Friday, April 18, 2008

David Brooks? He's No Fool

When reading David Brooks, The American Conservative reminds us that the operative word isn't tool fool:
I’ve been pondering for months whether David Brooks is far and away McCain’s most sophisticated operative. He writes a deft put-down of Obama today, commenting en passant about “the cultural issues” and Jeremiah Wright, and noting that “voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences.” “How Obama Fell to Earth” is the title of the column.

How amazing that Brooks could restrain himself from writing this stuff until Obama was 80 percent assured of securing the Democratic nomination. It’s not as if Jeremiah Wright appeared on the scene yesterday.
While I disagree with the author of that post in relation to his praise of Steve Sailer, whose online activities tend in my view to be about a millimeter short of "white supremacism", the gist is correct - for months, despite the fact that any sensate reader knows he's going to vote for the Republican candidate, Brooks has come close to swooning over Obama. His sudden shift to attack mode isn't inspired by new facts or evidence, but by timing. This approach is not only politically helpful to his party, but makes the job of writing columns about Obama pretty easy - take all the nice things you said about him last month, and explain how disappointed you have become. By things you knew all along, or are making up.

Brooks is in full "no mendacity barred" mode in taking on Obama. He exaggerates Obama's statement on not raising taxes, but more strikingly in whining, " That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform," completely omits the fact that his candidate, McCain, promises further massive tax cuts. Further, it's an outright lie that the most fiscally troubling entitlements, Medicare and Social Security, are significantly affected by a promise not to raise income taxes. There, as I noted yesterday, Obama has proposed lifting the cap on payroll taxes. Check the transcript of the debate. Brooks surely remembers this,
Well, Charlie, I just have to respond real quickly to Senator Clinton's last comment. What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year.
Brooks gave an "A" grade to the imbecilic questions raised in the debate, including this whopper from Charlie Gibson:
And in each instance, when the [capital gains] rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money.
Well, gee... why don't we cut the capital gains rate to 0% and use the massively increased tax revenues to make up for any shortfalls in other areas. (That was sarcasm, of course - but here's a more realistic picture of how capital gains taxes line up with tax revenues.)

Further, half or more of all income taxes are paid by people earning above the range Obama described, so how is it that we could not see significant increases in tax revenues without touching taxes below that threshold? For that matter, when did we enter an era where the only way to increase spending is to raise income taxes?

I recognize that Brooks comes from the school of pseudo-conservatism where deficits matter... but only if there's a Democrat in the White House. But who seriously tries to argue in this era that a balanced budget must take priority over all else, even in the face of a recession? Further, if in fact Obama winds down the war in Iraq, that should free up a lot of money that is presently being spent on the war - although I'm sure Brooks sees it as entirely justifiable deficit spend hundreds of billions on a war he supports, as opposed to spending similar amounts of money repairing this nation's crumbling infrastructure or implementing health care reform.

Which brings us to Brooks' next deception, "Then [Obama] made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months." Well, no. He didn't. If you actually look at what Obama said, he was very careful to avoid committing to a specific timeframe. He instead indicated that the direction of the war would be his decision to make, with due consideration of the advice of the military. Brooks didn't just fall off the turnip truck - he could have legitimately criticized Obama for evading the question, something that would have fit in just fine with this "He's just another, ordinary politician"-type column. But apparently honesty doesn't serve his purposes.

Then we get into standard Brooks-style elitism, and sneering at working class voters:
Then there are the cultural issues. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News are taking a lot of heat for spending so much time asking about Jeremiah Wright and the “bitter” comments. But the fact is that voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences. Fairly or not, they look at symbols like Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry’s windsurfing or John Edwards’s haircut as clues about shared values.
And how do we know voters do this? Because Brooks says they do. And what voters is he describing with this insulting stereotype? You got it.

If it really is "all about image", why has Brooks never sneered at our "cowboy" President for apparently being afraid of horses? Why not a column sniggering, "He's such a wimp, he can't even eat a pretzel without ending up in the hospital"? Because I'm pretty sure he would give us that type of "analysis" of similar "news" about Obama or Clinton.

Do you think there's one chance in a billion that Brooks would say, "This, after all, is how I choose my candidate"? Do you think he would attribute that type of shallow thinking to any other member of the Republican elite? If he did, how fast and furious would be the repudiation? This is mainstream Republican elitism on full display, folks. It's somehow not "elitist" to tell the working class, "You make your voting decisions based upon how a candidate bowls, looks in a tank, or how much he pays for a haircut." Do the voters themselves agree with Brooks? No, it appears that they do not.

I think it is fair to say that voters want a President who will project American values to the world. Image is part of that, and it is thus an important part of a campaign. But it is just plain insulting to picture working class voters as beer-guzzling yokels who choose a candidate based on such conceits as "Who would I rather have a beer with." Whatever the image a candidate cultivates, there are darn few voters who don't recognize that they will never be invited to have a beer with the President - they know that honor is primarily reserved for elites like, well, David Brooks. McCain's not inviting us to his back yard BBQ's. Bush doesn't have us over to watch football, or even to help him clear brush on his faux ranch. We even know that Clinton's shot and a beer was a photo op, not a reflection of her lifestyle, without your telling us. That is to say, Mr. Brooks, contrary to your elitist beliefs, voters aren't half as stupid as you think they are.

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