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Tilting at Windmills

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January 6, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BROOKS ON KRISTOL....From the New York Observer:

After last night's debate, New York Times columnist David Brooks was chatting with a group of people. One of them said: "I hear you hired that conservative Bill Kristol." David Brooks responded: "More like a pseudoconservative."

I have to open this one up to the floor. What do you think Brooks meant? He's not seriously trying to suggest that Kristol doesn't really represent modern conservatism, is he? I'm stumped.

Kevin Drum 7:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (81)

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Duncan Black has discussed it numerous times over the last two years: people are only "conservatives" when they are winning or on the winning side (e.g. George W. Bush). When they lose, are found on the losing side, or just look like losers suddenly they aren't "conservatives" any more (e.g. George W. Bush). Brooks is expecting a massive Democratic victory in 2008 and whether that is led by Obama, Edward, or Clinton the result will be to make Kristol look like a loser. Ergo, he is no longer a "conservative".


Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 6, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Pure jealousy that his status as NYT Hilariously Oblivious to Reality Columnist is being threatened?

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Unhinged foreign adventurism is a Kristol-vintage addition to conservatism. Barry Goldwater wouldn't recognize the hegemonic dreams of the neo-cons.

Posted by: Common Sense on January 6, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Paleoconservatives don't believe that neoconservatives are true conservatives, from an Edmund Burkian perspective, they're not.

Posted by: Rich on January 6, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'll wager that Brooks is trying to distance himself from the neocons' charisma-fueled cheerleaders, so he can complain about how he was led astray.

Posted by: James on January 6, 2008 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

failure is an orphan.

Posted by: benjoya on January 6, 2008 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think Brooks sees the writing on the wall as far as his tenure with NYT is concerned.

Posted by: sherifffruitfly on January 6, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

What does conservative mean these days? I seriously don't know. Is it the old small government, individual responsibility, states rights conservative libertarians? Is it the pro-life, anti-gay, creationism theocrats? Is it the big government authoritarian neocons? Is it the Republican party?

I'm not even sure that right and left is all that meaningful anymore.

Posted by: Pete Guither on January 6, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

True conservatives do not believe that the state can change cultures that have existed for millenia by creating a New Man. That is what Jacobins and Bolsheviks thought.

Neoconservatives believed that inside every Muslim was a Jeffersonian American trying to get out. That America could simply impose democratic elections on a Muslim culture and PRESTO ! They would become just like us. Just as Napoleon thought he could impose the Enlightenment upon Spain at bayonet point and the Russians thought they could forcibly modernize Afghanistan one Hind at a time, the neocons had a magical faith in the power of the state to remake culture.

Posted by: Charles Warren on January 6, 2008 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks: "I can hate more than Kristol."

Posted by: Nechton on January 6, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I am watching the GOP debate on Fox and reading the comments of Mr. Guither. The blogoshere craves controversy. I think we have all lost sight of the important strengths of our society. We (they) constantly blather about how they are great all the others are wrong. Hardly an original observation. I think that is why Obama has tapped into something special.

Posted by: oakdan on January 6, 2008 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

I would take it to mean that he, Brooks, is the Ur-conservative, and anyone else is just a pale immitation. More likely he means Kristol is a radical whose type of conservatism has upset Brooks' comfy status quo.

Posted by: jussumbody on January 6, 2008 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Duncan Black has discussed it numerous times over the last two years: people are only "conservatives" when they are winning or on the winning side

Spot on... Throw away your Burke and Oakshott, and get a big foam "We're #1" finger instead..

Movement conservatism's a team, not a philosophy.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on January 6, 2008 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

pseudointellectual + conservative = pseudoconservative

Posted by: Oregonian on January 6, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

It's all about ties.

Brooksie wears a bow-tie.

Kristol doesn't. Clearly, he's a radical.

Posted by: freelunch on January 6, 2008 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sure, I say that and now I can't find a picture of Brooks in a bow-tie.

Maybe it is just sour grapes. Still, he should be fine. People will still laugh at Brooks while they also laugh at Kristol. Both appear to be paid to ignore reality.

I don't understand why the New York Times is the one paying them.

Posted by: freelunch on January 6, 2008 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Neocons are anything but conservatives. Although they have been temperately successful in co-opting the term, with MSM complicity, they are actually anything but.

They merely cooped the term, along with Bush and the Republican party.

Neocons are reckless, radical ideologues. Their jingoistic rhetoric is simple, demagogic deception.

Posted by: darrell on January 6, 2008 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Everybody knows what Kristol is about: being wrong, supporting unpopular wars and GWB. Brooks knows better then to let this continue to be what is ID'ed as conservatism because it is losing big time. That is all it is..they embraced the guy when he was winning..they dump him when he is losing. That by the way, IS conservatism.

Posted by: Richard on January 6, 2008 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, David Brooks is in touch with his beautiful inner self, a magical wonderland where traditional conservatism runs free through dappled glades. Yet Kristol, like a dark spirit come down from Bald Mountain has sullied and brought shame to all who would hold high the rah-rah pennant of that most holy political special-interest group.

Therefore, Kristol must be spoken of snidely, with an infantile automatic irony, if not hostility.

As others are pointing out, if Kristol was winning, Brooks would glom onto him and giggle like a schoolgirl at Kristol's every utterance. It's not that everyone loves a winner, it's that conservatives love ONLY winners and hate the "losers" (anyone who is poor, anyone who is needy, anyone who wasn't born to wealth or who doesn't attain improbable success).

That Kristol, dude, he's getting me down. Like, I really want to punch him right now. What's he doin' here, anyway? Just, you know, if he just looks at me or tries to talk t' us or sumpthin', I swear, man, I'm not responsible for the consequences!

Posted by: Anon on January 6, 2008 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

And who cares what David Brooks thinks about anything?

Posted by: nepeta on January 6, 2008 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Neocons are anything but conservatives. Although they have been temperately successful in co-opting the term, with MSM complicity, they are actually anything but."

Precisely. Conservatives do not believe that the state can reshape culture and society. Conservatives would never have believed that we have the power to reshape the culture of the Islamic world. Conservatives never believed that the American revolution should be exported at gunpoint like the French or Bolshevik revolutions were.

Only radical ideologues like Jacobins or Bolsheviks or Neocons believe that everyone, everywhere is really deep down just like them and needs only a little gentle coercion for this to come out. Remember all those neocon predictions of Iraqis welcoming us with flowers and Iraqi Army units defecting to our side.

And remember. The neocons who told us that the Iraqis would welcome us with flowers are the very same ones who 25 years ago promised Begin and Sharon that with a little "regime change" the Lebanese would welcome them with flowers and open arms and be Israel's allies.

Posted by: Charles Warren on January 6, 2008 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Is it too much to hope that somebody, somewhere would press Brooks on just exactly what he meant?

I'd think his answer might shed some interesting, by which I mean embarrassing, light on either Brooks, Kristol, or both.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 6, 2008 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

Neo-cons are not conservative. They are big-government fascists. Kristol is an imperialist chump. He's about as conservative as Julius Ceasar.

Posted by: POed Lib on January 6, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

There are a lot of things Brooks might mean. He might mean that Kristol isn't a classical conservative, isn't a Reagan conservative, isn't whatever kind of conservative Brooks is, is a flaming over-the-top moron who can't fairly be taken as representative of anything other than Kristol's own opinion, something else entirely, or any combination of the above. Of course Brooks has long been in denial about what modern conservatism is and about what the various conservatives he supports believe, but the nature of his denial is constantly shifting, with the result that no one, Brooks included, can know what he truly meant here. In that Brooks is sort of an Andy Sullivan without the absurd degree of Clinton Derangement Syndrome and without the sexuality chip on his shoulder.

Posted by: R Johnston on January 6, 2008 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, that's a real stumper isn't it?
What rational person can even know what these cretins are blathering on about at any given time. These people stopped speaking any language I understand around 1980.
For all we know maybe Kristol only wears one wetsuit to the gooper sleepovers, and won't share the dildo.

Posted by: cbear on January 6, 2008 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

Look up Brooks's recent column:


Brooks might be distancing himself from his "national greatness conservativeness" partner Kristol, and he's been listening to David Frum:


Posted by: JJ on January 6, 2008 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

actually brooks is scared shitless that kristol is going to get his job.

describing kristol as a pseudoconservative is his first attempt to prevent his own defenestration.

mr brooks needs to go much deeper into kristol, calling him what he really is: a zionist, trotskyist, fascist bastid...a mossad/shin bet agent...a co-conspirator in the mass murder of 100,000's of muslim non-combatants.

there is a noose for kristol at den haag. he is the jewish lord haw-haw.

Posted by: albertchampion on January 6, 2008 at 9:43 PM | PERMALINK

I have another possibility. Brooks may see Kristol as a fundamentally dishonest political operative who doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he espouses. There's plenty of evidence of this. Brooks probably thinks that he is more honest than Kristol.

Posted by: Dilan Esper on January 6, 2008 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

"More like a pseudoconservative." Meow!! Two cats in the same sack always leads to trouble.

Posted by: JHM on January 6, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks, like most Conservatives, know Kristol is a consistently wrong tool but they also know he IS Conservative at the core. Brooks is just too afraid to admit that Conservatism is toast, it's been shown to be the fraud it is.

Posted by: Fred F. on January 6, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Finally, after this 8-year nightmare is almost at an end, conservatives feel liberated enough to trash neoconservatives. Whatever you think about "true" American conservatism (i.e., the Goldwater-Reagan version), it was clearly hijacked by the neocons with the ascent of Lord Bush. Tie this in with _The American Conservative's_ Giuliani-as-Mussolini cover; Vic Gold's _Invasion of the Party Snatchers_; and other "paleocon" laments.

Brooks' problem, of course, is that he's full of shit. Brooks isn't a paleocon -- he's a parasite. When Premier Bush was riding high, Brooks practically got into a cat-fight with Novak over who could blow him longer in print.

Now that Bush is like that last piece of burnt chicken still smoldering on the grill at a Texas bar-be-cue -- everyone sees it, nobody wants it -- Brooks is trying to move to the (conservative) center.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on January 6, 2008 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a couple of old queens who've imbibed one too many frozen daiquiris, fighting over who was the belle of the GOP ball 20 years ago. Snap out of it, Cinderellas! The clock struck midnight on you two catty bitches in November 2006.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 6, 2008 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

Something for your amusement…

A 2008 Presidential Candidates Net Worth Graph in which the candidates are sized relative to their net worth…


You might be surprised at just how large Romney turned out.

Don’t forget to read my rant below the pic and links

Posted by: Onslow Memling on January 6, 2008 at 10:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think it goes something like this:

1. Brooks thinks Kristol is a freak.
2. Brooks doesn't consider himself a freak.
3. Brooks is trying to explain to his own brain how #1 and #2 can both be true if both Brooks and Kristol are on the same team (NY Times Team Conservative! Go Wolverines!).

The answer is simple but unsavory. #2 is, in fact, false. Brooks IS a freak. Once he realizes this, he will be much happier. Brooks and Kristol can go out on the town, have sex with gay hookers, kill them, and then go eat steak. Expense it.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on January 6, 2008 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

Neocons are not conservatives. It seems that for neocons it is all about themselves. Anything that detracts from their visions of themselves or threatens their desired ends is something to be attacked as viciously as possible. Reality is their constant enemy because they have a set of desires that cannot be realised. Perhaps that, and their complete willful ignorance, is why they have so much fear.

Posted by: nerd on January 6, 2008 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is simple but unsavory.

This is a succinct and excellent phrase for so many aspects of the train wreck of the past few years. I feel I'll be able to identify many opportunities to insert this into everyday conversation.

Posted by: shortstop on January 6, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

I thought they were friends. Didn't they more or less found the Weekly Standard together?

And the only issue I'm aware of their disagreeing on is gay marriage.

Posted by: Jim on January 6, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

He's trying a little too late to distance himself from the neocons. He looked through the thesaurus and couldn't find any n-words as antonyms to genuine. Pseudo ends in O and sounds better than counterfeit or fictitious. He's still working on it. Give him a little break. Writing is hard.

Posted by: B on January 6, 2008 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

failure is an orphan.

I don't read Brooks, so I can't say with any certainty, but I've never known anybody to refer to him as the-conservative-pundit-who-recognized-the-neocon-stupidity-for-what-it-was. I'm not ambitious (or interested) enough to go & Google it, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that he was not only foursquare behind the invasion, but he was apologizing for all the missteps along the way -- up to & including Abu Ghraib. He might not have grown up in the same group home as Kristol, but he's spawn of the same demon seed.

Posted by: junebug on January 6, 2008 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks is a Weekly Standard alumnus but he was never quite the fanatic that Kristol is. Part of him wants to play the bemused sociologist, an upshot of which is explicating social phenomena. Has there been a more remarkable phenomenon than the amalgam of Neocon imperialism and Dogpatch social values? Now that he's freed from the exigencies of being a team player, Brooks is astonishingly smart.

Kristol is an ideologue first and last except his ideology is equal parts Machiavelli and Wishful Thinking. That tends to create problems sooner rather than later. Brooks knows sooner has already arrived and is wisely giving Kristol lots of room.

Posted by: walt on January 6, 2008 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

He thinks Kristol is a pussy.

Posted by: G Spot1 on January 6, 2008 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Neocons are reckless, radical ideologues.

Yes they are. But don't make the mistake of writing them off as a lunatic fringe that temporarily thrust itself into the spotlight. Neocons are the logical distillation of where American political thought and process have long been heading. Bush's self-immolation is by no means the end of this process. Rather, the USA is likely to continue towards neocon thinking and away from anything we have recognised as the political divide between left and right. The acid test will be when and whether a democratic president actively reverses all the constitutional damage that Bush has implemented. Don't hold your breath.

Posted by: billy on January 7, 2008 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

B>Neoconservatives and the Dilemmas of Strategy and Ideology, 1992-2006

In all the discussions of neoconservative foreign policy that have taken place over the past couple of years --- some more informed than others, some more disapproving that others --- there is one abiding perception that seems to unite critics and proponents alike: that a neoconservative foreign policy is distinct from other strands of conservatism because of its emphasis on democracy promotion and that, in fact, exporting democracy for strategic and moral reasons --- and through hard power if necessary --- is one of the central defining purposes of contemporary second generation neoconservatism.

This paper will challenge the dominant view that neoconservatism prioritises democracy promotion. It will examine the nature of the neoconservative foreign policy strategy articulated during the 1990s --- which, it is argued, has been widely misinterpreted --- and will discuss the strategic and ideological tensions inherent within the strategy. Though the George W. Bush administration has not followed a neoconservative strategy in every respect, his administration has been strongly influenced by it and so some of these strategic and ideological tensions have also emerged since 9/11. It is my belief that the central cause of this tension is that the most important priority of the neoconservative strategy has always been to preserve the post-cold war ‘unipolar moment’ by perpetuating American pre-eminence and this clashes with the purported emphasis on democratization. The strategy also risks imperial overstretch and, for the most part, it fails to consider matters that are not state-based economic or state-based military issues.

At the end of the cold war, the first generation of neoconservatives that had emerged in the early seventies, was replaced by a second, younger generation that began to gravitate around the idea of American unipolarism.1 (This is the group that will be the subject of our discussion here.) It is important to clarify from the beginning that although this younger group was organised and led primarily by neoconservatives such as William Kristol and Robert Kagan, it was not their exclusive domain; rather it was a mix of neocons and other conservatives, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who all shared a vision of a unipolar America, a vision of global dominance. Gary Dorrien refers to this group collectively as “unipolarists”.2 In the main, neocons were the most important organisers and theorists within this network, but their ideas enjoyed some wider support.3 How much of a difference there, in fact, is between neocons and their other conservative sympathisers is an issue we will return to.

In terms of strategy, this group embraced the concept of unipolarism.4 At the end of the Cold War, American found itself, to use Charles Krauthammer’s famous phrase, in a “unipolar” position. It no longer had to accept the existence of a competing superpower, so rather than following a defensive strategy, like the one put forward by the first generation of neocons in the 70s, the US could now project power offensively to shape the world and construct an American imperium.5

This was captured in the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance document, written for then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, by staffers Zalmay Khalilzad and Lewis Libby, who worked for the undersecretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz.6 In contrast to the first generation of neocons, they now had the freedom to develop a strategy that rejected coexistence with any rival power and actively sought to prevent the emergence of a new competitor. This was the essence of the neoconservative strategy that was built upon by their think tanks and advocacy groups during the nineties.

In preventing the emergence of a rival power, Washington would be constructing --- in the words of Kristol and Kagan ----a “benevolent global hegemony”.7 While this would not solve every problem in the world, American hegemony would be better than any conceivable alternative. Joshua Muravchik wrote in 1992 of “the soothing effect” of American power because it could maintain order in the world and reassure those feeling threatened by other states.8 Moreover, according to Kristol and Kagan, “most of the world’s major powers” “welcome…and prefer” American hegemony to any other alternative because they are much better off under Washington’s tutelage since it looks after their interests too9 and thus discourages them from seeking to challenge American power.

According to most of the neoconservatives, the “benevolence” of this “empire” --- to use Kagan’s words --- was assured by the fact that moral ideals and national interest almost always converge.10 What is good for American preponderance is, de facto, good both morally and strategically for most of the rest of the world too. As Wolfowitz wrote in Spring 2000: “Nothing could be less realistic than… the ‘realist’ view of foreign policy that dismisses human rights as an important tool of American foreign policy.”11

Neoconservatives and the Dilemmas of Strategy and Ideology, 1992-2006 [pdf]

Posted by: someotherdude on January 7, 2008 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

billy, you should say 'I think' in your post.

Posted by: Xisithrus on January 7, 2008 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

What do you think Brooks meant?

Isn't it obvious? He's concerned that Kristol is horning in on his turf, so he's trying to make clear that he's the only regular conservative paid by the NYT to be consistently wrong. He wants to make sure Kristol is confined to a niche - that of neoconservatives paid by the NTY to be consistently wrong.

Posted by: Jennifer on January 7, 2008 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

[Deleted comment from a known troll]

Posted by: a moderate libertarian on January 7, 2008 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Pete has a good point. Left and Right don't mean much anymore. The old right has more or less disappeared. Not that the people are gone, they just don't have much of a voice anymore. The Republican party has been taken over by the neo-cons who don't have a traditional right wing philosophy. Adding to what someotherdude said, they want power and they feel that their inherent correctness or superiority allows them to use any means to obtain power. They don't believe in the American system of government. They are for establishing a protected class (the rich).

On the other hand the traditional Left has also disappeared. We no longer see calls (in the US) to nationalize various industries anymore. What talk radio calls Leftist is really progressivism which, I feel, is really centrist, middle class people seeking a better life through mutual support through the mechanism of government and through sensible management of the commons.

Posted by: JohnK on January 7, 2008 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

It's all a smokescreen. Pinch Sulzberger told Brooks to say that. And, the aspens are in bloom again, blooming in unison from the roots.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 7, 2008 at 1:17 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously conservatives are conservative, not liberal. They stay home.

Posted by: Don Bacon on January 7, 2008 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe Brooksie sees Kristol as more of a TNR-style neo-con - obsessed with foreign policy threats (a.k.a., desire to kill Muslims). Brooks tries to position his schtick as more of a "just-folks", conservatives are "real" americans, salt of the earth, Applebee's, football and pick-up trucks, blah, blah...

As fond as Brooks is of ethnography/stereotypes - he'd see Kristol as an east-coast, Ivy-league intellectual, Volvos and lattes - one who probably would fall on the liberal side of things, if it wasn't for his overriding desire to kill Muslims. (Neo-cons, and "liberal" hawks are similar here, the neo-cons have just switched teams completely to the party most willing to use force, the Repubs).

Does Kristol care much about government regulation, taxation, etc.? Or does he even care about the use of force, save for against Muslims?

Bush and Cheney are conservatives. Kristol is a neo-con. There's a difference. Brooks wants to be a conservative, even though he's got the neo-con sympathies.

Posted by: luci on January 7, 2008 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is a Zionist. Neoconservatism = Zionism = liberal Jews who saw an opportunity in the Republican party to advance the cause of Israel.

Posted by: Luther on January 7, 2008 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

There are no modern conservatives, only reactionary fascists wearing white sheets and pointed hoods.

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

Posted by: daCascadian on January 7, 2008 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Remember when Brooks was writing that conservatives should embrace a large government and welcome its expanding role in our lives but harness the leviathan to create national greatness conservatism?
Don't worry neither does he.

Posted by: phony on January 7, 2008 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

Brooks was the guy who came up with "national greatness conservatism" and wrote it up in the Weekly Standard. It, as Fukuyama pointed out after bolting the movement, is little more than foreign adventurism for the sake of foreign adventurism to help out the Republicans at the polls. Brooks is just pissed that Vlad Dracul's unlikeability it infectious. Brooks is starting to lose his moneytrain of "liberals' favorite conservative" to the likes of Reihan, Ross Douthat, Fareed Zakaria, etc. His last book bombed and was a parody of "Bobos in Paradise." He's realizing he's past his shelf life and is pissed.

Posted by: Reality Man on January 7, 2008 at 4:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sure--he is disowning Kristol. It's like how a while ago, some wingers were trying on the idea that George W. Bush is actually "a liberal."

When the stupidity and/or obnoxiousness of one of their guys becomes too blatantly obvious, the only thing to do is to disown him.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on January 7, 2008 at 5:11 AM | PERMALINK

George Will describes neocons like Kristol as "liberals with guns". No conservatism in the Burkean sense.

Take a look at the ads starting on page A2 of the NYT sometime. Gucci, Van Cleef and Arpels, Mikimoto, $15,000 wristwatches, etc. The Times has hired a columnist who will comfort the beneficiaries of an economic system that foster such obscene levels of overcompensation and wealth.

Posted by: bob h on January 7, 2008 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

Back in April 2006:

On Sunday morning on Fox Five News with Chris Wallace, William Kristol said:
I'm a liberal on immigration.... What damage have they done that's so great in 20 years [since the 1986 amnesty]?... What's happened that's so terrible in the last 20 years? Is the crime rate up in the United States in the last 20 years? Is unemployment up in the United States in the last 20 years?

Posted by: bakho on January 7, 2008 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

As usual, David Brooks prefers to be clever rather than accurate.

Posted by: leo on January 7, 2008 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

Brooks probably called Kristol a pseudo-conservative after reading Kristol's July WAPO op ed, where Kristol extolled George Bush. Kristol wrote:

"I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one.

Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration. Let's look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil -- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.

And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where -- despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless "benchmark" report last week -- we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome."

--"Why Bush Will Be A Winner," By William Kristol
Sunday, July 15, 2007; B01

By conservative standards George Bush has been a spendthrift. True conservatives don't believe in strong economies and budget deficits. Furthermore, conservatives don't believe in nation-building through risky foreign interventions.

Also, true conservatives believe that the government has no right snooping in a citizen's private affairs without just cause and court warrants. How much of the prevention of a third (not a second) terrorist attack on US soil has been due simply to good, constitutionally approved police work and international cooperation?

By these benchmarks isn't Brooks also a pseudo-conservative? Is the pot calling the kettle black? I wouldn't normally care about more GOP hypocrisy except this is the op ed page of the NYT so lots of people will be reading it.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 7, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is the well-heeled lackey of the pro-Israel wing of the military industrial complex. If he had any independent ideas he would be more dangerous than he already is. His first NYT column sounds like it was written for a high school journalism class:


He quotes Michelle Malkin, for God's sake. He really should up his game if he expects to run with the big dogs outside of his little self-made echosphere.

Posted by: yellojkt on January 7, 2008 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

But isn't Brooks a psuedo-writer/commentator?

Posted by: slanted tom on January 7, 2008 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

It's one thing for Brooks to have Krugman making an ass out of him. That actually helps with republicans. It's another to have Kristol making an ass out him. That doesn't help at all.

Brooks no longer has the only large MSM megaphone to define conservatism. He must now share the stage. In writing each column, he will constantly be asking himself, What will Bill say?

Remember Gresham's law as applied to OpEd: Bad columns drive out good.

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 7, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

I just hope Kristol starts using the column to promote his picks for stocks and sports. He's reliably, consistently 100% wrong with every prediction he makes, so betting the other way should make me Weekly Standard rich in no time at all.

Posted by: TR on January 7, 2008 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Brooks & Kristol both do a lucrative, well-tailored, smirking simulacrum of reasonableness while espousing exceptionalist, bellicose dreck. Brooks does the same smiling-bigot schtick slightly better than Kristol, particularly in print, just as Friedman, Hitchens & Sullivan do it slightly better, in print, than Brooks.

Like all shills the efficacy of their ideologic schtick is inevitably undermined by others making the same pitch less well. As with sleight-of-hand illusionists, the greatest threat is never the sharp-eyed, but the less-skilled magician, who gives the whole trick away.

That's why Brooks calls Kristol "pseudo" - not because of any fundamental difference in their position or style, but because when Kristol does the same schtick so much worse, it exposes as frauds everyone else engaged in the same, highly stylized polemic.

Posted by: DanJoaquinOz on January 7, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Traditional conservatives are skeptical about any kind of activism based on any kind of principle, including democracy. What's more they doubt that nation building, as in Iraq, can succeed.

So Brooks has a point about Kristol. But that doens't mean he's not a hypocrite, because when the neocons are riding high, David Brooks is right there kissing their ass.

He and the rest of the alleged traditional conservatives only speak out in 2 circumstances 1) when they are acting as rats abandoning ship and 2) when privilege is threatened in any way, i.e. when there is a threat of increased justice.

Posted by: Junius Brutus on January 7, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

it just renews my faith that human civilzation will be able to persist thru the coming wilderness, that my online neighbors can be so hysterically funny at this hour in the morning [crying, laughing). i love you for being in my world.

Posted by: brkily on January 7, 2008 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol represents Likud, which has a more enduring base in the US than Brooks' sort of conservatism.

Posted by: Bob on January 7, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

>"Kristol is the well-heeled lackey of the pro-Israel wing of the military industrial complex. "

Yellojt has it right.

Just telling it like it is: All neocon roads lead back to Israel. Protection and projection of Israeli power is their underlying motive and main objective.

Posted by: Buford on January 7, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I had to gag at the first Kristol column this morning. Must have been lifted word for word from the Weekly Standard. Why the NYT thinks polluting the editorial page with this neocon crap will appease its right wing critics, I can't imagine.

Posted by: Matt B on January 7, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Charles Warren is probably right.

Although I do think there are some anti-interventionist old Burkean conservatives out there, I don’t think they are very influential. Brooks seems to identify with whatever conservative side is in ascendance. He has survival skills.

The neocon rejection of Kissinger’s realpolitik in favor of democracy is really an improved version of realpolitik. The patina of democracy, and perhaps the real thing, is thought to be more stabilizing. The overthrow of the Shah of Iran was a primary example of why unreformed realpolitik works against American interests. The neocons who came to power with Reagan rescinded support of the dictatorships fostered by realpolitik. As Alexander Haig announced to the Senate in 1981. “There are things that we Americans must be willing to fight for.” Soon the US administration started distancing itself from Pinochet in Chile and Marcos in the Philippines. (Pressure against the Pakistani dictatorship follows these precedents. Bhutto was to playing the role of Cory Aquino, but her assassination casts her as Benigno Aquino).

In this context the goal of American foreign policy is to prevent regime change that redistributes wealth, closes markets and limits the availability of resources. For this reason the type of democracy being championed is of a very particular kind. It is not the representative republican democracy most people think of. It is really economic liberty promotion. Under this regime the power of republican democracy, and by that we can understand national self-determination, is limited. We hear “conservatives” talk about it all the time, but this is what it means in practical terms. A regime will be set up where politics, that means the interests of the public as represented by parliament, cannot intrude upon the economic interests of wealth accumulation. “Conservative” ideology has developed the idea that markets are superior in their democratic character to representative government. To make this work conceptually they invoke the utopian notion of an eventual equilibrium. So they want to make a democratic market in the name of liberty not a representative republic in the name of democracy. Because no body politic will accept this they have resorted to Shock Doctrine- the inversion of liberty and democracy. A dictatorship is set up at a time of crisis- like in Russia or in Bremer’s Iraq. Laws are past and institutions are destroyed or set up that set the stage for the liberty of the market and after that a more acceptable but limited “democracy” where people can vote but change nothing comes into existence.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 7, 2008 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

Aren't they all fake conservatives?

Posted by: gregg leinweber on January 7, 2008 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is a Zionist. Neoconservatism = Zionism = liberal Jews who saw an opportunity in the Republican party to advance the cause of Israel.

Posted by: Luther on January 7, 2008 at 2:49 AM

Sadly, I think that is largely the truth. Neoconservatives are mostly aligned with the goals of Jewish nationalists (Zionists).

I think there are legitimate arguments about promoting open, democratic societies, but to suggest those are American ideals is false.

The Rights of Man were American ideals 200 years ago, but American foreign policy in the past 70 years has been corrupted by the compromises required by Kennan's cold war pragmatism and by the selfish interests of American (and other) corporations.

In other words, the reason I hate America today is because we have betrayed our original ideals, the ones that stated all men are created equal, and embraced repressive dictators (redundant?) in our foreign policy.

Posted by: Nick on January 7, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

DanJoaquinOz at 9:23am has it exactly right.

Let's just drop Edmund Burke, please. "Conservative" is a brand name now, not a coherent philosophy. And if you look at its current use, the distinction between conservative and neoconservative is trivial. When Iraq seemed to be going well, the difference was effectively null.

The conservatives (neo- or otherwise) want authoritarian, surveillance-style government and the unrestrained power of corporate and monied elites, all supported by an effective means of disciplining the masses (through racial resentment, sexual frustration, religious enthusiasm and mandatory patriotic fervor). Iraq was a product of this nexus of interests, even if Brooks want to pretend that in Iraq the True Cause of Conservatism has somehow been "betrayed."
The idea that "true" conservatism has always been "modest" and "realistic" is a fantasy that conceals the radical worldview that has been at the heart of conservatism since at least the mid-20th Century, when conservatism was born out of resentment over desegregation, the desire to "win" Vietnam by nuking it, and the rise of the military-industrial-corporate complex. That, and not some high-minded Burkean modesty, is the true geneology of conservatism as we know it today.

I wish we would stop saying that Conservative X is "not a true conservative." Why are we laboring to rescue their brand name?

Posted by: ppg on January 7, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

A big YAY for ME!

"I was watching the debate at the home of a savvy, moderately conservative New Hampshire Republican. It was at this moment that he turned to me and said: 'You know, I've been a huge skeptic about Huckabee. I'm still not voting for him Tuesday. But I've got to say — I like him. And I wonder — could he be our strongest nominee?'"

I am very much the savvy, well-read and well-spoken conservative that Kristol is talking about in his first column for the NYTIMEs. Good show, sir! I appreciate any effort to knock down the liberal bias that exists out there.

Yes, he very much had me in mind when he wrote it--I seem to recall telling him what to write about the state and why he needed to get behind Guiliani. Kristol demurred, but that is because he is a deep thinking, rational fellow. I respect him for that. He reminds me of myself.

It is primary season here in the great state of New Hampshire and I had a number of people come and visit me over the weekend. We threw open the doors and and the hoi polloi have tramped through my living room and sat on my furniture. Today, I must stock up on supplies because we have more people coming over this evening. Tomorrow is an exciting day in the Rogers household--we go to the polls to stop the Huckabee juggernaut. Kristol explains why--likeable is not what we need in a President. We need a son of a b!tch to kick the Islamofascists to the kerb, someone who will kick them in the seat of their pants and laugh hysterically when they fall down and scrape their hands on the pavement. Ha!

I fear that the Guiliani boat is sinking, and I was trying to enlist Novak, Brooks and Broder in keeping it afloat.

Unfortunately, you need to ply those people with whiskey and women, and I refuse to call any of the escort services in Manchester. They are run by the mafia, and I don't need that sort of heat coming down on me these days.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on January 7, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose he meant that he is the real conservative voice of the NYT and that anyone else is a just a wannabe.

Posted by: George on January 7, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

"A regime will be set up where politics, that means the interests of the public as represented by parliament, cannot intrude upon the economic interests of wealth accumulation." - bellumregio


So that's what Kaiser Georgie means when he says, "They hate us for our freedoms."

Posted by: semiot on January 7, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. We hear "the rights of man"; they mean "the liberties of the successful in the market". We see this as the freedom of the fox in the hen house. They see it as a superior form of liberty when compared to the flawed political liberty of representative democracy. They believe representation is an illusion and civil servants can only be self-serving. They say sincerity and selflessness should be interpreted as zeal and should not be trusted. Professionals who work for incentives are superior to mandarians who work for the public good. Politicians should be replaced by businessmen.

Posted by: bellumregio on January 7, 2008 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks may see Kristol as a fundamentally dishonest political operative who doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he espouses.

Takes one to know one...

Posted by: Gregory on January 7, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks means that Kristol isn't a member of Opus Dei.

Posted by: DCBob on January 7, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

still, i'd take brooks over kristol ... as annoying as brooks is, if he us ultimately edged out in favor of kristol, the times op-ed page would be even worse than it is now ...

Posted by: zafar on January 7, 2008 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

Could it be the long-lasting reverberation of this prescient and so-revealing Kristol comment, early in our Great Iraq Adventure (tm):

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular."

p.s. to Norman: the only question remaining is in which color sack your asses will be handed to you come election day. The Huckabee-colored sack will be particularly fetching, as the dem's coattails will be especially large under that scenario. Mazel tov.

Posted by: trollhattan on January 8, 2008 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK



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