Friday, February 22, 2013

David Brooks Lies, Repents, Then Says Meh

I like New York Times columnist David Brooks, in the sense that if I sat next to him on a train bound for somewhere I'd probably engage him in reasonable conversation without smacking him up side the head yelling, "What the fuck's the matter with you?!?" Even if that's actually what I'd like to do.

He gets away with a lot because he says stuff that seems so reasonable, or at least he says stuff couched in language that appears genteel. The fact that it's usually utter crap, full of sophist tricks, straw dogs, red herrings, and ridiculous contentions like "most Americans believe...", plus the fact that Brooks is one of the laziest writers I've ever read, makes it hard to take him seriously, both at his lofty perch at the Times and at his regular pundit chair on the PBS NewsHour.

That's why this morning when I read his "DC Dubstep" column and he claimed that Barack Obama hadn't put forward any serious plan to deal with the sequestration -- because it fit into his neat "a pox on both your houses" frame -- I just cursed under my breath, shook my head, and went to read a rational non-liar like WaPo columnist Eugene Robinson, if only as a palette cleanser.

Brooks' offensive paragraphs read:
Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy, the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition for not having as politically popular a concept. Then he returns to Washington and congratulates himself for being the only serious and substantive person in town.
Sequestration allows the White House to do this all over again. The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.

So, a couple hours later, I was offered a cup of schadenfreude when Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine flagged Brook's appended postscript to his column:
Postscript: February 22, 2013
The above column was written in a mood of justified frustration over the fiscal idiocy that is about to envelop the nation. But in at least one respect I let my frustration get the better of me. It is true, as the director of the Congressional Budget Office has testified, that the administration has not proposed a specific anti-sequester proposal that can be scored or passed into law. It is not fair to suggest, as I did, that tax hikes for the rich is the sole content of the president’s approach. The White House has proposed various constructive changes to spending levels and entitlement programs. These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but they do exist, and I should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.
So he lies, repents, and then offers a "yeah, but, meh," ("These changes are not nearly adequate in my view, but...") by which he hopes to skate outta here without explaining why they're not adequate. No thanks, Brooks, nice try. Could have done some homework before the usual tricks instead of being your usual lazy self.

Wait, I've got it. When politicians or pundits lie, the usual gut check by reality-based observers is: stupid or evil? Maybe it should be stupid or evil or lazy. Great. David Brooks has given us more choices! Well, maybe not. We know he's not stupid.

How long can I get away with this? I've been worried about that myself...


  1. Dear Mr. Brooks, there is a difference between a plan, a bill and a proposal. If you choose to define a "plan" as something that has been submitted and scored by the CBO, then you are simply engaging in a type of circular reasoning that will fool only a very small number of people. All the rest will simply think you are unwilling to admit that you are wrong, which is probably what they thought anyway.

  2. Those who want to be fooled or to fool others.

  3. By the way brilliant collumn

    Thank you very much I will definately post a link to this collumn.