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BROOKS BROTHERS! It was all just a joke, David Brooks has now said. But what about Brooks’ slick brothers?


BROOKS BROTHERS: Was it kooky and crazy for people to think that neocons might want to “move into Syria?” Just this past Wednesday night, Richard Perle appeared on Charlie Rose, and the Prince of Darkness made it sound like Damascus might be advanced on this weekend (text below). But David Brooks took a different view; to Brooks, people who thought that neocons might want to “move into Syria” were just a bunch of crazy “full-mooners.” And it got much worse than that. According to Brooks, people who had such crazy ideas were surely just hunting down Jews.

How horrid was Brooks’ column this Monday? If you want to be fair to Brooks—and we recommend fairness—we suggest that you read his 2/21/03 piece for the on-line Daily Standard. In that post, Brooks worried that anti-Semitism was playing a role in criticism of Bush Iraq policy. Some of his specific complaints that day had the flavor of scenes from Woody Allen films, in which Allen mocks his own hyper-sensitivity with regard to anti-Semitism. But Brooks didn’t give the impression in this piece that all critics of Iraq must be anti-Semitic. Alas, such restraint was missing from Monday’s column. “The whole world” was becoming “unhinged,” he suggested, as he talked about “all these articles”—articles which “came in waves”—in which “the full-mooners” expressed the view that (among other things) the neocon Project for a New American Century was “sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission.” In his very next paragraph, Brooks clearly said that Wesley Clark was just a kooky full-mooner too. But then, with “all these articles” coming “in waves,” who among Bush critics wasn’t?

How inane was Brooks’ Times column? In the past two days, we’ve focussed on his dissembling citation of a crackpot, porno web site. But how inane were his overall claims? Most bizarre was an obvious insinuation by Brooks—the suggestion that it was kooky to think that neocons influenced Bush Admin policy. Brooks heaped abuse on the critics:

BROOKS: The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles.

We’d sit around the [Weekly Standard] guffawing at the ludicrous stories that kept sprouting, but belief in shadowy neocon influence has now hardened into common knowledge.

Pitiful, isn’t it? Brooks makes it sound like Bush’s critics were weirdly “fixated” on a meaningless think tank. He fails to note that PNAC’s original members are now major forces in the Admin—men who clearly did have influence on the Bush Admin’s policy (see item below). Brooks makes it sound like belief in “shadowy neocon influence” stamps you as some kind of a nut. But what is “shadowy” about the influence exerted by a president’s high-ranking officials? Whatever one thinks of Paul Wolfowitz or Dick Cheney, they surely have influenced this president’s policy. What sort of president would pick a vice-president, appoint a Defense Department, then swear to resist all their views?

Readers, whatever one thinks of Wolfowitz’s views, he has clearly “influenced” Bush Admin policy. So the identity of the “full-mooner” is clear—the full-mooner here is clearly David Brooks. Luckily, people complained about Brooks’ piece, and the scribe has now issued an artful explanation. (We’ll offer the full text below.)

What is Brooks’ explanation? In part, the scribe was just joking in his column, he says, adopting the standard Limbaughian dodge. And, after tortured accounts of what he really was saying, Brooks offers another sweet dodge. “I am still on the learning curve here,” he says, explaining the “incredibly stupid” aspects of his column. Still on the learning curve! Did the New York Times know, when they hired this man, that he was just a pup cub reporter? Does the NewsHour know, when they air him each week, how much he still has to learn? Indeed, it’s amazing how far Brooks has gone in the “press corps” while learning the basics of his profession! Who knew? Who knew that you shouldn’t make sweeping insinuations about “the whole world” while “joking” about anti-Semites, Jews and full-mooners? Who knew that you shouldn’t drag Wesley Clark’s sterling name all through such a pure porno mess?

Was Brooks’ column just a mistake—a stupid failed joke? In fact, many aspects of Brooks’ column mirror the work of conservative brethren, slimy men who have slimed dissenters over the past several years. In his ugly insinuations about Bush’s critics, David Brooks has a long list of brothers. For example, just a few days before the Brooks piece appeared, Jowl Mowbray held forth in the National Review—and the slimy fellow seemed to be reading from the same “joke-book” Brooks would employ. Try to believe that he said actually it—and that no one in the press, except Josh Marshall, has spoken up in protest:

MOWBRAY: Discussing the Iraq war with the Washington Post last week, former General Anthony Zinni took the path chosen by so many anti-Semites: he blamed it on the Jews.

Neither President Bush nor Vice-President Cheney—nor for that matter Zinni’s old friend, Secretary of State Colin Powell—was to blame. It was the Jews. They “captured” both Bush and Cheney, and Powell was merely being a “good soldier.”

Technically, the former head of the Central Command in the Middle East didn’t say “Jews.” He instead used a term that has become a new favorite for anti-Semites: “neoconservatives.” As the name implies, “neoconservative” was originally meant to denote someone who is a newcomer to the right. In the 90’s, many people self-identified themselves as “neocons,” but today that term has become synonymous with “Jews.”

Disgraceful, isn’t it? And deeply repellent. Mowbray, of course, is the pimple-faced, sophomoric little fellow the Review has hired because he’ll recite every script. But it’s fairly clear that the callow little guy was reading from Joe McCarthy’s old joke book. And so was Brooks, we’re sorry to report. General Zinni’s an anti-Semite, Mowbray said—but so is General Clark, Brooks quickly implied (not realizing he was doing so, of course). So do the slimy boys of the contemporary pseudo-right stuff their pockets full of cash, trashing generals who dare to dissent and trashing your discourse as they do so. If readers complain, they just say they were just joking. “I am still on the learning curve,” one of them says.

Yep! It’s hard to know why Gail Collins put Brooks’ full-moonery into the Times. But we’d like to offer one final note on a pattern Brooks’ piece plainly furthered. Let’s go back to an early passage in his Times piece, in which he cited a source that had him bad troubled. Where could anti-Semitic full-mooners be found? Repulsively, Brooks named a source:

BROOKS: Do you ever get the sense the whole world is becoming unhinged from reality? I started feeling that way awhile ago, when I was still working for The Weekly Standard and all these articles began appearing about how Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Bill Kristol and a bunch of “neoconservatives” at the magazine had taken over U.S. foreign policy.

Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans.

As we have seen, that Cheney-organized human hunt came from a crackpot, porno web site. It had nothing to do with attacks on conservatives. In paragraph two, David Brooks named a source. And he lied in your face when he did it.

Just for today, we’ll fail to ask why editor Collins waved such dementia into print. But when David Brooks cited this ludicrous source, he was observing a familiar pattern. Speaking of those human hunts, how far are our pseudo-con killers willing to search to offer examples of crackpot Bush-hatred? Let’s recall a few slick examples over their past lovely year.

How far will Brooks’ brothers hunt for Bush-haters? Back in June, Byron York went deep in the woods. Eager to savage those troubling Bush-haters, he pretended that a crackpot book (a book you’ve never heard mentioned, before or since) was actually outselling Ivins and Franken! This gave York (and Rich Lowry) a chance to vent about all the Bush-hatred. The crackpot Bush-haters were all around us, they said. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/22/03.

How far will the pseudo-con human hunt go? Shortly after September 11, Michelle Malkin was so eager to savage the (non-existent) America-hating left that she was willing to beat on a high school kid for something he said in a local newspaper! Unable to find real America-haters, Malkin conducted a human hunt. When she finally found her prey, it turned out he was cutting gym class. How far will they go to track their prey? See THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/25/01.

Just last month, conducted a contest to make 30-second anti-Bush ads. Anyone in the country could enter. Two entries (out of 1500) went absurdly over the top. At the RNC, Ed Gillespie began to boo-hoo-hoo, deeply troubled by the entries. Who sent in the entries? Some meaningless schlub! Wolf Blitzer now flogs them on television.

And now, David Brooks takes the next step. He wanted to say that Bush’s critics surely must be anti-Semites. So he took himself to a crackpot web site and pretended that it was attacking conservatives. For reasons only she can comprehend, Gail Collins put his porn into print.

Yes, the Brookses, the Mowbrays, the Malkins and Yorks will go far afield on their own human hunts. They’re very eager to fool the rubes, and they’re willing to make a total joke of your discourse. They want to make the public think that critics of Bush are deranged and disturbed. Who are the real America-haters? They’ll call men like Zinni and Clark evil names; they’ll even beat up on high school sophomores. Gail Collins? She’ll put their porn into print. When complaints come, they say they were joking.

DAVID BROOKS CAN EXPLAIN THE WHOLE THING: Daniel Okrent, the crusading “public editor,” seems to be spending his time this week mailing out lame excuses by Brooks. Here is Brooks’ full statement about his column. Brooks addressed his remarks to Okrent:

BROOKS: For what its [sic] worth, that neo being short for Jewish was meant as a joke. Nothing more. Most of the people who get labeled as Neocons are Jewish, so I was just sort of playing off that.

As for me accusing anybody who accuses neocons of being anti-Semitic, there are a few issues here. First, I wasn’t saying anything about people who criticize neocons’ ideas. The column wasn’t about that at all. It was about people who imagine there is a shadowy conspiracy behind Bush policy. Second, I explicitly say that only a subset of the people who talk about the shadow conspiracy find Jewishness a handy explanation for everything. I have no idea how large a subset that is, but judging from my e-mail it is out there.

So I was careful not to say that Bush or neocon critics are anti-Semitic. I was careful not to say that all conspiracy theorists are anti-Semitic.

I am still on the learning curve here, and I do realize that mixture of a crack with a serious accusation was incredibly stupid on my part. Please do pass along to readers that I’m aware of how foolish I was to write the column in the way I did.

Leave aside the dodge about joking—and leave aside the “learning curve” nonsense. Having left those points to the side, Brooks’ substantive claims are simply absurd. “I was careful not to say that Bush or neocon critics are anti-Semitic?” And: “I was careful not to say that all conspiracy theorists are anti-Semitic?” These claims by Brooks are simply absurd—unless Brooks is just being “Clintonesque.”

Was David Brooks “careful not to say that Bush or neocon critics are anti-Semitic?” David Brooks was careful, all right. You can see how “careful” he was in the passage which slimed Wesley Clark:

BROOKS: The full-mooners fixated on a think tank called the Project for the New American Century, which has a staff of five and issues memos on foreign policy. To hear these people describe it, PNAC is sort of a Yiddish Trilateral Commission, the nexus of the sprawling neocon tentacles.

We’d sit around the magazine guffawing at the ludicrous stories that kept sprouting, but belief in shadowy neocon influence has now hardened into common knowledge. Wesley Clark, among others, cannot go a week without bringing it up.

In truth, the people labeled neocons (con is short for “conservative” and neo is short for “Jewish”) travel in widely different circles and don't actually have much contact with one another.

Brooks was very “careful,” all right. He was careful to name Clark’s name right after the “Yiddish” jibe, and right before saying that “neocon” means “Jews.” And he was careful to link Clark’s name with his stupid remarks about that “shadowy” influence.

“I was careful not to say that Bush or neocon critics are anti-Semitic?” Incredible, isn’t it? Brooks’ whole column implied just the opposite! Nor did Brooks “explicitly say that only a subset of the people who talk about the shadow conspiracy find Jewishness a handy explanation for everything.” That statement by Brooks is baldly inaccurate. Here’s what he actually said, two-thirds of the way through his column:

BROOKS: [T]here are apparently millions of people who cling to the notion that the world is controlled by well-organized and malevolent forces. And for a subset of these people, Jews are a handy explanation for everything.
What did David Brooks actually say? He actually said that anti-Semites are a subset of conspiracy theorists, not that they’re a (possibly small) subset of neocon critics. And he said this fairly late in his column—after implying, again and again, the critics of the neoconservatives were driven by hatred of Jews.

Brooks’ e-mail to Okrent is another bad joke. But Okrent was eager to mail it on out. Sadly, people like Collins and Okrent don’t really care. Guess what, readers? They respond to one thing—loudmouth power.

PERLE BEFORE ROSE: According to Brooks, it was silly to think that neocons might possibly want to “finish off Iraq and move into Syria.” Why, you had to be a full-mooner to think it! Or, of course, you were just a Jew-hater. But here’s part of what Richard Perle told Charlie Rose just this past Wednesday night:

ROSE (1/7/04): I don’t see any evidence that Bashar Assad is quivering in his boots worrying that after Baghdad, Damascus is next.

PERLE: Well, he should be quivering in his boots.

ROSE: He should?

PERLE: Yeah!

ROSE: Why should he? The Bush administration is not about to do this again, because it has caused too much, too much problem [sic] and there are too many other priorities.

PERLE: Well in fact I think we have now demonstrated that we are not only capable of doing this, we did it in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we’re ready to do it again. And if Bashar Assad believes he’s immune, he’s inviolable, it can’t happen here, he may be in for a rude surprise.

Gee! Why would anyone think that Perle might want to “move into Syria?” “There is a whole range of options,” he said moments later, “and one of them is changing that regime.”

Readers, you might approve of Perle’s views, or you might think they’re lacking. But many neocons did seem to be thinking about moving past Iraq into Syria. It didn’t take a full-mooner to think it—nor did you have to be anti-Semitic. There’s only one full-mooner here: David Brooks. Why in the world would someone like Collins put his ugly cant into print?

THE LITTLE THINK-TANK THAT COULD: How big a full-mooner is David Brooks? Remember that little think-tank, PNAC—the tiny little, meaningless think-tank that the “full-mooners” were “fixating” on? Absent-mindedly, Brooks forgot to say who belonged to that think-tank. But here’s a brief note from Brooks’ paper about a letter the little think-tank once sent:

NEW YORK TIMES (12/3/01): Following are excerpts from a 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton from the Project for the New American Century urging the removal of President Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Among the signers were Donald H. Rumsfeld, Paul D. Wolfowitz and R. James Woolsey.

“. . . it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

“We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your administration’s attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties of implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater.”

That’s how the item appeared in the paper. The editing is the NYT’s, not ours.

PNAC’s advice might have been good, or it might have been bad. But why did people “fixate” on that little think-tank? Duh! Because people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were its members! Do you really think it’s strange to believe that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz “influenced” policy? David Brooks wants you thinking it’s strange; indeed, he wants you to think the idea is so strange that you have to be anti-Semitic to believe it. Why on earth—why, tell us why—did Gail Collin put such garbage into print?