Friday, June 20, 2008

David Brooks is losing it

I occasionally finding myself thinking new and interesting thots after reading David Brooks. He seems like a decent kind of guy, the kind of conservative who agrees with liberals on the goals of improving the world in various ways, but disagrees on the methods. And sometimes he writes columns that are not ideological or political, but just observations, and those are usually particularly thought-provoking.

At the beginning of the primary season, he seemed very impressed by Barack Obama, appreciating him as a deep and sensitive thinker.

Not anymore, apparently. He is no longer drinking the Kool Aid. In his column today, he's like a man waking up from a bad dream, terrified that was disturbed in might actually come true. Barack Obama might actually be a sensitive intellectual AND a great politician!

as recent weeks have made clear, Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.

The first problem with this analysis is the idea that Obama has to be a split personality to be at once a high-minded idealist and an effective, pragmatic politician. That's a convenient, black-and-white way of looking at the world. It's also an idea that has been consistently reinforced by the Bush Administration, which was staffed by people who were NEITHER high-minded idealists NOR effective, pragmatic
politicians. How is it possible to transcend this apparent divide between starry-eyed romanticism and hard-edged realism?

We Democrats have a name for people who can hold these two apparently contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time.

We call them "professionals."

This may come as a shock to David Brooks, but many people in this country are both good at their jobs, and decent human beings. Some of them are both really good at their jobs, and people of high ethical and moral standards.

This may be a landmark column, for at least a couple of reasons. First, Brooks, normally a very level-headed man, is practically in full melt-down mode here. He's not just worried, he's panicked. I think that's great for us. It shows that Obama is already changing the game, and redefining the political landscape, so that Republicans are scared of Democrats, instead of the other way around.

The second reason is that he makes it obvious how innovative Republicans can be at coming up with new and exciting smear tactics. This column is just riddled with snide innuendo: "the Scarlett Johansson set." I like Scarlett Johansson, but Brooks is just using her here as a symbol of young (blonde) Hollywood, presumably dissolute and shallow. He also references, just for good measure, the character Ari in Entourage, who is an agent, the slickest of the slick. He keeps repeating the phrase "under the truck," implying that Obama has betrayed various people and causes, and apparently unaware that the phrase is "under the bus." And he's from Chicago. Never mind that it is in the heartland, allegedly where many good, responsible, middle-class Americans come from, it is from now on to be knows as the city of tough politicos, the kind with sharp elbows.

PQuincy, a blogger at TPM, has an excellent post taking apart the factual absurdities of Brooks's column. I am referring readers to that because it would take me an hour to catalog the banalities in this column.

What's clear is that Obama has gotten under Brooks' skin. He's faking him out. And we still have 4 1/2 months to go before the election. Republicans are not worried about Obama. They are terrified.

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