Tuesday, July 17, 2012


David Brooks, as all right-thinking people know, is the "nice" conservative -- willing to concede the occasional point to liberals, non-threatening enough to appear in The New York Times and on NPR. These same right-thinking people believe that Rush Limbaugh is a nasty, snarling extremist zealot and a menace to society (or perhaps they believe he merely plays a nasty extremist on the radio).

So quick question: Which one, in the past 24 hours, said that President Obama "is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American dream," and which one said Obama is "attack[ing] modern capitalism as it now exists" and "challeng[ing] the entire logic of capitalism as it has existed over several decades," "part of a comprehensive attack on the economic system"?

Can't tell? Well, Limbaugh said the former and Brooks wrote the latter.

Does it matter, ultimately, that Brooks says Obama has not previously been a critic of global capitalism and has hobnobbed with some of its elitists, while Limbaugh reverts to conspiracy theories about leftist indoctrination in Obama's youth ("His father was a communist. His mother was a leftist")? Does it matter that Brooks thinks this is mostly just campaign rhetoric, while Limbaugh thinks it derives from core leftist convictions on Obama's part? I don't think so. Both Brooks and Limbaugh arrive at the same McCarthyite point: Obama is mounting a dangerous attack on our foundations.

And Brooks is, if anything, even more Randian than Limbaugh in defense of Romney-style capitalism. The utter contempt for the casualties of Bainism is palpable:
Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism.... He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues.

... It has been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sclerotic and try to make them efficient and dynamic. It has been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer: take people who are puffy and self-indulgent and whip them into shape.

That's his selling point: rigor and productivity. If he can build a capitalist vision around that, he'll thrive.
Of course, as Anthony Luzzatto Gardner wrote yesterday for Bloomberg, that wasn't his selling point:
What's clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm's partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.
But just savor what Brooks is celebrating here: "rigor and productivity" that "whip[s] into shape" "people who are puffy and self-indulgent." Brooks isn't even making the valid argument that changing market conditions can make formerly profitable companies less able to thrive -- he's telling us that every loss of profitability is a moral failing. Bain bought your company and bled it dry? You deserved it, you slothful bastard!

That's the "vision" Romney is supposed to sell to the voters: a wingtip in the face forever. We've long known that it's Limbaugh's vision; some of us, however, might have had our doubts about whether Brooks shared it. Now we know.


Susanna said...

The main difference between the two pundits is that Limbaugh seems to have a good understanding of the zeitgeist, both conservative and otherwise. He uses words to manipulate his listeners with a full awareness of what he's doing and why.

Brooks, on the other hand, seems to live in a sort of fantasy world apart from mere mortals. He shows a great deal of naiveté about the world outside of his intellectual bubble. Yes, he's smart, but I don't think that anything he says has any bearing on reality.

I think it's just coincidence that they happen to be saying the same thing. Either that, or Limbaugh has been listening to the folks around Brooks and found that what they're saying seems to affect people. Brooks, on the other hand, is just repeating what he hears in his personal echo chamber, like always.

Susanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor said...

Bobo's always had that inner demon.

That "Alien" that pop's out of his chest every once in awhile.

He hates people who aren't either his "Betters," or on the same level as him - the sycophantic servicer's of the "Betters."

He's usually more adept at hiding all of this.

But lately, he's about as in tune with the zeitgeist as a brick. Column after column, he's fed his readers his insipid Pablum, and all the people on the left do is mock him more and more!
Who is this 'Charles Pierce' to mock the great Brooks?

And what the great, GREAT, Mr. Pierce does to him, is take his columns, and paragraph by paragraph, subject them to "The Death of a Thousand Mock's."

And now, Bobo's REALLY angry!

Why can't people be like him, and agree that he's right - while he's servicing the private parts, and licking the sphincters, of the rich and powerful?
They WISH they were in his position! They're mocking him due to envy.

His "Betters" and he know what's better for THEM!

A little "austerity" never killed anyone - rich and powerful, that is.
History is a veritable cemetery of the bodies of the victims of austerity for others, so that the rich and powerful can live lives of "Champagne wishes, and caviar dreams" - or, whatever the equivalent was in any particular time period.

How dare THEY question their "Betters!"
How dare THEY question HIM?

What a pompous sycophantic ass that little man is.

Monty said...

I agree with both above poster's regarding Rush's zeitgeist savvy and Brooks being out of touch. One additional difference to note is that Rush is far less pretentious and subtle than Brooks, who writes beautifully about terrible things whereas Rush just sprays spittle all over America's cheek.

Zandar said...

Shorter Brooks: "Everyone who makes less money than I do in America is expendable in the global workplace, and it's about time you admitted that fact to yourselves, America. Better get with Romney."

Steve M. said...

Brooks, who writes beautifully

Hate to say it, but you lost me there.

Rand Careaga said...

I quaff the bitter draughts of Brooks' columns the better to savor Charlie Pierce's chasers.

El Cid said...

Clearly the only responsible thing to do is to book Brooks for 400 more visits to PBS' Newshour and NPR's morning and afternoon programs where they do the voice version of whatever the New York Times published at 2 am that morning.

Philo Vaihinger said...

"The main difference between the two pundits is that Limbaugh seems to have a good understanding of the zeitgeist, both conservative and otherwise. He uses words to manipulate his listeners with a full awareness of what he's doing and why."

I just thought he was a thug.