Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Awful Truth

Kudos to David Brooks for being honest, even when it is embarrassing. In an interview with the New York Times (cited in this article in The New Republic), he gives this account of one of his first meetings with the president: “'I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,' Brooks says, 'and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.'”

Brooks has fallen victim to sartorial determinism, a famous historical fallacy that holds that the best-dressed men make the best political leaders. Many profound thinkers have fallen to this fallacy in the past: Voltaire, for example, was inspired to write his book "The Age of Louis XIV" based solely on the king's plush robe and tights, and Carl Sandburg wrote his biography of Abraham Lincoln because he was infatuated with stovepipe hats. Most modern political theorists have moved on to more sophisticated forms of analysis, but you have to credit Brooks for owning up to his views, however antiquated.



Brooks also candidly admitted his chauvinism for like-minded intellectuals: “I divide people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us," he reported. I've never had much use for the concept of "the Other," but here Brooks openly acknowledges that people who don't talk like him -- and one would have to think Sarah Palin would fall very distinctly into that category -- are a different class altogether, apparently incomprehensible because they are different. No doubt a lot of other liberal intellectuals feel the same way, which is why Palin got such a harsh response out of all proportion to things she actually said or did. Most of them would not admit it in quite the terms that Brooks did, of course; but then, Brooks has some cover for his intellectual snobbism because he used to be on the other side (and maybe still thinks he is). It's one thing for a dyed-in-the-wool liberal to admit his disdain for non-intellectuals, and quite another for a thoughtful conservative who happens to have become liberal in recent years to do so.

The degree to which Brooks has become one of those knee-jerk liberals, however, is clear from a chart that Obama recently sent him, personally signed by the president with the words “Dear Comrade Brooks.” It's not that striking that the president would refer to Brooks in friendly terms, but that he would use Communist terminology like "comrade" just floors me. No anti-Communist conservative would want to be included among the comrades, but apparently Brooks didn't think anything of it.

1 comment:

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