The 7th Sign: David Brooks in the Times, telling the truth about Romney

This is just remarkable. And it may be the 7th Sign.

I try not to read David Brooks any more than I have to because every time I do I wind up wanting to throw things. Through the years he has established himself as one of the most reliably disingenuous, dishonest propagandists on the GOP payroll, a fork-tongued weasel who can’t say hello without lying. And BAM! Here, without warning or precedent, he smacks us in the lips us with the truest thing I’ve read in days.

The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees. As Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution has noted, the people who have benefited from the entitlements explosion are middle-class workers, more so than the dependent poor.

Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62 percent of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now, according to the Pew Research Center, only 40 percent of Republicans believe that.

The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted over toward a much more hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t have a basic commitment to provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.

A comment from a trusted (and extremely progressive) colleague in a Facebook exchange last night suggests that Brooks isn’t as bad as I think he is, and I’ll be honest – after my first few exposures to him several years ago I made it a point never to read him if I could help it. The few times I have violated that guideline have done nothing but reinforce my perception. But I freely admit that it’s possible Brooks may have gotten better and I’ve missed it. In any case, you really need to read this column because for the most part it’s dead on the money.

Of course, this is David Brooks we’re talking about, and the truth feels so alien rolling about in his mouth that even when he tries to be honest a little bit of lie is bound to seep out. Take this bit of silliness, for instance. Describing Mitt:

Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.

Well, that’s one theory, I guess. The better theory, and the one supported by the evidence of things like his behavior at Bain, suggest that he’s a smirking sociopath with precisely zero human empathy. And there’s also this:

It says that Romney doesn’t know much about the political culture. Americans haven’t become childlike worshipers of big government. On the contrary, trust in government has declined. The number of people who think government spending promotes social mobility has fallen.

Yes, this is true in its way, but I’d feel better if he’d acknowledge why it is so, that it is the result of a 40-year campaign of ideological warfare waged by the hyperwealthy using the engines of conservative “think tanks” and the corporatization and co-option of the media and not, as he’d clearly like you to believe, a natural function deriving from people figuring out that gummit is evil.

Still, by David Brooks standards this op-ed is eerily close to runaway truthfulness, and when we start seeing this level of verity from him we know just how well and truly fucked the Romney campaign really is.

Image Credit: NY Times

9 replies »

  1. Yeah, eloquent. But he just can’t let it be: “Sure, there are some government programs that cultivate patterns of dependency in some people. I’d put federal disability payments and unemployment insurance in this category.” This new war on Supplemental Social Security Income — benefiting the weakest members of our society — curdles my blood.

    You have better things to do with your time than give Brooks the benefit of the doubt and starting to read him again.

    • Oh, I shan’t be putting Mr. Brooks on my regular reading list anytime soon – at least not until he’s able to make something of a habit of honesty. As noted, even here it’s evident what a strain telling the truth is putting on him. He’s like the bug alien in Men in Black – he can try acting human all he wants, but he still can’t help the cockroaches falling out of his pants.

  2. Unlike most Republican commentators, Brooks is interested in finding ways to make progress. He has different ideas for how to make that happen, but he always champions finding common ground, not leaving behind scorched Earth.

    He is also quite intelligent, and backs up his arguments with evidence. He usually does not engage in ad hominem attacks. Most important for me, he usually writes about things in a way that I have not considered, and quite frequently surprises me with subjects I have never even contemplated. In short, unlike Friedman and Krugman, who always say pretty much the exact same thing, over and over and over and over and over again (and please don’t get me wrong, I do read and appreciate Krugman), Brooks often surprises me with novelty.

    I also do not get the sense that he thinks liberals are the spawn of Satan. I see a genuine, smart man with whom I often disagree but just as often agree with.

    Perhaps you should consider getting past the tribalism and open up to what he is actually saying. And also accept that when someone says something you disagree with, it doesn’t necessarily make him an ogre. Romney is an ogre because he is a lying, scheming man with no apparent central core beliefs in our common humanity. Ayn Rand appears to be his true god — every man for himself and let the man with the biggest bank account win. Brooks, by contrast, retains the central Jewish motivation of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” Just because he has somewhat different prescriptions for how to do this than we do doesn’t justify the vituperativeness I see here. We need more Republicans like Brooks. Not fewer. Otherwise, we are truly screwed.

    • Tom:

      I regard Brooks as perhaps the conservative media’s finest propagandist at the moment, and I think your reading of him is why I think that. In short, he certainly does come off in all the ways you credit, and there is no doubt that he’s FAR more coherent and rational that most of his right-wing contemporaries. That, of course, is half a compliment at best.

      The problem is the deftness with which he misleads, the ways in which he sneaks arguments that need proving past us in the guise of obvious assumptions, the subtlety with which he encourages us to take as sensible that which is not sensible at all. As I note in the post, for instance, he tosses out the idea that Americans have become more mistrustful of government. This is true. However, the critical point here lies in the misdirection – they have become less trusting not due to matters of fact, but due to the most expensive, comprehensively funded PR/propaganda campaign in the history of the world. It began in the early ’60s and flourished in the early ’70s, as the groundwork for the “Reagan revolution” was taking hold. And yet, upon reading the way he makes use of data, it seems perfectly logical, if you aren’t careful, to walk away thinking that this all makes sense and is natural as rain.

      I have literally never read a piece by Brooks in which he does not deceive. I haven’t read them all, but I have read quite a few, and certainly enough to feel justified in the size of my sample.

      If you can point me to examples where I’m wrong, it would make for an instructive exercise. My money says that I can show you the fine art of deception and propaganda in nine pieces out of ten, though.

  3. I kind of like David Brooks–while being ruthlessly opposed to him en principe–because there’s something deep within him which which wants to be “bad,” both in the view of GOP orthodoxy and any remaining leftist factions of the Democratic party–“bad to the bone” is what he longs to be (secretly and as an intellectual character).The problem for him is he just can’t quite figure out how to do it. And of course anything that touches on family of national “morals” just has to be skipped completely; it’s his blind spot, charming but blind and very retardataire, thus not furthering the cause of being “bad the bone.” And yet, he’s out there, trying to perform this impossible feat, and part of me says that he beats all the other columnists, the ones “full of passionate convicition” with a stick. However, I am a consensual democrat–i.e., anarchist–so my benediction is more or less worthlesss. David’s is a dirty job and someone *does* have to do it.

  4. I know that when I encounter words like “retardataire” that I am wholly out of my league. So I will bow out of this conversation.