25. David Brooks (67)


As the pet conservative on the New York Times op-ed page, the hyper-intelligent Brooks is always going to attract a lot of scepticism from the Right. A former Weekly Standard writer, Brooks certainly has pronounced centrist tendencies and he wrote warmly of Obama at times during the 2008 campaign. At other times he pronounced himself appalled by Obama, prompting Politico to start a “Brooks-o-Meter” for “tracking center-right conventional wisdom about the senator from Illinois”.

Ultimately, Brooks could not make up his mind. “On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now,” he wrote at one point. “But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.” This has continued since the election. Ultimately, Brooks came out against the democratic healthcare reform bill. When he did so, Obama is said to have groaned: “If I’ve lost David Brooks, I’ve lost enlightened America.” Brooks rises on our list because he is one of the few (relatively) conservative voices that the President really listens to.