Brooks-Broder Derangement Syndrome

Mike Rappaport “hates” David Brooks and finds him “a despicable character.”  Why?  He lets John Hinderaker explain:

Brooks . . . knows where his bread is buttered. He makes his living as a “conservative” who can reliably be counted on to sell out conservatives and Republicans at every opportunity.

In this instance, Hinderaker is reacting to Brooks’ characterization of Sarah Palin’s “death panel” hyperbole as “crazy.”

What’s the evidence that Brooks thinks Palin’s straw man is actually solid argumentation?  He doesn’t say. Presumably, Hinderaker (and apparently Rappaport) think it’s something that all good conservatives believe and that, since Brooks represents himself as a conservative, he must believe it, too, but be lying about it.  (That neither Hinderaker or Rappaport think Brooks is really a conservative, let alone a good one, is immaterial, apparently, in their psychoanalysis.)

I see much the same venom from the other side of the aisle toward David Broder.  Even though Broder doesn’t even pretend to be a progressive activist, “Broderism” is a slur word to denounce columnists who take the stance that conservatives sometimes have good points.

It’s as if True Believers presume that everyone else is like them.  It’s fine to be a True Believer on the other side but 90 percent friends are heretics who must be burned at the stake.  It’s simply inconceivable that someone who is generally conservative, as Brooks is, might simply have a different cultural background and not share some of the assumptions of the dominant Social Conservative wing of the movement.  Nor, apparently, does it occur to people for whom Inside the Beltway and elite are slurs that there actually is such as thing as Inside the Beltway elite thinking.

Hinderaker’s assessment is particularly bizarre, too, in its misapprehension of the punditry game — particularly coming from one who plays it so well.  Brooks and Broder are at a decided disadvantage precisely because of their moderation.  While “Crossfire” was canceled some time back, the style it pioneered is the predominant one in the industry.  Charlie Rose-style or Jim Lehrer-style conversation is a fringe relegated to public television; the money is in being the next Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. sam says:

    Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 3.82-83: Civil War in Corcyra–

    And people altered, at their pleasure, the customary significance of words to suit their deeds: irrational daring came to be considered the “manly courage of one loyal to his party”; prudent delay was thought a fair-seeming cowardice; a moderate attitude was deemed a mere shield for lack of virility, and a reasoned understanding with regard to all sides of an issue meant that one was indolent and of no use for anything. Rash enthusiasm for one’s cause was deemed the part of a true man; to attempt to employ reason in plotting a safe course of action, a specious excuse for desertion.

    One who displayed violent anger was “eternally faithful,” whereas any who spoke against such a person was viewed with suspicion. One who laid a scheme and was successful was “wise,” while anyone who suspected and ferreted out such a plot beforehand was considered still cleverer. Any who planned beforehand in order that no such measures should be necessary was a “subverter of the party” and was accused of being intimidated by the opposition.

  2. Crust says:

    Nor, apparently, does it occur to people for whom Inside the Beltway and elite are slurs that there actually is such as thing as Inside the Beltway elite thinking.

    Huh? I think that’s in part what the progressive critique of Broder is grounded in. Progressives dislike his “Inside the Beltway” and “split the difference” outlook, but that doesn’t they think he is misrepresenting his true beliefs or something.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Progressives dislike his “Inside the Beltway” and “split the difference” outlook, but that doesn’t they think he is misrepresenting his true beliefs or something.

    I often get the impression that they think he’s taking the middle ground out of formula or false objectivity rather than because it’s what he actually believes.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    What’s the evidence that Brooks thinks Palin’s straw man is actually solid argumentation? He doesn’t say. Presumably, Hinderaker (and apparently Rappaport) think it’s something that all good conservatives believe and that, since Brooks represents himself as a conservative, he must believe it, too, but be lying about it. (That neither Hinderaker or Rappaport think Brooks is really a conservative, let alone a good one, is immaterial, apparently, in their psychoanalysis.)

    Ahhh yes, the “no true Scottsman” fallacy. Gotta love it.

  5. I love the idea of death panels killing off old people. Because it’s not like old people vote. In huge numbers. In such huge numbers that a politician can’t even suggest touching medicare or social security.

    Can’t cut cost of living increases in social security for fear of old voters. But kill ’em? Sure. No problem.

  6. Crust says:

    Hinderaker really does seem to think that Brooks is misrepresenting his beliefs (according to Hinderaker, Brooks is too smart not to believe that Trig would have to go before a “death panel” or whatever). So apparently he’s a real live example. But I think that’s rare. Most partisans — right and left — recognize that relatively moderate folk have moderate views, they just disagree with or even despise those views.

  7. Crust says:

    James Joyner:

    I often get the impression that [progressives] think [Broder is] taking the middle ground out of formula or false objectivity rather than because it’s what he actually believes.

    I think that’s a fair characterization. But I would say that criticism is representing Broder as intellectually lazy (“formula”) or misguided (“false objectivity”). Those aren’t particularly nice things to say about someone, but they’re different than claiming he’s dishonest.

    Now that I think about it, a good example of a liberal who often affirmatively believes various commentators are being dishonest (as opposed to just wrong or lazy) is Bob Somerby.

  8. Matt says:

    Are you seriously trying to equate Glenn Beck to Olbermann?

  9. kth says:

    I don’t really buy the analogy with Broder, who doesn’t self-identify as a liberal the way Brooks does as a conservative, but the rest is pretty good.

    Hinderaker might remind himself what Brooks’ reason for being is: namely, to sell conservatism to affluent urban liberals. Tougher yet, not a libertarianish conservatism centered around low taxes, free markets, and free love, but social conservatism, family values, patriotism, to the very audience that is the most skeptical of those norms. This all while Hinderaker preaches to a choir of Glenn Beck viewers.

  10. Crust says:

    PS I meant to say I think that’s a fair characterization up until the “rather than because it’s what he actually believes” bit.

  11. James Joyner says:

    Are you seriously trying to equate Glenn Beck to Olbermann?

    They’re very different personalities but they’re both archetypes of demonizing the other side as a means of enhancing polarization and attracting viewers.

  12. odograph says:

    I’m largely off-grid traveling, but I just heard a funny/sad bit by a Republican on NPR:

    “End of life planning is good.”

    “I’ve done it.”

    “I have a living will.”

    “This is just bad in this context.”

    .. yeah, the context where Dems are sponsering it.

    Way to look foolish, first “death panels” then weak protest/endorsement.

  13. Rick Almeida says:

    “Broderism” is a slur word to denounce columnists who take the stance that conservatives sometimes have good points.

    The way I always understand Broderism is as an insistence that bipartisanship is a desirable thing, in and of itself, irrespective of the merits of each party’s position.

    That’s perhaps defensible, but the derision obtains because of a perceived tendency on Broder’s part to invoke bipartisanship only in the sense of Democrats including Republicans, not the other way around.

  14. TangoMan says:

    I believe that criticism of fellows like Brooks gets ramped up because the bookers for these talking heads shows rarely give voice to the diversity of conservative thought. Instead what we usually see are the same small coterie of conservatives and their very restricted expression of conservative principle.

    I believe that the fire directed at Brooks would be diminished if he was simply one conservative voice amongst many rather than being one of the principle faces of conservatism on these talking head shows.

    For instance, if I had the opportunity to replace a pundit on TV I could make a far more persuasive case for Palin based on her actual governing record. This is largely because I have researched her record and compared her record to other national leaders. Brooks, I would venture, has no frickin clue about her record. Too much of what he, and other conservative pundits, spout is sourced from the media rather than from original sources, so what we end up seeing is a very constrained discussion bounded by terms largely set by liberals. Now Palin is just one example, so when you take the diversity of issues that appeal to conservatives and you discount or neglect a good many of them, then you end up with a narrow band of permissible discussion or some topics or viewpoints being completely neglected.

  15. sam says:

    I believe that the fire directed at Brooks would be diminished if he was simply one conservative voice amongst many rather than being one of the principle faces of conservatism on these talking head shows.

    Perhaps. And maybe Hindrocket is just pissed because nobody asked him to the prom.

  16. steve says:

    I would also love to see Palin as the conservative voice on the Sunday morning talk shows. Could we start a movement to draft her?

    Steve

  17. An Interested Party says:

    I would also love to see Palin as the conservative voice on the Sunday morning talk shows.

    Indeed, maybe she’d throw out more gems like this

  18. MattT says:

    James, you define “Broderism” incorrectly. Broderism means to seek a middle-ground compromise regardless of the objective merits of either side. So that Dean of the Press Corps David Broder can enjoy tension-free, bipartisan D.C. cocktail parties.

  19. James Joyner says:

    So that Dean of the Press Corps David Broder can enjoy tension-free, bipartisan D.C. cocktail parties.

    Case, meet point.

  20. Matt says:

    They’re very different personalities but they’re both archetypes of demonizing the other side as a means of enhancing polarization and attracting viewers.

    ah see I consider the fact that Glenn Beck’s tendency to distort and outright lie puts him into a different league (see FEMA concentration camps etc)..

  21. Matt says:

    But yeah they do tend to demonize the other side..

  22. Mike Rappaport says:

    There are two ways to think about Brooks. One is that he is lying about his views, because he knows where his bread is buttered. But there is another way: he falsely portrays himself as a conservative, when he is really a moderate. The problem then is not that Brooks is lying. It is that he is letting the New York Times and the Networks present him as a conservative when he is not one. He should say he is not a conservative. But he won’t, because then he will be thrown off those shows. No dishonesty is necessary for the criticism to hold.