They always telegraph it towards the end, but for New York Times columnist, the “end” has lasted a good four to five years. But it’s been a bad charade at best, and at this point even the most moderate Greenwich Republican could tell you that the only thing conservative remaining about Mr. David Brooks’ columns and on-air commentary is his affinity for dark business suits and bland neckties. The rest, for quite some time, has been posturing at best – and his best has been really not very good.
But today, all of David Brooks’ obfuscation and pretending, his calculated public pairings with real conservatives in restaurants, bars and trendy addresses, and his often-repeated uses of self-identifying conservative phrases such as “belief in personal freedom,” “fiscal sanity,” and “the real conservative narrative on this” have been cast off in a bold and colorful flourish of “I am who I am and I don’t care who sees me!” self-revelation.
Today, David Brooks came out as a liberal.
Of course, he may still deny this to some of his Conservative friends. Tell them with a too quick smile and rushed, red-faced explanation that this is all such “nonsense” and “poppycock” and “pure extremist drivel” (you can tell when they are getting close to dropping the pretense; the word “extremist” gets used to identify any one of your postured affiliation whose prominent authenticity is making you sweat – and not in a good way),
And let’s remember, Dave may even be deluding himself on some level that his is still a Conservative. Sort of. OK, so he’s had a few indiscreet bipartisan moments – more, and more frequently over the last, I don’t know, three, maybe four years or so. So what? And most of those happened only after copious amounts of well-aged, single-blend scotch and some really hot liberal rhetoric. And after all, he is in New York City and working for The Times, so some part of his brain can convincingly (at least in the heat of the moment) rationalize that he is their real live pet Conservative – at least in comparison to Paul Krugman, or Charles Blow, or Frank Rich, or Mo Dowd! (OK, maybe he’s a little closer to MoDo, but just the part that still gives it up for ‘The West Wing’ – god why couldn’t President Bartlet have been real!? Or even President David Palmer from 24. Oh the agony of it all! ).
But to the rest of us great unwashed out here, it is quite clear Brooksy old boy that you’re a lot closer to Krugman, Blow, Rich and Dowd than say, Charles Krauthammer, Jonah Goldberg, Laura Ingraham or Liz Cheney (although you do respect Liz’s spunk).
So it was finally time to tell the truth Dave. Your lips may still be saying, “Oh, come on!” but me thinks your keyboard doth protest not at all. Especially in this last one, pal.
I’m not talking about the part in the column where the Brookster admits he had a Hubert Humphrey poster on the wall (I know, Dave, all the kids in the 60s had that one – right next to their posters of Yaz, Namath, Wilt and Barry Goldwater).
I’m not talking about the part where Grandmaster Davey B. admits growing up in a family of Democratic activists, or that he was “raised with the faith in the grand liberal project” (which he spurned in college years of rebellion for the pop culture kabbalah of self-determination and entrepreneurialism – Wow, ok, that feels kind of different, uncomfortable at first but sort of eye-opening. But we can still play Springsteen albums, right? Cool!).
Brooks even dances around outing himself as he pays drooling homage to President Obama and Speaker Pelosi when he says they “were fit to play the leading roles. They both embody the two great wings of the party, the high-minded aspirations of the educated class and the machinelike toughness of the party apparatus.” (Damn, they are flaming lefties but I do so admire the style, panache, elan and esprit de corp that they bring to us elitist everywhere! – OK, so maybe he sticks both feet and a knee out there).
But the true self-basting, self-outting moment – arms flung wide, face held Obama high as he shouts “I am liberal hear me roar, growl and meow really, really big!” – part in Brooks’ petite ouvre outré is otay with me column was the paragraph he wrote toward the end of the piece. The part that came after the meandering caveating of his conservative bona fides and loud asserting his disaffection with the Democrats of the now (despite their moments of swellness and the likable parts of Obama, who Brooks thinks is genuinely trying to do good, and Pelosi who Brooks implies is just genuinely trying). Then, standing there wearing his full beard of “New York Times Conservative Guy of reason,” Brooks matter-of-factly informs his fellow conservatives that:
“The task ahead is to save this country from stagnation and fiscal ruin. We know what it will take. We will have to raise a consumption tax. We will have to preserve benefits for the poor and cut them for the middle and upper classes. We will have to invest more in innovation and human capital.”
Or as they spell it in what’s left of the Times News Room: O-U-T.
You did get the first part right, Dave. The task at hand is to save this country from stagnation and fiscal ruin. The task is also to recapture lost liberties and ensure the freedoms as framed for our republic by the constitution (i.e. not try to emulate the framework being used in say Europe or some other more oppressive dwelling where, last I checked, the shackles of which all of us and our grandparents and possibly their grandparents have CAST OFF. And the task is to do what we can for the truly less fortunate, and help the others who have fallen on hard luck or hard times relearn (or learn for the first time) to do some things for themselves.
To perform these tasks, Davey, one does not do as the New Yorkers do when in New York (or Albany or D.C., even) and advocate wearily, “I guess we’ll have to impose another tax to save us from ourselves and those who screwed us again.” At least, one does not propose this if one is a actually…a Conservative.
In such a case Mr. Hubert-Humphrey-sat-on-a-wall-my-activist-parents-just-knew-it-all BROOKS, a Conservative would actually advocate tackling the problem by first cutting federal spending on things which are bloated and inefficient and don’t keep us safe or ensure general commerce. Specifically, the would look at everything “federal government” in this country and hew out the chaff. Cut profligate spending at places like the Department of Education, The Department of The Interior, the Judicial Branch, and all the other branches and departments that some how need to increase their spending annually at rates above the rate of inflation. You eliminate backroom deals and their wakes of chummy waste. You prohibit lobbyists from writing bills and tailoring laws to their clients bottom lines. You ban kickbacks, purchases, and aid in exchange for votes. You do all that, and then you squash a few more roaches that scurried out when you started shining lights around.
And THEN you cut taxes.
Oh, and in any health care “reform” legislation, I gotta tell you Davido B., Conservatives would enact tort reform on medical malpractice cases, allow the purchasing of FDA certified drugs from the international free market and not extend patent lengths on pharmaceuticals in sweat heart deals so the people who really have fewer amounts of cash to spend on the upper east side, say, can spend those fewer dollars to get more generic drugs to treat their chronic pre-existing conditions. There would be no mandate to buy, but there would be rewards to save for your own care. That, and if Conservatives saw some bloated 2,700+ “health care” bill without this stuff in it they’d be too busy talking about outrage and legislative malfeasance to have time to even think of something so squishily liberal as a national consumption tax.
This is not to say Conservatives wouldn’t consider enacting a tax or two. But may only be for a crisis – not one that’s sold to you as a crisis where people are dying daily but with our new plan will start to get them access to what they need in four years or so. No, crisis like, if we don’t do something now, cataclysmic consequences will occur that could possibly preclude us from ever recovering from the crisis at hand.
That or maybe a tax that would gain approval and buy-in of more than, say, 37-41% percent of the citizenry. Shore up the power grid perhaps, or build more nuclear plants. Or even, say, a reasonable tax aimed at health care – if it could be shown that such a tax would create lower costs or better care in a sustainable way for all. Oh, and if said tax came with a lock-tight punishable by imprisonment promise that skeevy politicians won’t steal from the trust we set up with that tax like they did with, say, Social Security or Medicare.
But you don’t get any of that, Dave. At least, not on the Hubert Humphrey poster on the wall emotional level. It doesn’t resonate with you. And it probably never did, even when you somehow got some of it inside you. You tried it. You understood the allure. But it never really felt natural, did it Dave? It never was who you are.
No worries and no judgements here. It’s nice to see a man finally be man enough to embrace his true beliefs, no matter how ill-guided they are at their intellectual core. No, Mr. Brooks, coming out and embracing who and what you are inside – a good old fashion moderate liberal – is a big step for you, and for all of us. Finally we can stop explaining to our friends, “Well, he says he’s Conservative but just watch his eyes every time he see Obama, even on a TV screen, you know what’s in his heart.”
And now we all know too, Dave. Not like we haven’t for years big guy! Congratulations! I’m sure this is a big moment of catharsis and relief for you. And for us as, too as long as you promise from henceforth to stop pretending forever that any single shred of you is a conservative. It was really getting embarrassing. I mean no one – and I mean no one – was covering for you anymore.
Definitely keep the dark suits and unremarkable ties, though. They are great lingering souvenir of one of those moments in life (and hey, what’s America if we can’t share a little of each other’s style. Did you know Dick Cheney has a pair of birkenstocks? OK, he doesn’t but he probably has a Springsteen song or five in his iPod. We all do.
Last thing, say high to the fellow travelers for us. Just tell them not to get too comfortable. They’re be going on a collective trip outta D.C. in November via the polls. Ditto for 2012, all the mainstream media spin to the contrary (and hey, with the way the papers aren’t selling and the people aren’t watching you think there will be any main stream media in 2012? Just sayin…) Despite what y’all are hoping we won’t forget. (dude, we’re the elephant party for a reason).