A Deadline for David Brooks

11/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In his New York Times column today, David Brooks raved about the performance of Sarah Palin in last night's debate. Curious thing: Mr. Brooks was a talking head on PBS before and after the debate. Assume his head talked in a New York studio since his column had no dateline. So, for Mr. Brooks, the debate began at nine pm EST and lasted ninety minutes followed by post-debate debate between Mr. Brooks, Jim Lehrer and Mark Shields. After that, throw in a few minutes of saying goodnight to Mr. Lehrer and Mr. Shields and, some time around eleven PM EST, Mr. Brooks writes his column. For the Times edition in Los Angeles, you can't get the results of a night game in Yankee Stadium that ends at ten, but let's assume that debates, while less satisfying, are more important than baseball games so the Times' deadline for Mr. Brooks is loose. Let's assume -- even though, after the debate, he observed on PBS that Governor Palin mentioned John McCain repeatedly while Senator Biden barely mentioned Barack Obama the whole night -- that Mr. Brooks is a very fast writer and a very keen observer with very organized thoughts. (This, despite the fact that Senator Biden did mention Senator Obama 20 times in the first 30 minutes of the debate alone.)

I know what you're thinking: He watched the debate on PBS? Yeah, I did because I'm into uni-tasking and television is supposed to be a visual medium you watch as opposed to a written medium you read and all the other stations constantly throw crawls and graphs and meters on the screen. If I wanted to read, I would have opened a book.

Actually, I really wanted to open a book. At debate time, I was near the end of Indignation, by Philip Roth and was finding the book devastatingly heartbreaking despite the fact that Michiku Kakatani ruined one of the book's biggest surprises in the opening sentence of her Times review. Serves me right. Never read a book review. Really, never read any review. Philip Roth doesn't read them and why should he? He's a genius. One time, not in band camp, I was livid about one bad review amid twenty good ones -- and that was for a tv pilot. That was merely a case of the lowest form of journalism critiquing the lowest form of art. Roth gets reviewed for supreme literature, literature worded with exquisite detail and plotted with oppressive brilliance and he's been doing it for so long with such painstaking consistency, can't Senator Obama put forth an initiative to ban criticism of Philip Roth books? Roth is Senator Obama's favorite author too so it really seems like a natural.

And speaking of sports, what's the point of television sports criticism? Here we are in the subprime of our lives and there's some person occupying a newspaper desk to pick over what a sportscaster said about game that's over. It's not like a Broadway Musical where a bad review may keep you from seeing it. The game is over. Even if the sportscaster was so inept you'd never want to watch him/her again, you have no choice. The games are exclusive. You can't decide to watch them on another channel. There's only one outlet.

I don't know anymore. Really, I don't. Maybe in light of the financial crisis we're in, Las Vegas should change its tourism slogan. "Las Vegas: A Safe Place for Your Money." I mean, consider that Carl Icahn is constantly complaining about the management of Yahoo! when he owns 69 million shares of stock in the company. On the other hand, I met a newly-arrived immigrant recently who was assimilating so smoothly into American life he was already like 55 pounds overweight. So maybe things aren't as bad as they seem. Who knows?

All I'm saying is, it doesn't seem like Mr. Brooks, despite having a thoughtful intelligence that doesn't go excessively far astray in absolutely every column, should be doing a secondary gig at PBS ahead of his primary gig at the Times. A good column seems like something to be ruminated over, plotted, weighed and written over the gun.