David Brooks, the NYT Oncologist

I’ve a few thoughts before I see my Oncologist this afternoon.

Identity-confused New York Times columnist David Brooks once played an oncologist, as reprinted triumphantly in the Huffington Post:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning.

Brooks was “dazzled” by Obama’s “intellect” and “powers of social perception.” Brooks marveled at Joe Biden’s “great virtue,” excusing his gaffes with a double negative: “He can’t not say what he thinks.”

Brooks calls himself a conservative. Brooks calls himself a “reformer,” defining the term thusly:

The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. The Reformers propose new policies to address inequality and middle-class economic anxiety. They tend to take global warming seriously. They tend to be intrigued by the way David Cameron has modernized the British Conservative Party.

That is not conservatism, by any bending of the imagination. Thinkers and intellectuals, of which Dave Brooks fancies himself one, have the capacity to construct in their minds interlinking thoughts which can offer proof of the fanciful, but the crystalline thoughts often shatter when confronted with the single tone of A is A reality. And such as what “conservative” Brooks ponders “reforming” the Republican Party could be is not conservatism.

There is not yet an effective Republican Leadership Council to nurture modernizing conservative ideas.

Reaganite conservatism can be called a series of ideas, not a living, breathing document. Conservatism cannot be “modernized,” though its description and application can be. (That statement can be argued, I suppose, but I assume that would be a discussion of semantics. The immutability of the principles we call conservatism has to be a given for conservatism to mean a whit.)

But really, I am not going to dismantle David Brooks here, there, now, or ever. It is hardly worth the time of day, and I would be interested in seeing any argument validly asserting his relevance to conservatives or conservatism.

My criticism of Brooks arose when I read a bit from Michael Calderon’s blog at Politico.com:

At a conference put on by the National Review consisting of the magazine’s Ramesh Ponnuru and Jonah Goldberg as well as The Atlantic’s Ross Douthat, Cato Institute’s Gene Healy and Hillsdale college professor David Bobb, Brooks said, “When I really love someone, I call them a fatal cancer on the Republican Party. And sitting to my left are five fatal cancers.”

There he is again: David Brooks the Oncologist. Remember, he called Sarah Palin a “fatal cancer,” and now he’s done the same with Ponnuru, Goldberg, and Douthat, et al. He has proclaimed that they are “fatal cancers.”

Okay, David. (You do not mind if I call you David, right?) By “fatal cancer,” I assume you mean that of the malignant variety, for if they are left untreated, they are fatal. I am a cancer survivor, David, and my cancer was treated with an aggressive regiment of radiation and chemotherapy. The once-weekly chemo was not involved in actually attacking the tumor; rather, it weakened the tumor to make it more susceptible to the daily radiation treatments.

The radiation treatment were fairly straightforward. I had Base of Tongue (BOT) cancer, so my head was strapped into a mask made for me. I won’t here describe the trifling detail, but I was zapped with radiation, attacking the cancer and the surrounding cells. This took fifteen minutes every morning, then I could go home, each day a little worse for the wear.

The chemo treatments were every Friday, after the radiation. I would sit in a chair and an IV was inserted. First, I would be hydrated then they would pump me with the powerful chemo drug Cisplatin. It is something the human body was not, per se, built to endure, but “conquer we must/ when our cause, it is just./ And this be our motto:/ In God is our trust.”

There was eight weeks of this, David. After about five such weeks, I could no longer swallow food or liquid. I had a PEG Tube inserted, which I had to keep until the week before Christmas. And no, I could not eat Christmas ham or turkey with my family, or stuffing, though I did manage a few mashed potatoes.

This was a life-altering set of situations, David, but I came out of it with my intellect intact, my faith broadened, and my eyes hopefully a little clearer. I did not have the realization, though, that conservatism must be voided and reformed as an ideology which excludes non-intellectuals only passively. Conservatism is not a scheme to be invented and altered by one group of people to control another.

Anyway, David, if Sarah Palin, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Jonah Goldberg represent a cancer on conservatism, and since you are the self-proclaimed oncologist, what sort of treatment do you recommend? There are plenty of marvelous chemo drugs out there, and not all cause the nausea and hair loss of Cisplatin. In fact, if you recommend a gradiated chemo regiment, such as I had, the nausea can be minimal and the hair thinning scantly noticeable.

The radiation treatments, though, could be more problematic. My cancer was BOT, as I’ve said, and almost a year after I was last treated for it, I’ve still some trouble swallowing. Even after therapy and exercises. We might try something involving electrical shock, but that will be next year some time.

That’s cancer, David. It’s not some politician whom we think goofy or hokey because she cannot recount Xenophon in the original Greek. Cancer is deadly serious, David. It is not something one should cavalierly say that another well-intentioned human being represents, no matter how you may wish our leaders to be awash in thought rather than in practical governance.

But I shan’t lecture you, David. You hopefully already know that what you have said is shameful in extremis. (Yes, I used that Latin with all the gravity it implies.) Although I can point out that you are a callous jerk and not an apparent conservative, I cannot by myself toss you from the “conservative movement.” I can, however, ask for your hall pass.

David, I see my actual Oncologist, Dr. Jack Shocker, at 2:45 this afternoon. He will set up an appointment for me to undergo a PET scan. If I remain cancer free, I will have been so for one year since the cessation of my treatment, and I am led to believe that this is a big deal. These things are obviously trivial to you, but you can at least wish me well. My BOT cancer had spread to several lymph nodes, which were also duly fried, but theoretically my “Palin/Ponnuru/Goldberg” could have spread via my lymphatic system to other organs. I pray that it has not, but I prayer further that God’s Will be done.

It’s not a joke, David. Though you may snicker.