Political Animal


December 07, 2012 2:56 PM Brooks Chows Down On Thin Gruel

By Ed Kilgore

Earlier this week I offered a less-than-glowing review of the speeches by Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner, which mocked their advance billing as harbingers of the Great Big Things To Come in the GOP and the conservative movement. Rubio trotted out an assortment of conservative policy chestnuts and reprised his well-rehearsed American Immigrant Dream number. Ryan, for the third time in the last year so far as I can remember, reframed his own policy preferences from a struggle of makers against takers into a War On Poverty where conservatives will bravely liberate the poor from the bondage of dependence on food and medicine.

If you happen to be a movement conservative, it all sounded fine. But “new” it wasn’t. Still, revealingly, it was enough to excite David Brooks, who chowed down on this thin rhetorical gruel as the kind of reformist nourishment he’s been hongryin’ for. I know he’s not responsible for the headline the Times put on his column (though who knows? he may have approval rights in his contract), but “The Republican Glasnost,” fatuous as the allusion is, does accurately reflect his suggestion that this dinner might have represented a turning point.

And what did Brooks regard as the big moment at this dinner? A shout-out to the service staff, and to landscaping crews, and to janitors! They, suggested Rubio, will someday perform Amazing Feats with the opportunities America gives them!

Rubio didn’t offer these proletarian heroes anything tangible. He sure as hell doesn’t want them to raise themselves up with any help from unions or government. What appeared to shock the audience into “hushed silence” and then a “roaring ovation” is that Rubio bothered to notice these people at all. And guess what? They need the same policies rich folks prefer! Indeed, they need them more, as Ryan’s speech insisted! No wonder a well-heeled conservative audience ate it up.

After swallowing this dubious entree, Brooks goes on to link the exciting new message he heard at the dinner with two other signs of glasnost: Jim DeMint’s decampment to Heritage (which most everyone else is viewing as a sign of the South Carolinian’s even greater power) and John Boehner’s willingness to offer Mitt Romney’s tax ideas as a “concession” to Obama.

I don’t know if Brooks’ column is an act of deception, or merely of self-deception. But it shows how little it takes for movement conservatives to turn the unhappiness of would-be “moderate reformers” into the happy yelps of a well-fed puppy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • CalStateDisneyland on December 07, 2012 3:06 PM:

    I realize you can't write all your posts this way, but I love the dry sarcasm!

  • T2 on December 07, 2012 3:11 PM:

    I'll vote for "self-deception". The guy's job is based on self-deception.

  • Ronald on December 07, 2012 3:11 PM:

    It seems to be getting tedious to point out that, once again, there's yet another Right Winger missing the point- that it is the Republicans message and ideas that are totally off whack, not how they're presented.
    Talk about looking for spots of light in a dark dark tunnel. Sheesh. Brooks grabbed at any ol' straw.

  • Lifelong Dem on December 07, 2012 3:20 PM:

    I never read Brooks' column because, well, it was always thin gruel back when I tried. But I do catch his Friday afternoon act with E.J. Dionne on NPR's All Things Considered, so I know of Brooks' fondness for the kind of crap Ryan and Rubio were dishing. After all, Brooks was one of the Very Serious People who were so disappointed by Barack Obama resorting to partisanship during the 2012 campaign, and he's been shocked by Obama's hard-line stance in the Fiscal Cliff negotiations.

    Short version: Brooks is a right-wing hack. His column is completely predictable.

  • lou on December 07, 2012 3:24 PM:

    "They, suggested Rubio, will someday perform Amazing Feats with the opportunities America gives them!"

    Opportunities like getting killed in plutocrats' wars before getting an application to get to the end of the line. Wow, nothing like the GOP shouting out of their asses.

  • Raul on December 07, 2012 3:30 PM:

    I've been reading this blog a long time and this is my first comment.

    Ed, this post was delightful to read; the snarkiness is well placed and well stated in a light, understated style worthy of John Kenneth Galbraith.

    This post belongs in the blog hall of fame.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Helen Bedd on December 07, 2012 4:51 PM:

    I just read an interview with Rubio at FauxNews and it's a long piece centered on Marco's confusion over why the dog won't eat the food...I mean why the voters don't buy the GOP's line of freeer freedom and smallest government evah....

    Crazy moment near the end...when Rubio states that people immigrate to the U.S. to get away from "Big Government"

    Considering that our largest immigrant population is currently coming from India, Pakistan and other parts of Southeast Asia, I'd argue they're looking to America because it HAS a government that helps create a functioning society....

    That's also why theY overwhelmingly vote Democratic as well, I suspect

  • hells littlest angel on December 07, 2012 4:57 PM:

    If the infamous "Applebees' salad bar" line is an indicator, David Brooks is all about laziness and bullshit (the Harry G Frankfurt definition).

  • Doug on December 07, 2012 6:08 PM:

    I, and hopefully others here as well, would like to thank Mr. Kilgore for reading David Brooks so that we needn't.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • JoyousMN on December 07, 2012 8:28 PM:

    This was a really brilliant post. Thanks for the LOL