November 15, 2003

Tell Us What You Really Think

I want David Brooks to stop pulling his punches and tell us what he really thinks about George W. Bush:

Op-Ed Columnist: Swords Into Plowshares: ...Remember when George Bush used to say he was going to change the tone in Washington? He lied about that. He couldn't even reach out to Jim Jeffords, a moderate in his own party. He was never going to reach out to Democrats. He is too intellectually insecure. He can't handle people who disagree with him, so he retreats into the cocoon of the like-minded.

Posted by DeLong at November 15, 2003 07:31 AM | TrackBack


The main point of Brooks piece is that the Dems
should nominate an "anti-Dean" who will pledge to stop the "partisan war," thereby appealing to

Shorter version: please nominate someone who
will roll over for the Rethuglicans and not fight back, and not galvanize the Dem base.

Posted by: Andy on November 15, 2003 07:50 AM


Exactly so. If Brooks was serious, he'd be shouting at GW Bush and Tom DeLay to turn down the partisanship. Blame the victim still works for conservatives, apparently.

Posted by: Brooklyn Sword Style on November 15, 2003 08:11 AM


Where did Brooks work? IIRC, Weekly Standard, WSJ editorial page. The equivalent on the right would be for the WSJ editorial page to have a regular columnist who was an editor of the Nation, and worked on - well, there is no large newspaper equivalent of the WSJ editorial page.

Posted by: Barry on November 15, 2003 08:24 AM



American soldiers 263
British soldiers 20
Coalition soldiers 25
308 Since May 2

American 402
British 53
Coalition 25
480 Since March 20


American soldiers ~2345 Since March 20

Note: American forces have fallen to 130,000
British forces have risen to 11,000

Posted by: lise on November 15, 2003 09:07 AM


David Brooks is despises Democrats or anyone who is not both extreme right and as blue blood as David Brooks wishes to be. This is the cat who justifies Charles Murray then goes further. Yuch.

Posted by: jd on November 15, 2003 09:18 AM


Brooks tosses in stuff like this occasionally to convince liberals that they are dealing with an intellectually honest, fair-minded conservative. That, of course, is an illusion.

Posted by: BobNJ on November 15, 2003 09:38 AM


But Brad...

That's an odd way to introduce the quote, because the column is explicity *not* what *Brooks* thinks: he's writing the speech a Democratic presidential candidate should give.

Posted by: ogged on November 15, 2003 09:48 AM


Anyone who hasn't already might want to follow the "Busy, Busy, Busy" link (third down on the right) and see what they have to say about Nicholas Kristoff's column of the 12th (Wednesday). More or less the same theme, and it's still the Democrat's fault. This from a real (?) liberal. Note to Brooklyn Sword Style: it's not just Conservatives. But count me out.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on November 15, 2003 10:13 AM


I think Brooks is part of a calculated campaign by fellow right wing extreme travellers to blunt the Democratic candidate before he is nominated. Brooks is preening and auditioning as the heir to Safire -- wordsmith for the right in the citadel of liberal media elite, the NYT. Remember what they did to Gore right after he won the nomination. Rove got the media to believe that Gore beat Bradley by personal attacks and viscious campaigning. Having seen how their man fared while asked a simple question about who the leaders of small countries were (deer in the headlights), Rove knew that he had to dumb down expectations. So he went after Gore. The press then ran with stories about how Gore is mean, bla bla bla. By the time of the first debate Gore was in a straight jacket because if he went after Bush as the fraud that he was then (and we know now) the press would have excoriated him for resorting to personal attack politics. I learned long ago in the practice of law, if you are alleging fraud against someone, then you have to call him a fraud and get over any squeemishness about calling the person a fraud, because that is what you must convey to the court and the jury to establish your case. This inevitably makes the other side very mad, because no one, especially someone in self denial about what they did, likes to see himself called a fraud. Dean has it right (although I have reservations about him because I do think he is vulnerable to attack by the Rightwing zealots who have successfully convinced the American voting public that Democrats are wimps); Dean must now let off the gas. Further, the other Dems should quit fighting amongst themselves. Reagan, as much as I dislike him, did something wonderful for the Republicans. During his run through the primaries he came up with the line about "I will not speak bad about another Republican." The Dems should call off their silly debates and all should simply take that position that any of them would be better as President than Bush. They should then focus on their vision for America. Simply get out the message they want to convey about themselves. Most of it will be consistent, so the dumbbeat will be anti-Bush. Whoever emerges will have a position push and a Party-wide mostly consistent message. They should not bloody each other so that they have to overcome what their own party did to them before the viscious evil attacks start coming from Rove, et al. Dean has one thing going for him: he is as blue blooded as Bush and sees Bush for what he is. Bush is about winning. Dean will use any means available to attack Bush. He may get whipped but Bush will not come out of the election unscathed. Brooks is part of the campaign to tone down Dean. They know he will take no quarter. They know that Bush, intellectually inferrior to Dean, will look very very bad in a real debate, where the questions are not given to the candidates in advance so that they can recite their short sound bites. Brooks is part of the fraud machine. In fact, the "liberal" press should wise up to this tactic now. Also, the Democrats should start saying now that they will not debate Bush because the whole debate process is a farse. Begin with the fact that Bush refuses to participate in open press conferences because he is an intellectual light weight and affraid to answer questions posed the press. Keep pounding that theme so that the press has heightened expectations for Bush at any debate. (Even Safire openly taunts the White House press as wimps for their simpering refusal to take on the White House for fear of retribution.) The Democrats can just pound on that theme: bush is a coward, he hides behind the shirt tails of Rove. Bush will go for this a little bit. But Dean will taunt him into the open. Bush is a blue blood bully. Dean knows how to push those buttons having been through the same prep school Yalie training as Bush. Anyway, began to rant early into to this post and I'm running out of steam, so I'll sign off.

Posted by: Cal on November 15, 2003 10:25 AM


But in this context, it's hard to believe that he doesn't believe this is true.
Plus, Brooks wrote an interesting column a few weeks ago about Edwards, in which he pretty much admitted that the white southern Rep. voter is voting against his own interest.

Posted by: Upper West on November 15, 2003 10:34 AM


David Brooks is a radical-conservative. With a shake of hand and smile, Davy Boosy knows just how Democrats need to behave to assure Republicans will continue to win elections after election. Davy Boosy is precisely what the Republican Southern strategy is all about, use hints of race and religion to mask what the economic interests of Southern whites really are.

Posted by: jd on November 15, 2003 10:48 AM


Brad DeLong is deservedly mocking David Brooks. David Brooks is mocking David Brooks:

"If Dean is our nominee, he may fight the Beltway wars more aggressively than other Democrats, but we will still be a nation at war. I have seen Dean up close. The man hates his opponents. His kind thrives only during times of domestic war.

"If we nominate Dean, it will be bad for our party and bad for our country. It will be bad for our party because 40 percent of the voters in this nation call themselves moderates.

"If we nominate Dean, George Bush will have a good shot at winning a large chunk of those votes."

Posted by: lise on November 15, 2003 11:17 AM


Remember, David Brooks is no moderate. David Brooks is extreme and divisive in every nuance. When you are extreme you can hide behind a plea for niceness and fool all sorts of media critics who take saying we must be nice as a fine excuse for being vicious. Note David Brooks recent column on the ethics of war, and how ethics may need to be discarded. Vicious?

Posted by: lise on November 15, 2003 11:30 AM


November 11, 2003

Avoid War Crimes

To the Editor:

In "A Burden Too Heavy to Put Down" (column, Nov. 4), David Brooks writes, "Inevitably, there will be atrocities" committed by our forces in Iraq. Did he forget to add that they must be prosecuted?

War crimes are indeed more likely if influential commentators foreshadow impunity for perpetrators of the "brutal measures our own troops will have to adopt."

The choice is not between committing war crimes and retreating "into the paradise of our own innocence." A third option is for the United States to strive to avoid complicity.

It is untrue that "we have to take morally hazardous action." Those who choose it, or urge others to, cannot evade or distribute responsibility by asserting that "we live in a fallen world."

New Haven, Nov. 4, 2003
The writer is director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University.

Posted by: lise on November 15, 2003 11:36 AM


There is David Brooks!
Thanks Lise.

Posted by: jd on November 15, 2003 11:43 AM


Like Cal, I have experience at fraud prosecutions. The most critical thing, the absolutely essential thing, is to put blood on the floor.

You cannot be a good cheat unless you have a pleasant affect, unless you can persuade people that you are one of the good guys. The goal of the prosecution is to put up widows and orphans to say how this apparently nice person cold-bloodedly stole the money they needed to take care of their sick grandmother.

Howard Dean proposes to ask the people who are voting Republican against their own financial interests, what have you gotten for your vote? This is the right question. It has to be followed with actual people hurt by the policies of this administration.

Wesley Clark may be able to do the same thing. I doubt that the rest of the Democratic candidates are willing to do so, because their voting records will regrettably show that they have not really been representing core values of what I thought was the Democratic party.

Posted by: Masaccio on November 15, 2003 03:54 PM


Brooks is wwrong in one important regard. Dean didn't pick up support because he attacked Bush. He got a lot of support from the beginning because he spoke to what Democrats, and the left (even Greens) wanted in policy. That is something the Democrat National Committee failed on. Dean connected with these people on policy and philosophy lines, not because he is a (counter)-attack dog.

Brooks is simply trying, in a clever way, to sandbag Dean and the Democratic party.

Posted by: paulo on November 15, 2003 06:09 PM


I just re-read my rant. I had a typo. Dean must "not" let off the gas. I said now. That is wrong. (None of the others should let off the gas against Bush either.) He/they must go for the jugular. As Masaccio say, "put blood on the floor." In most instances a fraud is a confidence man who fools people into thinking he is helping them, etc. (The Bush Administration . . .) The pain for the defrauded comes upon the realization that they were taken. I have had many more than one person reduced to tears in my office as they recounted the facts of their case. Part of you wants to ring their necks for being so dumb; but then you have to realize that they are only people who trusted somebody without realizing that person was out to harm them. If any of these scenarios posited by Roach or Krugman come to pass, this country will be in sad, sad shape. That will be the end of the conservative movement as it is now formulated. That is why they are so downright bad, they are willing to bet it all so a few can benefit greatly and if the policy calls go against them, those few are still insulated from all the problems.

Posted by: Cal on November 15, 2003 06:18 PM


"Anyone who hasn't already might want to follow the "Busy, Busy, Busy" link (third down on the right) and see what they have to say about Nicholas Kristoff's column of the 12th (Wednesday). More or less the same theme, and it's still the Democrat's fault. This from a real (?) liberal. Note to Brooklyn Sword Style: it's not just Conservatives. But count me out."

Posted by Jonathan Goldberg at November 15, 2003 10:13 AM

No, it's also the sort of 'liberal columnists' who worries most about what the fellow media elite will think of him. That's why the term 'SCLM' was coined.

Posted by: Barry on November 15, 2003 06:54 PM


the column is explicity *not* what *Brooks* thinks: he's writing the speech a Democratic presidential candidate should give.

Let's try that again with the elided words added:

the column is explicity *not* what *Brooks* thinks: he's writing the speech [he thinks] a Democratic presidential candidate should give.

I think the speech George Bush should give is a sincere apology in the course of a resignation. Is that explicitly not what I think?

Posted by: julia on November 15, 2003 07:02 PM



Brooks thinks his speech would an effective political move for one of the Democratic candidates. He (Brooks) doesn't need to believe a word of it to think that that's so.

Posted by: ogged on November 15, 2003 11:14 PM


Andy, Cal, I know it is hard to believe, but there are a lot of Democratic policies that will turn off most moderate swing voters. If Dean is "a Democrat's man" he probably isn't a winner...

Posted by: Stan on November 16, 2003 02:52 AM


Thanks to Lise for posting the reference to Brooks' previous column, in which he more or less calls for the creation of death squads of one kind or another. I always thought that the moral justification behind our form of government and society is that we do not *need* to descend to the immoral viciousness that is so prevalent in the world (a grand hope, if one often disappointed). Brooks, in contrast, would put our "national morale" ahead of such picky moralism... odd from a man who's now calling for more niceness in political debate.

Thus, I can't accept ogged's point: Brooks does NOT think that the speech he describes would be a good move for a Democratic candidate. In fact, given his position and history, we have to assume he thinks that if a Democratic candidate gave the speech he describes, it would be good for Bush.

That he cloaks his mission in the rhetoric of respect and civility is irrelevant. Respect is indeed crucially important for the survival of any political system, and its decline inside and outside Washington is a matter of great concern. But Brooks does not advocate respect: he advocates unilateral disarmament (though admittedly he does criticize the Bushies when they go over the top). Still, one shouldn't take this criticism as evidence of evenhandedness, because (it seems to me) the rhetorical position of the parties he describes are quite different. Bush, though a candidate, is also sitting President, and therefore his words (and those of his handlers) carry meanings quite different from those of a candidate who does not hold the office. The latter are supposed to be critical (in a democracy, at least), and criticism can be fierce and partisan. Indeed, if I recall the argument right, it was a great step forward in creating liberal politics when, in the _Federalist_ and after, the fact that faction and difference can be deep and bitter was BUILT IN to our political system.

Is Brooks suggesting we should go back to a "civic republican" tradition of denying the reality of 'faction? Just look where that got Florence!

(Sorry, I've been teaching about these issues lately, so they're quite on my mind!).

EOR [End of Rambling]

Posted by: PQuincy on November 16, 2003 06:56 AM


Thanks PQuincy

Brook's column on Iraq was astonishing, for it was a recipe for moral disaster. The military code models our values in treatment of citizens of an occupied country, though a war or aftermath may be in progress.


Posted by: lise on November 16, 2003 10:27 AM


I am going to pick my presidential candidate the way David Brooks presumably does. I want to know where he went to prep school, where he summered and how many people could fit in his grandmother's ballroom.

Posted by: KevinNYC on November 17, 2003 09:31 AM


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