Friday, July 17, 2009
The reversion of David Brooks
Although you will occasionally hear good political commentary on cable television, the honest truth of the matter (and I suspect that, secretly, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, or certainly Chris Wallace would agree), is that the "discussion and debate" on these shows is mostly back-and-forth partisan shrieking. For those elements of the television viewing audience that are interested in national politics (and I include myself within that sad demographic) it matters little. We watch because we love to despise those we imagine to be on the other side of the aisle.
But, much as a junk food bachelor will occasionally tire of pizza or take-out burritos and yearn for a good home-cooked meal, I like to get some substantial political discussion every now and then.
Fortunately, once per week, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer includes a political analysis segment featuring "conservative" New York Times columnist David Brooks, and "liberal" syndicated columnist Mark Shields.
I've been watching Shields for many years on CNN and on OPB and I've always respected his insights and opinions. He's one of my favorites.
David Brooks, on the other hand, I encountered only when he replaced Paul Gigot on the News Hour. Brooks is one of the few "conservative" voices I can hear without being quickly deafened by disgust and comtempt.
It wasn't always so.
In the early days of the Bush Disaster, he was fully onboard the Junior Bandwagon. In the lead up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, he dismissed as "irrelevant" all the arguments put forth by its opponents. When Junior submitted his first budget to Congress, Brooks explained away its dead-on-arrival reception as a sort of Trojan Horse ploy by a crafty Karl Rove. Brooks couldn't quite manage a straight face when he argued that the administration put the budget out to draw fire, never expecting it to be seriously considered. I suspect even he knew the truth: that the budget was in fact the shoddy workmanship of a gaggle of Texas yokels.
Eventually, as the Bush house of cards flattened, Brooks had enough integrity to refuse to try to defend the indefensible. He no longer makes apologies for the Bush administration, does nothing to burnish its fetid legacy.
Well, after all, only the most closed-minded partisan diehards even bother to pretend that the Bush administration was anything other than a dismal failure. But Brooks was on one of the first lifeboats to ditch.
Further, Brooks has little at all to say about the sorry clutch of hypocrites that are now steering the GOP even further into the gutter. Granted, the Republicans are so diminished that there is not much to say about them anyway. As the GOP contracts to its reactionary base, Brooks is among the many right-leaning moderates who just can't ally themselves with fanatical snake-charmers and revival tent Tongues-speakers.
Brooks, and other former Republicans like him, are lost political souls. They're like cult followers who one day awaken to find that all the chanting and incense is a front for bigamy and extortion. While the reactionary core of the Republican party impels their stoogish political champions toward ever more inane and insane positions (hinting at secession, contending that President Obama is not a US citizen) Brooks and like-minded former Republicans must either continue to exist in a political wasteland or form their own political organization.
Such is the price for lending credibility to the yahoos.