A Perfect Storm of Wanking and Dumbassery

What is “Howard Kurtz interviewing David Brooks,” Alex?

An erudite author and talking head, Brooks, 47, is sometimes cast as the left’s favorite conservative. At times he seems to delight in taking on his own side, drawing fire from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, and yet he drives some liberals up the wall.

“I look at a lot of commentary, and so much of it is campaign advocacy for one side or another,” he said. “That turns me off in a visceral way.” Brooks pronounces himself “disappointed” in both Obama and John McCain.

Right. It’s just so tiresome. See this, this thing right here, is what is wrong with our mainstream commentary, what is wrong with the people who supposedly make decisions in our discourse, one major part of what is wrong with newspapers. This thing, right here. This elevation of detachment and dispassion into a virtue of its own over and above passionate intensity so that the first person who raises his voice in the argument loses no matter who has possession of what facts. This confusion of the description with the thing described, so that what is truly displeasing is rudeness and not THOUSANDS OF DEAD PEOPLE. This treatment of everything that matters like it’s first one big ironic joke and second just too common and filthy and low to be dealt with.

Theweariness Brooks exhibits. The way impassioned conversation and advocacy about the things that matter most to the Americans with whose lives he purports to be fascinated just seems toodirty to touch. The way he characterizes it, as though what really matters in this world is if we inconvenience him. It turns him off? I can imagine why it would. What I can’t imagine is why he and Howard Kurtz think his being turned off matters to anbody ever, why they consider what pleases David Brooks to be a story of any kind.

Within months, Brooks grew disillusioned, calling Obama a combination of “Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set” and “Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.” But he was hardly a Republican cheerleader: Days before Obama picked his running mate, Brooks urged the choice of Joe Biden as an experienced if loudmouthed lawmaker.

Brooks swooned over McCain during the 2000 campaign (“Even by the standards of the media, I was more worshipful than most”), has dined with him a number of times and admires McCain’s closest confidant, Mark Salter. When Brooks criticizes the McCain campaign, the pushback comes “very respectfully,” he says, mostly in the form of private e-mails.

I honestly don’t know who in this passage turnsme off moreviscerally, Kurtz or Brooks. He’s not a Republican cheerleader, except when he’s publicly ridiculing the Democratic nominee’s supposed masculinity and sending respectful, private e-mails urging John McCain to perhaps, old boy, think about doing things a different way. And Kurtz feels these two passages are somehow evidence of Brooks treating both sides equally. Jesus tits.

Also, it’s hard out here for a bitch:

When Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. offered him an op-ed spot soon after the 2003 invasion, Brooks wanted to turn it down, figuring it would be hard to compress his ideas to column length. But, he said, “I had a failure of courage.” He enjoyed the increased access and visibility of being a Timesman, but there was a downside.

“Until I took this job, I was never hated on a mass scale,” Brooks said.

Within months, he served notice that he was not a cultural right-winger. He wrote a column making the conservative case for gay marriage. Despite such nods to the other side, his fiercest critics are on the left.

“Sometimes liberals get really mad at David because they expect him to know better,” Dionne said.

Brooks, who is working on a book about social mobility that includes brain research, admits he is something of a throwback. “This is going to sound pretentious, but I try to be a 1950s public intellectual in 2008, in 800 words.”


Sigh Part 2, working backwards: Dionne, you know I love you, but it’s not so much we expect Brooks to know better as we expect him to have some kind of basic connection to reality and stop equating some false kind of balance with fairness. We expect Brooks to wake up in the morning, like anybody, and see what is going on outside his window. I have a local paper I won’t name because it fucking sucks, has an elderly columnist who writes about the squirrels in his yard with more integrity than Brooks shows writing about the country in which he lives. At least Cranky Old Dude Esq. relies on verifiable fact and describes things taking place.

Sight Part 3: I’m sorry David’s bummed. I really am. I hate seeing people upset. But that sorrow is mitigated somewhat by knowing that there arehundreds ofthousands maybe evenmillions of people who would trade places with him in a heartbeat so maybe NOT SO MUCH WITH THE WHINING OH MY GOD.


11 thoughts on “A Perfect Storm of Wanking and Dumbassery

  1. He wasn’t hated on a mass scale because he was a virtual unknown. To know him, to read him, is to detest him.

  2. I think people love two kinds of columnists, fiery columnists and funny columnists. Everything else is just writing. Some of it’s good, some of it’s insightful, lots of it is crap, but none of it grabs you. It’s 800 words, not a freaking book.
    Stoke the fires. Keep me warm. Fill me up. That’s what I want from a newspaper column.

  3. I guess he meant the kind of “1950s public intellectuals” who were class-flaunting, pretentious, braying reactionary jackasses — more William F. Buckley or Joseph Campbell than, say, Dorothy Parker…

  4. Shorter Kurtz/Bobo:
    Kurtz: “Here, David, let me fluff you.”
    Brooks: “Why, thank you, old boy. How terribly sporting of you! Well, isn’t that JOLLY!”
    Jeebus. The worst thing about all this is, they all think they’re so much SMARTER than all of us. It would be amusing if they weren’t so goddamned destructive with their influence.

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