Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Back to Basics punditry?

Maggie says:
I've spent longer than I care to admit getting routinely riled up by David Brooks. I finally came to the decision that I'd just refuse to read his column past the headline (this is primarily how I treat Maureen Dowd too, by the way). I'd get so annoyed listening to his NPR commentary opposite E.J. Dionne, who makes me smile, that I'd resort to blasts of a CD in between Dionne's observations. But something funny's in the air: either David Brooks has become more tolerable, or I've become more accepting. It's two weeks before the election, so I think we can all agree I'm not becoming nicer to Republicans. What if this election is a unifier in all the ways that 2000 and 2004 were huge dividers?

Disclaimer: I'm blocking out the McCain/Palin socialist/terrorist/scary-unamerican-who's-not-white rallies as I speculate, so you know... Let's stick with overpaid white men who speculate for a living, okay?

On "All Things Considered," which I can now listen to in full, Brooks has been conceding more to Dionne than ever. His talking points actually interest me. He confesses doubt. Doubt, this hateful condition that his party has spent years standing firm against, pounding their chests and spouting confidence at all costs. On air, Brooks has admitted that McCain's ads take political lying to a new level, that Palin was a terrifyingly inept choice for VP, and that McCain himself - a man Brooks has long admired in print - is simply not the same person as a presidential candidate that he was as a senator.

Brooks' disillusionment with the party he once so staunchly defended has never been more evident than after the first fiscal package vote: "It has been interesting to watch [House Republicans] on their single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too, they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party, oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds." See, he's palatable again.

Reading Brooks is now possible for me because he seems to be mourning what might have been an honest ideological exchange, a candid discussion of what the U.S.'s role in the world should have been, and what it could be next. He seems to realize all that has been lost in his corner of the world, and now he's calmly waiting for what's next, but doing so more fully than he seems to have done in the past. Brooks predicts an Obama win, and admits that he could be a great at his job. But he also predicts that Dems will overreach in their success and they'll be a political backlash. I can live with that kind of prediction because it's fair, and am happy to take part in that debate. The McCain/Palin rally predictions and debates are not ones I care to engage in. Brooks isn't scared of Republican defeat and what will happen next; in between his lines, I sometimes think he believes defeat will be good for them. Even he is laughing at the Rs now: "They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter Mondale liberalism. They seem not to have noticed how global capital flows have transformed our political economy."

A more reasonable and fair David Brooks means that I'm able to sample, to understand his position and take what I will through that lens. I can sift the gold from the dirt and appreciate, as I did today, this gem of a lede. So here's me, being kinder than before, appreciating how good a writer David Brooks can be. Enjoy.

Patio Man Revisited

Patio Man is surprised at how much the bankruptcy of Sharper Image has upset him. In the vast expanse of teenage clothing stores at the mall, Sharper Image at least offered him a moment of interest and delight. The store allowed him to indulge his curiosity in noise-canceling headphones, indoor putting greens and overly expensive toy cars. Now it seems that might all come to an end, and he will have to adjust to life without. He is adjusting to a lot of changes these days.

Brooks ends with this... when I read it I wondered if he's not speaking for himself here, too.

Democrats have done well in suburbia recently because they have run the kind of candidates who seem like the safer choice — socially moderate, pragmatic and fiscally hawkish. They, or any party, will run astray if they threaten the mood of chastened sobriety that has swept over the subdivisions.

Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk or more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past. This is a back-to-basics moment, a return to safety and the fundamentals.