January 6, 2004
"David" and "Brooks": shorthand for "Neocon" and "Apologist"

brooks-book-palatable.gifMy, how New York Times M.E. Bill Keller must loooove the inestimable David Brooks, former writer for the News Corp-owned Weekly Standard and current voice of conservative reason on the paper of record's Op-Ed page. After all, when you're Bill Keller, and you're responsible for producing the nation's most liberal newspaper, it must feel wonderful to know you've gone out of your way to hire a conservative contrarian, if only to balance out all those Paul Krugman slams of Bush's annual tax-cut programs. It must be even nicer to know that Brooks, the guy you've hired in this capacity, is either an absolute moron or, more likely, a dishonest scoundrel.

In "The Era of Distortion", today's missive from Brooks, he sets out to dismiss those who would make a claim that so-called "neoconservative" politicos and intellectuals have in any way influenced the present administration's policies regarding matters as diverse as the Middle East, unilateralism, and the Bush doctrine (sorry, I guess that wasn't such a wide-ranging list, after all).

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. The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an expos on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.

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.

Admittedly, it's a highly effective way of discrediting assertions that Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Bill Kristol have influenced American foreign policy by placing such ideas alongside words such as "conspiracies" and some absurd anecdote about a cannibalistic Vice President - an anecdote, incidentally, which I have yet to encounter in my exhaustive reading of neocon-wary publications such as The Nation, the Village Voice, and, dare I say it, the national dailies, including the New York Times.

Another nice touch is the backhanded dismissal of German and French media outlets, along with the invocation of provocatively absurdist conspiratorial conceits such as the Trilateral Commission and the "tentacles" thereof, a notion obviously referencing the vast "Jewish conspiracy", which he makes sure to bring up later in his piece. And, of course, there's an obligatory reference to "web sites", which is publishing-world shorthand for "crazy" and "ill-researched". For what it's worth, I looked for additional hot-button phrases such as "New World Order" in there, but had no luck finding them.

Finally, as Brooks moves into his own "no-spin zone", he enlightens Times readers with the "truth," or at least, his iteration thereof (the fact that his list of "conspiratorial" "lies" appears in such an inaccurately contextualized fashion as is detailed above hopefully triggers the appropriate "I'm being spun" warning bells, but rarely do we have such assurances when dealing with the Op-Ed reading public).

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. The ones outside government have almost no contact with President Bush. There have been hundreds of references, for example, to Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy, but I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office. If he's shaping their decisions, he must be microwaving his ideas into their fillings.

It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace. But correlation does not mean causation. All evidence suggests that Bush formed his conclusions independently. Besides, if he wanted to follow the neocon line, Bush wouldn't know where to turn because while the neocons agree on Saddam, they disagree vituperatively on just about everything else. (If you ever read a sentence that starts with "Neocons believe," there is a 99.44 percent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.)

Whoa, where to start?

Taking a cue from Brooks and googling the phrase "Neocons believe" brings up results that are more or less confined to various rehashings of one particular piece, "Empire Builders: Neocon 101", which originally appeared in that bastion of left-wing paranoia, the Christian Science Monitor. Included in this primer are ideas such as this:

Most neocons believe that the US has allowed dangers to gather by not spending enough on defense and not confronting threats aggressively enough. One such threat, they contend, was Saddam Hussein and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Since the 1991 Gulf War, neocons relentlessly advocated Mr. Hussein's ouster.

I may not know how to read very well due to my public-school education, but does this idea not mirror Brooks' defensive assertions as previously quoted above, "It's true that both Bush and the people labeled neocons agree that Saddam Hussein represented a unique threat to world peace"? Or maybe this particular speculation of "Neocon 101" fits into Brooks' 0.56-percent truth-exemption range from the 99.44 percent of lies circulating about neoconservatives.

It's when discussing "Richard Perle's insidious power over administration policy" that Brooks becomes his most disingenuous. "I've been told by senior administration officials that he has had no significant meetings with Bush or Cheney since they assumed office," he writes. I suppose, then, the fact that Perle chaired (before resigning in disgrace from) the Defense Policy Board, an independent group of advisers working in close counsel with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is irrelevant. Certainly, the Pentagon and the Secretary of Defense have no input or role in foreign policy whatsoever. Bush, of course, never delegates relevant tasks to his sundry officials. Oh, wait a minute - he does, and has even said as much before.

Regardless of the charge by the "senior administration official" that Perle has yet to even shake hands with the President since his taking office - which is a dubious assertion, at best, akin to Perle's "immaculate conception" as a policy adviser - it must also be entirely irrelevant that Perle co-authored a best-selling tome entitled "An End to Evil: Strategies For Victory in the War on Terror," with former Bush speechwriter and "axis of evil" phrase-coiner David Frum. In other words, adhering to Brooks' defensive anti-logic, this book is not about foreign policy or terrorism, and has no relation to Bush or his staff. We'll pretend for a moment that Frum's last best-selling book was not entitled "The Right Man: An Inside Account of the Bush White House", and that Perle's credit on the cover of his current book does not say that he is "a former assistant secretary of defense".

Does disingenuousness equal dishonesty? Here's a better question...does David Brooks make an appearance in Al Franken's latest screed, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right"?

Posted in a Grave fashion.

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