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Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2008

DAVID BROOKS SEES SARAH PALIN AS A 'CANCER'.... The New York Times' David Brooks appeared at an event this afternoon week, alongside The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, and had a few provocative things to say about the presidential race. Specifically, the columnist described Sarah Palin as a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party," and compared Palin's anti-intellectualism to the president's.

"[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. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices."

Brooks added that Palin is "absolutely not" ready for national office.

I happen to agree with all of this. My only concern, though, is that it was the same David Brooks who devoted his column just five days ago to praising Sarah Palin, lauding her vacuous debate performance.

With a bemused smile and a never-ending flow of words, she laid out her place on the ticket -- as the fearless neighbor for the heartland bemused by the idiocies of Washington. Her perpetual smile served as foil to Biden's senatorial seriousness. [...]

On Thursday night, Palin took her inexperience and made a mansion out of it. From her first "Nice to meet you. May I call you Joe?" she made it abundantly, unstoppably and relentlessly clear that she was not of Washington, did not admire Washington and knew little about Washington. She ran not only against Washington, but the whole East Coast, just to be safe. [...]

The race has not been transformed, but few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night.

Granted, these are not completely contradictory, but on Friday, Brooks saw Palin as a sharp breath of fresh air. On Wednesday Monday, Brooks sees Palin as a "fatal cancer" on the GOP.

How very odd.

Steve Benen 3:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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Comments

New week, new Gingrich memo.

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

He sees the McCain loss ahead and, because he still likes McCain, probably wants to blame it on her. And, he doesn't want to see her run in 2012 like people are thinking she will. I usually disagree with him on issues, but I think he still respects the value of education and learning and sees GWB and SP as dumbing down republicans.

Posted by: Margaret on October 8, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

I see her as a persistent toe fungus.

Posted by: steve duncan on October 8, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK


I have said it many times, and I did not say it in jest: Brooks is depressed and needs medication.

Posted by: h on October 8, 2008 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks always seems to say one thing and write another. When you see him on C-Span at some roundtable or forum he always sounds like he thinks the Republican party is mostly a bunch of clowns, but his columns are unreadable for their nonsense.

Posted by: Phil on October 8, 2008 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks is a vapid fanboi lightweight who feels the wind blowing in the opposite direction and desperately wants to remain relevant.

Perhaps he thinks we will all forget the role he played in the Big Clusterfuck(tm)

Sorry, no forgiving and no forgetting.

Ever

Posted by: SnarkyShark on October 8, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

She winked at Rich Lowry and he's jealous.

Actually I think Margaret is spot on. (And not just because I predicted the non-sexists of the GOP would blame Sarah the ImPalin if they lose.)

Poor ReThug bobbleheads. The forgot the saying about laying down with dogs.

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"How very odd"

What's odd is that a mediocre hack like Brooks has been around so long and allowed to have a national voice.

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks:Takes one to know one!

Posted by: stevio on October 8, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think the two are contradictory at all. She was, especially at first, a breath of fresh air, and she is is also a cancer on the Republican party.

Unfortunately, I think she is, to continue the metaphor, a cancer that permeates more of the electorate than the Republicans - an aversion to ideas. And that is scary.

Posted by: JimP on October 8, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

In his Op-Ed column, Brooks seem to feel obliged to play the role of a dimwitted movement conservative to the hilt. I assume he feels that this is what they're paying him for. In other venues he can be much more interesting. I disagree with almost all his ideas, but there is much more to him than just a second-rate Bill Kristol clone.

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on October 8, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"[Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the republican party

and Brooks is just a pack of cigarettes.

Posted by: Danp on October 8, 2008 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

So last week, David Brooks was in the denial stage.

I guess this week, it's acceptance. Or is this anger?

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 8, 2008 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe fresh air causes cancer?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on October 8, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

These conservative tools (and I mean that respectfully; they are being used to manipulate) are reaching a breaking point.

The illegal war in Iraq resulting in hundreds of thousands of innocents casualties, the advocating of a free market or die mentality which has now presented the "death" scenario, and the devastation of the Constitution in the name of American freedoms are all one thing.

There were certain benefits, including but likely not limited to access. But as each man has a price, there comes a time each must face themselves in the mirror. These "reputable" journalist see themselves having carried the water for an intimidating if not powerfully dangerous administration who with their complicity have literally nearly ruined the country.

With change on the horizon, and little old back country Sarah Palin marching over the hill the only carrying the torch, the need to promote the unbelievable is surely to them even, now unbelievable. It would do them no good. What is left is an attempt to salvage a name and reputation.

Unfortunately for all of us, this is possible, but ONLY IN AMERICA!

Posted by: TBone on October 8, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Brooks realizes the "fresh air" has also brought a case of the vapors! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 8, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps it was the last few days that have pushed him over the edge, what with her appalling sense of joyous fervor to willingly cross the line and not just flirt-- but linger and exploit that very dark place called fascism.

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

but on Friday, Brooks saw Palin as a sharp breath of fresh air. On Wednesday, Brooks sees Palin as a "fatal cancer" on the GOP

On Friday Brooks thought Palin did well enough to stop McCain's falling poll numbers. He wanted to be ahead of the curve and claim he saw it all along.

By Weds reality set in, the consensus was Palin lost and McCain's numbers continued to plumment. So now, like he always does, Brooks is just parrotting the current meme.

Like others I am amazed Brooks is still considered a serious thinker or accurate guage of anything.

Posted by: thorin-1 on October 8, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks sees Palin as a "fatal cancer" on the GOP.

But Palin appeals specifically to the GOP base.

Palin isn't the cancer; the modern Republican Party -- which Brooks has made a career of supporting -- is.

Posted by: Gregory on October 8, 2008 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

The right's intelligentsia is necessarily schizophrenic here. There would have been no conservative revolution without Joe Sixpack. But the smart guys always believed that they were in control. Now Sarah Palin comes along and shows the base is getting uncomfortably close to the center of power.

For the Republican Party, there is no road back. You don't purge the base because the base is the party now. For better or - I hope - worse, the GOP is now synonymous with social conservativism. I hope William Kristol enjoys playing with snakes.

Posted by: walt on October 8, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

All the polls, voter registration numbers, and momentum are moving towards Senator Obama and the Democratic Party for the coming election. I think Mr. Brooks is looking for someone else on the right-wing to blame besides Senator McCain. Choosing to direct his ire at Sarah Palin is not really going to really accomplish that (that is, if you assume that it was Senator McCain who picked Governor Palin as his running mate).

Further, where was he with this kind of piece when Governor Palin was introduced by Senator McCain? It was pretty obvious within an hour of announcing her that she wasn't qualified for any public office, let alone the one she currently occupies.

For that matter, where was he when George W. Bush was running for President back in 1999/2000?

This is why I don't have much respect for conservatives these days. I can respect someone for having opinions (even if I disagree with them). But Brooks, and many other of his political stripe who apparently had these types of concerns about Bush chose to keep quiet because they probably saw it as a chance for their movement to dominate all levels of government, as did much of the corporate media (even though we all know Gore won in 2000, as did Kerry in 2004). They are now playing a game of CYA with their readers because the country has gone down the tubes thanks to Bush and his cronies (and int this case, McCain's campaign failures).

That they knew and chose not to speak makes them hypocrites to be angry now. That's why I don't respect them.

As I mentioned in a previous post here, I think this election result will be the first salvo in the GOP civil war, fought between the three main factions (foreign policy hawks, corporate interests/lobbyists, and religious/social conservatives). These are I think some of the first sets of rumblings.

Posted by: Mathew on October 8, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

And since when is working for National Review -- or anything Brooks does -- "journalism"?

Posted by: Gregory on October 8, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks has serious problems of identity and self-worth. Look at how all these years, all these columns, he's pretended to be the voice of "ordinary" people against elitist liberal Democrats. Yet in most respects he knows little about ordinary people himself, has almost nothing in common with them, and is himself an elite type. Go figure.

Posted by: David in NY on October 8, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

He is, like other elite pundits, paid to say and write things - not things that make sense.
I suppose we could sum up Brooks' opinion of Palin as a "Sharp fresh breath of fatal cancer."

For David Brooks, there's nothing out of the ordinary there. It makes as much sense as anything else he says.

Posted by: JoeW on October 8, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Buckley famously said he'd rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.

The sort of statement we expect from a Yalie.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 8, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

What I want to know is if she is a cancer, what is the treatment?

And ought we not look at McCain as the cause of this cancer?

And btw, have the media given up all hope on any future interviews with her?

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

It is, of course, possible to combine ideas with gut impulses.

My favorite illustration: Shakespeare's "All the world's a stage" soliloquy. Yes, it is profound philosophy. But it's also a dreadful pun. ( It was first delivered in the Globe theater. )

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on October 8, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

With a bemused smile and a never-ending flow of words, she laid out her place on the ticket -- as the fearless neighbor for the heartland bemused by the idiocies of Washington.

Heartland? What the hell is that? Sarah Palin's not from the heartland. She's from one of those exotic, foreign freak states.

Posted by: Stefan on October 8, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Like so many of his right-wing colleagues, Brooks can stop on a dime and steal your last nine cents' change ... and sleep peacefully afterwards. Troubles him not at all.

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

When Sarah Palin went from Alaska to Missouri for the debate, the lowered the average IQ of both states.

;-)

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

He's preening for his audience. Bobo cares about Bobo.

Posted by: BombIranForChrist on October 8, 2008 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

corny joke @ 3:42 was me

Posted by: Marko on October 8, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

The sort of statement we expect from a Yalie.

We can expect lots of things from a Yalie.

We just can't expect much.

Posted by: Stefan on October 8, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

In his column Brooks said: "As the historian Ellen Fitzpatrick pointed out on PBS Thursday night, if, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro had spoken in the relentlessly folksy tones that Palin used, she would have been hounded out of politics as fundamentally unserious."

If Sarah Palin was a Democrat, the above would still be the result. It is only because she is a Republican that she isn't the laughingstock of the country now. Oh wait! She pretty much is (unless you are a Republican!)

Posted by: MW on October 8, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sarah dazzled with her smile during the debate, but she didn't have to answer questions nor did she choose to follow the debate format. She just reared back and let a bunch of talking points loose, sometimes in different directions.

Sarah is now on the stump, leading folks into frenzies over sleazy putdowns of Obama, almost like a "revival."

The blatant attempt to bring her own religious bigotry into the fray is part of the cancer that David talks about.

So, while Steve thinks "it odd" for David to change his tone about Sarah, he does have a point.

David was talking about her performance earlier, today he was talking about her blather.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on October 8, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I'm a Republican hack. I am large, I contain multitudes of bullshit talking points.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on October 8, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks: ... few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night. ... [Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the republican party.

Benen: Granted, these are not completely contradictory

Yes they are.

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 8, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK
... But the smart guys always believed that they were in control. Now Sarah Palin comes along and shows the base is getting uncomfortably close to the center of power.

Posted by: walt

Absolutely OUTSTANDING point, walt!

The right loved having its base at arm's length -- they could always rely on a certain number of votes by simply tossing a bone every once in a while, while not having to actually do anything important. Basically, they just oppose gay marriage and rail against Roe v. Wade, but don't do much to change either situation, lest that wedge issue be irrelevant in future elections.

But now, a member of their base is running for national office ... and is making an absolute ass out of herself.

Palin is the type of person the GOP loved to have vote for them, but really didn't want to be put under a national microscope. They knew that, once America got a really good look at the type of willful ignorance, simmering bigotry and blatant idiocy their base has, America would not accept it.

And America isn't.

Now, Brooks must act as if this was all so very surprising, rather than the result of 20-years worth of GOP mendacity, mixed with an overwhelming desire to win and aversion to actual governance.

He has to pin the blame on someone, and Palin-as-the-face-of-The-Base is as good a scapegoat as any.

Posted by: Mark D on October 8, 2008 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Palin fits the definition of "demagogue" to a T. She's Huey Long with a skirt.


Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on October 8, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is the master of cognitive dissonance.

Posted by: Winkandanod on October 8, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Specifically, the columnist [Brooks] described Sarah Palin as a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party

Bobo is an intellectual coward. Do you think he would have said this if McCain-Palin were leading in the polls? Think again.

This is the Bobo equivalent of Carville’s “Call the dog’s in. The hunt is over.”

Posted by: Econobuzz on October 8, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with walt and phil. The only time I see Brooks is on Lehrer. He sounds sane most of the time there. When I see his columns quoted, it seems like a different person wrote them. Buckley wouldn't hire a moron, so it must be intentional schizophrenia. When McCain picked Palin, Brooks said it was "politically brilliant." He didn't comment on whether she was qualified. Turns out it was politically brilliant for all of two weeks. I'm not sure which Brooks is real, so I have to assume neither.

Posted by: Tim H on October 8, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

The minute the election is called, the Republican establishment will blame Sarah Palin for the disaster. 2012? Don't bet on it. She better enjoy spewing her bile on the national stage now, because when this is over she'll take the fall. The Republican establishment and their satalite of pundants will be wringing their hands saying "If only he had picked Romney." Palin will be torn to shreds, vilified and sent packing back to Alaska.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 8, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Palin is not a cancer, she is intellectual ebola. Sadly it's swiftly fatal for it's victims. Fortunately for society, intellectual ebola's victims rapidly decompensate, thus burning out the epidemic before it can spread to larger populations.

Posted by: Jill on October 8, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Brooks has McCain syndrome. He doesn't have the nerve to say what he really thinks in public.

That's Just What I Said

Posted by: Dale on October 8, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks is just looking for cover in case Palin's rants incite some really bad shit. That, and what Dale just said.

Posted by: jward23 on October 8, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Brooks always grabs on to William F Buckley to freshen up his conservative credentials. He's a name dropper of the worst order. One must remember he's paid to write; it doesn't necessarily have to be true (at the time).

Posted by: ringrid on October 8, 2008 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, what are you saying? That David Brooks is a dishonet hack?

Gasp! Who knew?

Why does any one have any interest in what this putz says? I'm more interested in what the guy at the deli near my office thinks...

Posted by: Jim Pharo on October 8, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, what are you saying? That David Brooks is a dishonest hack?

Gasp! Who knew?

Why does any one have any interest in what this putz says? I'm more interested in what the guy at the deli near my office thinks...

Posted by: Jim Pharo on October 8, 2008 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

One conclusion: Brooks is an idiot.

Posted by: Dr Wu, I'm just an ordinary guy on October 8, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

She's Huey Long with a skirt.

That is an absolutely outrageous slander against what's left of the good name of Huey Long. Huey Long was mendacious, corrupt, manipulative, nepotistic, racist, and viciously anti-intellectual. But, good Lord, he was good at it! Plus, he was quite smart, often witty, and a powerful orator -- one of the best, really, from an age that didn't lack for powerful orators.

Palin isn't fit to carry his hat.

Posted by: C.S. on October 8, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

I wondered when someone would bring up Bill Buckley's name. I didn't agree with Buckley's point of view, and, yes, he could be priggish. But he was cultivated and well educated and prized both civility and intellect. He must be spinning in his grave!

Posted by: on October 8, 2008 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK
Brooks: ... few could have expected as vibrant and tactically clever a performance as the one Sarah Palin turned in Thursday night. ... [Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the republican party.

Benen: Granted, these are not completely contradictory

Yes they are.

Nah. Palin is a vibrant, tactically clever fatal cancer. Those are the worst kind.

Posted by: noncarborundum on October 8, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think I have to agree with Walt here.

For a long time the conservative movement was largely lead by intellectuals and business leaders, but they were far too few to have consistent electoral success. So they made a deal with the devil so to speak and brought in the social conservatives and other assorted rabble. Now they have pretty much lost control of the party to "The Base".

I may not agree with much of what David Brooks or George Will say, but I can at least respect that they try to be serious and thoughtful. However, the Sarah Palin crowd is a bit frightening.

Posted by: DK on October 8, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

She must have turned him down.

Posted by: Helena Montana on October 8, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

The bellicose anti-intellectual know-nothingism of Bush and Palin are "a cancer on the Republican Party"? Sounds as if David Brooks, like all but 22% of his fellow Americans, is succumbing to that "irrational Bush hatred" that he spent so many columns sneering at only a few short years ago.

Posted by: Cuttle on October 8, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Granted, these are not completely contradictory, but on Friday, Brooks saw Palin as a sharp breath of fresh air. On Wednesday, Brooks sees Palin as a "fatal cancer" on the GOP.

It's simple. On Friday, Brooks hoped that her performance, backed by enough praise from the conservative press to start a new meme, would finally turn the campaign around in McCain's favor.

Now, the polls clearly show she did the ticket no good and may have hurt.

What this really shows is that all the anti-McCain columns from conservatives in the last few weeks have nothing to do with whether they like or dislike McCain. The only real sin among conservatives these days is failure.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 8, 2008 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if William Buckley had a moose hunting, hockey mom in mind when he made that comment about the "first 2000 names in the phonebook"? He was very wealthy and lived an insular life so that he was more easily able to idealize "the common man" as having the nation's best interests at heart as well as the ability to lead.

Posted by: Leslie on October 8, 2008 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

One would think that the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book would contain no small number of Harvard faculty, no?

And one wonders whether Buckley held the same dim view of the Yale faculty, or whether he would prefer to be governed by the New Haven phone book. (Although, in a sense, we are governed by the New Haven phone book, circa 1967 or so).

Posted by: C.S. on October 8, 2008 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

David Brooks is basically saying "Yes I think Sarah Palin represents a frightening form of (anti-) intellectual cancer that completely undermines all of the great conservative thought of the last fifty years, but hey - aside from that - she's doing a pretty darn good job."

It's a bit like "apart from that Mrs Lincloin, how did you like the play . . . ?"

Posted by: howard on October 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see an inconsistency between the two Brooks quotes. Brooks' column on Palin's performance are fairly objective. . . descriptive but not laudatory. Besides, expectations for her were so low going into the debate that she could be successful by simply speaking in complete sentences. I think his comments in the video reflect his true thoughts on Palin as the current annointed one of the Republican right.

Brooks is an old-style, patrician conservative. I think his comments at the Atlantic lunch show how uncomfortable he and other thinking conservatives are with the Republican party of Palin & Limbaugh. I'll bet his mailbox is already jammed with inarticulate hate bombs. He might just as well have put an Obama sign on his lawn.

Posted by: cumaea on October 9, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

David Brooks meet Barry Goldwater!
Which Republican Party did he think he was supporting?

Posted by: robert on October 9, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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