David Brooks: Courtier or Bonehead?
He’s back, he’s met with Bush, and he’s shaking his head in grudging, or rather servile, admiration.
(Bush) feels no need to compromise to head off opposition from Capitol Hill and is confident that he can rebuild popular support. “I have the tools,” he said.
Does he ever. And Tool Number One is Our Mister Brooks, back on the “case” of interviewing the Preznit and responding to that privilege with all the disingenuous, intellectually dishonest reportage of which he is capable.
Here’s David Brooks in the NY Times of Tuesday, July 17, about you-know-who:
I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency.
Now, back here, on planet Reality, we wouldn’t say that. We would, rather, express it thus: “His sheer indifference to the truth, his smirky frat-boy need to ‘show’ those who doubt or disagree with him, his hermetically-sealed insulation from the actual world, is the most remarkable feature of his presidency, not counting his provincial ignorance, his manifest hypocrisy in matters foreign and domestic, and a flaunted religiosity that exists in name only.”
But this is, as we’ve already noted, Our Mister Brooks. When he visits with W, you can be sure that considered respect and hard-won approval are on the menu. Read silently to yourself as I type it out loud:
But Bush is not blind to the realities in Iraq. After all, he lives through the events we’re not supposed to report on: the trips to Walter Reed, the hours and hours spent weeping with or being rebuffed by the families of the dead.
“We’re not supposed to report on”? What can this poss. mean? The White House would really rather we didn’t discommode it, and therefore we don’t?
And–wait. “Weeping”? Color me skeptical, but I’m skeptical. I don’t think Bush “weeps.” But I guess we’ll never know if he does or not, since “we”–the press, one presumes–are not “supposed” to report on it.
Let us, rather, examine Bush’s “self-confidence.” One doesn’t doubt it exists. But one also doesn’t doubt that it is, from all outward appearances, comparable in vigor and robustness to the self-confidence of, say, Hannibal Lecter, as portrayed by the incomparable Sir Anthony Hopkins. Of course, Lecter is…how to put it…a psychopath. Yet even in chains, in a strait jacket and wearing that weird hockey mask, his “self-confidence” is manifest.
…his self-confidence flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday, “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”
Can anything, given the context (White House; president; quagmire) be stupider than this? “If I clap for Tinker Bell, I’m fully confident she will come back to life.” And is there a more patently grad-seminar-bullshit phrase than “it’s more a theological perspective”?
We are dealing, here, with a lifelong liar, who for all that life has been hostile to intellectualism, ideas, the life of the mind, scholarship, and whatever degree of selflessness actual scholars (and scientists) display when they do their fucking work. Instead, we face a man operatically defensive (with cause) about his own myriad shortcomings. Brooks, of course, like the courtier he is, reports this with a straight face, reserving for dinner parties the right to, perhaps, take slight issue with it, while serving it up unvarnished and as-is to us, his shmuck readers.
Second, Bush remains energized by the power of the presidency…Bush loves leadership. He’s convinced leaders have the power to change societies.
…When Bush is asked about military strategy, he talks about the leadership qualities of his top generals. Before it was Generals Abizaid and Casey. Now, it’s generals Petraeus and Odierno.
When Bush talks about world affairs more generally, he talks about national leaders. When he is asked to analyze Iraq, he talks about Maliki. With Russia, it’s Putin. With Europe, it’s Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown, and the rest.
Of course it is.
Read the above, and it starts to feel familiar: this is the tone of a second-grade teacher issuing report-card comments on a middling student who–while “struggling” with the arithmetic and “not contributing as much as he might,” has “real potential” and, of course, “is a pleasure to have in the class.”
Yes, here’s Brooks putting a nice positive spin on an assessment of the man at the head of the government of the only superpower in the world. Bush is “confident in his ability to read other leaders.”
Who isn’t? Plus, talking about celebrities beats having to actually know something, don’t it? But which of us, having actually had to achieve something vis a vis others, to live with our mistakes and learn from our experience, can dare (or afford) to be so solipsistic?
And he is confident that in reading the individual character of leaders, he is reading the tablet that really matters. History is driven by the club of those in power.
Bush has to think this, or pretend to think it, or convince himself that he thinks it, because all he has and is is his position as leader–which, of course, he obtained through judicial intervention and fraud (in 2000) and through fear-mongering and lies in 2004 (abetted by John Kerry’s vanity and aloofness).
Bush, who is less credible when he claims to have read a book than a ten-year-old, who had before his election seen “Europe” less than thousands of hippie Eurail-Pass vagabonds exactly his age and with a millionth of his resources, has to “believe” (the only important verb in his vocabulary–talk about solipsism) that “leaders” create history, because history itself is just too darn hard. And verbose. And inta-llectual. Better–easier, anyway–to read Putin’s eyes, than The History of the Russian Revolution.
Many will doubt this, but Bush is a smart and compelling presence in person…
I actually don’t doubt this. But “smart” is surely not the right word. “Shrewd,” or “quick,” yes. But you cannot be smart without knowing things, and you cannot know things if, like Bush, you are ruled by insecurity, spite, repressed Oedipal anger, and the comfy knowledge that, whatever happens, Mom will intervene to coax Dad to pay the bill.
Brooks then plays his trump card of dishonesty. Bush’s view, he says, is persuasive, “and only the whispering voice of Tolstoy holds one back.”
Damn that Tolstoy. I hate when that happens.
Tolstoy, you see, “believed great leaders were puffed-up popinjays,” and that “societies move and breathe on their own, through the jostling of mentalities and habits.” He held that “political leaders can only play a tiny role in transforming a people, especially when the integral fabric of society has dissolved.”
We conclude: “If Bush’s theory of history is correct, the right security plan can lead to safety…But if Tolstoy is right, then the future of Iraq is beyond the reach of global summits, political benchmarks, and the understanding of any chief executive.”
There you have it. Bush or Tolstoy.
This, surely, is crap. The mystery is whether Brooks believes this swill, or is so essentially rotten in his New York Times columnist soul, so committed to keeping his “nice conservative” beat that he just can’t be bothered to examine the sheer boneheadedness of this formulation.
He takes at face value the “theory of history” of the most insular, provincial (more than Reagan, yes) president of our time, a man ruled by political calculation and whose every word and deed has been dedicated to maximizing power at the expense of–well, you name it. The troops. The rule of law. The nation’s reputation. Civil liberties. The separation of church and state. Respect for science and truth. Competence in government. Morality, the budget, the legitimacy of Congress itself, etc., etc.
Then Brooks sets against it, by fiat, its polar opposite. If not Bush, then Tolstoy. If not gazing into Putin’s baby blues, then “the integral fabric of society has dissolved.” If a President can’t move mountains, then he can’t do anything.
Surely the truth is somewhere in between. Surely we have other options than Bush and Tolstoy. Surely–oh, never mind.
Shame on you, New York Times, for running–over and over and over–the worthless pensees of this nitwit.