Sunday, April 10, 2005

[Blank]* David Brooks

I have a problem reading New York Times op-ed conservative writer David Brooks. His columns are filled with arguments that start with a faulty foundation and then circle around themselves to "prove" the writer's point. It makes my head spin.

But I've figured out how to read him without having to go lie down.

Take yesterday's column, for instance.

It's become increasingly clear that the Republicans are bumping into some limits.

First, there's the Terri Schiavo case. Republicans charged boldly forth to preserve her life and were surprised by how few Americans charged along behind them. Fewer than a third of the American people opposed removing her feeding tube.

Ah, I know where he's going with this. The Republican party has gotten too big for its collective britches and a lot of people are scared we're going to turn into a pseudo-Christian version of the Taliban?

Being conservative, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case. Even many evangelicals, who otherwise embrace the culture of life, grow queasy when politicians in Washington start imposing solutions from afar, based on abstract principles rather than concrete particulars.

Oh. Not where I would have taken this.

Then there is Social Security reform. Republicans set forth with a plan to give people some control over their own retirement accounts. Here, too, Republicans have been surprised by the tepid public support.

Oo, oo! I know! They sense that the Republicans have sold them out to Big Business and don't give a crap about old people dying in poverty, right?

Being conservative, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing. Being conservative, they prefer the old and familiar over the new and untried.

Um. OK.
Then there is the Tom DeLay situation. Conversations with House Republicans in the past week leave me with one clear impression: If DeLay falls, it will not be because he took questionable trips or put family members on the payroll. It will be because he is anxiety-producing and may become a political liability.

Getting dizzy... Must lie down...
Being conservative, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge. They don't want leaders who, under threat, lash out wildly at beloved institutions like the judiciary. They don't want leaders whose instinct is always to go out wildly on the attack. They don't want leaders so reckless that even when they know they are living under a microscope, they continue to act in ways that invite controversy.

Well, sorta. But it's also the questionable trips and half-million-dollar payrolls for family members from a guy who sets himself up as a moral paragon,** handing down pronouncements from above when he wouldn't know an ethic if it bit him on the ass while it screamed, "I'm an ethic! I'm an ethic biting you on the ass!"

So, I finally figured out how to read Brooks without getting vertigo. I simply replace words and phrases that don't make sense with others that do make sense. Let me demonstrate. In yesterday's column, all I had to do was sub the phrase "being repulsed by hypocrisy" for the phrase "being conservative."

Here we go:

Being conservative, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case.

This becomes:

Being repulsed by hypocrisy, most Americans believe that decisions should be made at the local level, where people understand the texture of the case.

This:

Being conservative, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing.

Becomes this:
Being repulsed by hypocrisy, many Americans are suspicious of bold government initiatives, especially ones that seem complicated and involve borrowing.

And this:
Being conservative, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge.

Becomes:
Being repulsed by hypocrisy, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge.

There. isn't that better?

*I was thinking "parsing" here, but you can use a different -ing word.

**Interesting typo: I orginally wrote "paragoon."


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2 comments:

CG said...

I do the same thing! Whenever Ann Coulter uses the word "I", it's much easier to understand where she is coming from if you replace it with "This Bitch."

Mark H said...

Brooks is a moron. But then you knew that.
Nice bit of fisking, by the way.