David Brooks Jumps Ship?

Have you ever asked yourself, “What would it take to get David Brooks to admit that Barack Obama took him to the cleaners? What would it take to get him to acknowledge that he has been had? What would it take to cause him to turn on The One?”

Well, now we know. The campaign against “millionaires and billionaires” is too much for The New York Times’ self-styled moderate. In a column entitled Obama Against Obamaism, he writes, “I am a sap, a specific kind of sap. I am an Obama Sap.”

When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them.

I liked Obama’s payroll tax cut ideas and urged Republicans to play along. But of course I’m a sap. When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill.

It recycles ideas that couldn’t get passed even when Democrats controlled Congress. In his remarks Monday the president didn’t try to win Republicans to even some parts of his measures. He repeated the populist cries that fire up liberals but are designed to enrage moderates and conservatives.

He claimed we can afford future Medicare costs if we raise taxes on the rich. He repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)

This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.

In the end, Brooks concludes, “The White House gives moderates little morsels of hope, and then rips them from our mouths. To be an Obama admirer is to toggle from being uplifted to feeling used.” It has taken Brooks a very long time to recognize what was evident to nearly every member of Ricochet from the start — to wit, that the moderate demeanor of Barack Obama was a mask, and that behind it was a man intent on overthrowing the old America and replacing it with what he tellingly called The New Foundation.

The real question now is whether this recognition will have consequences for Brooks. He has a bully pulpit, and a decision on his part to systematically dispel the illusion of Barack Obama’s moderation could have a real impact on American life.

I can easily imagine Brooks following through on the logic of his discovery and figuring out that there never was a moment in the entire disgraceful and demeaning process in which he was not being used. I can imagine him, then, reassessing the longing for what he calls “moderation” that made him so easy a mark.

Alternatively, I can imagine the President inviting David Brooks to lunch, flashing a smile, telling him of all the nasty things that he has suffered at the hands of the Republicans, and leading the disappointed columnist gently down the primrose path once more. I have known the like to happen.

Missing from the sort of moderation that Brooks espouses is any recognition that principles have consequences, that compromise is not always possible and desirable, and that conflict and contest are sometimes necessary. Those who turned decisively against Barack Obama in the early months of 2009 examined the so-called “stimulus” bill and knew immediately what they were up against. Brooks might want to ask himself why it took him so long to see the handwriting on the wall.

In North America, in the 1770s, men of David Brooks’ temper nearly always ended up as half-hearted Tories, wringing their hands. Any bets on where this self-confessed Obama Sap ends up in 2012? Once a sap, always a sap? Or is redemption a possibility?

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    Aelreth: The phrase “taken to the cleaners” is quite punny. After all, he was seduced by the competence of Obama’s cleaners in the quality of his pant crease. · Sep 21 at 12:12am

    Yes, I had those pants in mind.

  2. Paul A. Rahe

    Nathaniel Wright: I have disagreed with Brooks about Obama from the beginning, but I saw the same gullibility among many young voters as well as among certain older moderates like Brooks.  

    I think you’ve nailed it, perhaps inadvertently. Gullibility should be forgiven the young, not someone of Brooks’ age, experience, prominence.

    In decamping from the Obama Fantasy Theme Park, Brooks reinforces the intellectual as well as psychological immaturity of those holding what elite Leftists consider ‘acceptable’ opinion.  He will not wiggle out of the straitjacket with which NPR devotees constrain his ideological movement. He doesn’t want to lose his livelihood or his platform. David Brooks saw what NPR did to Juan Williams and correctly assesses Fox News won’t bail him out.  Let’s remember:  Maureen Dowd turned on Obama before David Brooks, making it acceptable for the latter to join in.  Even if Brooks’ turning is for somewhat different reasons, it’s undergirded by the same sense of—now acceptable—disappointment.  Brooks is Dowd plus thirty days or so, draped in differently patterned cloth. · Sep 21 at 12:01am

    Quite likely to be right.

  3. Mama Toad

    Brooks is right about one thing — he is still a sap! Does he really “still believe that the president’s soul would like to do something about the country’s structural problems”? 

    The preceding sentence, of course, presupposes that the presidenthas a soul. I think he sold that long ago. That said, I’ll say that I keep praying for the man, and our country.

  4. ctruppi

    I would never make the comparison between Brooks and young gullible voters.  The young voters truly believed and were smitten by the pop star aura created (on purpose) by the Obama campaign and parotted by an obliging MSM.  I would bet my house today that Brooks never actually believed the drivel he wrote (NRO has a great ‘top 10′ list of Brooks’ Obama fauning this morning).  He wrote that BS because it was his ticket to really great upper west side cocktail parties and a way to maintain his jobs at NPR/PBS as the token Republican.  I truly believe that Brooks and his ilk are charlatans and I have no respect for them.

  5. Zentastik

    Years ago, a woman named Marilyn vos Savant scored well on some standardized tests and ran around touting herself as ”the world’s smartest woman.”  She opined forever in ”Parade,” America’s short-attention span Sunday newspaper filler.  She might still be weighing in on topics today, all on the strength of a dubious credential and lots of self-promotion.

    David Brooks is a similar creature.  He is a mediocre writer with tremendous pretentions about being an “intellectual” of the NY Review of Books variety.  Of course, this persona gives him no “edge” in Manhattan, where pretentious twaddle is a prerequisite for getting a dinner table.  So Brooks registers Republican and markets himself as a “thinking conservative.”  The NY Times laughs itself silly, and other liberal organs, such as the BBC and NPR, listened to his “wisdom” with hushed reverence.

    Brooks offered his original praise for Obama after fawning about the “leadership” he displayed through the crease in his pants.  He later urged him to run for President after an uncritical read of Obama’s first (of several) autobiographies.

    Brooks is not just a “sap.”  He is a dolt with poor analytic skills and wretched judgment.

    Back to Canada, Brooks!

  6. Bereket Kelile

    I wonder if he thinks that he was justified in not dismissing Obama as soon as the rest of us and what he’s discovered now that we didn’t know three years ago.

    I was struck when I remembered that Obama never really won, outright, his party’s nomination. He couldn’t even convince his own party to nominate him. I’d like to think that because of that there’s hope he’ll lose in 2012.

  7. mesquito

     Dave will be back to his old self by Friday, when he and EJ Dionne lean languidly over their NPR microphones and shake their heads in sad exasperation at those crazy Republicans. 

  8. iWc

    I just get tired of all the politics. Liberals never see the forest for the trees; they have no perspective, and no interest in acquiring any. They never examine even their own past to see what mistakes they have made, and how those errors might help them make less mistakes going forward.

    But I feel this way about every popular fetish: from the Alar scare  to Global Warming to Obama. I just feel like an old man in a world of saps.

  9. katievs

    Well, this is just extremely embarrassing.

  10. Mike LaRoche
    Paul A. Rahe

    Once a sap, always a sap?

    Yes.  There is no hope for redemption for Brooks or any of the other so-called “conservatives” who drank the Obama Kool-Aid three years ago.  The likes of Brooks, Heather Mac Donald, Kathleen Parker, Peggy Noonan, and Christopher Buckley aren’t worth one minute of my time.  That they couldn’t instantly see Obama for the fraud that he is speaks volumes of their lack of judgment.

  11. danceswithvowels

    The rube. The rube. The rube is in dire …. um, straits. Apologies to Glenn Reynolds and everyone. Next book — BoBodise Lost?

  12. Chris Campion

    It’s hard for me to dislike Brooks, for some reason, because it’s taken him 3 years to see what everyone else knew from the start, and had it re-affirmed with every political step Barry has taken.  David is a knowing cuckold, in that the love of his life has been cheating on him, for years, but he’s only now acknowledging it publicly.  We’ll see if he actually files for divorce, or just goes quietly into another room to type (again, quietly) a routine screed on the awesomeness of his life’s love, the wind in his sails, the breath in his coffee, the cheese on his taco – Big Barry O.

    It could just be that hanging around with the economic dolts at NPR dulls the senses.

  13. Jerry Carroll

    If Obama has lost Brooks, he’s lost all the RINOS. You better throw in the razor-sharp trouser crease fans as well.

  14. Severely Ltd.

    Yes, yes, yes, David had the best of intentions and he is very sorry or at least sorrowful, but is that enough? I suggest an act of penance such as his steering clear of the voting booth for a couple of election cycles and perhaps attending a Tea Party rally so that he can explain the realities of the movement to his readers.

  15. Nathaniel Wright

    I think that Brooks clung too long to Louis Hartz’ thesis that America is a liberal country (in the classical sense) and thus isn’t prone to those socialist tendencies of our European allies.  He forgot that a nation having a liberal tradition doesn’t preclude it having politicians who differ from the American tradition and trend toward the European.  He believed Obama when he used liberal rhetoric and discounted it when he used socialist rhetoric, believing the one would outweigh the other.   He can be forgiven.

    I have disagreed with Brooks about Obama from the beginning, but I saw the same gullibility among many young voters as well as among certain older moderates like Brooks.  

    I would hold that Brooks is like those of the Founding generation who believed that peace could be attained without Revolution, but who eventually took up the cause of liberty.  He’s more John Dickinson than John Adams.

  16. Terrell David

    David Brooks is a joke.  He writes whats needed to keep his job.  He is slightly complaining about President Obama to save any semblance of his competency. 

    Who else becomes smitten with (supposedly) the other party’s presidential candidate because of the crease in his pants? 

  17. Fricosis Guy

    David, redemption is always possible… if you repent and renounce your Obamaist ways,

  18. Crystal Turner

    His admission that he’s a sap means that he will eat it up again. Obama’s sweet nothings appeal to him. If he didn’t want to hear “free market capitalism” the first go round, he won’t be listening for it now. Brooks probably doesn’t even trust free market capitalism nor federalism. How else could he have fallen for the Neibuhr, creased pants leg, Greek columns and meaningless slogans?  Bill Ayers, Rezko and Rev Wright’s “God d___ America” did not bother him. He made a pathetic joke of himself. His admission is too late. He might as well call himself a moderate Democrat.

  19. Lucy Pevensie
    Having chatted with Brooks — briefly as part of a class at Claremont Graduate University after he spoke at CMC — I don’t share the hostility to him that many Ricochoise seem to hold.  Brooks is an optimistic conservative, he believes in the American tradition and when someone mouths the words of that tradition he believes them. . . .

    When someone talks of higher principles, like deliberation and moderation, Brooks responds.  The fact that he didn’t get concerned by the Rev Wright story demonstrates the universal power of confirmation bias, and not any particular weakness on Brooks’ part.

    Thanks for this. I confess that I knew David well when we were young, considered him a really good friend, and would still be friends if we hadn’t lost touch during his years in Europe.  I sort of think that to know David personally is to love him. When we judge him, we lose sight of how far to the Right he is compared with where you might expect him to be–as a Jewish child of liberals, growing up in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. Everyone else I know from that background is as far Left as Obama, or further.

  20. Lucy Pevensie
    Lucy Pevensie

    When we judge him, we lose sight of how far to the Right he is compared with where you might expect him to be–as a Jewish child of liberals, growing up in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia. Everyone else I know from that background is as far Left as Obama, or further.

    On the other hand, what was Christopher Buckley’s excuse?

Want to comment on stories like these? Become a member today!

You'll have access to:

  • All Ricochet articles, posts and podcasts.
  • The conversation amongst our members.
  • The opportunity share your Ricochet experiences.

Join Today!

Already a Member? Sign In