Shorter David Brooks on Followership

by Henry Farrell on June 12, 2012

(original here).

Update: Even if Brooks doesn’t, you know, deign to mention it, his column is obviously a response to Chris Hayes’ _Twilight of the Elites_, a book which I can’t pretend to be objective about for various reasons, but which I can enthusiastically and unobjectively encourage you to buy and read (Powells, Amazon).



Barry Freed 06.12.12 at 7:32 pm


Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority.

Again, WTF? I don’t think I’ve seen a “Question Authority” bumper sticker or button in decades. Brooks is either having an acid flashback or just got up on the wrong side of 1969, man.


Matt 06.12.12 at 7:33 pm

There’s no way I’m going to read the Brooks piece, but did this movie make Loki out to be someone who wants to rule people (including, or especially, humans)? That doesn’t seem like Loki, not even in the better comic book versions of him.


Steve LaBonne 06.12.12 at 7:39 pm

The only appropriate response to any of Bobo’s drivel is the universal New Yorker cartoon caption: Christ, what an asshole.


FredR 06.12.12 at 8:09 pm

E. Digby Baltzell wrote an interesting book a while ago called “Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia” about how a decline in class authority produces a less public-spirited and greedier elite.


Data Tutashkhia 06.12.12 at 8:12 pm

Well, someone has to say it: they should get themselves a whole new, better people.


Steve LaBonne 06.12.12 at 8:17 pm

For Data:

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?


Data Tutashkhia 06.12.12 at 8:22 pm

Oh, I know. I didn’t think of it myself.


Steve LaBonne 06.12.12 at 8:24 pm

Oh, I figured you knew the poem; it just seemed to be called for in this thread.


phosphorious 06.12.12 at 9:01 pm

Conservatives are a stupid bunch, but the one thing they know, by God, is their place.

And everyone else’s.


teething ring 06.12.12 at 9:01 pm

Have any Leninists piped up today to defend the Brooks column? Or maybe Bob Avakian?


Bill Benzon 06.12.12 at 9:21 pm

Maybe he just forgot the lifts in his shoes and wrote the column as compensation.


JP Stormcrow 06.12.12 at 9:32 pm

David Brooks artistically demonstrating the nature of his own personal followership issue.


Salient 06.12.12 at 10:19 pm

If you go to the Lincoln or Jefferson memorials in Washington, you are invited to look up in admiration.

This is also true of every piece of visual/physical art ever, unless it’s short and you put it near the floor.

Lincoln and Jefferson are presented as the embodiments of just authority.

They’re presented as patriarchal Greek gods in a pantheon or temple. Maybe it’s just that David Brooks likes pillars.

But also, DB, can you read? One thing that makes Lincoln’s second inaugural speech historically notable for me is its brief flirtation with the idea that humans cannot knowingly act with divine authority, and cannot claim their purpose aligns with that of the gods — that neither the Union nor the Confederacy could claim to embody just authority for themselves, even if the conflict itself was God’s will.

And the consideration of God’s involvement is pretty subtle stuff, for such a short speech from a President. The acknowledgement that slavery was the cause of the war is pretty straightforward. But then Lincoln meditatively quotes from Matthew 18– “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.”

Lincoln only spoke the first sentence, but presumably the rest of the passage was atypically well-known to listeners at the time–that second sentence (18:8) is as close as the Bible comes to advocating that the Union not only allow the Confederacy to establish itself, but also encourage its departure. Lincoln knew this. It was a passage that had been directly quoted in that context. Citing it explicitly lends some credence and sincerity to his consideration that a war could be part of God’s plan without either side representing God’s will.

Just as important is the other bit Lincoln’s quote evokes, 18:12– “If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” That’s later in the same chapter of Matthew, a quote that had been used to defend the cause of the Union. Referencing this passage, while questioning the chief context it which its sentences were being used rhetorically, is really quite powerful. It’s certainly a noteworthy counterpart to the blithe “firm reliance on the protection of divine providence” in the Declaration of Independence, posted in Jefferson’s memorial.

Speaking of which, the presentation of Jefferson’s writing in his memorial is one hell of a mess. It includes stuff he didn’t write, some stuff painfully out of context, rephrasings and paraphrasings presented as if they quotations, etc.

Anyway, DB, what the fuck were you talking about? Oh yeah, just authority.

The monuments that get built these days are mostly duds.

The monuments that get built these days (in the US anyway) are mostly walls adorned with a meaningful number of identical symbols, IIRC. As opposed to, say, the glorious Washington monument, emblem of priapism? Maybe it’s just that David Brooks likes ‘pillars.’

That’s because they say nothing about just authority.

DB, I suspect you like monuments honoring Some Awesome Dude much more than monuments honoring a whole lot of people.

The World War II memorial is a nullity.

Pffdfdfddfdt HOLY SHIT HE SAID THAT. Shoots the “likes pillars” part of my theory in the foot, though. Wikipedia tells me the WW2 memorial has 56 pillars.

It tells you nothing about the war or why American power was mobilized to fight it.

That’s… a perfectly valid and reasonable criticism.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial brutally simplifies its subject’s nuanced and biblical understanding of power.

That… is also true, though I don’t know what you mean by “brutally” there. I think you picked that adjective just because you can’t stand the sculpture of Dr. King sort of emerging from a giant mass of rock… and you know what? I sympathize completely. IMO the architect/designers managed to turn a genuinely moving line into a cheesy self-parody. Having the status of Dr. King be the stone is what puts it over the top, it makes it look like he’s self-aggrandizing: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope… ME!

Also, the statue’s facial expression makes it look like he’s impatiently waiting for someone.

It gives him an imperious and self-enclosed character completely out of keeping with his complex nature.

I’m not sure where you’re getting “imperious” from, but sure. It is ironic, and maybe wince-worthy, that Dr. King’s likeness is emphatically presented as isolated, in the midst of a bunch of quotations about how to pursue and achieve unity and why unity should be our aspiration.

As Michael J. Lewis of Williams College has noted, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial transforms a jaunty cavalier into a “differently abled and rather prim nonsmoker.”

Zombie. You mean zombie, DB. It’s undeniable.

Instead of a crafty wielder of supreme power, Roosevelt is a kindly grandpa you would want to put your arm around for a vacation photo.

Kindly? Want to put your arm around? When the Zombie apocalypse comes you’re doomed, dude.

Even the more successful recent monuments evade the thorny subjects of strength and power. The Vietnam memorial is about tragedy. The Korean memorial is about vulnerability.

They don’t entirely evade the thorny subjects of misplaced strength and abuse of power.

Why can’t today’s memorial designers think straight about just authority?

Because our country has a pretty solid fifty-year record of exerting authority unjustly.

Or: Because memorials honor death, and there’s only two situations in which death is honored and commemorated–the passing of a living legend, and the unjust death of a population. You like the first kind because it’s positive and uplifting and motivates action, and dislike the second kind because it’s negative and somber and motivates reflection.

We live in a culture that finds it easier to assign moral status to victims of power than to those who wield power.

We also live in a nation that has a solid fifty-year track record of wielding power stupidly, boisterously, and unproductively.

Most of the stories we tell ourselves are about victims who have endured oppression, racism and cruelty.

The “stories we tell ourselves” phrasing is a bit bothersome, but ok. There has been a considerable upswing in the number of stories of the relatively powerless in our histories.

Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect.

Further confirmation of my suspicion that anyone who uses “fervent” in a sentence is in the process of being a dick about something.

It’s hard in this frame of mind to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves.

…not really. I’ve never encountered any hardship when defining and celebrating great actors, musicians, football players, etc. Of course, those others are measurably superior to me–they can act, sing, intercept passes, etc. You sank your own point with the use of the word “immeasurably” here, because it equivocates well-considered acknowledging praise with unthinking blind worship.

But the main problem is our inability to think properly about how power should be used to bind and build.

You’re telling me. That’s, like, the nutshell history of the past decade at least.

Legitimate power is built on a series of paradoxes: that leaders have to wield power while knowing they are corrupted by it;

I’ve never understood the use of ‘corrupt’ in this kind of statement. It seems to signify something like ‘make painful and regrettable and compromising choices’ in this context, but that’s a concept independent of corruption.

that great leaders are superior to their followers while also being of them;

Great leaders are necessarily great social tacticians and necessarily act in the interests of the powerless. Means, ends. This isn’t really a paradoxical concept, once you drop the stupid phrasing.

that the higher they rise, the more they feel like instruments in larger designs.

Well, yes.

The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are about how to navigate those paradoxes.

These days many Americans seem incapable of thinking about these paradoxes.

Where are you witnessing this incapacity in action? The salad bar at Applebee’s?

I remain unconvinced that “many Americans” were capable of thinking about these problems at any point in history. (Not to mention, most Americans are not memorial designers.) As a side note, I will be adding “seem(s) incapable” to my list of things that people only say if they’re being obtuse.

Those “Question Authority” bumper stickers no longer symbolize an attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority. They symbolize an attitude of opposing authority.

…no longer? It’s hilariously preposterous to think anyone bought that bumper sticker to symbolize their attempt to distinguish just and unjust authority, in any meaningful way.

The old adversary culture of the intellectuals has turned into a mass adversarial cynicism.

I have no idea what the fuck you’re attempting to say. Did you get this word salad from the salad bar at Applebee’s?

The common assumption is that elites are always hiding something. Public servants are in it for themselves.

Hey, dude, props. I never would have expected you to criticize the notion that public sector workers are in it for themselves. Props. As for elites hiding something, I’m pretty sure that sentiment has been around (and has proven well-justified) since before the days of feudalism.

Those people at the top are nowhere near as smart or as wonderful as pure and all-knowing Me.

…uh. You’re basically mocking humans for being human.

You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether.

Uh, no we don’t. We have a pretty strong democratic structure here in Occupy [City Redacted]. There are people who are responsible for coordinating events and interacting with media.

They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts.

This is just factually false.

Maybe before we can build great monuments to leaders we have to relearn the art of following.

Okay, your stupid language is clouding an otherwise coherent point again. In the past half-century we’ve barely emerged from a time when the substantial majority of Americans couldn’t even hope for a flourishing independent life. Concurrent with this, our country has behaved abominably in its self-assumed role of world military superpower, pretty consistently. It’s only natural for folks to reflect on the disasters our older relatives have suffered, and on the disasters we have inflicted on others.

But there are figures from our past that are worthy of our admiration, and it’s right to honor their accomplishments, celebrate their life, acknowledge their hardship, and take wisdom and inspiration from what they left to us (this is what you mean, or at least what you should mean, by the word ‘following.’)

This is not a bad idea. I would really love for there to be an Emma Goldman memorial. Honoring someone formally really does raise public awareness of their life’s work.

Democratic followership is also built on a series of paradoxes: that we are all created equal but that we also elevate those who are extraordinary;

There’s no paradox there. Elevating a person to e.g. circuit court judge because they have exceptional legal understanding, is entirely compatible with the observation that every newborn baby is equally unqualified to practice law.

that we choose our leaders but also have to defer to them and trust their discretion;

Literally “defer to them” means “obey the laws they enact,” which we mostly do — even the Tea Party hardcore filed their tax paperwork on time.

that we’re proud individuals but only really thrive as a group, organized and led by just authority.

Again, stupid language; “we’re proud individuals but only really thrive as a justly organized group” is perfectly reasonable (banal, but reasonable).

The rest of the article goes downhill fast. At least there’s a halfway-decent kernel of a thought deep within the massive pile of muck.


parsimon 06.12.12 at 10:33 pm

Salient, I’m surprised you skipped past “disbursed” in this:

The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semianarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.

Maybe you were being polite.


Bill Benzon 06.12.12 at 10:41 pm

“…the art of following.”

I can see it in the self-help section, The Art of Following, by David Brooks the Shorter.


Gene O'Grady 06.12.12 at 11:44 pm

I refuse to read David Brooks on principal, but going by the extensive comments and quotes above let me offer the following: The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, both of which I have loved since my mother first me to see them in 1965 while showing me where she had worked during the war, have very little in common. They are chronologically quite far apart, the style of architecture is very different, the cultural context of memorialization has changed utterly between them. They relate to their surroundings and use light in totally different ways. Brooks flattens the past, eliding the huge changes between 1910 and 1940 in a simple minded attempt to insult his contemporaries and validate his snobbishness.

Perhaps the single most important difference between the memorials is that the Jefferson Memorial commemorates a historical figure who was used by the culture in ways he might not have recognized, whereas the Lincoln Memorial dates from a time when millions of people were still around who remembered him (through a veil of legend, of course) and had shared his struggles. The Civil War (now mostly known through Southern sentimentalization) was a real cultural presence in the early years of my mother’s life in a very small Illinois town — apparently there was a street corner where a CW veteran lived on each corner, and it was still possible to see amputees.

The one thing the memorials had in common as last I knew was that neither was being kept up very well.

Funny line from my old teacher the British Homerist Mark Edwards on why he was going to the Jefferson Memorial when the gang was in Washington for an APA convention — “I don’t like round temples.”


Patrick 06.12.12 at 11:48 pm

Martin Luther King Jr. as part of an argument for learning to respect and follow authority? WTF?

Christ, what an asshole.


Emma in Sydney 06.13.12 at 12:07 am

As always, Charles Pierce is on it.


AWS 06.13.12 at 12:18 am

If I didn’t know better, I would think David Brooks was just a very faux erudite troll hired by the Times editorial page to stir up the blogosphere.


Adrian Kelleher 06.13.12 at 12:24 am

It’s like those bets journalists sometimes make with each other where they’re challenged to work the phrase “rectal discomfort” into an article on constitutional law or “extreme unction” into one on industrial lubricants.


David 06.13.12 at 12:26 am

I have a grudging admiration for anyone who can even bother to read a David Brooks column, much less comment on it.


JanieM 06.13.12 at 12:55 am

Emma in Sydney — thanks for the Charles Pierce link. I laughed til it hurt.


david 06.13.12 at 1:04 am

There’s no way that Brooks didn’t write that on a dare. It’s just too stupid. Maybe dare/troll combo.

@3 My own universal new yorker caption is ” what, you thought a black person would be in this?”. Works a lot more than you’d hope.


P O'Neill 06.13.12 at 1:41 am

Bobo saw that Question Authority bumper sticker at the Chambersburg Pa. Red Lobster.


Jim Henley 06.13.12 at 1:44 am

It’s clear that Brooks’s reaction to reading Auden’s “Epitaph on a Tyrant” for the first time was to exclaim, “Now there was a man!”


Yarrow 06.13.12 at 3:02 am

Salient @ 13: I would really love for there to be an Emma Goldman memorial.

Would a Bookstore Coffeehouse do for now?


John Quiggin 06.13.12 at 3:39 am

I’ve been there! Good coffee and good books.


Dr. Hilarius 06.13.12 at 4:07 am

Every now and again I’ll read David Brooks and immediately feel like an idiot for expecting anything other than David Brooks. He’s an intellectual magpie, picking up whatever is bright and shiny and mashing it all together to produce bright, shiny, incoherency.

If there’s a common theme in his writing it is how all of us little people need to be kinder to our betters.

And Question Authority is a watered-down version of its predecssor, Fuck Authority.


Salient 06.13.12 at 5:05 am

TY to Emma for sharing Charles Pierce’s response (way more fun than my own). It only got one thing sort of wrong; the game Why David Brooks Should Be Kept Away from Adjectives should be Why David Brooks Should Be Kept Away from Adjectives and Nouns, Dear God, Especially the Nouns. Especially the noun “paradox.”

Maybe you were being polite.

I was operating under the assumption that what the world really needs is not a shorter David Brooks, so much as a David Brooks that doesn’t suck at saying things. Some of his sentences were beyond repair.

Would a Bookstore Coffeehouse do for now?

Omigod yes it will. Though cooperative initiatives and monuments/memorials have very different functions, and I’m intrigued by the bit of genuine insight that I think Brooks managed to stumble upon–memorial monuments for a specific individual and memorial monuments for people, have distinct social roles to play, and they’re almost negatives of each other (one celebrates wise and good use of the opportunity to speak or act with some clout or authoritative status, the other mourns the consequences of an unwise abuse of authority — ‘just [use of] authority’ and ‘unjust [abuse of] authority’ is actually not a terrible way to mark the distinction).

Anyway, I discovered Emma’s gravestone happens to kind of be an impromptu memorial, thanks in part to some graffiti artist comrades, and I put more trust in them than in the kind of monument designers that managed to boggle Jefferson’s memorial, a.k.a. the easiest “find some apt quotes” assignment ever. And a thriving living cooperative in Emma’s memory really is far cooler and more inspiring and impressive than a monument, especially a cooperative as intensely active and involved as Red Emma’s apparently is. Weirdly enough I was already familiar with, and fond of, Baltimore’s “free school” project, without having any idea that it was launched by a bookstore honoring Emma Goldman. I’ve been meaning to visit BFS anyway; they have a lot to teach Occupy folks. Now I know where to stop for coffee! And maybe where to buy Twilight of the Elites, though the synopsis blurb scans as unpromising nonsense mishmash. (I’ll be going on your enthusiastic and unobjective recommendation alone here, Henry. Well, that recommendation plus the Hayes quote “Meritocracy contains within it seeds of its own destruction,” which seems vaguely accurate in spirit but choked and cloaked by inapt metaphor — a bit like the Brooks article!)


Jim Harrison 06.13.12 at 5:07 am

I’d really like to know if Brooks understands how he is regarded outside of his own circle. I assume he thinks he’s hated by liberals and other lefties. I wouldn’t expect him to get the difference between being hated and being regarded with derision, which is not the same thing at all.


Salient 06.13.12 at 5:19 am

I wouldn’t expect him to get the difference between being hated and being regarded with derision, which is not the same thing at all.

Thankfully, we have ample proof it’s possible to get this difference across to people, as well as their supporters and fans. We lefties sort of took down something like ten absurd American Presidential candidates this primary season by soundly laughing them off the stage, from which success we can infer that getting through to people and convincing them their icon is more laugh–inducing than anger–inducing requires one specific phenomenal catalyst: tumblr memes. Maybe what the world really needs is an attended–to, or whatever derisive term you prefer. Keep it going strong and he’d suspend his campaign resign his post within six months, tops.


Emma in Sydney 06.13.12 at 6:23 am

I reckon you could base that tumblr on the tribulations of Moral Hazard, as chronicled by Charles Pierce. It’s an ongoing series, btw. There must be hundreds of pics of mournful red setters out there…


AWS 06.13.12 at 8:51 am

@31 – Sadly, punditry has no mechanism whereby a pundit can be laughed off the stage. Tom Friedman’s world is still flat, and Brooks’ cruising the Applebee’s salad bar has led to … another psychobabbling book! Megan McArdle moves from the Atlantic to Newsweek/Daily Beast, Bill Kristol is still wrong about everything and comfortably telling the world so, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

High-end village punditry means never having to suffer electoral defeat.


Steve LaBonne 06.13.12 at 12:45 pm

I must disagree with Pierce that the WWII memorial looks like an Augustan marble corral. I think it looks like a soccer stadium designed by Mussolini.


Dave Maier 06.13.12 at 3:22 pm

Bobo is miffed at his snub in the Wanker competition and is gunning for the top spot next time. However, I continue to be bullish on Douthat, given that his last one (another in a continuing series about how liberals = eugenics = abortion = evil) is a paragon of wank.


Patrick 06.13.12 at 5:08 pm

If you would like to see a proper memorial for Emma Goldman, look no further than this:


Harold 06.13.12 at 11:57 pm

Journalists, at least, have not lost the arts of fawning and following!


kdog 06.14.12 at 12:14 am

Thanks to Emma/CPierce and Salient for their work here.

I must say, I wonder whether Bobo was always this bad (and I quasi-fell for his bit for a few years) or if he’s gotten worse. I swear every time I hear his name I cringe. His thinking/argumentation is so poor it’s like some sort of performance art.

Re Dave Maier @35: I too thought he’d merit some wank-ognition, but it seemed to me that the big wank honors went to those who affected the international realm and not just the domestic.


kdog 06.14.12 at 12:30 am

Salient is onto some sort of “seed of truth” factor here in Brooks’s discussion of monuments. That seems so typical of his work. It’s like he heard a bunch of stuff and some of it was actually relevant/true (but much of it totally bonkers), and then he mashed it up and smeared it onto his pre-conceived framework of a column/narrative.


parsimon 06.14.12 at 1:21 am

I wonder whether Bobo was always this bad (and I quasi-fell for his bit for a few years) or if he’s gotten worse.

A friend of mine has come to insist that Brooks’s columns are, half the time, ghost-written by protegees/research assistants who’ve been simply studying his past work and taking their best shot at a Brooks-sounding column. My friend argues that there’s an entirely different tone across columns; I don’t read Brooks often enough to judge, but the occasional one I do read does seem closer to gobbledygook than he used to be.


kdog 06.14.12 at 4:16 am

The OP cites Hayes’s book, which I haven’t read, as a reference point. But I recalled this piece by Mark Lilla (mostly about the rise of the Tea Party) as one of the seeds of truth that the author of Brooks’s article seems to have chewed up and puked back in a convoluted form.

Or could it be that his thinking was closer to this?,7052/


Harold 06.14.12 at 1:22 pm

38 I am almost certain that his is a kind of performance art, signaling (or self-trolling if you will). He is a follower of Leo Strauss, if I am not mistaken.

The problem is this: if people cannot be relied to say what they mean, how can anyone trust them?

This is why in the end, honesty is the best policy, whatever the so-called “realist” followers of Strauss and vulgar Machiavellianism might argue when rationalizing their own criminal behavior.


John Kozak 06.14.12 at 6:47 pm

this (found via MetaFilter) captures the spirit of things nicely.


John Kozak 06.14.12 at 6:48 pm


Eli Rabett 06.14.12 at 7:49 pm

How has everyone missed the the Aristocrats?


Earwig 06.14.12 at 9:38 pm

Not everyone, Eli. Thanks for beating me to the punch.

Mr. Jon Schwarz’s take is the perfect one, shading even Salient and Pierce’s stellar work.


Shay Begorrah 06.15.12 at 12:37 pm

The Krugmanator fits in a decidedly uncollegial sucker punch to the BoBo gut today.

From ‘Historical Echoes

But remember, the big problem is that the public isn’t showing enough deference to the elite.

It must be pretty annoying sharing column space with Brooks.


Harold 06.15.12 at 3:23 pm
Excerpt: In his last remarks about Watergate as a senator, 77-year-old Sam Ervin, a revered constitutionalist respected by both parties, posed a final question: “Why was Watergate?” The president and his aides, Ervin answered, had “a lust for political power.” That lust, he explained, “blinded them to ethical considerations and legal requirements; to Aristotle’s aphorism that the good of man must be the end of politics.”
Nixon had lost his moral authority as president. His secret tapes — and what they reveal — will probably be his most lasting legacy. On them, he is heard talking almost endlessly about what would be good for him, his place in history and, above all, his grudges, animosities and schemes for revenge. The dog that never seems to bark is any discussion of what is good and necessary for the well-being of the nation.

The Watergate that we wrote about in The Washington Post from 1972 to 1974 is not Watergate as we know it today. It was only a glimpse into something far worse. By the time he was forced to resign, Nixon had turned his White House, to a remarkable extent, into a criminal enterprise. On the day he left, Aug. 9, 1974, Nixon gave an emotional farewell speech in the East Room to his staff, his friends and his Cabinet. His family stood with him. Near the end of his remarks, he waved his arm, as if to highlight the most important thing he had to say. “Always remember,” he said, “others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
His hatred had brought about his downfall. Nixon apparently grasped this insight, but it was too late. He had already destroyed himself. –“Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought”, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Washington Post, June 8, 2012.

* Not long after, 138 top Reagan officials, including his close friend, the attorney general, were indicted or convicted or were subject of official investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations.

[I can still remember when it was thought very shocking that President Eisenhower, considered by most people a gentleman, and looked up to by his opponents, lied to the public about the U-2 spy plane. Now we boast of such things.]


kdog 06.15.12 at 7:12 pm

BTW, thanks again Emma in Sydney, for alerting me to Pierce’s recurring Bobo commentary. There’s apparently a whole cottage industry of pretty talented people taking the time to rip every Bobo column to shreds. I wonder if this could be a good thing for Brooks (more atttention, more web hits) on a sustained basis, or if it eventually *has* to reach a breaking point. (Is there anyone saying nice things about him?)

Dean Baker’s take-down today is pretty thorough.


Salient 06.15.12 at 10:17 pm

Mr. Jon Schwarz’s take is the perfect one, shading even Salient and Pierce’s stellar work.

Jon Schwarz’s take is nothing short of transcendent. It’s not even about Brooks’ column, or even Brooks himself. It’s the whole lost decade. It’s the immaculate summary of the beginning of the 21st century that you’ll find in any American history book worthy of being called socially just.

But he got the morbid punchline wrong, I think the last part should be:

…we open up the national bank vault and shovel out money as fast as possible to all the criminals who made it happen in the first place. Then—as the amazing finale—we refuse to prosecute anyone for that, for the war, or for torture, and we start killing U.S. citizens with flying death robots.

[PAUSE, with BROOKS panting for air.]

AGENT: …That’s a hell of a bit.

BROOKS: Hang on a sec. That’s only the first act.

AGENT (incredulous): How many acts are there?

BROOKS: …I don’t know. I guess it depends.

AGENT: Depends on what?

BROOKS: Your patience, mostly. I’ll be given enough material to go all day, probably. How much time do you have?


AGENT: Hold on a sec. You’ve been given this material? Whose bit is this, anyway?

BROOKS: The aristocrats’.

[A long pause. As AGENT looks up at the clock, close curtain.]


gocart mozart 06.17.12 at 9:51 pm

For a good takedown of the babbling Brooks, I think Driftglass wins. Also links to several other good fiskings.

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