The Two-Moon Lunacy of David Brooks

November 22, 2011   ·   0 Comments

Source: NYTX

Puzzle Graph

By Marie Burns:

Today we have David Brooks at his bipartisan, both-sides-do-it, reasonable, fair-minded best. We are not supposed to notice that his entire column in today’s New York Times is One Big Lie. Well, okay, since Brooks sees “Two Moons,” he gives us Two Big Lies, with a few subsidiary lies thrown in to bolster the Big Lies.

Brooks’ column follows his tried-and-true formula. First, he cites works by nonpartisan writers. In this case, he calls on the long-dead political polling pioneer Samuel Lubell and the still-kicking Ron Brownstein of the National Journal to provide theory (Lubell) and data (Brownstein) to “ground” Brooks’ Tall Tales for Today.

Second, as is his habit, Brooks poses an unsupported premise, but one that is thematically related to the earlier-cited reliable data. He hopes the reader will take the leap of faith from fact to fiction without even realizing he’s jumped into Brooksian quicksand. Brooks does not back up his own assertions with facts, because he can’t. They are not true.

Today’s First Big Lie is this: Both Republicans and Democrats have become “weak,” “rigid,” extremist “minority parties” who are – like those effete European parties – “ideologically incoherent.” To make his case, Brooks launches into his subsidiary lies:

Republicans feel oppressed by the cultural establishment.

Really? What “cultural establishment” is that? New York opera-goers? College English professors who make $50,000 a year, have impressive vocabularies and recite obscure Romantic poets? The country music singers who performed at the White House last night? Brooks doesn’t say, and I’ll be damned if there is a “cultural establishment” that is intimidating Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell.

Democrats feel oppressed by the corporate establishment.

I guess that would be Wall Street and other corporations who – thanks to the Supreme Court’s excellent trick of turning corporations into people – secretly pump billions into Republican campaigns and conservatives causes.

The way I read Brooks’ comparison, any “oppressed Republicans” out there are delusional, while Democrats have actual, powerful foes. But Brooks pretends both “concerns” are equal. Both sides do it.

… they [Republicans and Democrats] erect rules and pledges and become hypervigilant about deviationism.

Let’s see. Most Congressional Republicans have signed pledges to a guy named Grover Norquist promising never to raise taxes. Closing loopholes is raising taxes. Letting the temporary Bush tax cuts expire is raising taxes. Many Republicans have signed anti-abortion pledges. GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed a pledge condemning divorce, abortion, homosexuality, Sharia law and pornography. I can’t think of a single pledge Democrats have signed. But Brooks inflicts a pox on both their houses.

They [both parties] are more interested in protecting their special interests than converting outsiders.

This is not true of either party. Both know they have to “convert outsiders” to win elections. That’s why Members of Congress from both parties spend half their time dialing for dollars.

The Democrat and Republican parties used to contain serious internal debates — between moderate and conservative Republicans, between New Democrats and liberals. Neither party does now.

This isn’t true, either. (Note that Brooks has adopted the Republican insult of calling the Democratic party the “Democrat party.”) The rift in the Republican Congressional caucus was on display during the debt ceiling crisis last summer. Speaker John Boehner made a deal with President Obama. His Tea Party members complained the deal broke the Grover Norquist pledge and refused to go along. End of deal. The Congressional Democratic caucus covers a broad band on the ideological spectrum – from the right-wing Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) who voted against the stimulus bill, the Affordable Care Act and Nancy Pelosi — to progressive Barbara Lee (California) who was the only member of either house to vote against the authorization of use of force after September 11. Brooks just makes up stuff.

Then, completely undaunted by the fact he is contradicting his assertion that Democrats are a rigid, one-note ideological party, Brooks writes,

The Democrats talk and look like a conventional liberal party (some liberals, who represent, at most, 30 percent of the country, are disappointed because President Obama hasn’t ushered in a Huffington Post paradise).

So in one sentence Brooks writes that the Democratic party has no internal disagreements and in another he mocks them because they do. Which is it, Mr. Brooks?

Now we get to the second Big Lie — both sides are responsible for the deficit reduction supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement:

Each party is too weak to push its own agenda and too encased by its own cocoon to agree to a hybrid. The supercommittee failed for this reason. Members of the supercommittee actually took some brave steps outside party orthodoxy (Republicans embraced progressive tax increases, Democrats flirted with spending cuts)….

Actually, no. As Jonathan Chait wrote yesterday in New York Magazine:

There is nothing in their behavior over the last twenty years that shows the slightest interest in a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit. Nor is there any recent evidence. Democrats have continued to offer agreements to reduce spending, including on entitlements, in return for higher tax revenue, which they’re willing to accept in the form of lower tax credits as opposed to higher rates. Obama kept trying to sell this to the House Republicans, and supercommittee Democrats kept trying to make the same sale.

And here’s Greg Sargent, writing in the Washington Post:

The Dem offer involved both sides making roughly equivalent concessions; the GOP offer didn’t. The main GOP concession — the additional revenues — would have come in exchange for Dems giving ground on two major fronts: On cuts to entitlements, and on making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Putting aside whether the supercommittee failure matters at all, it’s plainly true that one side was willing to concede far more than the other to make a deal possible. And anyone who pretends otherwise is just part of the problem.

Sargent’s synopsis has detail on the nitty-gritty of the final Republican proposal. In fact, Democrats on the supercommittee made many offers to Republicans, all of them at the expense of Democratic “ideology,” and Republicans, bound by their eerie attraction to roly-poly Grover Norquist, would not budge on revenues unless Democrats agreed to permanent tax cuts.

The Republican proposals would have made the Bush tax cuts permanent, then set tax rates even below Bush-era levels. The lost revenues would have been an insurmountable setback to long-term deficit reduction and would have disproportionately benefited the rich. Bottom line: Republicans are not interested in reducing the deficit. The deficit – which is largely a product of the Bush years – is simply a handy excuse for cutting social safety-net programs. But David Brooks doesn’t tell you that. He either doesn’t know it, or he does know it but he doesn’t want you to know it.

Instead, David Brooks tells you both sides are to blame for the failure of the supercommittee. They are not. One side is to blame: the Republican side. If you think I might be wrong, and Brooks is right, here’s a gang who will back me up. It’s called the New York Times Editorial Board, and here’s what they have to say today:

The only reason the committee failed was because Republicans refused to raise taxes on the rich, and, in fact, wanted to cut them even below their current bargain-basement level. Republicans in Washington claimed Democrats refused to budge on entitlements…. But, had a single Republican on the panel endorsed even a modest increase in upper-income tax rates, Republicans could have won trillions in cuts from entitlements and discretionary spending. (Certainly far beyond anything we would endorse.)

So if you’re still seeing two moons, it’s probably because David Brooks is riding in the back seat of the car in front of you.

Marie Burns blogs at
and until recently was a popular commenter on New York Times op-ed columns. A short time ago, she began boycotting theTimes because of a change in Times policies that stratifies “trusted” and “mistrusted” commenters.


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