In the Weekly Standard, back in 2003, David Brooks bemoaned the fact that “Many Democrats feel that George Bush is just running loose, transforming the national landscape and ruining the nation, and there is nothing they can do to stop him.” The buttoned-down pundit found it “mystifying” that Democrats were so angry at Dubya and his sinister posse. In a 2007 New York Times op-ed quoted in AlterNet, Brooks lauded Bush for being confident “in the rightness of his Big Idea” and in the vague notion “that history is moving in the direction of democracy…”
Brooks, the Earnest Weasel of conservative commentators, was different from many Bush apologists in that he pretended his hero was making policy in the interest of “suburban moderates,” not the extreme right wing that Bush proudly represented. Curiously, despite the existence of much on-the-record evidence, Brooks never reminded readers that the leader of the free world was a former drunk and coke sniffer, barely literate, a man who owed everything he had to the money and power of his family.
And yet Brooks was appalled – appalled, I tell you – by recent published gossip about Mel Gibson, the aging actor and director who split with his wife of many years and allegedly slugged his girlfriend (ex-girlfriend now). Assuming the Olympian tone of a prig in a Jane Austen novel, Brooks wrote, “Let us enter, you and I, into the moral universe of the modern narcissist.” He listed Gibson’s vices and misdeeds and some dubious statistics on the percentage of Americans who are narcissists.
There are two points to be salvaged from Brooks’s pretentious dispatch. The first is that narcissism isn’t a crime. Yes, Gibson is a substance abuser, a boorish bitter Catholic, a Holocaust denier and a lot of other things, but no one can accuse him of cynically putting into place policies that led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in Asia or the collapse of the American economy. Those are the deeds that sum up Bush’s character and legacy.
Also, one should keep in mind that Brooks’ social criticism is always at the service of his sneaky right-wing agenda. Gibson isn’t just a flawed human, he’s proof that “ …We’ve entered an era where self-branding is on the ascent and the culture of self-effacement is on the decline.”
Arguably, Brooks is pining for an America in which “self-effacing” proles do the bidding of their rich and powerful masters, no questions asked. I wish the Earnest Weasel would state his views more plainly, or that the Times’ op-ed page editor would replace him with a right-winger who has more balls and integrity.