THE other day I went looking for some piece of Brooks' bio--damned if I can remember what now--and a promising Googlead turned out to be a sort of cracked mirror image of myself. It's not surprising, of course, that there are people out there who admire Brooks when he's dispensing right-wing talking points, and dislike his periodic forays into mock-reasonableness. (It is perhaps a bit surprising that anyone who thinks that way bothers with him.) What really did take me aback, momentarily, was that this guy actually buys the whole routine, and was incensed that Brooks had moderately praised Rahm Emanuel, or moderately deplored nuclear war, or something' (I'm kidding; it was Rahm. There's no way Brooks would criticize our last sixty-five years of explosive military diarrhea.) So this is not the reverse of my position, which maintains that Brooks suffers from Pernicious Reaganinfantilism, and can't identify enough of the truth to miss or bend. It is, rather, that same blasted American cultural landscape in which Coke is It, Pepsi hits the Spot, and people are interesting because they're on th' teevee. You may agree or disagree with Brooks, or Beck, or Snooki, but you are not permitted to question the integrity of either of their two dimensions. (I used to shop in the same grocery as The Teevee Weather Lady; observing the reaction she provoked you were forgiven for wondering why this country ever imagined it had to rid itself of Monarchs. This is, I think I've mentioned before, the single cultural trend, or occurrence, or whatever it is, that I would flat not have believed had you revealed it to me via Time Machine in 1972. It was, perhaps, the only point in my youth where idealism trumped the eye-opening results of growing up on the westside of Indianapolis: I was absolutely convinced, to the point of not even considering it, that a generation's familiarity with advertising, through the newfangled color teevee box, would breed a contempt so thorough that the mere hint of lying, the merest whiff of hard sell or softened soap, would be enough to bankrupt a brand forever. I knew this as certainly as I knew that a transparent boob like Ronald Reagan could never become President.)
Could you and I, O Reader, have conspired for ten minutes eighteen months ago--nay, if you matched my own cynicism, two years ago!--to write today's Brooks column for him? Historic defeat, blah blah. Generic polls blah blah blah. Big Spender, blah, out of touch with real America, blah blah blah blah blah. And, of course, the prescription: Obama must now become more like David Brooks!
Which sorta raises the question, for me, of where exactly this David Brooks was when spiteful January raised her head in 2008, and Barack Obama looked like the Republican's one chance to avoid losing to the bitchful Hillary:
Then he got defined as an orthodox, big government liberal who lacks deep roots in American culture.
Somewhere the Cracked Mirror Riley is incensed that Brooks merely suggests that Obama isn't an American, rather than owning up. And somewhere, in some parallel universe where he has the time to give a shit, Bruce Springsteen is demanding his poster back.
I, on the other hand, merely wish to point out that a couple centuries of being as rooted to a particular place as the trees they occasionally swung from didn't do African-Americans a world of good.
Anyway, Mr. Brooks: you're fifty years old. Near half a lifetime has passed since you touched the hem of Milt Friedman's garment. That's seven mid-terms ago; one--the pants-pissing contest of 2004--went the President's way. I'm more wooly mammoth than spring chicken myself, so I don't expect you not to crow about virtual poll wins and historic gobbledegook. I do expect that at some point you might pause to consider what's what, if only for the sense of novelty. You may be better off than you were twenty-nine years ago (granted, I'm no expert in assessing the psychic pits, pockmarks, and tumors of a life spent lying for money), but do you really imagine the country is? That country you imagine inherently agrees with you, except when it's misguided? Three decades, historic slashing of tax rates, historic inequities, four historic recessions, two jobless recoveries, and a political culture which has gone from corrupt, dishonest, and banal, to corrupt, dishonest, banal, and breathtakingly stupid. Now you think Americans "fear their nation is in decline"? Now we're threatened by debt, deficit, bailouts and self-indulgence? Th' fuck were you when Reagan tripled the Debt? When Bush I bailed out the S&L mess created in the hot torrents of incontinent deregulation? The historic reversal of our deficit trend under Bush II was okey-dokey by you, until after the 2004 elections, when your middling expressions of concern, safely beyond repercussion, meant nothing besides a hoped-for salutary effect on your own Moderate career.
I don't know who you think this is foolin', Dave. Okay, I do, I just wonder if you think you're foolin' yourself. I've just sat through the stupidest election cycle in Indiana history, and only 2000 and foregone conclusions have kept it from the all-time top spot. That's not my partisan opinion. It's fucking incontrovertible fact. In a state which has led the nation in Stopping Voter Fraud Which Has Never, Ever Occurred, we're about to elect as Secretary of State--the state's top voting official--a guy who voted illegally in 2008, preserving a fraudulent registration so he could keep his government job. His campaign ads depict him as a Tax Cutter; the Secretary of State has no revenue responsibilities whatsoever. He might as well've pledged to buy cheaper envelopes this time, and check the ads for toner sales. The incumbent State Treasurer is campaigning on the fact that he managed to earn interest on the money we had lying around. Unlike the last Democrat, who kept it under his mattress. Mitch Daniels is spending some of his PAC money plugging state races; being forced to watch campaign ads for state races alone should make a proud and free people rise as one and beat the shit out of him, but the remarkable thing to me is, they're all canned, like he allotted fifteen minutes for the whole process, and catch him in half-profile, which accentuates his Nixonian hauteur to near-parody. The Democrat (note: graded on a curve) running for the seat Evan Bayh is just too distraught to defend has accused the Republican of being insufficiently anti-abortion. That's Dan Coats, by the way, one of the myriad Republicans who vow to end the Socialist Obamacare in order to strengthen Medicare.
You really imagine this bunch, and this approach, is the key to rescuing Columbia Herself from the twilight tailspin into Oblivion? And maybe Bond in Seconds, Get Teeth Their Whitest, and Kill the Germs that Cause Bad Breath? Best of luck. Is it too soon to write your November 2012 column for ya?