Daily Howler logo
WHEN THE LOFTY ATTACK! David Brooks, name-calling hard, shares his deep love of high standards: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2006

NORMAN WOULD LOCK ’EM ALL UP: In today’s Times, Norm Ornstein tries to top THE HOWLER. He too kvetches about Connecticut’s turn-out. Too low! Too low, Norm says:
ORNSTEIN (8/10/06): Even with all the attention devoted to Connecticut's Democratic primary, in which Ned Lamont upset Senator Joseph Lieberman, turnout was an anemic 43 percent. It was arguably the most important race in the nation and not even half of registered Democrats bothered to vote.
Incomparably, we made that point yesterday (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/9/06). So how would Norman try to top us? Here’s how: If voters refuse to vote, Stormin’ Norman would lock em all up! Well—actually, he’d make them pay a fine. “Vote—or Else” is the headline. “Institute fines for people who don’t show up at the polls.”

We wouldn’t go that far ourselves. We prefer to leave things alone, then complain. But while we’re at it, do you notice something about Ornstein’s construction? He seems to say that 43 percent of registered Democrats turned out on Tuesday. But he doesn’t quite say that explicitly—and our question holds over from Wednesday: Did 43 percent of registered Dems turn out? Or was that the overall turn-out figure—Reps and Dems combined? (In that case, the turn-out among Dems may have been higher.) We can’t find a definitive statement in reports from major newspapers (Hartford Courant; New York Times; Washington Post). Did 43 percent of Dems turn out? If so, what percentage of registered Republicans voted? The facts are probably out there somewhere. As usual, though, the facts aren’t quite clear.

WHEN THE LOFTY ATTACK: Pity poor David Brooks! In this morning’s Times, he lets us know how deeply he longs for a civilized politics. There are really three parties today, he informs. And the third party—The McCain-Lieberman Party—knows what the voters really want:
BROOKS (8/10/06): The McCain-Lieberman Party counters with constant reminders that country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshaled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom.
People want civility, not venom, Brooks says. But uh-oh! Even as he tells us this, he emits vast poison of his own, name-calling those with whom he disagrees in the most venomous manner.

Could you possibly write a less civil column? A column driven more by venom? In paragraph 2, Brooks establishes moral equivalence between “scandal-tainted Tom DeLay” and—you guessed it—Ned Lamont. No, Lamont isn’t tainted by any known scandal—but he had “the net roots exulting before him and Al Sharpton smiling just behind” when he won his race Tuesday night. As a result, Brooks name-calls Lamont and his supporters in the most egregious ways. What does he tell us about these people? Brooks sheds his deep desire for civility as he name-calls and slimes:

In paragraph 3, we learn that Lamont supporters engage in “the Sunni-Shiite style of politics.”

In paragraph 4, we learn that Lamont supporters are “flamers” who “tell themselves that their enemies are so vicious they have to be vicious too.” Indeed, “[t]hey rationalize their behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country.”

In paragraph 5, we learn that Lamont supporters are “hyper-partisans;” they “may have started with subtle beliefs, but their beliefs led them to partisanship and their partisanship led to malice and malice made them extremist.”

And in paragraph 6, we learn, by inference, that Lamont people favor venom, not civility. Later, Brooks refers to them as a “hostile force” inside the Democratic Party.

Wow! For someone so deeply in love with civility, Brooks really lets himself go in this piece! He doesn’t name a single Democrat who has actually misbehaved; he doesn’t explain what any Dem has done wrong. But so what? In a sweeping, name-calling indictment, he seems to say that Lamont supporters are “vicious” “flamers” who have “shelved their integrity” so they can “engage in Sunni-Shiite politics.” They’re “extremists,” we are told. Their partisanship has “led them to malice.”

For ourselves, we’ll only say this about that: Thank God David Brooks is in love with civility! Just think how this morning’s piece might have read if he’d let his own venom break loose!