David Brooks’ syllabus

Good Grief, Charlie Brown! For farts and giggles I read Bobo’s column today and immediately had a flashback to Poli-sci 101 (which we used to call “nap time”) and burst into a cold sweat; could there be a quiz coming?

Anyway, for reasons unexplained, Bobo decides to compare and contrast the French and the British versions of the Age of Enlightenment. Yes, that magical period following The Age of Reasoning and preceding Modernity; do you see why I was having cold sweats?

Now, because it is a Bobo column, you can rest assured that after 700 words or so of mental masturbation and pedantry, he comes to his point. Professional journalists call this burying your lead, but in Bobo’s world it is essential to prove to everyone he is the smartest person reading his column. Plus he needed 700 words of foreplay first.

Today, if you look around American politics you see self-described conservative radicals who seek to sweep away 100 years of history and return government to its preindustrial role. You see self-confident Democratic technocrats who have tremendous faith in the power of government officials to use reason to control and reorganize complex systems. You see polemicists of the left and right practicing a highly abstract and ideological Jacobin style of politics.

This is just his round-about way of saying that isn’t it a shame that we’re so politicized.

And yes, Bobo, it is. And you have a lot to do with it.

It is amazing to me how week after week, David Brooks writes basically the same column, ever since Saint Ronnie’s Big Lie started to fall apart. The rising tide lifted all the yachts, but the little guys in the life rafts were cut loose and allowed to drift off to sea, the infrastructure was burned down like some sort of Roman warfare strategy to avoid retreats, and the Wall Street jackals were let loose to feast on whatever they wanted. Thirty years later, we are sitting jobless on the edge of a world-wide depression, we’re in Peak Oil and there’s a gushing, giant oil blob floating off the coast threatening a different kind of calamity that no one knows what to do about, and our government is having a commission that is discussing how to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits because we can no longer afford the social safety net; meanwhile across the globe we are fighting two wars that some would say are baseless, and others would say are religious, and we don’t have a clear understanding of why we are there or how to get out.

And David Brooks wants to know how we got to be so polarized? As the kneepad-wearing head cheerleader for the Visigoths, he can look in the mirror for answers.

(Two Theories of Change, by David Brooks)

UPDATE 1:Doughy Pantload, pontificating poltroon that he is, has had it with Brooks’ column, too –

What’s David Brooks Trying To Say? [Jonah Goldberg]
I liked Brook’s column, even if I have some objections (Jacobin, moi?) and despite the fact that it’s a fairly familiar Brooksian lament. But I have to wonder is this a continuation of the Obama must be a Burkean stuff? I have to assume that’s the case, but Brooks just doesn’t make it clear.

Bobo sings the praise of the squishy middle

Senator Lindsey Graham, Our Hero

Our Miss Brooks, strikes again. Bobo and Gail Collins agree that Senator Graham is amongst the finest in the Men’s Club:

As far as I’m concerned Graham is the bravest politician in the country, bar none. When I get depressed about the nature of politics these days and am looking at the bottom of my nightly bottle of tequila (O.K., I’m exaggerating), I lift a glass to the voters of South Carolina and thank them for sending this guy to Washington. If every senator were like Graham, this country would be in excellent shape.

I think that Scissorheads everywhere already know my feelings about the meek and timid Lindsey Graham, but to hear Bobo give him a wet kiss just a bit above the belt is nauseating. What’s next, the praise for the principled stand of Traitor Joe?

Well, yes:

And while I’m praising Senator Graham, let me mention another senator who is willing to cross the aisle, Joe Lieberman. Some liberals love Graham because he’s willing to work with Democrats on some issues, but they hate Lieberman because he’s sometimes willing to work with Republicans. In other words, they only love independence so long as it’s only Republicans deviating from the party line, never Democrats. But I love ’em both.

Ah, Bobo sings praise to the quisling turds, the supposed squishy middle that Bobo so dearly wants to be part of. Traitor Joe, it should be noted, doesn’t cross the aisle to work with Republicans, or cross the aisle to work with the Dims. Traitor Joe only works for himself, being a Party of One. Well, correction: he works for AIPAC, and often times the Healthcare Lobby, Big Pharma, and many of the Finance interests. He goes where the money is, whether it is for him or his constituent: his wife.

So Bobo sings the praise of Drama Queens Miss Lindsey and Traitor Joe, but what of Grandpa Walnuts?

Well, Bobo does not discuss him with Gail, though Gail rightfully calls Walnuts out for being an opportunist and endorsing the Arizona draconian anti-immigration law. Bobo just reaches for his Tequila bottle.

The United States of Amnesia

Bobo regurgitates the talking point that the right so desperately wants to believe:

“Between 1997 and 2006, consumers, lenders and builders created a housing bubble, and pretty much the entire establishment missed it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the people who regulate them missed it. The big commercial banks and the people who regulate them missed it. The Federal Reserve missed it, as did the ratings agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the political class in general.”

Well, Bobo, that is not exactly true. In fact, that is entirely untrue.

The entire establishment, meaning GOP-appointed head of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, actually championed bubbles, the so-called irrational exuberance. Greenspan kept interest rates so artificially low that something was bound to happen. And I seem to recall him telling people that they should get out of their fixed rate mortgages (at extremely low rates) and refinance using some of the more exotic mortgage devices, that they should take money out of their homes and use it for vacations, cars, big teevee machines… And the innocent did, they believed Greenspan, and now many of them have either lost their houses or are in the process of losing their houses. Thanks, Alan!

His doppleganger, the disingenuous Ben Bernanke, carried forward the same policies, uninterrupted.

And Bobo, the regulators did not look for irregularities. In fact, they did not regulate at all.

Let’s not forget that our Xristian Xrazy President, Chimpy McStagger appointed Christopher Cox to the head of the SEC (after slashing their budget dramatically to make it and most other regulatory agencies a ghost town, and those regulators that remained were, um, watching a little porn, I’m told).

Let’s say Cox’ methods of regulation and investigation were, a-hem, a bit lax. (Artist rendition of Cox hard at work, you know, investigating –> )

Bobo, the point is that ever since the lunatics took over the asylum in the ’80s, it was not enough to just say that Government is the problem, they had to prove it, too. Anytime the government did anything right, or efficient, or (horrors!) better than the private sector, it laid waste to the demand from Saint Ronnie that the government must be destroyed, or as Grover Norquist said, made small enough to drown in the bathtub. They started by starving the beast, cutting off funding for departments that were actually doing their jobs. But that was not enough.

So Chimpy appointed a clown car-load of freak-show water heads to be in charge of the various agencies. It was not just political patronage (thought it was that, too), it was about ensuring massive, colossal failure in all areas. Our best example is of course FEMA, under the leadership of Heckuva Job Brownie, a horse-show promoter who was completely unprepared for Katrina. That was the expected result.

But back to Christopher Cox, a man you said that you have been covering for 20 years, the point man at the SEC when the whole house of cards collapsed. Here’s your opinion of him from The News Hour in 2005:

DAVID BROOKS: My broker is, I hope. But Chris Cox is one of the smartest people on Capitol Hill, so I have a lot of faith in him as a person. He went to Harvard Law and Harvard College but that not withstanding.

He strikes me as a sort of a Jack Kemp Republican — not quite in tune with the current House leadership Tom DeLay sorts, but he really goes back to the Reagan years and I think he was there with Jack Kemp.

JIM LEHRER: He worked in the Reagan administration.

DAVID BROOKS: He worked in the Reagan administration.

JIM LEHRER: He was one of the counsel —

DAVID BROOKS: And he’s just someone who, is on a policy level, extremely serious. And so I have a lot of faith in him, a lot of faith in his intelligence. And I would also say as a politician when there’s a scandal he will understand the importance of playing to the public about it and responding to public cries for reform

And the final thing to be said is there’s no contradiction being pro-free market and wanting to crack down on the bad guys. So I just don’t think it’s right to pre-judge him either way.

Yes, Bobo, there’s no contradiction on being pro-free market and wanting to crack down on the bad guys, but Cox was only pro-free market, as the records show. Cox fiddled while rome burned, so to speak. And it is amazing to me that to this day no one has called him on the carpet to testify.

So when you say, Bobo, that No one saw it coming, I think you are indulging your fantastic amnesia superpowers again. Everyone saw it coming. It was planned from the get-go. But to admit to anything other than complete surprise would be to admit to being part of the vast, failed experiment that is supply-side economics, deregulate everything, free-marketeering, and waiting for that rising tide to lift all boats. Funny how it only lifted the yachts.

But more importantly, it would mean that you, Bobo, would have to admit to being wrong again. Fantastically wrong.

The progressive conservatism of Bobo

They say that you end up with the face that you deserve, and in Bobo’s case it should be plural.

Today, Bobo again lays claims to the ideological center, which is amusing because he describes his political belief as progressive conservatism, a self-canceling phrase if ever there was one. I think what he really means is that he wants to luncheon with the ladies of the upper east side, if only they will have him. Here’s a clue, Bobo: they won’t.

Wistfully, Bobo says that he is to the Left of the Republicans, and to the Right of the Democrats, which he claims puts him in the squishy middle, a veritable no-man’s land, where the pure of heart and soul reside.

Like the Lucky Pierre in a Saint Ronnie and Newt Gingrich sandwich, this middle — of which he offers no evidence of existing — he says is powerless because the Dims have taken a hard-left ideological turn, which has left the Party of God no choice but to turn hard right. Bobo, you see, is the innocent man in the middle.

As government grew, the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class…

As government grew, many moderates and independents (not always the same thing) recoiled in alarm. In 2008, the country was evenly split on whether there should be bigger government with more services or smaller government with fewer services…

During periods of government war, the Democratic Party also reverts to its vestigial self. Democrats don’t want to defend big government, so instead they lash out at business. Over the past weeks, President Obama has upped his attacks on Big Oil, Wall Street and “powerful interests,” sounding like an orthodox Reagan-era Democrat.

The government war is playing out just as you’d expect it to, strengthening those with pure positions and leaving those of us in the middle in the cross-fire. If the debate were about how to increase productivity or improve living standards, people like me could play. But when the country is wrapped up in a theological debate about the size of government, people like me are stuck crossways, trying to make distinctions no one heeds.

I’ve gone on at length about Bobo’s cheerleading role through the Reagan zombies’ dismantling of the country, the rape and pillage that started with the weakest amongst us and now has pretty much destroyed the middle class. The undeclared class war (and that is what it really is) is now threatening even his own privileged upper-middle class self as his precious media consumes itself and thrashes about like a dinosaur in quicksand: alive, doomed, and knowing it.

Police and Fire departments across the country are decimated and taking staff cuts, the roads are crumbling; bridges have already collapsed. The mad villagers have grabbed their teabags and stormed the federal government, demanding that Americans want less, please take more away from us. And meanwhile, in the castles, the CEOs laugh and laugh and laugh, making bets with the Wall Street Bankers on how to further put their heels on the necks of the little people. And Bobo laughs with them, and provides them cover, hoping that they will throw him a crumb.

Bobo cheered on the policies that have lead to the off-shoring of entire sectors of the economy, the tax breaks that encouraged them, the trade deals that codified the race to the bottom. Bobo enabled where he could, and used his dulcet, modulated civil tone to assure his readers that a country that no longer makes anything can survive. You know, as long as you do not want anything, anyway.

Revisionism today

The Opinionator feature in the NYTimes features some hardy-fellow-well-met drivel from some of their columnists, usually Bobo and Gail Collins (every other week), doing some sort of He-said, She-said dance. Sometimes it is funny, and sometimes, like today, I want to throttle the both of ’em. To wit:

David Brooks: I’m glad you brought up W. We’ve all rehearsed the pros and cons of his administration. But I’d ask you to take a look at W. in light of where the G.O.P. is now. In my view, his compassionate conservatism was a valuable if undeveloped impulse, which really could have broadened and deepened the G.O.P. It is an impulse largely lacking now from the party, in an age where the secular anti-government elements have the upper hand and the social conservatives are dormant.

Bush proposed and/or passed major initiatives on education, immigration, poverty, foreign aid and many other areas, which could probably not pass G.O.P. muster right now.

Gail Collins: Well, I wasn’t too crazy about the illegitimate selling of an unnecessary war part. And those other initiatives you’re mentioning passed because the Democrats were willing to set aside politics and cooperate with Republicans. Which does not exactly seem to be the case now.

So while Bobo does his usual sword swallowing, trying to sound like a centrist when in fact he was a chief enabler of Chimpy’s Reign of Error, my wrath today goes to Gail Collins, of whom I generally like better than most NYTimes’ ink-stained wretches.

Gail seems to be suffering from Bobo’s usual amnesia, but instead of forgetting how the GOP has spent the last 30 years savaging the United States, off-shoring our jobs, polluting our air and water, and generally being a scourge, today Gail is forgetting – deliberately – the role that the NYTimes played in Chimpy’s Excellent Adventure.

Does the name Judith Miller ring a bell, Gail? How about her completely fictitious stories on the front page of the Times everyday, none of them fact-checked? How about our eight years of war against a country that literally did us no wrong, untold hundreds of thousands of dead, does any of that ring a bell, Gail? Gail maybe you’d like to explain to us some more about that illegitimate selling of an unnecessary war, I’m all ears.

(Hat tip: Scissorhead WonderingWilla)

Shorter David Brooks:

“I had 800 words to file to make my paycheck.”

I’m guessing that Bobo no longer even tries. This was just about as stupid as he gets in his patented technique to be seen as the squishy middle:

  1. Make a declarative sentence and state it as a fact!
  2. Introduce a new fact that contradicts the previous fact!
  3. Declare your pragmatic centrism by saying both facts cannot be true, so it must be something else, but you don’t know what.
  4. Cash your paycheck.

David Brooks: Asshole or Venal Asshole?

From The Opinionator:

Gail Collins: I’m sorry, when the difference is one weensy basket, I’d say Duke won neither by privilege nor hard work but by sheer luck. But don’t let me interrupt your thought here. I detect the subtle and skillful transition to a larger non-sport point.

David Brooks: Yes. I was going to say that for the first time in human history, rich people work longer hours than middle class or poor people. How do you construct a rich versus poor narrative when the rich are more industrious?

Bobo – you are a piece of work. But at least you mentioned that yes, Duke vs. Butler was about class warfare, if only in subtext. And I dare and defy you to tell me that Paris Hilton works harder at whatever the heck it is that she does than the lowliest janitor that cleans her hotels for minimum wage or probably less.