conservative but by a liberal of Brooks mienSchlesinger:
Niebuhr was a critic of national innocence. After all, Schlesinger writes, whites coming to these shores were reared in the Calvinist doctrine of sinful humanity and they killed red men, enslaved black men and later on imported yellow men for peon labornot much of a background for national innocence.
Thats the essence of Obama liberalism and Brooks gullibility where the president has gone throughout the world apologizing for the country which he has denied is exceptional and for Christianity which he has alleged is inoperative here.
And thats why you like Niebuhr and Obama so much, Brooks. Obama suckles from Niebuhrs teat and you suckle from Obamas, Pinch Sulzbergers and PBS. By prattling Niebuhr you got and can keep your job at The New York Times and can share the anchor desk with Mark Shields and Jim Lah-rah.
My only recommendation is that when you read or see Brooks, remember hes not just a chumpbut an opportunistic one who holds his twin jobs by massaging his patrons.
By the way, let me know if you agree or disagree by writing me at email@example.com.