Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I didn't want to make the last post any longer than it was, but I wanted to say one more thing about David Brooks: I feel that he and Peggy Noonan have passed each other lately, going in opposite directions.

I used to mock Noonan on a regular basis, and I still do once in a while, but these days it's harder. Something has made her less ridiculous -- I think it was the failure of George W. Bush to be the plainspoken, rough-hewn hero of the romance and biblical epic that constantly play (or at least used to play) in the multiplex of her mind. Bush didn't get bin Laden, he didn't win two-fisted victories in Afghanistan and Iraq for the greater glory of Jesus, Reagan, and America, and then the economy tanked on his watch -- and the Republican Party was taken over by Palin and the teabaggers. If you read Noonan these days, she's not fully with the program -- oh, sure, the deficit and debt are evidence of Man's sinful nature, but the party of Reagan seems as "unserious" to her as the Democrats on fiscal matters. In any event, nothing much these days inspires her to lofty flights of spiritual fancy, so, more and more, she's become a political insider with insider-y observations about pols. Reading her now is a bit like reading David Frum. That's why I rarely write about her.

Brooks, on the other hand, seems to have taken the collapse of the economy as his cue to become an angry prophet -- or as close to an angry prophet as you can be while still trying to write prose you hope will be described as "impish." He looks at the fall of the Dow and sees the Fall of Man. He used to think a lust for granite countertops was mildly ridiculous; now he thinks it called down the wrath of the gods. He thinks of himself as the guy who can lead Man out of the wilderness, both by revealing his readers' inner nature and by chiding them for wanting what he already has.

At first I was sorry that his damn book hit #1 on the bestseller list, but now I wish it had done even better -- now I wish it were so astonishly successful that Oprah, or whoever will be her successor, would turn him into a new spiritual guru for vacuous Americans, a sort of Dr. Phil/Dr. Laura gene-splice, but with an aging-chipmunk affect. With luck it would make him a stinking-rich fixture on the self-help circuit -- and get him the hell off the op-ed pages, to be replaced by someone who actually wants to write about politics, not act out a messiah complex.

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