Sunday, March 1, 2009

David Brooks: Cancer on the Republican Party


Obama’s Clintonian speech last Tuesday was designed to assure us, through the invocation of bland, non-radical-sounding projects like “wind turbines!” that Government Knows Best how to spend our money and will see us through the hard times, a pretense that wears thinner with every passing day. Even sensationalistic TV shows like Inside Edition can’t resist a little econ reporting, I notice, when Democratic members of Congress are taking large, expensive, near-empty military passenger jets to tour Europe with their wives while preaching austerity to the rest of us. Rome is burning too rapidly and the fiddling getting too loud to ignore.

(I also see, by the way, that Israel has adopted a bizarrely politically/culturally-loaded new tourism slogan, “Israel: No one belongs here more than you,” which perhaps we should discuss at our August 5 debate on the Israeli/Palestinian situation, once I find a good Israel-defender to butt heads with Saife Ammous.)

Real Republicans, and a healthy dose of vocal libertarians and even Objectivists, are starting to rebel at the never-ending-spending scam, doing things like organizing the American Tea Party anti-“stimulus” protest I attended at NYC City Hall yesterday (which attracted some three hundred people, I’d estimate, despite not even having an official website and being thrown together a mere three days earlier, according to one of the organizers).

Contrary to the image of the right as something now completely taken over by big-spenders, theocrats, and militarists, this was a highly energized, nearly spontaneous throng of people who all stayed focused, during numerous lengthy speeches from random members of the crowd, on the message that we must resist government spending, creeping socialism, Washingtonian management of things like healthcare, and “collectivism.” (Indeed, the one speaker who tried to ramble on about our need for God was shouted down with “USA!” chants after a polite interval, the crowd recognizing she had strayed off topic — let that be a model for all Republican activity henceforth.) By the way, one former New York Senate candidate who spoke did indeed use the “change”/pocket change joke I predicted we’d hear from a Republican politician sooner or later, but that’s OK, and he was good and feisty.

And say what you will about Bobby Jindal’s stiffness in his response speech after Obama Tuesday night, at least he too stayed on the all-important anti-government-spending message. Would that I could say the same for some of his critics, like:

1. Manhattan Institute’s Nicole Gelinas, who seized the opportunity of Jindal’s speech to lament that he hadn’t called on Obama to spend more money on infrastructure (you can tell her in person how little use she is to the free-market movement by attending the panel she’ll be on this Thursday at 6:30pm at 201 Mulberry St., with Megan “pro-bailout” McArdle, Brian Carney, and Ron Moore, for which you should RSVP to Kathleen[at] [UPDATE 3/4: Gelinas and McArdle have both apparently bailed and will not have to face the music, replaced by Max Pappas and last time's Lolita Bar victor Ryan Sager]). Incredibly, the clueless Gelinas even manages, through tortuous reinterpretation, to draw a pro-government lesson from Jindal’s story about government bureaucracy hindering Katrina rescue efforts. For “insights” such as this, we need “market-oriented” thinktanks? Between the neocons, the mushy liberaltarians, handout-receiving Wall Streeters, and the countless bland bipartisan types, are there any capitalists left in this society?

2. David Brooks, that Canadian-born, New York-raised, Buckley-parodying, Milton Friedman-debating, Times-contributing, national-greatness-touting, war-mongering, war-regretting pseudo-conservative. Brooks, on PBS after Jindal’s speech, angrily denounced Jindal’s focus on opposing government spending, actually calling Jindal’s speech “insane!” I should not be at all surprised. After all, Brooks, like some googly-eyed, confused dimwit who lost his bearings during a Socialist Party meeting and wandered into the conservative camp by accident, was wildly enthusiastic not just about Bush’s military spending but about spending in general, once summing up a litany of ludicrous Bush spending proposals like the hydrogen car by saying not merely that they were tolerable (many of us, after all, hoped against hope that they’d be compensated for by cuts or entitlement reform eventually) but that “This is exactly what the Republican Party needs to hear!”


How the man has managed to spend so much time among conservatives without, apparently, ever having even contemplated the argument that just because something’s a neat idea doesn’t mean government is best suited to spend money on it, I cannot imagine. Brooks and I have some mutual acquaintances who claim he’s nice and clever and all that, but then, so was witty George Bernard Shaw, and he, too, was a socialist who belonged nowhere near the levers of power. For now, poised atop the Times op-ed page, Brooks is in a position to pontificate about what’s healthy or unhealthy for the future of conservative politics, denouncing Sarah Palin as a “cancer” or praising hydrogen cars as he sees fit.

Here’s hoping that rank and file conservatives, though — like anarchists and leftists before them — are catching on to the fact that you tend to become part of the respectable Establishment precisely by flattering power-brokers and big spenders. It is no coincidence that by the time conservatives get somewhere like the Times op-ed page, they’ve usually long since stopped questioning whether we need a welfare state. Meanwhile, those of us living under the welfare/warfare state should start spending more time asking whether we need the likes of David Brooks.

(Oddly enough, Howard Stern jogged past me while I was walking to work across Central Park on Friday — I’d estimate his height at eleven feet and weight at about 111 pounds — and I find myself missing his campaign for the 1994 New York gubernatorial election, which was no more ridiculous than the respectable Establishment is these days.)

I wonder, given Brooks’s past enthusiasm for Bush spending, whether he would have pronounced Jindal “sane” or even “bold” had Jindal called for a renewed effort to complete our moonbase and Mars mission. If Brooks were a psychiatrist, I suspect I could earn a clean bill of health from him by avoiding talk of anarchism and instead calling for the construction of a starfleet to attack Jupiter and/or Syria (my spellchecker automatically capitalizes starfleet, by the way, which should delight the folks at paramount — but we can talk about that sort of thing on Wednesday at Lolita Bar).

At least Brooks, or someone at the Times, gave his recent pro-bailout column an accurate title: “Money for Idiots.” The column, with its tired appeal to the mythical and battered social fabric, is a perfect example of why talk of “communal” life — even when it comes from a professed conservative instead of an admitted socialist — is almost always a formula for disaster (though it shouldn’t have to be). America rose to greatness on individualism — it will continue to do so, or it will die through collectivism of the sort Brooks, Obama, and most of the rest of the intelligentsia love.

(A trillion dollars is spent madly, and all Brooks’s Times op-ed colleague Gail Collins can find to mock about it, in Dowd-like fashion, is Republican obstructionism and people’s petty obsession with a few billion misspent here or there on some nonsensical things — ha ha! Watch funny country die!)


I was pleased, incidentally, to hear at least one person during yesterday’s protest directing some ire right here at City Hall — and libertarian Paul Jacob just wrote a piece reminding us that NYC’s formerly-Republican mayor has something in common with Hugo Chavez: aversion to term limits. Paul also notes that Putin — Putin! — is now warning America it may be getting too socialistic, clear evidence we dwell on Bizarro World. In another recent piece, Paul laments, as we all should, the corrupt judges who put kids away for long sentences to get kickbacks from detention facilities, in one case for mocking a high school official with a parody MySpace page.

It’s all a reminder that the old rhetoric about differences between “the free world” and the rest of the world — and between America and Europe or Latin America — is fast becoming obsolete, and I think a certain amount of anger and panic may finally be in order. People the world over have the same fight on their hands, as I hope they’ll soon realize, and we all have one common enemy: government, in all its forms, whether leftist, rightist, centrist, or Islamic-totalitarian.

Nonetheless, let’s spend the rest of the week talking about sci-fi, superheroes, and other more pleasant topics. After that, we’ll pause and reassess.


Ken Silber said...

Unfortunately I’ve learned that the Ron Moore on the panel is not the one who produces Battlestar Galactica.

Todd Seavey said...

Ah, and anyone with a foot in both the wonk and geek worlds who is likewise disappointed by that fact must of course join us at Lolita Bar on Wednesday for the “Should Sci-Fi Avoid Nostalgia?” debate.

I think George Mason law prof Michelle Boardman, were she in town, would qualify, since she once lamented not getting the chance to work a Galactica reference into her Senate testimony, as noted in this prior entry:

You can’t go fifteen minutes in a knot of wonks without someone praising Galactica, I’ve found — and I’ve still only seen half an episode, even though I own the 1978 pilot of the original series on VHS. I’m busy.

Tim said...

wind turbines are radical if there is not a robust

electrical distribution network behind them

Todd Seavey said...

Oh, I admit they’re nuts — I just mean that like funding for cancer research, they don’t alarm anyone and thus serve to make most people feel soothed that government funds “safe” things.

Sadly, they’re also becoming, like carbon offsets, an easy tax-write-off means of assuaging corporate consciences. Very inefficient and stupid as an actual means of creating power but poised to become a massively-subsidized symbolic gesture for government and business alike — thanks to douchebags like Ted Rose, who took some comments from me and ABC co-workers out of context in the late, unlamented “objective” media-analysis magazine _Brill’s Content_ years ago to make us sound like we did less research than other TV news teams.

Not surprisingly, the weasel is now making money facilitating windfarms for greenness-seeking corporations. Tempting to just give up and say this economy/society will soon get what it deserves.

Avery J. Knapp Jr. said...

David Brooks probably scores center-left, or even statist, on the Nolan chart. Its a shame he’s the analyst of the right on The News Hour – but that’s what you get with government-funded TV.

Wish I could make it to the Lolita Debate.

Todd Seavey said...

[...] And that brings us to David Brooks, who tried, in his way, to say nice things about the Tea Party movement in his January 5 column — likening its energy to the historically-pivotal enthusiasm of the hippies in the 60s — causing to me to start thinking I’d have to revise my opinion of the big-government-loving, Canadian-born man of mush.  But he just had to ruin things in the very last paragraph by saying, “Personally, I’m not a fan of this movement.”  He also hates populism and Palin (calling her a cancer on Republican Party, though I think Brooks is the cancer — and am pleased a search for still yields my comments to that effect among the first hits).  For all I know, he has already half-written a column going completely mental over the fact that she’s going to speak at the Tea Party Convention instead of the more mainstream annual CPAC gathering. [...]