Green Room

The second-dumbest column EV-AH

posted at 8:57 am on August 4, 2012 by

Recently Gail Collins penned a New York Times column about a town with one percent unemployment that I dubbed the “dumbest column EV-AH.”

Now there’s a runner-up. The silver goes to…David Brooks (of course!) whose August 2 “The Credit Illusion” completely misunderstands the brouhaha over the president’s “you didn’t build that” (YDBT) comments while it fails to strike the clever/funny tones he seems to wish to hit.

Brooks, of course, is the Times’s token conservative columnist. Scratch that. He used to be until people started noticing he’s not a conservative. He’s what I think of as a moderate showman. That is, the type of moderate who believes in certain “why can’t we all get along here in the middle” policies because such beliefs draw attention to how above-it-all and enlightened he is. Oh, I’m sure he’d protest. But we’ve all met this kind of guy/gal before, haven’t we? They’re the types who, when losing an argument about some policy issue, eventually close the discussion with a “Washington is broken” line, the implication being that policymakers who disagree with them aren’t as wise and sophisticated as they are. But to me, this kind of claptrap always feels a bit like a gussied-up form of schoolyard name-calling. Disagree with Mr. Moderate and you’re a backwater cretin, dumb as a rock, bub. That’s the real message.

So, Mr. Brooks pens a fake letter from a wondering entrepreneur—who really built his business, Imaginary Businessman muses, when Mr. Obama says he didn’t do it on his own, but Mr. Romney says “culture” creates success. Oh, heck, let me paste the whole fake letter here, so you can ooh and aah over Mr. Brooks’s fictional fiction-writing talent:

Dear Mr. Opinion Guy:

Over the past few years, I’ve built a successful business. I’ve worked hard, and I’m proud of what I’ve done. But now President Obama tells me that social and political forces helped build that. Mitt Romney went to Israel and said cultural forces explain the differences in the wealth of nations. I’m confused. How much of my success is me, and how much of my success comes from forces outside of me?

Confused in Columbus.

Our “Mr. Opinion Guy” goes on to answer “Confused” with a gentle gravitas, weaving a story of the seasons of life. In our yute—oh, sorry, make that “youth” (I was carried away there for a moment with Mr. Brooks’s fiction, thinking of his audience perhaps the way he does…)—we think we’re capable of anything on our own, and that’s the way it should be, he writes:

In your 20s, for example, you should regard yourself as an Ayn Randian Superman who is the architect of the wonder that is you. This is the last time in your life that you will find yourself truly fascinating, so you might as well take advantage of it.

An aside: is Mr. Brooks in his 20s? What, no? Oh, sorry. That “finding yourself truly fascinating” line threw me for a second.

Anyway, onward…the rest of the piece takes you through the Voyage of Life, and how at each stage, we come to realize how much help we’ve had along the way and how we’re not the center of the universe. And so, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…no, wait, that’s a different column, a good one.

The wrap-up to the piece, the grand finale, says…well, it says…

In short, as maturity develops and the perspectives widen, the smaller the power of the individual appears, and the greater the power of those forces flowing through the individual.

But you, Mr. Confused in Columbus, are right to preserve your pride in your accomplishments. Great companies, charities and nations were built by groups of individuals who each vastly overestimated their own autonomy. As an ambitious executive, it’s important that you believe that you will deserve credit for everything you achieve. As a human being, it’s important for you to know that’s nonsense.

Well, kiss my grits and smack my dupa, but that’s about as clever a thing that’s come down this here pike since they put in the ole Piggly Wiggly on 895. Good golly, but that man can sure pen a fine piece of shinola, as they say in these here backwoods.

Okay, I’ll stop.

The point is that Mr. Brooks misses the point. Those of us who took umbrage with the YDBT speech don’t subscribe to the simplistic notion that success comes without help. No, our outrage was directed at the president sneering at achievers, who, yes, with mentors and family and friends (and even a government-built road or two that they helped fund with their own taxes), used their smarts and hard work to accomplish things many people do not. They might have had help, they might have had luck on their side, but they worked 60-plus-hour weeks and took risks that many people do not. They should be celebrated for that work, not derided in speeches or poked fun at in columns.

If Mr. Brooks doesn’t understand that, maybe he’s “Confused in New York.”

___

Libby Sternberg is a novelist.

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These RINO creeps are on their way out. We adult taxpayers have had enough of the silk suited Republican traitors, and their sycophant intellectual snobbists. Vote them out.

frizzbee on August 4, 2012 at 9:28 AM

…the type of moderate who believes in certain “why can’t we all get along here in the middle” policies because such beliefs draw attention to how above-it-all and enlightened he is.

That describes Brooks perfectly. He’s all about policies that make himself look good. From there it’s an easy few steps to see how and why he endorsed Obama in 08.

jwolf on August 4, 2012 at 9:51 AM

Brooks also has the urban moderate sophisticate’s problem of caring what the people around him think, to the point that he’ll walk back even the most mildly critical columns or pretzel twist logic to make it sound as inoffensive as possible to maintain some sort of support from his peer group.

That’s going to make your job exceedingly complex, if you’re the ‘conservative’ columnist from the Times (actually, Ross Douthat fills that role better, but flies under the radar most of the time). Brooks will hit upon a good argument now and then, but it’s a dead lock solid certainty that if he doesn’t take it back within the next week, he’ll at least write a column a week or so later pushing the “both sides are equally the problem,” meme.

David’s ever-so-slowly growing disenchantment with Obama over the past three years has led him to be mildly critical of the president at times, while at the same time calling on the Republicans not to nominate a candidate of the hard right in 2012. Well, now he’s got Mitt Romney, who is going to fit Brooks’ idea of the ideal Republican candidate, circa 2012, as good as anyone out there. If David ends up supporting Obama by November and lamenting why the Republicans couldn’t have tabbed Jon Huntsman for the nomination, he really does serve no other purpose than to make the Times’ liberal readership feel smug about themselves.

jon1979 on August 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM

to make the Times’ liberal readership feel smug about themselves.

jon1979 on August 4, 2012 at 10:14 AM

What other possible reason could there be for that rag’s existence?

RegularJoe on August 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Well, kiss my grits and smack my dupa, but that’s about as clever a thing that’s come down this here pike since they put in the ole Piggly Wiggly on 895. Good golly, but that man can sure pen a fine piece of shinola, as they say in these here backwoods.

Okay, I’ll stop.

No, Libby don’t stop!!! I sure am lovin’ your patter.. : )

momodoom on August 4, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Having actually spoke to Brooks… He’s not a nice man. He pretends to be “conservative” and even “moderate”.

He’s the sort of guy who pats you on the back looking for a soft spot.

He adds nothing but subtle Left wing propaganda to the public discourse.

CrazyGene on August 4, 2012 at 10:48 AM

The Times: where mediocre intellects go to stroke each other.

SteveThomas on August 4, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Didn’t read the Brooksie article, but I’m going to assume that he entirely missed the real problem from Roanoke which is Obama’s first principle attitude that government “allows” you to succeed, a totally reprehensible idea that needs full exposure.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on August 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM

He’s what I think of as a moderate showman.

I’d like to throw a little gasoline on this bonfire.

As the Obama Recession that started in April deepens, the conservative media will thrive and benefit.
I don’t have cable televison, so while I was visiting relatives, I turned on the Fox news channel. I was treated to Geraldo Rivera and Juan Williams on the O’Reilly show. That was my ten seconds of watching Fox news for the year.

Media and cultural elites like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Glenn Beck, and most of the others that claim to represent conservatives are not hurting in this economy, They thrive on the pain and suffering of the average American. When gasoline prices rise to $5 a gallon after the election, none of them will suffer and none of them will be able to do anything about it.

They need to realize that it wasn’t the media elites that stopped the Obama steamroll in the 2010 elections and that will stop it again in November.

It was the Tea Party, which should have no tolerance for the manipulations of the so-called conservative media elites.

MichaelGabriel on August 4, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Brooks is not in the least conservative. He adopted the posture to get his job. He is a moby, a pretend foil for the liberals of the media, all of whom are his buddies.

pat on August 4, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Yo, Brooksie–you didn’t write that column.

Olo_Burrows on August 4, 2012 at 4:21 PM

It was the Tea Party, which should have no tolerance for the manipulations of the so-called conservative media elites.

MichaelGabriel on August 4, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Amen. O’Reilly is the new Left and Fox the new Establishment.

StubbleSpark on August 4, 2012 at 4:28 PM

You forgot about Ross Douthat. He’s the lone conservative at the NYT.

BigWillieStyles on August 4, 2012 at 7:37 PM

‘Those of us who took umbrage’

I suggest you just put that umbrage right back before someone notices it’s missing.

Observation on August 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM

First time I’ve read you, Libby. I’ll be looking for your other stuff. Loved this!

americanmama on August 6, 2012 at 6:33 PM