New York Times columnist David Brooks poses as a moderate who never stoops to being crabbily doctrinaire. He is the very model of a PBS/NPR "conservative" -- defining conservatism in a very 1950s way, as wearing dreary gray suits and liking Ike and Dick Nixon. Go along, and get along with the liberal elites.
But as conservatives know all too well, people who pose as "moderates" -- politically and rhetorically -- have a way of losing their sweetly temperate nature when conservatives seriously challenge the liberal order of things. David Brooks is clearly not a moderate or temperate man when it comes to Ted Cruz. Just the thought of this man triggers a spontaneous combustion.
On Jan. 8, Brooks started his new year at PBS with a bang, suggesting Cruz's rhetoric carried "dark and satanic tones...we're going to stomp on this person, we're going to crush that person, we're going to destroy that person. It is an ugly world in Ted Cruz's world." Even PBS anchor Judy Woodruff found that S-word a bit impolite -- although she was laughing all the way. It's what one does in the face of rhetorical excesses against conservatives. Brooks then pretended to walk it back, declaring Cruz was merely "Mephistophelian."
On Jan. 12, he doubled down in a Times column titled "The Brutalism of Ted Cruz." He repeated his attack: "Cruz's speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them." On behalf of Obama, Brooks proclaimed, "The fact is this apocalyptic diagnosis is ridiculous."
I guess we should be relieved Brooks no longer finds satanic influences in Cruz. That said, how bizarre this accusation of paganism! Usually Cruz is painted as a Christian fanatic.
On the other hand, his lack of "compassion, gentleness, and mercy" -- all qualities possessed by Brooks and Obama -- clearly suggests Cruz isn't very Christian. "The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity," he declared. "Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence. He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind."
Here we go again. The next step is to dismiss his followers as the "poor, uneducated and easy-to-command" types.
This man is not the one to lecture about "answering hate with hate" and "losing all sense of proportion." He comes unglued when he talks about Cruz. When the new Senator from Texas arrived in 2013, Brooks sneered, "I think he's made a lot of enemies. It doesn't help that he has a face that looks a little like Joe McCarthy." Ah, but this is the rhetoric of the left -- so it's acceptable.
Compare all this with "conservative" Brooks' adoration of Barack Obama, famously endorsing his ambitions in an Oct. 19, 2006 column tiled "Run, Barack, Run." No real conservative would assent to that headline unless it was dripping with sarcasm (rhetorically excessive, to be sure). It wasn't. Brooks concluded Obama was the "rarest of creatures: a megahyped phenomenon that lives up to the hype."
Even at the late date of May 27, 2015 -- after the scandals of Fast and Furious, Solyndra, the VA, the IRS, HealthCare.Gov, Benghazi, ad infinitum -- Brooks still let all of his mental faculties cease in a moment of ecstasy on PBS: "President Obama has run an amazingly scandal-free administration, not only he himself, but the people around him. He's chosen people who have been pretty scandal-free. And so there are people in Washington who do set a standard of integrity, who do seem to attract people of quality."
There is nothing moderate -- or accurate -- about that. Or David Brooks.