New York Times' columnist David Brooks appears to be one of the few people nonsensical enough to actually laud ABC's mix of jive-ass wankery and lack of conviction that was on display in last night's absurd debate. Why am I not surprised? If being out-of-touch were a clinical contagion, Brooks would file his columns from a lead-lined, underground vault at the Centers For Disease Control.
First, Democrats, and especially Obama supporters, are going to jump all over ABC for the choice of topics: too many gaffe questions, not enough policy questions.
And so they should! No Democrat I know has been wandering around in some sort of fugue, hoping that someone might finally answer that riveting, all-important question, "Does Reverend Jeremiah Wright love America?" Brooks is, perhaps, sidling up alongside a good point in invoking "Obama supporters" specifically. I felt last night's showing was the "Worst Debate Ever" because both candidates were treated poorly. When they trotted out that Pennsylvania voter to ask Hillary Clinton about Tuzla with the admonishment that she'd lost her vote, I did a full-body cringe! It was pointless melodrama deployed to cover up the moderator's own lack of cojones. Certainly, Obama's most earnest fans are all a-kvetch today, but they should a) understand that this is a good time for Obama to be taking the lion's share of the chin music, because it's a good thing to have a little bit of scar tissue when you face McCain, and b) think more broadly - last night's debate was bad for the discourse, and bad for all Democratic voters.
After that graf, however, Brooks loses sight of anything that even resembles having a lick of sense, and he strains hard to manufacture that pure product of the empty-headed intelligentsia: a bon-bon of non-thought dressed up in masturbatory intellectual contortions.
Behold this paragraph, and tremble:
We may not like it, but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall. Remember how George H.W. Bush toured flag factories to expose Michael Dukakis. It's legitimate to see how the candidates will respond to these sorts of symbolic issues.
You know what, David? I would love it - love it! - if by November, the most pressing issues facing the Republic were some preacher in Chicago I'd never heard of until this year, a trip some politician's wife took a decade ago, and the way we accessorize our lapels. That would be, like the Pope's speech yesterday, awesome. Because that would mean we'd no longer be at war in Iraq, no longer be facing a terrorist threat out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, no longer be in the midst of about ten separate economic crises, New Orleans would be fully rebuilt, and the New York Times wouldn't be falling into an ad revenue abyss. But somehow I think this is not going to be the case.
"Remember" how Bush 41 toured flag factories? Really? That's the example on which you are going to pin your argument? It was a moment of substance-free political high-camp. The only people that think that responses to "these sorts of symbolic issues" are "legitimate" are the preening narcissists who believe that being the 7659th reporter to ask Hillary Clinton about Tuzla is some sort of achievement.
Brooks goes on the assail Clinton and Obama - for three paragraphs! - for making "pledges" on taxes and the Iraq War. But it was Gibson and Stephanopoulos who insisted on pledges, not the candidates!
Both promised to not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year. They both just emasculated their domestic programs. Returning the rich to their Clinton-era tax rates will yield, at best, $40 billion a year in revenue.
Really? Show your math, please!
Nobody knows what the situation in Iraq will be like. To pledge an automatic withdrawal is just insane. A mature politician would've been honest and said: I fully intend to withdraw, but I want to know what the reality is at that moment.
Oh, dear. Are we not adults? Can it not be said that every voter can appreciate the fact that in life, sometimes, circumstances change, and plans have to be altered? Does Brooks actually believe that we need to receive instruction on this matter? I don't need Clinton and Obama to reassure me that they'll not cling, unflinchingly, to plans if it's been demonstrated that an alternative course will achieve a better outcome, because they are running against John McCain. If I wanted a President who's pledged to continue out the merry march to certain doom, I'd vote for him.
Brooks concludes by asserting that the Democrats have "an electability problem" and that the issues raised last night will continue to impact Obama in the fall. "The superdelegates cannot have been comforted by his performance," he says. Well, the evidence so far indicates this is not the case. The matters that Obama needs to convince superdelegates on are the same today as they were last week. If the superdelegates are anything like me, last night's debate should have only produced a wellspring of sympathy for both candidates. That Brooks was comforted by the performance of ABC News last night only suggests that he's the one with a "crushing" credibility problem.