Daniel Gross on David Brooks

Have you read Bill Clinton’s 1992 manifesto Putting People First? I did. I have to say, it doesn’t hold up very well, and it doesn’t bear very close resemblance to the not entirely bad way Clinton governed. Daniel Gross has spent some time on John McCain’s website and reading his policy proposals, and he doesn’t like what he’s read. That’s understandable. But he also takes a potshot at David Brooks.

McCain wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, which he once opposed as a needless sop to the rich in a time of war. (I await David Brooks’ inevitable explanation of how opposing taxes in a time of war in 2001 and 2003, when deficits were low, but supporting them in 2011, in a time of war and high deficits, is deeply moral and admirable.)

Gross definitely lands some blows on the McCain campaign. The McCain agenda is far from flawless, though it strikes me as preferable in most respects to Putting People First. But this anti-Brooks line strikes me as a cheap shot, the kind of drive-by that would get a Cornerite raked over the coals, particularly since Brooks is consistently willing to criticize Republicans and praise Democrats. I’m guessing the animus derives from two things: despite recognizing the Bush administration’s many failures in Iraq, Brooks supports keeping US troops engaged in the conflict. This makes a lot of people very angry. And Brooks has also been an admirer of John McCain for a long time. My sense is that Brooks is sticking up for McCain against what he sees (and I see) as unfair attacks, not that he slavishly accepts McCain’s word as holy writ. Brooks has been pretty harsh with McCain. In fact, he wrote a pretty tough column about the McCain campaign … last month.

In fairness, Gross was trying to make a wry remark, one that will register with his intended audience. So I shouldn’t be so utterly humorless. Still, I wonder what makes people say this kind of thing. That said, people often wonder why I (supposedly) accuse advocates of immediate withdrawal of not caring about Iraqi lives. I’m going to try to unpack this charge.