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September 30, 2003

Our Mr. Brooks

Posted by Phil on September 30, 2003 10:57 AM

What follows is an e-mail I sent to David Brooks in response to this column in today's New York Times. He's sad because politics has gotten so nasty.

"...the weeds that were once on the edge of public life now threaten to choke off the whole thing."

Indeed, Mr. Brooks, indeed they do, and I applaud you for what must feel like a noble attempt to apportion blame equally. However, as a liberal Democrat passionately opposed to the present administration, I do not accept the share that you would like to lay at our feet. The leading edge and higher proportion of destructive ugliness has and continues to come from the operatives and outlets of the right. The very nature of our current discourse is attributable to the tactics of Atwater and Rove; to the financial and media resources of Scaife, Murdoch, and Ailes; to the narrow-minded chauvinism of talk radio; and to the blue-shirted mob that stormed the Florida public offices where civil servants were attempting to tally citizens' votes.

Every night, representatives of my political viewpoint are denigrated as traitors by the reactionaries of Fox News and MSNBC. They attack a president nearly three years out of office, they attack Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, and they attack me. The culture war is neither over nor limited to personal loathing, although the politics of such reached a shameless nadir in the '90s with the right's breathless anti-Clintonism. It is naive of you to suddenly state, because the left has produced a few bestsellers, that the nation's attention span has drifted from the culture wars to the more base sport of personal destruction.

In fact, two of the three books you cite from the left do not spotlight only the president, but also the corporate, media, and political apparatus that is his administration's backbone. And what are the "crimes" these books seek to illuminate? Not hysterical allegations of treason, murder, or debased personal behavior, but plausible evidence of dishonesty, conflicts of political and corporate interests, and betrayal of the public trust. Your assertion that "most people in the last two administrations were well-intentioned patriots doing the best they could" is generous, but, like the canard of journalistic objectivity, conveniently ignores the fact that one side is right and one side is wrong. One need look no further than the front page of the paper in which your column appears to see justification for the contentions of the authors of the books you cite.

To piously note, now that the left has found its fists, what a shame it is that our political manners have become so coarse is to be blind to recent political history. You are right, of course, but the reality is that the left, given the importance of the issues at stake, has no choice but to respond in some fashion to more than a decade of the right's bare-knuckle tactics.

For my part, I do not hate George W. Bush. He is not his side's leader but its callow corporate spokesperson. What I feel for those in whose interest he speaks is somewhat more complex than hatred. Their greed for capital and power, buttressed by crowd-pleasing lip service to narrow definitions of morality, pits them against history and humanity. It is against those forces, rather than the clever jibes of Al Franken, that they will be unable to stand in the end.

Sincerely, yada yada yada...