THE BLOG
09/19/2013 05:33 pm ET Updated Nov 19, 2013

Brooks Brother

Hang in there, David Brooks!

The New York Times columnist is being bombarded with bombast from the likes of Rush Limbaugh for his entirely accurate remarks on a recent edition of the PBS program Newshour about radical-right Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). The assault on Brooks is reminiscent of the right's ridiculous reaction to the writer in 2008, when he declared that Sarah Palin represented a "fatal cancer" in the body of the Republican Party.

Right-wing ideologues don't like what Brooks said about Cruz? Too bad. Get over it, and get over yourselves.

I've had my disagreements with Brooks, largely stemming from his decision to endorse Mitt Romney in 2012, a decision that seemed to indicate approval of the actions of the dysfunctional GOP--actions Brooks had actually criticized for years. Nevertheless, I have always respected his intellect and writing talent -- and I have always been disgusted by the over-the-top rantings of his conservative critics.

These right-wing bloggers and Republican radio personalities will never admit why they actually loathe Brooks: 1) he is legitimately more intelligent than they are and 2) he is a connection to a past they have disavowed -- a time when conservative Republican pundits could express partisan views in a civil, not caustic, manner. They cannot compete with him on the playing fields of talent and ability.

I remember when conservative ex-friends would throw fits over columns and interviews in which Brooks would speak highly of President Obama. I was stunned by this, having praised President Obama's character despite my disagreement with his politics. Why was it considered a sin for Brooks to say nice things about Obama? None of my ex-friends could provide a coherent answer. They just attacked Brooks as "the mainstream media's favorite Republican."

Calling Brooks "the mainstream media's favorite Republican" was one of the dumbest insults my former friends could come up with. After all, wasn't William F. Buckley "the mainstream media's favorite Republican," too? Don't tell me he didn't receive profound praise in the press for his erudition.

I can't prove this, but I've always suspected that one of the reasons Brooks was so resented by the right-wing was because he had the "wrong" background. After all, he's not like the other conservative writers: he wasn't born in this country and is -- how shall we say this delicately? -- of a religion some folks on the right still have issues with. (I know right-wingers swear up and down that progressives are the "real" anti-Semites, but I have never heard a progressive in my entire life suggest that the United States was a "Christian nation," a line -- and a belief -- that lies at the core of the modern American right.) In the right-wing mind, Brooks is an outsider, a minority, a trespasser on "our" soil. They hate him for who he is.

Brooks should welcome their hatred. Those whose eyes turn red at the thought of Brooks can never see the reality that a conservative movement led by the likes of Brooks instead of Limbaugh would be far more healthy than it is today. Brooks still cares about actual ideas -- and it was this love of ideas that caused him to declare Sarah Palin unfit for command five years ago:

When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he'd rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn't think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

Here's what sets Brooks apart from the more ignorant voices on the right. Go back to late-2009 and early-2010, at the height of the phony, trumped-up pseudo-controversy known as "Climategate." Brooks could have gone along with every other Republican pundit who insisted that "Climategate" proved that anthropogenic climate change was a Communist plot to steal our SUVs and plastic bags. Instead, he actually used the renewable resource of logic, though he couldn't resist a little partisanship:

I have to confess, I am not at my best when dealing with environmental issues. On the one hand, I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade. On the other hand, I feel a frisson of pleasure when I come across evidence that contradicts the models. I don't know if this is just because I distrust people who are so confident they can model complex systems or because I relish any fact that might make Al Gore look silly.

I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions. But I feel myself sometimes rooting for people in coal states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs from the Vineyard who are trying to take away their livelihood.

Maybe this year I should resolve to overcome my unworthy visceral reactions and follow the evidence. In that case, I'm off to a decent start.

No, Brooks isn't perfect (that Romney endorsement is still a bit tough to swallow). Yet Brooks is so much better -- and, frankly, so much smarter -- than his right-wing adversaries; unlike those schmucks, he doesn't wake up in the morning thinking about how he can divide this country and pit group against group. Brooks is a throwback to the days when you didn't have to be ashamed of calling yourself a conservative or a Republican -- which is why the irritating ideologues inveighing against him ought to be ashamed of themselves.