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Looks At Brooks


Well, David Brooks has done it again. He’s written yet another column bemoaning the sorry state of politics, which manages to bemoan the Democratic side just a teensy bit more. Today’s subject, the noble struggle between Politics and Humanity:

Politics, as you know, is a tainted profession. Professional politicians cannot serve their country if they do not win their races, and to do that they must grapple with a vast array of forces that try to remold and destroy who they are.

There are consultants who try to turn them into prepackaged clones. There are party whips demanding total loyalty. There is a culture of workaholism that strangles private life and private thinking. There are journalists who define them based on a few ideological labels.

And then there is the soul-destroying act of campaigning itself. Active campaigners are compelled to embrace the ideology of Meism.

Amazingly, other than a brief mention of politicians wondering who donors are giving to, Brooks says nothing about the corrupting influence of the campaign finance system. I’m sure that’s a perfectly innocent mistake, and he’s just as appalled by big money’s disproportionate influence as we are.

Aside from that minor oversight, his basic thesis sounds reasonable enough, although some of his boogeymen are bizarre (Whips? Journalists? Workaholism?). Lots of idealistic-seeming young pols end up as corrupt establishment hacks who do terrible things in the name of re-election. (“I had to vote against S-CHIP! My district hates children, and it’s the only way I can keep my seat!”)

So where’s the wankery? Allow me…

Exhibit A: While describing how retiring Republican Congresswoman Deborah Pryce agonized over the awful ads she was forced to run in 2006, Brooks claims that “Pryce’s opponents did worse.” Even if true of this particular race, which I doubt, Brooks is suggesting that Democrats are sleazier campaigners than Republicans. As if.

Exhibit B:

[I]t wasn’t the political issues that [Pryce] remembered most. It was the people she admired (like Dennis Hastert) and the personal moments of compassion and bravery: for instance, the time Sonny Bono[!] tried to rally the troops with an inspirational description of his own setbacks and recoveries; the time Chris Shays, the Republican moderate, was booed by his own caucus.

Awesome. Ms. Principled Republican admires the guy who covered up for Mark Foley. Bobo does not find this odd.

Exhibit C: This is minor, but the reasons Pryncipled Pryce gave for retiring were that “it’s not as rewarding being in the minority” (that doesn’t sound selfish at all!), and “with the new, longer workweek, it’s harder to get home to her adopted daughter.” Oh look, it’s the Democrats-are-big-meanies-who-hate-families-because-they-want-Congress-to-earn-its-paychecks meme, arisen from the grave.

Exhibit D: If you’re writing a column about how politicians lose their humanity in their pursuit of power, and the Republican Minority Leader’s office has just gotten busted for spreading the smear of a 12-year-old boy, doesn’t deserve a mention? See Exhibit A.

Oh well, at least he mentioned Larry Craig.

Also, Happy AUMF Signing Anniversary! I’ve heard that wood is an appropriate gift.

(One of my all-time favorite graphics, by d r i f t g l a s s)

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