Thursday, September 02, 2004

David Brooks expiates some sins

(This is a bit late, but it's been sitting in the drafts queue since Sunday night.)

I'm not exactly a fan of David Brooks. In fact, if I were him, I'd be mortified to have had my byline attached to the analysis (to use the term loosely) that he's been cranking out at the Times. I mean, I would be depressed, in the clinical sense; I would literally have difficulty getting out of bed and looking in the mirror in the morning.

But: his Times Magazine cover article from this past Sunday is thoughtful and, at times, even astute. Brooks does fall prey, in section III, to the fallacy of confusing word and action --- the full cheapness and emptiness of Bush's campaign rhetoric hasn't really sunk in --- but I grit my teeth and soldiered on past that section, and found the remainder of the article worthwhile.

(I can't help but think that Kinsley's smackdown back in May has had a delayed effect: the article's blissfully free of "shopping lists" and "clever coinages". A few jokes and fearless generalizations remain, but they're quite bearable --- jokes are only bad when they replace substantive thought, and generalizations, in a magazine-length piece dealing with subjects of great complexity, are inevitable, and not even necessarily undesirable.)

I don't agree, necessarily, with the program Brooks outlines, but a Republican Party like the one Brooks envisions would be better for America, in every sense, than the one we have now. Even though it would be wrong about many things, it would be wrong in a much less poisonous way.

Unfortunately, Brooks vastly underestimates the degree to which the modern Republican Party is a blood pact between crypto-racists and plutocrats. The epitome of the modern Republican Party's soul is George W. Bush's speech at Bob Jones University in 2000. We still live in the shadow of the Nixonian Southern strategy, and we most likely will remain there until the death of the last white man who hit puberty before the civil rights revolution. The Party of Lincoln died four decades ago.

Nevertheless, we would be a better nation if the zombie strutting around in its clothes were to regain its soul. So, I dearly hope, against all reason, that people who agree with Brooks take control of the Republican Party. Right after the Democrats kick Republican ass this November.

UPDATE: Via Mouthpiece (and dug up by my NJ buddy & Plastician extraordinaire Perrystroika) comes this startling admission by David Brooks to a Boston Globe reporter:

[Christopher] Buckley worries that, somewhere, someone is more prolific than he. He even knows who that someone is: David Brooks, New York Times columnist, book writer, magazine contributor, and PBS talking head. "He's in every issue of The Atlantic Monthly, then he's on the TV show, and he gives speeches on the side," says Buckley, sounding overmatched. "I'd like to know what he's on."

Returning my call from a taxicab -- "I'm just finishing off a piece right here," he jokes -- Brooks is a tad sensitive about his Stakhanovite literary output. "I'm slightly embarrassed," he admits. "It suggests a high level of hackdom." So what is he taking? "Nothing chemical, it's mostly psychological," he explains. "I would explain my high productivity by my desperate loneliness and my pathetic sadness that causes me work to extreme lengths to fill the hollow void that is my life."

So it appears that Brooks is, in fact, depressed, in a clinical sense, and does have difficulty getting out of bed and looking in the mirror in the morning. Somehow knowing this makes him so much more tolerable. (Though, as Perry suggests, he might be under the (mistaken) impression that he's joking.)

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