Brooks, Broder & the Illusion of Right-Left Political Spectrum

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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357 Responses

  1. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    To put it succinctly, instead of pointing out that people like Paul Ryan are charlatans at best, guys like Brooks and Broder treat him like a Very Serious Person with Important Ideas we should talk about, instead of pointing out the idiocy of said plans.

    The problem isn’t Broder and Brooks aren’t on a spectrum. It’s that where they set themselves on the spectrum isn’t where they actually are. In other words, if centrists were actually centrists, we’d still bitch about them, but at least they’d be in the center. The problem is that most “centrist” pundits are actually on the center-right and no, doing some journalism back in 1992 and believing people should have basic civil rights doesn’t make you a centrist today.

    And yes, the reason you get false equivalence from us very unserious lefties is you’re comparing a tap on the shoulders to a baseball bat to the head. Bill Maher is not equal to Rush Limbaugh and random Planned Parenthood employees being idiots is not equal to the leadership of the entire Republican Party.Report

  2. I’m going to let other people chime in before I attempt any kind of rant, but what rankles me about the centrist chattering class is that they’re so obviously devoid of any useful principles at all. I mind Brooks and Broder less than, say, Olympia Snowe and Ben Nelson, but that’s mostly because they aren’t as powerful.

    Also, I would alter the “split-the-difference” narrative just slightly, because there really, truly are a lot of people whose first reaction to political controversy is “BOTH SIDES DO IT! EQUALLY BAD! QED!” This is virtually always false and stupid. That’s what I tend to mean when I say “Centrist”.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

      Principles are overrated in politics. Probably that’s why I don’t find David Brooks annoying. Often wrong, but not really annoying. Does the non-centrist left have any useful principles?Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Simon K says:

        Principles are the only way to have a sensical politics.

        If you have no starting principles, even if they aren’t hard and fast, how could any of your conclusions or policy preferences make any sense?Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          You certainly need to have values for anything to make sense, but that’s not quite the same as having principles. Is the Tea Part superior to David Brooks because they have principles? Principles seem to mean non-negotiable sticking points.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Simon K says:

            How about a first principle that says never make the perfect the enemy of the good. Wouldn’t that be a great start? Each side willing to give at least a bit, or come together to meet the other side close to the middle or else engage in a little bit of horse-trading to give on the issues that aren’t so important in order to trade for the issues they really thought were important?

            Sure, you occasionally get bills like the PPACA out of that, which have an over 50% disapproval rating because 30% of the country thinks it went too far and 30% of the country thinks it didn’t go too far enough.. But at least something gets done, rather than everything more important than investigating professional sports athletes languishing in committees or filibusters.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Simon K says:

        Liberté, égalité, fraternité. That’s pretty much the definition of the non-centrist left right there. Three whole principles.

        (Also, I don’t mean “useful” as in “you agree with them”; I mean you can use their principles to derive some kind of consistent or semi-consistent worldview/policy/etc.)Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Those aren’t principles, they’re slogans. If you try to apply them as principles you discover rapidly that they conflict. So they’re not useful, right?Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Simon K says:

            The mere fact that we can have a meaningful discussion about whether my principles conflict has a fair bit to do with the fact that I have them in the first place.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Sure, but they’re not useful, so that takes us back to my original question.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Simon K says:

                Welp, I disagree. If you’re not going to bother trying to get my point, I can’t do much to make you.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I understand that you have principles and believe that David Brooks doesn’t. But you made a (totally valid and correct) point above about principles only being useful if you can derive some kind of consistent policy from them. I agree with that, but you cited liberty, equality and brotherhood and examples of such principles. I don’t think that can be substantiated – for every policy you can derive from those principles I can show you how it conflicts with them.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Simon K says:

                I believe I allowed “semi-consistent” as well. In any case, any demonstration you make about how my principles are contradictory is going to fail to convince me. It has nothing to do with the point I was trying to make, which you appear to have understood. I’m just not interested in litigating the truth of liberalism in this thread.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I’m not either. Sorry – I was being rather oblique, but not actually trying to retreat that particular ground, although I see how it could be taken that way. My point was that:

                1. Principles don’t really inform much of politics. Aside from powerless groups like Rothbardians and Marxists, everyone believes their politics is founded in solid principle, but no-one can show how.
                2. When people talk about being “principled” by and large what they really mean is refusing to compromise. At the moment this is mainly a right wing trope and applied to people (like Paul Ryan) who are demanding things that make no sense.

                So its a little odd to me to see the left criticising the center right as unprincipled because they do compromise. Compromise isn’t an end in itself, but is it so terrible to have your aversaries occasionally agree with you?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I see where you’re going. I’m not opposed to compromise and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with marrying it to principles. Let’s say I see one as an intellectual virtue and the other as a temperamental virtue. It’s generally worth having both and knowing how/when to apply them.Report

              • Avatar Jeff in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                “I’m not opposed to compromise and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with marrying it to principles.”

                Blasphemy! Marriage is traditionally compromise to compromise or principle to principle and always has been and forever shall be. My religious freedom demands it!Report

              • Avatar brantl in reply to Simon K says:

                No, you really can’t. You just think you can.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Simon K says:

            “If you try to apply them as principles you discover rapidly that they conflict. “

            That’s actually giving them too much credit. Whether or not the principles conflict, the lib-Left has no prayer of being able to deliver on them anyway and the sooner we get rid of them the happier we (and they) will be.Report

        • This is a useful insight, Ryan, and I will bear it in mind the next time I am accused of Broderism (which happens often) because it will allow me to better understand the criticism.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

      “what rankles me about the centrist chattering class is that they’re so obviously devoid of any useful principles at all”

      If I may, your error is the assumption that one is either dogmatically left, or dogmatically right, and if you are neither you have no principles. That is a view that’s fostered for maximizing donations; it has little to do with reality.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I don’t think that’s the position I’m taking. Principles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. If Brooks and his ilk have any of them at all, they appear to be “trust those in power” and “compromise is better than controversy”. Perhaps those count as useful principles, but I’m not sure I believe it.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        Speaking for myself, my problem with both Davids is that they seem quite astute, but are generally unwilling to take their insights to their natural conclusions.

        So, for example, Brooks often freely acknowledges that the Republican party is currently in a crazy place, or that Barack Obama is a man he personally and intellectually admires, but nonetheless cannot seem to come to the (seemingly) inevitable conclusion that rational voters should sit out the Republican Party for at least one election cycle.

        Similarly, Broder can point out many of the dysfunctional things that are contributing to our current political impotence, but his memory and affection for the pre-Reagan era where there was a broad elite consensus leads him to split the difference between the two parties in quite the manner that Tod ridiculed.

        In other words: they are resented, I think, because they have knowledge and discernment, but their ideological pre-commitments prevent them from reaching conclusions that are consistent with their insights. They are both cold toast.Report

        • Avatar Murali in reply to Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          Yes but cold toast only warrants a “meh” not full on contempt and the naming of certain alleged fallacies after said person. i.e. response to brooks and broder is still overdone. Given that they are most of the way with you guys and go wrong only on one particular step, that should be eliciting a lot more sympathy from the left than they are getting.Report

          • DougJ once wrote, “There are a lot of people out there who believe that our sorry state of affairs is caused by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and, if they’re really deluded, they’ll add “and on the left, Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann”. I know plenty of people who say things like this. The truth is, it’s more the fault of Charlie Rose and Tom Friedman and David Brooks. Glenn Beck didn’t get us into Iraq.”

            In principle, in a vacuum, your comments would be true, Murali. It’s the context that sets left-leaning folks off about Broder & Brooks.

            Republicans don’t care what centrists, or liberals, or scientists, or pretty much anyone thinks about them. “Centrist” commentators always criticize “partisanship,” the blame for which they always mete out equally to both parties, regardless of the policies the parties are actually proposing. Democrats care passionately what “centrist” writers at places like the Post & Times think about them. Therefore, they are always too far right– inclined to support foreign adventures & domestic slashings in a way unmerited by cautious empiricism.

            It isn’t that liberals disagree with Brooks, it’s that they dislike his dishonesty, and his deleterious impact on our national discourse. Sure, you’re right, if I were just sitting at a table with Rush Limbaugh and David Brooks, I’d like Brooks more. But that’s not the larger context.Report

  3. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I use to like Brooks. As I’ve watched more and more though (and grown a bit older myself), I find he’s politically romantic in the worst ways (i.e. makes arguments based on feeling and narrative rather than evidence and reason).

    Broder I am not as familiar with, though I don’t often seem him peddling the kind of “strong” centrism you describe here Tod. More often, he embodies the kind of “6 eggs in one hand, half a dozen in the other” approach to policy that results in sub-optimal outcomes based on muddled empiricism.

    In the end, my beef with both of them is their seeming attachement to “folk politics.” Or, politics based on folk philosophy and idoltry that is grounded more in their desire to make and extrapolate from myth rather than hard evidence or pragmatic empiricism.

    I would gladly bet that if given any piece of their writing from the last 10 years I would not have to look long or far for non sequitors, fallacious extrapolations, and gross overstating generalizations.

    It’s not the content of their politics, but rather its mode that I find noxious.Report

  4. Avatar greginak says:

    Isn’t this why Brooks and Broder ( which sounds more like a 70’s folk rock duo to me) are disliked “Which brings me to the word “Centrist.” I cannot describe to you how much I despise this word. It implies, incorrectly and dishonestly, that those who are neither dogmatically Left or dogmatically Right are merely weak tea split-the-differencers.”
    They assume a superiority based on being above it all yet show a deference to whoever is in power and are afraid to take dangerous stands. They are focused more on being important and inside the beltway then anything else. There is also a tendency to see everything in politics as a game and horse race, not something that effects the life of people.Report

  5. Avatar john says:

    Not sure what you’re reading, but MMFA and Think Progress almost never mention Brooks and almost never mentioned Broder.

    The last mention of Brooks in a headline from MMFA was over a year ago (http://mediamatters.org/blog/201105110016). I can’t find a comparable Thinkprogress example in less than a second.

    The liberal blogosphere is annoyed with them, but not who you’re citing.Report

    • Avatar grandpa john in reply to john says:

      Gee, how about that, an other voice from the media dealing in their own generalized opinions with out doing the back ground research . Facts seem to be rather passe for those in the media who have an biased opinion to push.
      amusingly the persons at the center of this fluff piece are prime examples of this method. Read any of Brooks whimsical ramblings and record exactly how many supporting facts you actually find for his conclusions. Funny how Brooks who always starts from a presumed centerist position, always ends up supporting the extreme right position.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I’ve always liked Brooks. Should anyone do so, I think labeling him as a Centrist is inaccurate. He’s a moderate conservative or, I think he would probably describe himself as I describe myself, which is to say a progressive conservative.

    I also think Brooks gets almost as much static from the Right, too many of whom sees him as too moderate to be called a conservative.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I think progressive conservative is exactly right. And it’s not his views I abhor, or his attitude which is cordial and pleasent, but rather his argumentative method, which I find wanting.Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Ethan Gach says:

        If we were going to pick faults at argumentative method, its not like most people anywhere including at the league don’t regularly make bad arguments, engage in political myths and uncritically accept a lot of things which on due reflection we seem to lack any reason to believe. (e.g. natural law theory, democracy etc) Its not that you guys are bad people. Its not even the case that a lot of you guys are not worthy of respect. Its that bad arguments are so ubiquitous that if we started showing contempt for people whos badness of arguments as considered in the larger scheme of things are nowhere near to being among the worst, we should be holding a lot of people in contempt including ourselves.Report

    • Progressive conservative is a nice term. This is the thing I needed to properly understand what Tony Kennedy is all about.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Brooks is put forth as “conservative” by the media. NPR’s “Some Things Considered’ has Brooks and EJ Dionne on as a balanced couple. Feh.

      If Brooks weren’t used as a quisling by the media establishment, he’d make for a good centrist or center-left and the right would have no problem with him.

      Well, some.

      http://newsbusters.org/blogs/pj-gladnick/2012/05/15/david-brooks-obama-displays-kind-espn-masculinityReport

      • Putting Brooks on the center-left is pretty much exactly why the notion that Democrats are liberal makes me have to lie down in a dark, quiet room.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          That’s not what I said, of course. What I did say was that David Brooks being set up by NPR or anyone else in the media establishment as any representative of the right is rather risable.

          “Obama has displayed a kind of ESPN masculinity: postfeminist in his values, but also thoroughly traditional in style — hypercompetitive, restrained, not given to self-doubt, rarely self-indulgent. Administrations are undone by scandal and moments when they look pathetic, but this administration, guarded in all things, has rarely had those moments.”

          I mean, c’mon, fellas, let’s drop the flags and banners and get real. Anybody wants to give the leftish equivalent, go ahead. I don’t deny it could exist, but surely even a leftperson can see how ridiculous Brooks looks from the right spouting bobo crap like this.Report

          • I agree he’s ridiculous. That doesn’t make him center-left. I’m sure I can find you some examples of Mickey Kaus or Will Saletan being equally ridiculous (they are, I would say, the left’s version of Brooks in a lot of ways).

            As I’ve said, if Brooks has some bedrock principle, it appears to be the worship of power. That Obama holds power means he gets the hagiography.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Conservatives wouldn’t give Brooks a discouraging word if he weren’t propped up as their representative. That would be my point.

              Well, mebbe a little [see the “ESPN masculinity” bit above], but more for shits & giggles.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        A good measure, I think, of how far one is in a particular direction on a particular axis is to ask them where the center is. When someone labels people who are clearly conservative as liberals, we know they’re way over to one side of that particular axis.Report

    • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      he’s a moderate conservative who will just plain make things up to demonstrate that centrism = conservatism.Report

  7. Avatar James K says:

    While I’m not really familiar with either Broder or Brooks, you make a very good point about the left-right spectrum. This becomes especially apparent when you look at different countries, practically every country has a left-right spectrum, but they don’t map onto each other very well. Take New Zealand, free trade holds a strong consensus on the right, and the centre-left. Only far left parties (particularly the Greens) really oppose it. By this logic the Republicans with their support for farm subsidies would be an extreme left party in New Zealand. However, on issues like sentence length or healthcare even the Democrats would be considered extremely right wing. Comparison gets even more complicated when you consider our politicians try to avoid talking about the social issues that motivate much of your political campaigning (think like abortion, gay marriage, anything to do with religion) Basically our right and left are just too different to make a comparison profitable. This is why I roll my eyes whenever people say “the rest of the world is much further to the left that the USA”.

    I suspect the right way to think about it is to consider the space of political ideologies to be a 6 or 7 dimensional hypercube, with the left-right spectrum of a given country (at a given time) being a 1-dimensional line segment embedded in the 6 or 7 dimensional space. some ideologies will sit on the spectrum, while other with be far enough away from it that trying to define them as either right or left is pointless.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to James K says:

      But how many Democrats would make a principled objection to fully socialized medicine? They only support half-measures in the United States out of political expediency.Report

      • Why did Joe Lieberman oppose the public option? Political expediency?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          To be fair, Lieberman opposes the public option because Joe Lieberman is a massive a-hole. The better question is why did Mary Landreiu or Ben Nelson oppose the public option.Report

          • In their cases, it’s at least completely explained by political expediency. Given that I can’t read their minds, I’m willing to allow Jason’s point to stand w.r.t. them.Report

          • Avatar dexter in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            I don’t know much about Senator Nelson but Senator Landreiu opposed the public option for the same reason that Senator Lieberman did.Report

            • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to dexter says:

              I’m not so sure. I can understand Ben Nelson’s and Mary Landriu’s votes in terms of the constituencies they represent: a “public option” it would have been far enough from the median voter in Louisiana or Nebraska as to imperil them politically.

              But Joe Lieberman? The consensus among political reporters is that he did it to be a dick. His constituency in Connecticut would have broadly supported it. But Lieberman has, since his primary challenge in 2004, made a regular effort to stick his finger in the eye of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. In fact, Lieberman campaigned in 2000 on a plan to allow 55+ year olds to buy into the Medicare program.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          I’d seen it claimed that he didn’t want to irk the insurance industry, which is big in Connecticut. So it might just be political expediency in his case too.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Plenty of D’s didn’t want “socialized HC”, thats why they offered all sorts of other options and why many would only go along with PPACA.Report

      • Bear in mind our healthcare system is truly social medicine, i.e. government-owned hospitals. Single payer would still be considered dangerously right-wing here.Report

  8. I should also point out that I prefer dealing with principled people on all ends of whatever spectrum you want to use because they speak coherently about what they want. Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and Russ Feingold are/were three of my favorite senators. This isn’t because I agree(d) with all three of them at all times (in that I’m not schizophrenic), but rather because they actually have worldviews that I can agree or disagree with, and they are (usually) not going to play stupid games to trick me (this is what disqualifies Paul Ryan, who is primarily a snake oil salesman). Or, if you prefer a more “centrist” example of someone who is clearly principled, let’s go with Jim Webb.Report

  9. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I think the general complaint about Broder is his centrism recalls Krugman’s general complaint about the media: “Shape of the Earth, views differ”.

    There’s centrism in the sense that “I find myself agreeing with those guys some times, and those other guys sometimes, so I guess I’m in the middle”. Nothing wrong there. There’s centrism of the “I think those guys go too far and those guys don’t go far enough” type — also fair enough. (Most people are about a zillion things, and are ‘centrist’ only in what swings their vote are a set of issues and idealogies whose importance fluctuates, not that they’re somehow in the middle of some continuum which doesn’t exist).

    The problem is in the “Republicans say X, Democrats say Y, ergo the TRUTH MUST BE (X+Y)/2! If only enough mature, rational adults got together and agreed with me on this, everything would be fixed!”.

    It’s not actually THINKING, it’s not an idealogy, it’s a reflexive kow-towing to a fallacy that the “right” answer must lie between two argued points. It’s a fallacy of moderation. It might be right, it might be wrong, who knows? You just took two opposing viewpoints and declared the truth must, ipso facto, lie between.

    And that passes as “wisdom”.

    What makes it worse is when the independent with his deep understanding of the Real Truth, lays out two poles, claims the truth lies between and convienently doesn’t notice that one of his poles is “fantasy land” and the “middle” is squarely occupied by one of the mainstream parties.

    William Saletan’s idiotic arguments on abortion are a perfect case in point. The man points out that the pro-life folks are pretty much “No on abortions, ever”, assumes the “pro-choice” people are “Free candy for every abortion!” and musingly wonders why no one ever tries to push pro-planning agendas to make abortions less necessary.

    And when people slap him silly upside the head with planned parenthood, with Democrat’s happy support of everyone having access to contraceptions, condoms, and the means to make abortions far rarer he just…glosses over it and returns to his point that the whole abortion thing could be fixed it pro-life people just accepted abortions happened and handed out contraception like Halloween candy, and Democrats would stop holding dead fetus parties.Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Morat20 says:

      Excellent comment, Morat20.

      And Tod? As greginak states above, the opinions of Brooks and Broder fall much closer to the “Centrist” split-the-difference caricature you state you despise than they do to the “I find myself agreeing with those guys some times, and those other guys sometimes, so I guess I’m in the middle” centrism Morat20 approves of above.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Scott Fields says:

        don’t get me wrong. Some centrist ideas I feel are poppycock. And at times I tend to scathingly agree with those who say “We have a centrist party — they’re called Democrats. Your Daddy would have called them more conservative than Reagan”.

        The GOP might be right on an issue. The Democrats might be right. The exact middle might be right. All three might be obviously WRONG.

        Disagree with me on an issue? Great! Tell me why. Why do you believe what you do? What got you there? What does it do for you? Why that, and not this? 100% good stuff there, even if I think you’re a moron, because you’ve thought about it. You got to point A there — just as I got to point Z — but thinking about the problem.

        Or if nothing else, at least your team did. I know why some D’s supported a public option. I know why other’s supported Medicare-for-All. I know why some settled for a mandate, I know why some opposed it. I know what it’s there for, I know what problem it’s meant to solve. I can disagree as MUCH as I want about whether it will WORK, but I know *why* — and so do they.

        But don’t tell me that what WILL work is to take the exact middle point between “no healthcare” and “socialized medicine” and claim that’s the Truth, using faux folksy wisdom that boils down to “it’s the mid-point between both sides of the issue, that’s why”.

        And don’t you dare do it in that stupid “i’m above the fray” tone. Above the fray? Pleaase. The guys IN the fray have put more dang thought into it than you. You’re not above the fray — you’re a troll. You’re just there to stir the pot and try to feel smart.Report

  10. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I’ve said it before: for every issue on the table, there exists an opinion parabola. Many of these parabolas intersect. He who wants a stronger American foreign policy must now pull apart his own argument: shall we have more foreign aid, more foreign wars, more overseas trade, more bilateral diplomacy? Not all these components cannot be easily reconciled to each other. He who believes in more overseas trade might contradict himself if he also wants a strong dollar.

    Domestic policy. Shall we have smaller government? If so, which parts should we reduce? Cutting regulatory agencies might result in more plane crashes. Cut the military and we might end up with higher unemployment. Cut infrastructure spending and bridges might collapse, see also regulatory agencies which inspect those bridges.

    The problem with David Brooks is the problem faced by any would-be pundit. Have you ever seen a woman putting on make-up, that odd facial expression when she starts and when she finishes? Ever had someone complain about a good photograph taken of them? We all have our own self-image, but it is never truly the one others see. Which are more valid, our own self-referential ontological constructs or those others construct to describe us?

    David Brooks is a mild-mannered soul, much impressed with his betters, chief among them William F. Buckley, whose shoes Brooks is not fit to polish. I get the impression Brooks is only a conservative because he fell in among bad company over at National Review: had he made better friends he might have become a better man. We see echoes of what he might have become in Bobos in Paradise.

    David Brooks has become a legend in his own mind. David Broder was a legend in everyone else’s mind. If Brooks is a pastiche of neoconservative tropes he doesn’t believe, Broder was just a political reporter who started believing his own bullshit, facile summaries of complex issues he never really understood. See, Brooks knows he’s a bullshitter. With Broder, it was never clear if he knew he was a bullshitter.Report

  11. I’m pretty sure I dislike David Brooks because he makes dishonest arguments in favor of a philosophy of neo-aristocracy I find contrary to my values; and that I disliked David Broder because he had long since stopped offering useful insight, and begun pocketing industry money, well before I ever read him.Report

    • Let me add that Bill Maher is a self-described libertarian, so that apples to apples comparison creates something of a Not So True Implication Of Things Being The Same.Report

      • Seriously? You read that whole paragraph, which came at the end of the whole post, and your big take away was “Tod thinks Bill Maher is a Democrat version of Rush Limbaugh?”Report

        • Ha. No. I never intended my comment to be so ambitious! Picking nits.

          But I’m not sure, in all honesty, I know what is your larger point. I understand the emotional impetus, that there’s nothing wrong with being a three-dimensional political actor; but I’m not positive of where I can find something more analytical to push back against. (Which is fine, imo, since good blogging is often expressionistic.)

          I will say though that I think politics is almost entirely about rewarding the less bad actors. So I guess I would disagree with your pooh-poohing the “crowning” of those who do things I don’t like the least.Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            Elias –

            “I will say though that I think politics is almost entirely about rewarding the less bad actors. So I guess I would disagree with your pooh-poohing the “crowning” of those who do things I don’t like the least.”

            I think this is an important point that could be made more often. If there is “inherent corruption throughout our system” as Tod notes (and I agree), then it seems mistaken to expect some white knight politicians to ride in and make it all right. They’re almost entirely bad actors to some degree. Purity politics is a fool’s errand.

            At the same time, short of full blown collapse of the system, I think the only way to address the inherent corruption and hopefully improve the system is to use the system to do so. That means rewarding the less bad actors.Report

          • BTW, Tod, I missed your reference to me in the beginning of this post until now. Didn’t mean to make my response seem as frivolous as it must have to you.Report

            • Nah. I was just poking’ at ya.

              I will say that when (and more so with others than you here) I post about how certain things are more fundamentally important than the home-team horse race and that “the other side does it worse” does not exonerate your side’s sins, I’m always met with both “you centrists have no values” and “you’re just saying both sides do it,” and it makes me want to bang my head against the wall.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I’m sorry, but as long as we continue to have a two-party system, I’ll continue to happily vote for and defend the side that’s at least attempting to put out the fire against the side that’s actively trying to burn the whole neighborhood to the ground.

                If that makes me “somebody assessed with teams”, so be it.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                And as long as you all have that attitude, your party will keep electing corrupt game show hosts that do very little in making substantial progressive change, and will be in the pockets of some corporate interest with enough money to fling around.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Pat Sajak ran as a Republican. Just saying.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Wheel of Fortune is not a particularly corrupt game show…

                The vowel thing is a hair shady…Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Stillwater says:

                Depending on your partisan affiliation, deficit-financed vowels are either illegitimate and wasteful government largesse or necessary stimulus for jump starting the economy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                There was support for provision of consonants for the folks who dropped Gs (and especially those who deleted the majority of their final consonants) but then it was realized that the largest beneficiary would be the French.

                And screw that.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                For me the pressing issue is the “LOSE A TURN” segment on the wheel. It seems manifestly unfair; you’re a victim of circumstances than anything else. Would it not be wiser, and better off for everyone, if we charged each player a spin at the beginning? That way, we would have a way to subsidize that “lost” spin for the unlucky person that tossed it.

                On the other hand, I can imagine an argument where if you tax everyone a free spin to subsidize the lose-a-turn-istas, then what’s the incentive to spin at all? You use get a bunch of lazy welfare sitters, refusing to spin so they can suck at Pat Sajak’s teat.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                (btw: that entire post was worth it just so I could write “so they can suck at Pat Sajak’s teat.”)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                The real problem with Wheel of Fortune is that it makes bankruptcy too easy. Every half hour show has nearly every contestant declaring bankruptcy, some of them multiple times! What kind of values does that teach our children? No wonder America’s going to hell in a handbasket.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I don’t follow. What attitude, other than “making the best choice from the options available, then defending that choice”, will lead to electing politicians that make substantial progressive change?Report

              • Let me try to take it out of party politics to get away from the raw emotion…

                Let’s say you hire a company to manage my money. For years, you keep finding out things that should worry you. Like, they rarely do what they promise, or far worse, they are often in the news because they are being investigated for fraud. When you go to complain to them about all of this, they explain to you that if you only knew what kind of rat finks those guys down the street that manage people’s money are like, you’d be glad to only have to deal with their level of fraud and incompetence.

                The decision about how to deal with that response will have much to do with how your money is managed in the future.Report

              • This is actually my approach to politics, and why I’m always just the most furious when people act as if I’ve ever done anything to defend the Democratic Party.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Scott Fields says:

                Except of course, in my view, aside from in an area where both companies are horrible on (civil liberties), the company I hired has done a good job it can possibly do due to weird rules that limit it’s ability to create good products (the Senate).

                Ya’ know what I’m going to do in the future? Vote for and support the most liberal candidates who can win an election.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Scott Fields says:

                Jesse, hope you realize that the “Buckley Rule” was on the lips of most every talk radio host this primary season, the most conservative candidate who can win the general election.

                As it turned out, the not-very-conservative Romney was rated the only Republican who could win at all. The march to the nomination was like Sherman through Georgia, with far fewer casualties.Report

              • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Scott Fields says:

                I’d also like to hear this.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Scott Fields says:

                Here’s what I’m getting at, Tod.

                Even in your money management company example, my optimal approach would be making the best choice from the options available, then standing by that choice.

                Now, I’m not going to take my company’s word that the other company is a bunch of rat finks, but I’ll check it out and if the story holds I’m not going to let them manage my money. However, for this analogy to be consistent with the politics we’ve been framing as inherently corrupt throughout, then I know that all money management firms available to me, just like mine, are corrupt to some extent. So, I’m going to do my research and then put my money with the firm that is least corrupt. And, I’m going to tell my friends to do the same.

                Granted, in the money management scenario I’d have the added options of managing my money myself or putting my money in my mattress. But those choices don’t exist in the political world. The closest analogy would be refusing to vote on principle, I guess, but to my mind that’s less like putting my money in my mattress than it is to letting somebody else spend my money for me, because by not voting I think I increase the likelihood that the “more” bad actors will end up in charge.Report

              • Here’s my point – if it turns out one of the guys that works your account has been stealing from you (or others), you would (I hope) tell your money manger that if they wanted your business relationship to continue they needed to fire that person. That some other company might have someone stealing more money from their clients (according to your guy) might be interesting, but it should not make your situation acceptable.

                So long as the people that belong to a party give people who work for that party a pass when it comes to corruption, not only will nothing change – you’re giving your tacit approval of that corruption. Additionally, if you’re heavily invest emotionally in that party, you’re probably not a good and objective judge as to how much less corrupt your side is than the other side.

                I am not seeing how this is an awesome thing.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Scott Fields says:

                I agree with all of that.

                My vote and advocacy on behalf of one side or the other shouldn’t (and doesn’t) preclude me noisily calling for cleaning house and rooting out corruption on that side. And my side’s response to those calls will obviously temper my enthusiasm when the time comes to show my support. But, it will always be necessary to bear the other options in mind.Report

              • Avatar Jeff in reply to Scott Fields says:

                “So long as the people that belong to a party give people who work for that party a pass when it comes to corruption, not only will nothing change – you’re giving your tacit approval of that corruption.”

                Which is why liberal blogs will call out D’s doing bad (by their lights) more than R’s doing bad. One recent example: Hustler has a “feature” called “Celebrity With a D**k in [Her] Mouth’ (there have been a few Hims, notably Bill Maher, but 99% are female). One “celebrity” they portrayed in this manner was a Fox commentator named Cupp. The liberal blogs exploded with outrage, whereas the conservative blog’s reaction re Sandra Fluke was “she deserved it”.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I nominate this for Tangent of the Month.Report

              • That’s why what we should really be focusing our attention on is crafting a system less based on chance, where instead of taking turns subject to the fickle whims of some all-knowing, all-encompassing wheel of Fate, actors are each given equal opportunity against a six-by-five grid. Such a system is much more meritocratic, and the losers have only their own lack of preparation or laziness to blame.Report

              • That was meant to be a response in the Wheel of Fortune thread above btw.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                That’s because there are two types of centrists. One are the folks who think that since both sides are pissed off at them, they must be doing something right. These folks are the worst type since they’re expressing a deep and abiding lack of intelligence. The others are folks who frame their arguments as being better since they’re non-partisan above the fray types who’s opinions apparently derive they’re value precisely because they claim to be ideologically neutral.

                At the root of partisan squabbles are real differences in values. They’re not the only values, of course, but dismissing them as being irrelevant (because they’re held by self-identified partisans) or as somehow cancelling each other out in some weird ‘both sides are equally crazy’ logic doesn’t quite get the person who argues this way where they want to go. They need to do more, and usually they don’t.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                “At the root of partisan squabbles are real differences in values.”

                I don’t agree. See my post examples, but I could go on forever. If you really believe that the GOP really stands for as little govt authority and as little govt spending as possible, that those are “values” and not marketing slogans, well… be my guest.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                The GOP doesn’t stand for those things, but conservatives to a large extent do. And the GOP, and now the TP, more closely represent conservative values than Democrats do.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater says:

                Stillwater, it is not that self identified partisans hold deeply opposing values. This seems true to only a certain degree. * The thing is, that those who self identify as non-partisan see partisans as being tribal even some times self-consciously so. (Scott and Koz anyone?) But, to the extant that I operate tribally rather than from principle, I believe something is good only because my tribe says it is. So it is not that their principles cancl out eachother, because they all being so tribal, we can safely discount their “arguments” for just tribal rara.

                *If it is the case that people on either side ,just held different irreconcillable values, then it doesnt seem to be clear how a conversation is even possible. I have my values and you have your values, now then what?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                The GOP doesn’t stand for those things, but conservatives to a large extent do

                I’m dubious about that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater says:

                Increasingly, both Conservative and Republican are becoming tautological definitions for each other.

                Therefore, to say the Democrats don’t represent conservative values is to say nothing at all.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You’ve self-identified as a principled pragmatist in the past. That’s a label I like.Report

      • Does Bill Maher self-describe as a libertarian? I’ve always thought of him as a liberal who is slightly sympathetic to libertarian ideas and more or less the only mainstream journalist to give Ron Paul an audience not based on him being the token “crackpot” on some panel comprised of pandering, cowardly Dems and batshit Reps?Report

  12. Avatar Levi John Wolf says:

    I certainly have a distaste for David Brooks, but it’s not because of his political positions. As someone who tends to break the left-right spectrum, Brooks shows himself to (at least on the pages of broadsheets and blogs) to be willing to be politically flexible and accommodating. But, honestly, I find him a bit boring and inane. He does good work in representing this breach of spectrum-ness you illustrate, but it’s the same sort of simplistic pastiche that comes from someone like Malcolm Gladwell. It’s an intellectual non-event.Report

    • Avatar Koz in reply to Levi John Wolf says:

      Not at all. You can be a fan of boboism or not (and I am not) but it’s pretty difficult to say that it’s not real. And David Brooks was the first to see it, or at least to publish it.Report

      • Avatar Levi John Wolf in reply to Koz says:

        It’s very easy to say it’s not real: “It’s not real.” But, as to whether or not any term coined by a journalist can accurately represent an onologically verifiable social situations, I return to my earlier point. If you’re claiming the most significant contribution David Brooks has made to popular discussion is the identification (I’d argue reification) of a bohemian bourgeoisie, I think that’s an intellectual non-event. It’s about as Gladwellian as you can get, packaging generational stereotypes and scant sociological study into a cute narrative which is both overly simple and difficult to falsify.

        However, I think the OP was talking more about David Brooks’s politics and less about his unsubstantiated social theories. I tend to think the same of Brooks on both topics.Report

  13. Avatar Koz says:

    Not all of it necessarily, but a substantial aggravating factor to the whole thing is that David Brooks (and to some extent Broder as well, while he was alive) are affable people. Reasonably intelligent to be sure, but most importantly people whose first inclination towards another person is not going to be about attempting to generate partisan antagonism.

    They’ve got other issues with John Bolton or Grover Norquist, but at least they can respect that.Report

  14. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    Let me chime in with a more sociological explanation–for a lot of people on the left, and especially what you might call the “activist left” (i.e. netroots types, Moveon, etc), the Iraq war was an important formative experience. Let’s be frank–the left was completely correct about the Iraq War. There were no WMDs, it led to massive civilian casualties, did huge damage to America’s image abroad, and basically produced almost nothing of value. The world would have been a better place if it never happened. It was one of the biggest fuckups in generations, and it was an entirely unforced error–there was no urgent need or political pressure to go into Iraq like there was with Afghanistan.

    And yet, during the runup to the war, those who dissented were mocked, when they weren’t completely shut out, by those in power. When you see lefties refer to “Very Serious People”, this is where the anger is coming from–because for a lot of people, their formative political experiences consisted of being mocked for being right, about Iraq, as well as tax cuts that really did lead to huge deficits.

    Brooks and Broder, in different ways, represent the worst aspect of this. Both appear, in their own ways, to be at least semi-reasonable people–people not completely out of touch with reality. And yet, they insist on treating the modern Republican party as if it were a legitimate organization, with viable ideas for governing and arguments to make. This for a party that doesn’t believe in budgeting and denies the reality of global warming.

    If we had a healthy public debate, then being wrong about key issues like Iraq, climate change and the Bush tax cuts would result in people either changing their views or being drummed out of polite discourse. If you thought the Iraq War was a good idea, and haven’t apologized or changed your views in any way, you should be treated about the same as the birthers are today. That’s not the case, and the “let’s show concern about both sides” brigade is a large part of it.

    /ventingReport

  15. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    When I am accused of Broderism, or see someone else accused of it, it almost always comes from someone who gives the impression of self-identifying as from the left, and it seems to carry the tone of a mild insult. What I have understood the phrase to mean is the belief that compromise between competing policies inherently creates policy optimization. This post, and some comments above, give me a different sort of definition to the insult/critique.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        The idea that I’m getting is that rather than a “Broderist” being one who sees compromise as the way to optimize, rather it is someone for whom compromise is an inherent good. What is important is not that the best deal be reached, but rather than any deal be reached.

        This is different than “consensus” because consensus involves you and I finding common ground about ways to acheive the good despite apparently different opinions; it is different than “argument” because if you and I have an argument and then reach an agreement presumably one of us changed the other’s mind. And it is different than “prevailing,” because if you and I disagree, and you prevail over me, then that means you just plain had more votes than me and my disagreement with you has been rendered irrelevant.

        Crudely, let’s say Team Red thinks we should spend ten billion dollars on the military, and if Team Blue thinks that the right number is eight billion. (Yes, I know the joke is they’d agree that both sides had valid points and eventually agree to spend eighteen billion. But that’s just a joke.) My understanding of Broderism was that they will compromise and haggle and eventually agree on spending nine billion — and therefore nine billion is not only the compromise number but the right number, that the clash of ideas and the political process somehow moved the body politic towards some numinous Truth of nine billion as the Pareto optimum. I could easily understand how that point of view could be validly criticized.

        But really what might be meant by “Broderism” is that the $9B number lacks independent significance; all that matters is that they agreed on a number at all. There is no optimal number. There is only agreement indicating institutional success (or lack of agreement, indicating some sort of systemic failure), and it is the agreement itself which counts.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I’m more in this zone over here, Burt. Not that I’m not a consensus guy, although I am. Here’s another putative conservative [NYT rating system], Ross Douthat horsetrading abortion thises and thats with Will Saletan.

          http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/on-will-saletans-abortion-compromise/

          Don’t get me wrong, in politicians, this would be a virtue and I’m fine with it. But as persons of principle, it’s sort of like when “tolerance” becomes the paramount virtue. Tolerance of what? Doesn’t matter.

          [One could make the same argument about “freedom” as in the freedom to do what, “freedom” as an end in itself rather than a means to an end (presumably human flourishing). But that would be the taller weeds.)

          [Good one about the $18B, but I think it’s more a creature of what the left calls a win-win, and you know how much they love those. Think “green jobs.”]Report

        • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Burt Likko says:

          This is different than “consensus” because consensus involves you and I finding common ground about ways to acheive the good despite apparently different opinions; it is different than “argument” because if you and I have an argument and then reach an agreement presumably one of us changed the other’s mind. And it is different than “prevailing,” because if you and I disagree, and you prevail over me, then that means you just plain had more votes than me and my disagreement with you has been rendered irrelevant.

          This is very good!Report

        • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Burt Likko says:

          I think that’s exactly right.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Broderism is more than mere split-the-difference. Broderism is simplifying an issue to the point of outright wrongness. When I catch myself about to write a Broderism, I usually preface it with exactly that caveat.

          So let’s suppose Team Red is all hot to “Drill Baby Drill”. Team Blue might observe: “Even if we put a well in every likely US location, onshore and offshore, it still won’t eliminate the need to import petroleum from troublesome dictatorships which do not have our best interests in mind.” There’s no squaring these two opinions.

          Broder didn’t split the difference when Al Gore was making this point in all its complexity. He sneered at Gore.

          BRODER (8/20/00) : In tone and substance, Vice President Al Gore’s acceptance speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention was like nothing I have heard in 40 years of covering both parties’ quadrennial gatherings.

          Usually these acceptance speeches are attempts to take you to the mountaintop and show you the future. Gore’s was more a request to step inside a seminar room, listen closely and take notes.

          Never has a candidate provided more detailed information on his autobiography and the program initiatives he plans. One more paragraph and he would have been onto the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

          […]

          He mentioned only three aspects of what was, in fact, a significant record in the House and Senate—his work on the environment, welfare reform and arms control.

          But, my, how he went on about what he wants to do as president…

          On some of the headline proposals—for Medicare prescription drug benefits or a patient’s bill of rights—Gore humanized his presentation by pointing to specially invited families in the audience who would have benefited directly from the programs he is promoting. But I have to confess, my attention wandered as he went on through page after page of other swell ideas, and somewhere between hate crimes legislation and a crime victim’s constitutional amendment, I almost nodded off.

          Those of us who remember Broder’s unctuous licking of Bush43’s ass do not feel he split the difference. We remember him as a man who thought anyone who went into details was a bore. He was a simpleton, his reputation for fairness entirely undeserved. To this day, mention Al Gore and you’ll hear the Conservatives start to bark and they will quote Broder.Report

  16. Avatar b-psycho says:

    It probably also doesn’t help in David Brooks’ case that he’s cited S***e S****r approvingly.Report

  17. Avatar wardsmith says:

    The reality is not left or right, the political spectrum is circular If I could still post an image here, it would be this one.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to wardsmith says:

      That’s a pretty good graph.

      My problem with this whole discussion is that systemic problems usually require systemic solutions … that inevitably come with new systemic problems of a different sort. Attempting to solve the new set of problems using the same approach you used last time just because it’s the way you do things is kind of stupid.

      So, if someone tells me, “THIS is a problem”, I might look at the “THIS” and decide that it is indeedy a problem and then say, “Well, given this problem and the current situation… I think this is the solution that is most likely to work.” It might be a top-down solution, it might be a bottom-up one; it depends on the problem and the current set of circumstances.

      A different problem, or the same problem fifteen years from now in a different set of circumstances… well, in either of those cases, the least pessimum solution is liable to be different.

      Thinking that principles (less government! more freedom! equality! whatever!) are leading you to “more correct” solutions strikes me as fundamentally a flawed approach. Sometimes more freedom is the correct response. Sometimes it’s actually going to make things worse. Here’s an immediate example: usually the federal government *ought* to butt out of what the states are doing. Giving the states more freedom is good in this case… but if the states use that freedom to institute Jim Crow laws – under the mask of freedom in some cases, no less – then *less* freedom for the state is better – it gives *less* freedom to the oppressor, and more freedom to the oppressed minority.

      Principles are all well and good, but they’re two-edged, just like anything else. You have to make sure they don’t turn in your hand.Report

      • I also like that graph – or at least I like it more than the one shown above. But it still seems to overlook the central flaw that people and there desires are complex and arbitrary.

        You might fit in one place on the graph of foreign intervention, and another on alcohol sales, and another on drug legalization, and another on SSM, and another, on mosque-building, et.c etc. etc. I think we like to pick a point on that spectrum and say “this is me,” but it usually isn’t, not really.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Your answer seems to assume that we can all agree on what constitutes “better” and “worse”. I don’t think this is the case.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        The bad news, and the oft-overlooked element to the graph is that this is all a slippery slope, notice the blue lines all converge downhill of said slope and end up in Tyranny, ostensibly what we set out to avoid in the first place. Maybe if Erik publishes my OP on HOA”s we can flesh it out some more. First we have to define what is and isn’t a real problem, given that solutions to problems invariably deposit us on the slippery slope. If anything, that’s why I’m in favor of starve the beast, not because it is perfect by any means, but a huge beast is a huge beast, why keep feeding it only to see it get bigger?Report

  18. Avatar MikeSchilling says:

    Broderism is the belief that if one kid wants the whole cookie and the other kid wants to share the cookie, the first kid deserves three quarters of the cookie, and if the second kid objects, he’s the troublemaker. Brooksism is similar, but the second kid is also admonished for not knowing how to behave in establishments that bake cookies, like car-washes.Report

  19. Balloon Juice is not a serious website.

    The antipathy towards Broder and Brooks from the left hardly exists outside our little bubble of twenty-something lefty bloggers. Most older liberals respect them even if they sometimes disagree. Hell, I think David Brooks is flat-out nutty half the time, but occasionally he’ll write something brilliant that no one else is saying.Report

  20. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I don’t like Brooks because he often serves moralizing, half-baked claptrap masquerading as “reasonable policy” without having the sense to know that he doesn’t have the first fucking clue of what he’s talking about. This is particularly true when he goes into stuff about economics, or healthcare, or foreign policy…

    There’s also the “both sides do it, and I’m better than both and this is why” stuff that irritates me.

    But to be honest, neither Broder nor Brooks annoys me nearly as much as Tom Friedman. He’s kind of the dumb American’s idea of a smart, world aware traveler.Report

  21. Avatar Bobs Yer Uncle says:

    Well I apparently I haven’t frequented enough Liberal Blogs. Though I will often disagree with David Brooks, he’s often struck me as generally representing a vein of editorialist that we are much in need of; one advocating an ideological spectrum of thought in very civil fashion, while remaining capable of thought and conclusions that are not chained to “dogmatic purity”. Rush Limbaugh he ain’t.

    With the passing of David Broder, I fear we have seen the end of an era when journalists were capable of looking past a headline for the underlying elements of a story, and were then able to unpack “the headline” in rich context with attention to nuance & subtlety.

    In today’s media there are precious few safe harbors in which to find anything approaching true political discourse & debate. I’m often reminded of a sketch presented by Monty Python (arguably the pinnacle of human civilization, so far) wherein a fellow enters a “discussion shop” & purchases 15 minutes of “argument”. By mistake, he enters the office space dedicated to “contrarian disagreement” (or some such title). “I’m here for an argument…No you’re not!”

    If Obama declared that the North Pole lay, in fact, to the magnetic north of the U.S. & Canada, the disloyal opposition would decry the science & declare the exact opposite to be true, Donald Trump would demand a valid birth certificate, & Glen Beck would be yammering on in some Willy Wonka-esque fashion while riding out a decaying orbit around Uranus.Report

  22. Avatar mac says:

    There’s a scientific term for low Broderism and Brooksean argument:
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

    In literature the are well-represented by Dr Pangloss.
    In sociology, it’s well established that the plural of anecdote is not data.

    Bottom line: these guys tell stories and pretend it is analysis, and are rightly despised for it.

    You don’t have to look far for conservative commentators who are respected on the left:
    Frum and Larison come to mind. At the more immediate level, I d rather read 10 articles by John Tierney than one by Brooks. Unless I’m playing drinking games a la Charles Pierce.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to mac says:

      “In sociology, it’s well established that the plural of anecdote is not data. Bottom line: these guys tell stories and pretend it is analysis, and are rightly despised for it.”

      This seems like a conclusion to an emotional reaction and not the other way around. What you’re describing is, like, 90% of all pundits of all political stripes everywhere, and so this explanation isn’t passing my sniff test. (For you personally, perhaps, but not overall.)Report

  23. Part of what feeds antipathy to Brooks is the fact that he writes columns. As a genre, columns are easy to deconstruct and attack: their word count is limited and they allow at best for the presentation of provocative ideas without much substance to back them up.

    That’s not the only reason people dislike Brooks (or whoever), but I think it contributes to it.Report

  24. Avatar clawback says:

    If you wonder why liberal bloggers criticize Brooks, you might try reading the criticisms. Some are quite detailed. I suggest Charles Pierce’s posts; these should clear the situation right up for you.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to clawback says:

      Having just done so, I’m more at a loss than before. Pierce’s posts seem to be cleverly snarky for the purpose of being cleverly snarky (there seems to be no point he is trying to make except that Brooks is beneath him). He could have taken a post by any pundit and done what he does.

      This whole People Who Stand For Everything I Hate Are Worthy Foes But Someone That Mostly Agrees With Me But Not Entirely Must Be Ground To Dust is weird. And I suspect has more to do with people liking their 2 dimensional cardboard view of people and politics more than reality.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        And I suspect has more to do with people liking their 2 dimensional cardboard view of people and politics more than reality.

        I realize that the above is what you think about politics and pundits, but it’s certainly not what the people you are criticizing think and I’m not sure you’ve made your case.

        Really, what you’re doing is exactly the same thing you’re accusing partisans of: you’re reducing partisans to 2-dimensionalness in order to comfortably explain they’re apparent inability to understand what you regard as 3-dimensional (non-partisan, centrist, above-the-fray) political views.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

          Maybe, but someone’s going to have to give me a message that rings true about Broder and Brooks. So far, the reasons I seem to be getting are:

          *They use anecdotes to illustrate things

          *They’re not always right

          *They’re basically f**ktards because they’re f**ktards

          *They just split the difference

          The first two are true of EVERY WRITER EVER. The third is circular and tells me nothing. The fourth may be a good reason, but having gone last night and read 5 weeks of Brook’s latest columns it appears to be completely unrelated to reality – which suggests that the disdain for Brooks came first, and the justifications came later.

          Look, if you don’t like his writing style, or his politics, or the conclusions he comes to, that’s certainly reasonable. Frankly I find him more than a little dull, and now that I’ve tried to see what others see (and failed) I’ll happily not read him again ever. But where does the intense vitriol come from? Seriously, Jonah Goldberg is a terrible partisan hack; when when I see him interviewed he doesn’t appear to care very much if he’s right just so long as he makes the headlines – and part of making headlines is calling all liberals effete terrorist loving America hating socialist f**gots. And yet I don’t see the hate for him that I see for Brooks (or Broder). I’m seriously not seeing where why this is. The one explanation I can think of is this:

          People in the blogging world expect a kind of talk radio Good vs. Evil grudge match from their political writers, and if you’re not willing to be that you’re basically Andy Rooney – and if you have all the plumb and well-paying gigs than we’ll hate you as well.

          If you can give me a better theory, I’ll happily embrace it.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            To be fair, you’re somewhat over-explaining. No one cares about Jonah Goldberg because what’s the point? He’s obviously an idiot. How many times can I write “idiot” in a row before I hit “publish”?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Ryan,

              I think you came very close to supporting my claim below.Report

              • Sort of. I’m not all that interested in having Brooks “on my side”, whatever that is. I just find it exhausting that a guy who has a brain that works spends so much time writing nonsense. There’s no argument, everything is about personality or some kind of vague sense of the world he got from wandering around Dupont for an hour, etc. He’s clearly not trying to be an asshole (like Goldberg) or a snake oil salesman (like Paul Ryan), so his failure to actually construct an argument is all the more galling.

                Contra what Tod says, I don’t require a clash of civilizations between The Left and The Right. That simply isn’t what anyone’s problem with Brooks is.Report

            • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              Ryan –

              I’m thinking that maybe a macro key would help.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            <And yet I don’t see the hate for him that I see for Brooks (or Broder).

            You’re not looking hard enough.Report

          • Avatar Koz in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            “Seriously, Jonah Goldberg is a terrible partisan hack; when when I see him interviewed he doesn’t appear to care very much if he’s right just so long as he makes the headlines – and part of making headlines is calling all liberals effete terrorist loving America hating socialist f**gots. And yet I don’t see the hate for him that I see for Brooks (or Broder). I’m seriously not seeing where why this is.”

            Jeez Tod this is about as wrong as it’s possible to get. First of all, we should mention that Broder is a lib (because nobody else has mentioned yet) and was regarded as a lib while he was alive. He really doesn’t fit in with Brooks. If anything he is a less connect-the-dots version of Mickey Kaus.

            Brooks is more of a piece with JG, William Kristol, and Megan McArdle. JG and Kristol are actual conservatives, McArdle and Brooks aren’t really but overall they are associated with the Right more than the Left.

            The main reason the Left hates them, besides obvious political disagreements, is that they have climbed x far up the lib dominated media totem pole, and are not primarily motivated by bitterness, misanthropy, or resentments.

            Finally, the point about centrists for the most part doesn’t work. It’s not just a matter of you or John Cole in isolation. Other people enter into the picture, and they agree mostly with you, mostly with him, or mostly with Jonah Goldberg for that matter. Therein a spectrum comes into being.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

          Also, too: something upthread reminded me of your first post on pragmatism and some of the comments in the thread. In a critique of your view of pragmatism, TVD wrote something to the effect that pragmatism devoid of values, or at least political values, isn’t a political theory as much as a method for solving political problems. I think that’s right: pure pragmatism isn’t a political theory at all. It’s silent on policy prescriptions and instead only offers normative views on policy implementation. Eg., split the difference between the two parties.

          My conception of pragmatism, and its utility in policy formation, is that it includes evidence and experience into the calculus of policy proposals. So it contrasts not with partisanship, but with a priori (purely ideological) decision-making. And on this score, a political pragmatist is differentiated from an ideologue by the inclusion of other, considerations: relevant empirical evidence. A consideration of this type of evidence can lead to compromise, but not as an end in itself. And I think that’s what you’re suggesting: that compromise is an end in itself. But that’s not a political view: that’s a meta-view about the proper way to conduct policy creation. One which I think can be legitimately criticized in just the way people in this thread have suggested.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

            “And I think that’s what you’re suggesting: that compromise is an end in itself. ”

            I’m not sure where you get that this is my position. As I said in the OP, we think of reality existing on a straight line spectrum, but it doesn’t. I do not agree with Jonah Goldberg’s (stated) world view, and I do not agree with John Cole’s. This does not mean that I think were we to compromise and be somewhere between the two that would be awesome. I stand not between them, but in another wing of the house altogether.

            And yes, the “having no values” is the usual defense against people that align neither with Team Red or Team Blue, but it’s a cop out. Go back and read my posts. Am I “somewhere in the middle” on the subjects of SSM or civil rights? Or ending the drug wars? Or the abuse of power? It always strikes me as odd that the very people who tell me week after week that I should not mind their side’s corruption because its their side, or that I should see that “society may not be ready” for SSM and I am being to harsh on its opponents, or that I just don’t get how their side’s sexual harassment was really OK even though the other sides sexual harassment was so evil, all seem to agree that I have these thoughts because I just lack “values.”Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Phrases like “weird hangup” and references to clauses in John Cole’s contracts wherein his scribblers must insert obligatory obloquy about Brooks on a weekly basis do not encourage me to believe you are either a pragmatist or particularly honest about what most people perceive as a Left/Right continuum.

              I have put forward my own reasons for believing both Brooks and Broder are facile twits, possessed of a fund of borrowed gravitas earned in the shadows of other, greater men: Brooks at National Review under Buckley, Broder under Tom Wicker at New York Times.

              There is but one sort of Centrist in the world. He is a lukewarm cup of coffee, damning as an extremist anyone who operates from a position of political conviction. You, not we, have spoken of Fairy Tales. The Fairy Tales come down to us from the distant past, dark fables encapsulating dark truths. Fairy Tale is not a synonym for Fantasy. Legend is the armour truth must wear to survive the long centuries.

              Those who would be taken seriously must eventually come to some conclusions about what they truly believe and pare away the fluffy and indulgent adjectives in which you have so blithely indulged hereabouts in this essay. I have my reasons for despising David Broder and have furnished quotes to support my position. David Brooks is a contemptible little thing, mostly harmless, him I don’t mind as much. At least it’s clear to me he doesn’t really believe anything he says. He’s a donkey in a mangy old lion’s skin. From a distance someone might confuse him with a predator but let him open his whiny little mouth and bray and all illusion is dispelled.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise is channeling a little Revelation 3:16!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                I hadn’t considered that, but it does work. I had just taken a sip of coffee, rejected it and put the cup into the microwave for some Two Minute Heat, that’s what I was thinking at the time.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Two Minute Heat is the best thing I’ve heard all day.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yeah, yeah. Lib snark against Broder is basically misanthropy, and this is a good enough example of it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Koz says:

                basically misanthropy

                You say that like it’s a bad thing.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Koz says:

                Misanthropy? My distrust of David Broder does not translate to the entire human species. My opinion of homo politicus has not improved, that much is true. My value system is fairly simple: in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I will always remember the other guy is also a prisoner, entertaining roughly the same hopes and fears as mine. Eliot said

                There are three conditions which often look alike
                Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
                Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
                From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, indifference
                Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
                Being between two lives—unflowering, between
                The live and the dead nettle.
                This is the use of memory:
                For liberation—not less of love but expanding
                Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
                From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country
                Begins as attachment to our own field of action
                And comes to find that action of little importance
                Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
                History may be freedom.
                See, now they vanish,
                The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
                To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

                I will not be lectured on the subject of Centrism. I have crossed from pole to pole, once a man who believed himself a Conservative, believed there were things worth preserving, values worth believing and defending. I have lived long enough to see the word Conservative perverted and distorted by silly, self-centred, power-worshipping boot lickers. I am not a Liberal by choice. The virtues I still embrace are now embodied in the Progressive Liberals: a concern for the poor and lowly, a belief in a More Perfect Union, a belief that government might yet be harnessed to the good of society, were our politicians anything but prostitutes, beholden to every corporate interest.

                Misanthropy? I’m laughing at you, Koz. More than any man I know, I believe in the fundamental goodness of the human heart and the power of enlightenment. I will not be schoolmarmed by you or anyone like you.Report

              • Avatar Koz in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yes Blaise, misanthropy. You can certainly disapprove of Broder’s opinion of Albert Gore if you’d like but there’s nothing irrational or shocking about it, and he was certainly not the only one to hold it. How could it be otherwise, given that David Broder was as inoffensive a lib ever to stroll the nation’s capital?

                The world is not waiting for you to pick the lock to some kind of good society like you are some kind of socio-political MacGyver. You, me, David Broder, we all throw our acts and aspirations into the big stew, and then we all have to wait to see how it turns out. There is a lib delusion that I am a free actor and my actions have important consequences but everybody else is just a cardboard cutout in my movie.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think it has to do with a sense of betrayal. We know a Limbaugh is impossibly irredeemably wicked, but a Brooks, why he’s so (relatively) close to us, but he just won’t come over to our side! It’s the closeness, but not quite there-ness, that makes them so frustrating, and the frustration that drives the outrage.

        All the other justifications are just that, justifications. They may be entirely accurate in and of themselves, but because they’re so broadly applicable to the whole class of pundits, they’re not actually explanatory of the special dislike for B&B. Variables explain difference, constants do not.Report

        • “but a Brooks, why he’s so (relatively) close to us, but he just won’t come over to our side! It’s the closeness, but not quite there-ness, that makes them so frustrating, and the frustration that drives the outrage.”

          If so (and this seems as reasonable an explanation as any), then I double down on my statement “that’s weird.”Report

        • And let me just suggest one other possibility, which if nothing else will ensure my email in box hate mail will instantly double…

          Is it possible that the bloggy left hate Brooks so much because there’s a specific fight they want to have (conservatives are racist homophobes that hate the poor! or whatever), and that’s not really a fight you can have with him? Is it, in other words, that it’s no fun and kind of dull to acknowledge him when you can yell about the conservative junior assistant city manager of Bumbf**k, Idaho that is on YouTube saying that he doesn’t go to musicals because he’s afraid he’ll catch the gay?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            No. I think it was BP (and some others?) who wrote upthread the left hates Brooks because he’s a worshipper of power – economic and social. He often comes across as being a blatant apologist and propagandist for class privilege. So his values, which aren’t very nuanced at times, are antithetical to the values lots of lefties hold, but they’re presented as being ideologically neutral. As being non-partisan, objective, above the fray, etcetc.

            Plus, he’s just plain old dumb.Report

            • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Stillwater says:

              He’s a lot of things, but he’s not dumb.

              I think the biggest tempermental difference between American “conservatives” and “liberals” is the relative degree of acceptance for “natural” hierarchies in human affairs. In this way, Brooks is rather representative of the prototypical conservative: I don’t agree with him, but I think I understand him.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

                We’ll have to disagree about his intelligence, I guess. I think he’s clever, and has a talent for phraseology and presentation which make him sound like a deep thinker. But I don’t think he is. I mean, I’ve read him!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

                Brooks is hardly a prototypical conservative. He’s more akin to Woody Allen, a whiny observer of the world who occasionally gets a funny-funny off the ground successfully. But most of his efforts end up in a wreck at the end of the runway and pushed off to that scrap yard one finds at every municipal airport, old dead Cessna 150s with those burned out O-200 engines nobody wants to upgrade.

                Christ, Brooks has been doing this silly old song and dance of his for far too long. Yes, Brooks is dumb. He’s like those old comic strips a few old people read and newspapers don’t pull him because he’s comfort food for dumb people who’d like to believe there are still some conservatives out there with some veneer of civility, just like in the bad old days when ol’ William F Buckley was oozing patrician charm from every orifice.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            I dislike Brooks because he affects to stand above the fray, disdaining the excesses of Arpaio and Obama alike, and eventually comes down exactly where he would have without the pose. It’s a tired act.Report

            • Someone needs to explain this to me, as it has been a recurring theme. Why is it that if you strongly believe Team Blue is right it’s OK, if you strongly believe Team Red is right it’s OK, but if you strongly believe neither is right you’re arguments are dismissed as being all holier than thou?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I think you’re inserting half of those words into our mouths. The point is that Brooks doesn’t seem to strongly believe anything at all.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                OK, now we’re getting somewhere. (maybe?)

                What makes you believe this? Exactly?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Partially, I’ll admit, it’s just an impression. I don’t read Brooks often. I also don’t fume and go crazy about him, either, so I’m a bad target for this. But the general centrist shtick that he’s part of – and we saw this with Corey Booker recently too – involves holding your nose and talking about how bad “both sides” are because they’re being too mean or whatever. There’s never an argument.

                Maybe others here are right, that columns are no place for an argument. But, if that’s not the case, then I want some reasoning. As I’ve said a few times here, I don’t care what your first principles are, just show me that you have some. Give me a sense for how you get from Principle A to Position B. “Both sides do it” or “Let’s split the difference” or “Man, arguing is hard work” or anything like that isn’t going to do it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                involves holding your nose and talking about how bad “both sides” are because they’re being too mean or whatever. There’s never an argument.

                Except when it is?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                But again, I’m not seeing that in what I read last night.

                For example, his last column basically said this: Conservatives say that long ago America’s federal govt was nonintrusive, but this is a myth. Further, we need a strong federal govt to maintain the kind of society we want. We may not be able to afford what we are already committed to, however, so we should be looking to see how to keep the kind of state we have in a way that is sustainable.

                Now you may agree, and you may disagree, and this may not even be a topic you find interesting to read about. But in what extremist world is this argument mushy spineless kowtowing? SHould he bravely be arguing for bankrupting the system, or for going back to the days of company towns? Would that make him easier to respect?Report

              • James – When is “someone is being too mean” ever an actual argument of any kind?

                Tod – To the extent that I have any particular issue with that, it’s that it’s precisely the kind of “bold truth telling” we get from the centrist chattering class at all times. When is the last time any centrist anywhere let ten minutes go by without telling us precisely that same thing? What would be bold or principled is telling us how to do what he’s telling us we simply have to do. Which specific taxes would you raise, David? Which specific programs would you cut?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Hey, maybe Brooks or Freidman will ask for a third party again that basically has the Democratic platform, except it’s slightly nicer to rich people.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                “When is “someone is being too mean” ever an actual argument of any kind?”

                http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/05/on-reasonable-pluralism-and-being-mean/Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Ryan, I was focusing on the “both sides do it” more than the “being mean” part. But if by “mean” we mean “meanly intolerant and dishonest about the other party,” then, yeah, it’s a a reasonable criticism.

                Look, I agree the Republicans are, at least at present, worse than the Democrats in playing shitty political games. But whenever I heard Democrats/liberals/the left cry “false equivalence,” I can be darn sure they’re putting 100% of their effort into pointing out that the other side is even worse, and 0% of their effort into self-examination.

                “Others do it, too, and even more of it,” is not exactly a noble defense, eh?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Hey, maybe Brooks or Freidman will ask for a third party again that basically has the Democratic platform, except it’s slightly nicer to rich people.

                Jesse, Was that intended as confirmation of my argument? Because it seems too spot on to be merely incidental.Report

              • James – This is where I lose the ability to continue the argument. I’m simply not interested in defending the Democratic Party in any particular way.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                It’s not a noble defense, but in a FPTP system, ‘dem’s the breaks. Again, I’ll vote for and support the most liberal non-asshole candidate that can win a general election. I’m not sure what else I can do.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Nah, I don’t really care if Brooks or mini-Broder in the form of Matt Miller support “my” team. I do care that when they talk about the need for a “moderate” third party, they actually acknowledge the fact they’re basically putting forth the 2012 Democratic Platform with a lower capital gains tax rate and a higher retirement age for Social Security.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Ryan,

                I’m not saying you are. But do you deny that the “false equivalence” argument is common, and functions as I suggest it does? And you brought up the issue of criticizing both sides, which is where liberals always pop up with false equivalence claims. So my point was simply that criticizing both sides can be a wholly legitimate argument. Period. And the criticisms of it tend to be weak. Period.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Have you read Bobos in Paradise? Let’s just start there.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Why is it that if you strongly believe Team Blue is right it’s OK, if you strongly believe Team Red is right it’s OK, but if you strongly believe neither is right you’re arguments are dismissed as being all holier than thou?

                Because strongly aligning with one of the two major teams is the most effective path to power. Team Blue looks at Team Red and it’s all mon semblable, mon frère. And vice versa. Both are after power, and when they can’t agree on anything else to do, they shore up the power they have together.

                When they look at Team Green, or Team Gold, or Team Black… it’s a very different story.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Yes, because when I think of people with no power in Washington, I think of David Brooks.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I think you’ve misread me. Brooks is strongly aligned with one team, and he does have power.

                I’m asserting that the one is aided by the other.Report

              • Hm, okay. Disregard half of my comment.Report

              • Yeah, what Jesse said. This seems like another attempt to intentionally misconstrue what almost every commenter has said here.

                Which is amazing not least because so many of us consider libertarians (Team… Pink?) an alternative set of principled arguers!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                so many of us consider libertarians (Team… Pink?) an alternative set of principled arguers

                Two or three of you, at least.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

                Team Gold = libertarians

                I think I got that one from Jaybird.Report

              • I stole it from a Hulk impersonator.

                TEAM BLUE ALWAYS GOOD
                TEAM RED ALWAYS BAD
                TEAM GOLD CRAZY

                (Feel free to switch red/blue as appropriate)Report

              • Can Big Gay Collusive Scam be Team Pink? Someone has to be.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Big Gay Al: Christians and Republicans and Nazis. Oh, my.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Do you think I chose Arpaio and Obama as Brooks’s idea of extremism at random?Report

      • Avatar clawback in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I still don’t understand the question. Pierce’s posts are often exquisitely detailed in their criticism of Brooks. Yes, they are accompanied by snark; you just have to read past the snark to find the detail. If you’d like to post a detailed rebuttal of some sample of the criticism he makes, perhaps you could then make the case that he’s motivated by antipathy-toward-someone-who-almost-agrees-with-me-syndrome or some such amateur diagnosis. On the other hand, if you cannot construct such a rebuttal, maybe one could conclude that Pierce criticizes Brooks because Brooks’s work is worthy of criticism.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to clawback says:

          Nah, much more entertaining to complain about young liberals in their twenties being mean to poor ole’ David Brooks even though he supposedly agrees with them a lot.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            I’m not complaining. I just don’t understand.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

              Tod, there must be 8 or 10 accounts of why people don’t like Brooks on this thread. I think you’re looking for something else here. Not the reasons people have offered, but the reasons for the reasons.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                No, I (think) I’m hearing the reasons people don’t like him. I don’t know that I’m disputing many of them. As I said, I think he’s kind of dull. So it isn’t that Im not understanding the reasons that people on the left might not care for him. I’m not understanding the intense vitriol behind it. Brooks’s writing seems the kind of thing that should inspire a “meh…” or a “not really my cup of tea” from the left. It doesn’t seem nearly enough to make him The Enemy.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Does anyone deserve vitriol? If so, isn’t the vitriol deserved?

                (See what I did there?)Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

                There used to be this guy I worked with a million years ago, and he didn’t like the fact that once a year the company brought in a United Way rep to give a pitch asking us to do some company-sponsored pre-tax donations. It wasn’t mandatory, and the meeting was 30 minutes of boring false cheer, and only about 15% of the employees ever signed up for it.

                Now, you can make an argument that United Way is a really inefficient way to give money to charity, or that way too much of it goes to overhead and administrative salaries. You might argue that having pre-tax dollars that you forget are even being taken out of your checks is a very weak kind of compassionate charity. Or not. Hey, maybe you love United Way.

                But this guy really got a bee in his bonnet about it. He started by pulling people aside every day for months to bitch about having to sit through that meeting. Then he got together a petition and demanded it be posted in the employee cafeteria to ban United Way from company grounds. Plus there were all kinds of angry memos, and trying to determine who was giving and then calling them out to belittle their choice in public. He got talked to by management a couple of times for not leaving people alone about it, but that just made him hate the United Way even more.

                Now, I’m not a big United Way guy, for a number of reasons. In my company we choose a single charity every year to partner with, and have an optional paid employee volunteer day, both of which I find vastly superior to the whole corporate Unite Way Giving schtick. So I get why some people may not like a UW Giving Program at their job. But when something is so harmless and milquetoast as United Way it inherently comes with this line that makes me stare at the people who cross it and think, *really*? This is the hill you’ve decided you need to fight for? You’re spending this much of your time and emotional currency on *this*?

                This is how I feel about the great Broder-Brooks Threat that Must Be Stopped.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Because they’re not harmless and milquetoast as Stillwater and clawback pointed out below. And to be blunt, the fact you think they are is part of the issue us unserious liberals have.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I’m not calling you unserious.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                May I point out you felt strongly enough about how un-Conservatives attack Messrs. Brooks and Broder to summon up 1294 words of bilious fulmination on the subject. Who among us pissed in your Wheaties, that you should rattle on so?

                David Broder is dead and David Brooks is political pablum. Nobody here pays him a moment’s notice. He’s a has-been, an éminence chauve, thin gruel to be sure. Clearly the NYTimes is grooming Ross Douhat to replace Brooks, an entirely better writer and thinker.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “May I point out you felt strongly enough about how un-Conservatives attack Messrs. Brooks and Broder to summon up 1294 words of bilious fulmination on the subject.”

                That post was bilious fulmination? Dude, have you seen the internet?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tod, you should get Russell over here to take a look at you. Your bile appears to be insufficiently corrosive to do much of anything. You may have a serious problem.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                You know who else made excuses for Little Eichmanns?

                Or would Broder/Brooks qualify as Middle Eichmanns?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “You know who else made excuses for Little Eichmanns?”

                This guy?

                Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                For what it’s worth, the only lens that this amount of vitriol makes sense to me is through the lens of “you *SHOULD* be agreeing with me! I understand why Beck doesn’t agree with me! But you *SHOULD*!!!!” and the emotions that attend that feeling.

                The emotional energies flying about remind me of bad breakups I’ve seen.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                As I said before, JB, I’m perfectly fine with Brooks disagreeing with me. I’m not fine with Brooks fluffing himself up and being fluffed up as a centrist non-ideological figure when he inevitably finds himself on the side of conservatism almost every single time.

                But, hey, if it makes sense to you to compare us to jilted girlfriends, go ahead with that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                This Internet?

                the blogosphere’s worship of that most ridiculous of fantasiesReport

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I thought the worthy Russell confined himself to pediatrics. Though many are the bilious fulminations of the young: vile tantrums and assorted special pleadings about the motives of wicked parents intent upon denying entirely reasonable requests to entirely deserving children.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Disagreement is something of a hobby of mine, Jesse. I understand disagreement.

                It’s when emotional energies start flying about that I’m stuck looking for emotional analogies.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I’m calmly stating Brooks is a false centrist who’s been fluffed up by Beltway for decades. To me, that doesn’t take any more emotion than stating that it’s 65 degrees here in Seattle or that I’ve got to buy some new razor blades.

                Occasionally, I’ll get a bit emotional when Brooks says something really stupid, like about salad bars in Applebees, but that’s more out of exasperation than some jilted feeling.

                I know Brooks is going to be on my side. I’m just asking for Truth in Packaging when it comes to political labels. Stop calling Obama a socialist and Olympia Snowe a centrist.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                isn’t, not is obviously.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Then I’m certain that Rtod’s question about why this guy generates the amount of bile he does isn’t asking you, personally, why he makes you generate so much bile.

                I assure you, if he generates no emotional churn on your part, then you weren’t of the folks that I was thinking when I made the statement of what the emotional energies reminded me of.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Indeed I will make that point, again and again, every time I hear someone around here prattle about Deregulation. Then again, I am not confused on this subject.

                But the thing that confuses me most is this belief that the worst human being in the entire history of the universe is either David Broder or David Brooks.

                Allow me to be a clue to the clueless. The Left doesn’t take Brooks seriously, precisely because he’s a simpleton. True, none of us mere mortals are granted the privilege of hurling cardboard thunderbolts from atop the New York Times Opinion Page like Brooks or as Broder once did. But I’m not sure you’re even old enough to remember David Broder at his mendacious zenith. We have enough problems these days defending ourselves from real threats to the democracy and the rights of man, pointing out the obvious, yes, about the lack of market regulation which, mark my words, will lead us into economic ruin.

                And you would tell us of the hard work of critical thought, how we are conned us into believing that our knee-jerk regurgitation of dogma is born of philosophical purity, of fairy tales. If you do not like my conclusions about David Broder, you could say why.

                There is a difference between Left and Right in this country, though you would tell us otherwise. I was once a Conservative who by dint of hard knocks became a Liberal. There is a difference, a difference you clearly do not understand or you would not carry on as you do about secret clauses in John Cole’s contracts.

                I love the smell of burning Straw Men in the morning. Smells like Victory!Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Who’s being emotionalism about Brooks? What I’m getting annoyed about is people telling me I’m emotional about Brooks.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                What I’m getting annoyed about is people telling me I’m emotional about Brooks.

                So you’re only emotional about Brooks when people tell you you’re emotional about Brooks. There’s a catch in there. An emo-catch. 27, maybe?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “There is a difference between Left and Right in this country, though you would tell us otherwise.”

                Seriously? Do you even bother to read what people post?

                Sheesh.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                One of Pynchon’s Proverbs for Paranoids states:

                “If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                I love the smell of burning Straw Men in the morning

                Well, that explains a lot.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Um, yeah, Tod. That’s what you said. Something in the title tag might lead me to this conclusion.

                When I was saying each such issue was a parabola with consequential fallout for each such held position, you didn’t have much to say.

                There is a difference between Left and Right in this country. The Left measures the world from the bottom up, the Right from the top down. The poor are many, the rich are few. But let anyone utter this simple and obviously true statement, the Right would tell the Left we are engaged in Class Warfare, the Regurgitation of Dogma and suchlike. If the Left has said unkind things about Brooks and Broder, we did not start this fight. They were casting such aspersions on the Left, especially Broder, for many long years. If we now fight back and call such aspersions bullshit, well, the Right has never been any good at backing its conclusions with facts. Facts, as Broder observed, are boring.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tod, now I’m confused. You link to a whole bunch of posts about why you think conservatives or the GOP is doin it rong, then – in this and some other posts – appear to be saying that both sides are doin equally rong.

                Which is it brother?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                They can’t both be true?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Then shouldn’t Tod have an equal number of posts on horrible crappy things the Democrats have done? Otherwise, doesn’t that sort of prove the point that one side is indeed, worse and as a result, should be criticized more.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                They can’t both be true?

                You mean, me being confused and the GOP doin it rong?

                Oh ho ho hooooo hohaha. Absolutely.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Where do I say that both sides are equally wrong? I’ve never said that. I’ve pointed out some corruption in the White House, and I’ve pointed out abuses of power from people like Clinton. But I don’t think I ever made an argument everything was an equivalent. That’s just the argument people want to have.

                As for this post, I can’t begin to see where you get that. This whole “you can’t justifiably criticize us for anything because we think the other side is worse” is a real blind spot, imho. A kind of “you’re either with or against us;” it’s like the Right’s “Why do you hate America?”*

                * and cue the SAYING FALSE EQUIVALENCE IS THE SAME AS HATING AMERICA IN THE SAME SENTENCE IS SAYING BOTH SIDES DO IT EQUALLY IN 3… 2… 1…Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Jesse’s right. If I really thought there was a “they’re both equally bad” I wouldn’t post the stuff I post about.

                Or to put it another way, that John Cole is (in my opinion) biting off his nose to spite his face with his “only the right kind of libs should be allowed in the tree fort” is not even in the same stratosphere as people like the World Net Daily crowd trying to convince people that gays or muslims should be treated as second class citizens. Like, they aren’t even in the same solar system.

                But that shouldn’t mean I can’t criticize him for being short-sighted, or those other bloggers that are doing the same. And in this case, if you’re on the Left I’d think you would want that. What, you want to follow the Right’s awesome strategy over the past four years and slowly peel away the “unpure” – the latte liberals and whatever – until you’re so small and repellant to independents that you can’t even win a national election against a president with a sagging approval rating and economy? I mean, if you thank that’s the key to victory, have at it. But I think the Left’s strength right now is it’s ability to find common ground with various interests to a degree that might allow it to advance its agenda – like they did (baby steps, anyways) with HRC.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Actually, I think the smartest thing the conservative movement ever did for their own good is primarying moderate Republicans, because it has led to the most conservative possible Senator being elected in many states.

                OTOH, in a lot of states (*coughConnecticutCaliforniacough*), we have moderates in states that can elect liberals. I think that as we become a more parliamentary system, which we are, that yes, the Democrats should elect the most liberal person possible in every district. Note that’s different than running Bernie Sanders in a rural Tennessee district.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                “Actually, I think the smartest thing the conservative movement ever did for their own good is primarying moderate Republicans, because it has led to the most conservative possible Senator being elected in many states.”

                Wait, walk me through that. That *feels* right, but I can’t figure out how it works…Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Basically, states like Utah and Kansas is always going to elect Republicans at least for the next couple of decades, short of a live boy/dead girl situation. So, the best thing to do in those states is to elect the most conservative candidate possible since that Senator/Congressman/Governor will move the Overton Window to the right.

                Over the last thirty years, this has resulted in Olympia Snowe being described in the newspapers as a member of the mainstream of the Republican Party to possibly being taken out in a primary in the right situation.

                I firmly believe progressive Democrats should do that in states like California, Connecticut, Maryland, and so on.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Jesse’s right. If I really thought there was a “they’re both equally bad” I wouldn’t post the stuff I post about.

                Here’s the thing about it, Tod, as it strikes me: you’re nitpicking over Balloon Juice and ThinkProgress and whoever else about their criticism of what *you* view as a centrist pundit, even while you admit that the left isn’t as crazy as the right, and that the left doesn’t warrant as much criticism as the right. So maybe you ought to look and listen to the left on this, and hear what they’re saying rather than revert back to a ‘both sides do it’ paradigm. And it’s that Brooks isn’t a centrist, or non-partisan, or independent commenter. Nor is he above the fray. His fray is a bit different than the standard partisan ‘caricature’ fray, but he has an agenda nonetheless.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Tod, he’s really powerful as the lead conservative voice at the liberal New York Times. I mean, he’s just big deal on the roster of U.S. elite opinion makers. In fact, he’s arguably the most influential columnist in the country, bar none, or at least was at one point. That’s why the reaction to him is big. People aren’t just going to be Meh about him. They’re going to find reasons not to like him, blow them up big, and pound and pound them until they cut back his influence a bit. And they should. And they have; they’ve cut him down to size a bit.

                I think he’s genuinely unlikable in a personal way, and also offers mostly personal taste justifications for his proclamations about propriety in politics, rather than actual reasons, but that’s just me. But even if he was thoroughly unobjectionable, his status alone dictates that people are going to come after him hard. Anti-elitism, especially in the media, (directed respectively by partisan affiliation) has come to reign in this country. The reaction to Brooks is governed by his status as much as by anything in his specific characteristics as a substantive commentator.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to clawback says:

          Maybe. But to take this Brooks post, for example:

          http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/david-brooks-antipoverty-6652932?click=main_sr

          This seems to be an overly formulaic way of making someone look overly formulaic. Indeed, you take this exact format and use it on any post by any writer. It’s obviously me, but I just don’t understand what the point of it is.Report

          • Avatar clawback in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            And I see nothing wrong with this post. In the column it criticizes, Brooks does indeed treat poor people as if they are “specimens you keep in a shoebox”, and Pierce correctly criticizes that treatment. Brooks also implies that the Church is, unlike government, adaptable and resistant to bureaucratic impulses; this is indeed absurd. And so on. Maybe “the point” is to correct these absurdities.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to clawback says:

              That’s a good point claw. I think of Brooks as being mostly a propagandist. And propaganda works on people (by definition!) at an unconscious level. So bringing attention to all the minor ‘absurdities’ that would otherwise – if not highlighted – pass for ‘reasonable’, or ‘value-neutral’, or ‘objective’, or ‘unbiased’, or ‘non-partisan’, or etc is an important part of understanding writers like Brooks.Report

      • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I think that it’s just kind of frustrating to see someone grant your presumptions, but not your conclusions.

        Rush Limbaugh resides on a different planet than I do, so I’m relatively unconcerned when he and I disagree. But Brooks sees more-or-less the same reality as a non- or differently-ideological person, and yet continues to come down with the “wrong” conclusions. Thus, he is considerably more threatening to my world view.

        The prick.Report

      • Avatar danah gaz in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “Having just done so, I’m more at a loss than before”

        Then you are being willfully obtuse.

        Brooks’ columns could be auto-generated (and maybe they are).

        Here’s the recipe:

        Start with a topic for which there is a foregone conclusion in the author’s mind – generally about how Americans these days aren’t made of the same stuff they used to be. Sprinkle liberally with platitudes.

        Mix in some BothSidesDoIt(tm) political “analysis”

        Add some High Broderism hand wringing, in a silly attempt to put the author above the fray.

        Stir in some large words to make all of the nonsense have a ring of faux intellectualism so the readers can believe they haz a smart.

        Occasionally add some silly nonsense about the salad bar at Applebee’s.

        I won’t begrudge the man his success. This formula seems to fool a lot of people. It sure seems to have fooled you.

        You need your bullshite meter calibrated.Report

  25. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I had this thought about writing recently. It seems to me that good non-fiction writing is a matter of following through one’s thoughts and trying to be as clear-eyed about the world as possible. Not necessarily getting to the capital-t Truth of things, but trying to be as clear as possible about one’s own understanding of the truth. By nature, I think we tend to understand things through many layers of sentimentality, mild denial, invented frameworks, and a bit of hogwash. Our understanding of things is not given, but something we construct. So, a good writer, it seems to me, gives us breathing room from that- they try give us an unvarnished picture of things by just trying to tell the truth.

    But, how does this work for a columnist? Are they trying to articulate their understanding of truth or providing a sort of entertainment? W.C. Fields joked that, if you want to tell people the truth, you’d better make them laugh because, otherwise, they’ll want to kill you. It’s pretty striking how rarely opinion columns are challenging in any sense, and I think the thing is there’s no upside to trying to write in that way in an opinion column. If you give the most clear-eyed picture you can of reality, the readers will likely hate your column and you’ll be without a constituency. What’s the reward? So, I think after a while you start second guessing yourself and being mealy-mouthed. I mean, hell, I used to write a ton more when I was on a blog that nobody read and it’s not like I have a paycheck to worry about.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Rufus F. says:

      I’m ging to sound like Sam here, but I see a lot of it as a question of taste. I don’t think you can write regularly for a length of time without having your own “voice.” So when I read Brooks, I don’t necessarily feel like I need to come up with a physiological explanation for why we writes the way he does; he simply writes in his own voice. Mind you, I find that voice a little dull, in the same way I find a lot of bloggers voices to be overly shrill. But it’s still his voice, and I think for me leaving it there is OK.Report

  26. Avatar damon says:

    So I don’t follow either of these guys but I’m sure I’ve seen/read them. Don’t care though. I essentially object to the graph. Libertarians don’t belong on that graph. The graph shows the degree of statism and where is it focused, with the “left” focused on using the state to promote social issues and the right used to promote defense/corporatism. Libertarianism belongs on a tangent that displays a range of statism to anarchy.

    Once you realize that the above graph constrains a person’s thinking to HOW the “powers that be” want you to think about things, you realize the game is even more rigged that you originally though.Report

  27. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    broder overused false equivalences to excuse many goper missteps and the false equivalence game became so enmeshed in “journalism” that we’re stuck with it.

    bobo has to resort to plain making things up in order to sell that the silent centrist majority closely mirror his own conservative views.

    i am going to kick brooks in the meat curtain if i ever see him.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to joey jo jo says:

      “broder overused false equivalences to excuse many goper missteps and the false equivalence game became so enmeshed in “journalism” that we’re stuck with it.”

      Well, while I admit that it seems like a bit of an overstep, I have to admit “he single handedly destroyed journalism” is indeed a good reason for anger.Report

      • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        he didn’t singlehandedly destroy journalism. he just pioneered one of its most exerable practices. the destruction of journalism has more than one cause.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to joey jo jo says:

          He was a strong member of the second line of the rise of the Beltway, right behind the scoring line of Media Consolidation.Report

          • Avatar joey jo jo in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            i wish i still followed hockey so i could posit a modern example of a second line “superstar”. i would say adam oates but he’s a coach now.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            “right behind the scoring line of Media Consolidation.”

            because when everyone watched Walter Cronkite, they were getting a diversity of news and opinion.

            (the media sucks because they focus on celebrity and the trivial, not because there’s too few corporate overloads. In the golden age, there were only a few corporate overloads for national news too. And no internet. Or cable news for that matter)Report

  28. Avatar brantl says:

    What’s wrong with both Broder and Brooks is the same thing that is wrong with Bill O’Liely when he talks to Jon Stewart. He makes some horsecrap characterization, Stewart shoots him down with either logic or factual rebuttal (usually both), the O’Liely makes some sniping little comment and runs away from the debate. Brooks pulls so-called “facts” out of his ass, somebody calls him on it, then he acts like an Alzheimer’s patient, starts up with another line of bullshit, that was disproven several weeks ago, and hopes that no one notices. Broder was just as bad. Both peddle conservative points (almost always fallaciously pretending they are centrist) and lie about their factual basis (usually poorly).Report

  29. Avatar danah gaz says:

    Wow, bringing Balloon Juice into this?

    BJ consists of pictures of Tunch, some recipe exchanges, a few swipes at the Catholic Church, and a fair amount of snarky remarks about wingnuts.

    There is no editorial stance at BJ. It’s a motley crew of drunk bloggers. That’s all. Not some big conspiracy. Bringing them into your mess only serves to lower the bar. You may as well cite a bunch of frat guys.

    Or shorter: Don’t you have any hobbies?

    Seriously. What a joke.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to danah gaz says:

      I’m not sure I’m getting your point. What “conspiracy” do you believe I subscribe to?Report

      • Avatar danah gaz in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        That there is some secret handshake that all of the front-pagers must know in order to post there, rather than just some standard back-slapping heh, indeediness between friends.

        To wit: “John Cole makes you sign a contract stipulating you’ll bang on one of them at least once a week.”

        That’s a silly statement. The reason Brooks gets bagged on frequently is that he’s a hack. It’s good fodder for snark. Hell, BJ isn’t even the “worst” offender. Have you ever read Atrios? Besides, Sully gets much more play over there.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to danah gaz says:

          You did understand that this was a joke, yes? That I don’t actually believe John makes people sign a contract?

          Just so you know before you start rifling through the archives… the Joker’s henchman bit? The thing in the latest post about Mitt Romney hunting middle class people for sport at a futuristic game park? The line about GOP leaders eating hot pockets in the dark? None of those things happened either. All jokes.Report

  30. Avatar Egypt Steve says:

    Hey, here’s a thought: why not spare us the psychoanalysis, and instead quote what BJ’ers or others have actually said about Brooks and/or Broder. Then, engage it on the merits.Report

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