OKAY, so it's summer; his party, his political philosophy, the religion he adopted after that undergraduate episode of Stendhal Syndrome while gazing at the visage of Milton Friedman, and all the stuff he shilled for with or without actually believing it for the past two decades have turned to shit; and last week he apparently took enough "cold medicine" to reveal that a Republican Senator felt him up at a soirée. Plus after pairing him with a comic-book libertarian and The Stupidest Man on the Planet, the Times went out and hired a younger man who does Brooks' "I'm really a moderate" schtick, except from a Roman Catholic perspective, so he's been in training to tell other people he knows what's best for 'em, and to pretend he really believes it himself, his whole life. Plus he knows how to link to the internets. Our Dave may be in need of a bit of cheering up.
I say this because I've been looking at Brooks columns since daffodil time without ever figuring out why I was supposed to read them. I say "columns", but it's really like the old debate in musicology: Did Vivaldi write 275 concertos, or one concerto two-hundred and seventy-five times?
The "highlights", since May:
• Republicans are so intent upon freedom that they've lost the sense of community.
• A miracle-working charter school in Harlem works miracles, despite being in Harlem.
• The Greatest Generation, Hahvahd Division: Great, but also Complex.
• George Washington: Dignified, but also Great.
• Successful but boring CEOs make the best successful CEOs. Also, human nature is frequently studied by social scientists, whose constant arguments are always good for a column suggesting they'd do more good figuring out how to get the Poor to buy into Brooks' Horatio Alger tales. And Vince Lombardi coached football. All these matters occasionally impinge on Capitalism, though it remains great. If flawed.
• Barack Obama: he's got some big problems, huh? And his belief they can be fixed suggests he's a bit of a dreamer.
• Sonya Sotomayor: a Latina with a life story, and tons of empathy, which may be different from cool objectivism.
Today's was the third examining Sotomayor, though "examining" is just Politeness' way of saying "rearranging the idea that she's Hispanic". In today's version, she pulled herself up by her own bootstraps because the womenfolk in her family didn't like comic books, and she's a poster girl for the sort of incredible sacrifice and hard work driven people make to the exclusion of interpersonal relationships. In other words, what's really noble about Sotomayor is how much her bio, despite the hardships she grew up with, manages to resemble David Brooks', except for the part about actually having been married. This, despite one of those obstacles being her matriculating in the 1970s, when identity politics was all the rage. Or so says the guy who matriculated, and occasionally fainted, at the University of Chicago in the 1980s, and seems to imagine his own Reaganaut arc, as well as his interpretation of Sotomayor's, as being the perfectly natural organic development of clear-headed thinking, free from trendy outside influences.
But that was early June; Brooks seems to be suffering from a sort of Reverse Groundhog Day deal, where every morning the alarm goes off and he gets to decide anew which version of his Principles is operative that day. Today
she also had an amazing ability to attract and impress mentors. Her ascent wasn’t a maverick charge against the establishment. Instead, at each phase her talents were noticed by a well-placed member of that establishment — a famous law professor, a revered D.A., a partner at an elite firm. She was elevated and guided. “She seemed to fit in with everybody,” a law school classmate remembered to the Yale Daily News.
In other words, she's still coasting on that soft bigotry of Affirmative Action, but now that the hearings are here we'd just as soon Senate Republicans soft-soap that a little, as they, unlike Brooks himself, might slip over the edge into sordidness. Just say she was really, really amazingly good at "attracting mentors". You know, back when Affirmative Action was all the rage.
Why do we need this? Why does the Times? David Brooks thinks his party overstepped its bounds in the Bush years, by making a number of poor decisions Brooks himself cheered on at the time. He thinks our healthcare system is disastrous, but he believes even more strongly that we ought not violate any of his economic axioms in trying to improve it. He imagines that capitalism is a sort of bedtime story embellished with inspirational tales of the occasional poor person who makes it on her own with a boost from White Guilt, Inc.; this attitude has only been strengthened by the minor details of global looting by the beneficiaries of affirmative action for well-born thieves in our recent headlines. He thinks the key to revitalizing the Republican party is to make it resemble himself more nearly, an idea which finds almost unanimous agreement on the part of his fellow party members, each of whom believes the party should more closely model himself. The one good thing about this is that it adds exactly nothing to the national debate, which, by eliminating what they did for the last eight years, represents a net plus for all of us.