Yglesias on Brooks

I sense that the campaign season has been driving a wedge between Matt Yglesias and yours truly, despite our shared pro-five boroughs agenda. That said, Matt’s great gift lies in calling spades spades, and he’s written a smart quasi-defense of David Brooks that strikes me as on point. I’m obviously incapable of being objective on the subject, but Matt has some critical distance.

I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood the progressive blogosphere convention that everything David Brooks writes must be read in the most ungenerous way possible. Certainly, though, if you apply that method to Brooks’ column from yesterday the widespread derision with which it was greeted on liberal blogs is warranted. But I thought it was a pretty good column. Recall that Brooks has historically been a big McCain fan. Back during the 2000 campaign, he was one of the relatively small number of decidedly conservative journalists to fall for McMania. And while lots of writers have gushed with praise for McCain over the years, Brooks was something more like an important ideologist of McCainism, someone who both praised McCain and also helped shape the higher rationale for his political ambitions. McCain, Brooks thought, was an ideal political vessel for ideas that Brooks thought were important. Brooks thought, in other words, that McCain was substantially different from and better than your average politician.

Brooks’ column from yesterday, meanwhile, is about how Brooks no longer thinks that’s true. It argues that McCain, like everyone else, turns out to be happy to put his personal ambition ahead of his ideals and principles. And it argues that McCain doesn’t have any special qualities whereby his ambition is best served through honorable methods. He’s a typical pol pulling the typical stuff.

Matt goes on to explain that “if you’re a conservative, as Brooks is, you’re still going to look at the situation and decide that in a Presidential election you should vote for the conservative candidate,” but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a deep cut. Matt’s commenters go on to make ludicrous claims about David Brooks supposedly deceitful nature, e.g., when Brooks referred to an Applebee’s salad bar, he was “lying” rather than making an honest mistake.

Boy, wonders will never cease. I’ve pronounced my name “Rye-han” my whole life. In the Arab world — it’s an Arabic name — it is, I late learned, generally pronounced “Ray-han.” I didn’t know this because my parents call me “Pritu” or “Preethu,” so I came up with “Rye-han” on my own. It occurs to me that this might be the ur-lie that has made me a deceitful mustachioed hatemonger in a howler hat, which, by the way, is what I am.