BoBo Redux: Who You Gonna Believe

…Bobo, or what the candidates very clearly say they are going to do.

Which is to say: not to disagree w. DougJ, but the signature line in David Brooks latest grotesquerie isn’t the closer. It’s this:

At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable.  What matters is how a candidate signals priorities.

Umm. David.  We remember George Bush’s plans.  They signaled his priorities just fine…and he proceeded as promised to turn a robust budget surplus into the biggest upwards income redistribution in memory, along with deficits from here to Atlantis.

I had thought to fisk the whole damn column, which is full of low-hanging fruit.  But really why bother?  It’s all there in that don’t “get too worked up” by what alledged “wonks” actually say about the policies they wonkishly espouse.  Because it’s not like they mean it.

Except they do.

And once again we see:  David Brooks is a terrible public figure not because of his politics but because of his character, his willingness to be a loyal apparatchik transcribing whatever counts as pravda in that universe in which Republicans are the natural party of power.


Or to put it another way: he both is and broadcasts a stupid person’s idea of what a smart conservative sounds like.

PS:  Krugthulu agrees.  What I like best about this is the absence of even a shred of collegial courtesy.

Which is as it should be.  If you’re going to opine in public, then it’s your job to do so by saying what you really think.

Image:  Pieter Breughel the Elder, Dutch Proverbs — The Topsy Turvy World. 1559.  I highly recommend checking out the image at the link.  The notes embedded in the picture explain it’s relevance here.  See, e.g. the roses before swine above.


79 replies
  1. 1
    Doug! says:

    You’re right, that was the money line. You nailed it.

  2. 2
    Felonius Monk says:

    As with nearly every column he writes, BoBo proves yet again that he is an ignorant asshole.

  3. 3
    Some guy says:

    SJP student assaulted at UC Santa Barbara, sent to hospital.

  4. 4
    Bostondreams says:

    Off topic: Florida College proposes prospective employees bid for jobs.

    Oh, always the race to the bottom in this state. The proposal comes from a Board of Trustees member who owns a construction company.

  5. 5

    He is a polished liar and as reactionary as any of the right wing blowhards. He is more dangerous because many totebaggers buy into his I am so reasonable schtick.

    ETA: He runs rings around the sputtering, jowly Mark Shields in their PBS appearances together.

  6. 6
    catclub says:

    Cruz’s best hope is that TRump and Carson collapse, but also that a large number of the ‘more repectable’ candidates stay in and split the sane vote. If only Rubio remains, that is bad for Cruz.

    I still have no idea if Trump and Carson will collapse. I think Carson much more likely to collapse than Trump.

  7. 7
    MattF says:

    Right. But you don’t even have to invoke the duties of a columnist– given, e.g., that Brooks has actually written a book entitled “The Road To Character”, it’s entirely legitimate to raise the issue.

  8. 8
    Punchy says:

    They are all wildly unaffordable

    Brooks may be persona non grata if he keeps this up. Even with the preface of “dont sweat this, but….”, he’s still admiting what’s considered heresey with the base.

    Maybe Brooks and Rinse Prius can get new gigs after their dismissals playing in a White Zombie cover band.

  9. 9
    Marmot says:

    You n’ Krugthulhu are on a roll! What Brooks wrote is so amazingly stupid, it’s clear that only Beltway group loyalty and willful blindness uphold the fiction that he’s a wise pundit worth listening to.

  10. 10
    Luthe says:

    David Brooks is the living embodiment of the old saw about how you can’t make a man understand something if it’s his job not to understand it.

    Of course, I don’t think that was meant to be applied to *all* aspects of life, but good ol’ Davey is an overachiever.

  11. 11
    catclub says:

    [Rubio] he’s not a trust fund baby or the son and brother of presidents, and hasn’t worked for Lehman Brothers or married someone who works for Goldman Sachs. So yeah, he’s struggled to pay bills.

    In conservative mythology there’s a fine line, of course, between “struggling to pay bills” and being an undisciplined freeloader who can’t be trusted to meet his obligations.

    There are never concerns about fabulously wealthy ( aristocrat) undisciplined freeloaders in the GOP. Funny that.

  12. 12
    Shantanu Saha says:

    I read Krugman just before I saw this, and I think this line sums up the shivving he’s giving BoBo:

    Policy proposals tell us a lot about character — and the history of the past 15 years says that journalists who imagine that they can judge character from the way people come across on TV or in personal interviews are kidding themselves, and misleading everyone else.

    If that doesn’t telegraph to Brooks that Krugman thinks he’s a hack and an idiot, I don’t know what will.

  13. 13

    @MattF: Didn’t he also teach a class on humility. Imagine that, learning how to be umble from Uriah Heap Brooks.

  14. 14
    dubo says:

    This sort of gets to the big conflict between the candidates abd the establishment, it’s the Giuliani/Palin thing all over again

    The candidates and T-party think their word salad on substantive issues is brilliant insught and want to get it out as much as possible

    The conservative establishment (including CNBC) knows that what they’re saying is dumb as hell and they look worse and more ignorant the more they talk, so they want to drive the topics away from substantive issues

  15. 15
    Marmot says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    As with nearly every column he writes, BoBo proves yet again that he is an ignorant asshole.

    If by that you mean “mendacious liar,” I agree.

  16. 16
    catclub says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    He is a polished liar and as reactionary as any of the right wing blowhards

    I thought you meant Rubio.

  17. 17
    mb says:

    This is the second time, to my knowledge, that K has called out Brooks by name in his blog. Something has changed. That didn’t used to happen. K would be oblique about who he was criticizing when he blasted a Brooks column in the past.

  18. 18
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Marmot: I think it’s possible to be both ignorant and mendacious. Just lie about the stuff you know, and make up shit about the stuff you don’t.

  19. 19
    MattF says:

    @mb: Well, it’s hard to miss the contrast between the two op-ed columns on the same page— Brooks down the left and Krug down the right, ironically enough.

  20. 20
  21. 21
    catclub says:

    Pierce on getting the liberal media out of being whipping boys for GOP debaters:

    But Mark Levin? Abso-freaking-lutely. Mark Levin thinks Paul Ryan is a squish. Mark Levin wants the Constitution rewritten to eliminate the popular election of senators and so that states can nullify federal laws. Let Levin moderate a debate and he’ll push these clowns so far to the right that they’ll end up in Kazakhstan. I would buy a ticket to that debate.

    Me, too.

  22. 22
    catclub says:

    @Marmot: mendacity, as Big Daddy puts it.

  23. 23
    japa21 says:

    Here’s the thing. Those plans are only “wildly unaffordable” if a Democrat was in office and proposed them. The GOP has no problem with running up debt and the deficit to get their plans put into action. So in a sense, Bobo is right. Once the GOP gets into office, the plans become, from their point of view, totally affordable.

  24. 24
    Hoodie says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Brooks knows better. He’s just a plain asshole. A greedy, sycophantic asshole who gives a sheen of respectability to charlatans so he can enjoy a comfy nest in Georgetown and go to the right parties.

  25. 25

    @catclub: Sorry! I should have been more specific. When it comes to lying, Bobo is a Jedi Master compared to Rubio.

  26. 26
    MattF says:

    @Hoodie: For the record, Brooks lived in Bethesda (Maryland) until 2012, then moved into a $3 million house in Cleveland Park– a fairly ritzy DC area, but not Georgetown-ritzy. He then sold the house for $4 million two years later and (reportedly) moved into an apartment in the same neighborhood.

  27. 27
    Patrick ii says:

    There are a lot of problems with this , but among the most important is that Democrats run against a fantasy world and that fantasy world is held against him when Democrats when they can’t achieve it . People are unsatisfied with the government can’t cut taxes by 70% and have a larger income end roses and have a bigger defense . From Bobos view I guess they lied to get elected and like many businessman the results are more important than what is said to get them . But we really can’t continue to live in an imaginary world or climate change doesn’t exist or tax cuts create more government income where there is no such thing as racism and because of the Republican lies people are constantly disappointed by what reality brings him . It’s a type of insanity really for the life of the conservative bmind is so different than the life of the real world.

  28. 28
    Peale says:

    @catclub: He didn’t struggle to pay the bills. I believe he didn’t pay them. Or found ways to pay them that weren’t exactly honorable, even if they didn’t sink to the level of hustling at the bus stop men’s room.

  29. 29
    piratedan says:

    I’m sure Brooks can tolerate these hateful slings and arrows while perched in his ivory tower procured by his prostitutional prose. Bet he doesn’t lose any sleep at night either. I wouldn’t waste a pike on his noggin once the barricades are stormed.

  30. 30
    Germy Shoemangler says:

    Our own “Right To Rise” made a tv appearance recently:–o

  31. 31
    maya says:

    Did Brooks babble again?

    Always a refreshing sound.

  32. 32
  33. 33
    David Fud says:

    I absolutely love all of the sayings at the link. Thanks Tom Levenson for pointing out all of the sayings in one picture. Amazing.

  34. 34
    cmorenc says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    As with nearly every column he writes, BoBo proves yet again that he is an ignorant asshole.

    Brooks is such a genially companionable guy who can speak and write in compete, articulate sentences (never mind that the notions he’s attempting to thereby communicate are so often pudding-headed bullshit) – that the MSM finds him a person they can comfortably trust to put on teevee or host his column to represent a “moderately conservative” perspective on events, without any risk he’ll abrasively offend anyone. Except, of course for anyone paying sufficient attention to the actual substance of what he says.

  35. 35
    JPL says:

    The notes embedded in the picture explain it’s relevance here.
    Horse droppings are not figs—Do not be fooled by appearances.

    So true!

  36. 36

    David Brooks is a terrible public figure not because of his politics but because of his character, his willingness to be a loyal apparatchik transcribing whatever counts as pravda in that universe in which Republicans are the natural party of power.

    I don’t think you can separate his politics from his character as neatly as you’re trying to do; they’re deeply intertwined. Being an unashamed toady may be a character flaw, but it’s also the core of establishment Republican politics; they’re the party of the rich and their clients. They go together like shit and flies.

  37. 37
    JPL says:

    To tie a flaxen beard to the face of God — To hide deceit under a veneer of Christian piety.

  38. 38

    Brooks is a much more polished liar than Rubio. Assuming Rubio wins the nomination, when he has to speak in public without standing next to someone who goes ‘woob woob woob’ as their answer to any question, we will remember what an appallingly awkward dufus he is. Remember, *every single one* of these candidates is worse than Romney, and Romney was a travesty.

  39. 39
    azlib says:

    Why does the NYT keep this idiot (Brooks)? At least William Safire (an earlier NYT house conservative) had a nice weekly column about language and his punditry was at least rational. Honestly, I do not know which one is worse – Brooks or Douthat. They both have descended into gibberish lately. Maybe there are no thinking conservatives left and those two are the best the NYT can find.

  40. 40
    Amir Khalid says:

    As I remember, The New York Times did sack Bill Kristol; his columns were so full of rubbish, they had to run a correction after nearly every single one — starting with the very first. But it took them a year to get rid of him, likely because they wanted to avoid a big severance payout specified in his contract. Kristol’s replacement is Ross Douthat, who knows fuck-all about Christian scholarship (especially that of his own Catholic church) but pretends to write it anyway.

    As we’ve all noticed, Douthat is the same way with conservative politics. He and Brooks are The Times’ main conservative columnists. Strange as it is to say about The Times, it appears to me that Douthat and Brooks keep their jobs because The Times can’t find anyone better at what they do.

  41. 41
    Marc says:

    So, why is Brooks now so hot on Rubio?

    In the one picture is worth a thousand words category,

  42. 42
    Jeffro says:


    Remember, *every single one* of these candidates is worse than Romney, and Romney was a travesty.

    True, except for Kaisch. (Not a fan of his, just sayin’)

  43. 43
    MattF says:

    @Amir Khalid: Yeah, and although it’s not generally recalled, the Times employed Ben Stein as a personal finance columnist (!) until a little conflict-of-interest problem raised its ugly head. The real problem is that they are all grifters.

  44. 44
    mtiffany says:

    What is it with you people reading Bobo? Can’t find your hairshirts?

  45. 45
    catclub says:

    I like Kevin Drum’s list of questions after the Republican debate, especially asking Carly Fiorina to release a draft of her three-page tax code.

    stolen from elsewhere.

    I also liked Drum’s question for Trump.

  46. 46
    gvg says:

    Interesting link in the comments. Pearlstein apparently wrote that the reason Romney finally got the conservatives to vote for him wasn’t simple GOP loyalty but because he told lies that showed he was one of them….some sort of initiation I gather. I didn’t really understand their minds but a lot of the point is how all their magazines sell a lot of snake oil get rich quick ripoffs and fraud on the elderly. They admire liars of a certain type. Nixon wasn’t one of them until after Watergate etc.

    I really really couldn’t comprehend it but I think there is something to it and that’s why the facts don’t get anywhere talking to the conservative you know. I have noticed the ad’s on that kind of site are really slimey. It’s also been a concern that their ad’s show up here or on other liberal site’s I look at apparently because Google can’t differentiate between reading about conservatives and actually being one.

  47. 47
    Jeffro says:

    (reposted from earlier this morning):
    @tony in san diego:Oh he(Brooks) has got something all right: it’s called lying.

    At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities. Rubio talks specifically about targeting policies to boost middle- and lower-middle-class living standards.

    The sheer audacity…it doesn’t matter that their plans are wildly unaffordable? What matters are the ‘signals’?? Well sure, if your intent is to describe our current problems in the same manner as Democrats do, yet do the exact opposite when it comes to actually solving those problems.

    Brooks tops that by going on to describe basic Republican crap – block grants back to the states for social programs, for example – as if they are some wildly innovative new proposals. He wraps up with:

    In a year in which many candidates are all marketing, Rubio is a balance of marketing and product.

    Brooksie, please explain one more time how Rubio’s “product” is any different than the usual GOP b.s.???

    Hillary & Bernie: please tell us you’re on top of this?

  48. 48
    burnspbesq says:

    The best thing on the Times op-ed page today is Linda Greenhouse’s essay on what’s at stake in the contraceptive accommodation cases that are currently being evaluated by the Supremes to see if they want to hear any of them.

  49. 49
    burnspbesq says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    I assume you’re enjoying the comeuppance currently being administered to Douthat (and his co-stooge Dreher) by actual Catholic theologians.

  50. 50
    Amir Khalid says:

    I know I’m not alone here in savouring that morsel of Schadenfreude.

  51. 51
    Calouste says:

    @Germy Shoemangler: Jeb!’s dead, baby. Jeb!’s dead.

  52. 52
    burnspbesq says:


    I would say it a bit differently: they’re only “wildly unaffordable” if raising taxes to pay for them is off the table as a fiscal-policy tool. Which it probably is, at least for now, but that doesn’t have to be the case forever.

  53. 53
    Cervantes says:

    What I like best about this is the absence of even a shred of collegial courtesy.

    Not to mention, a hack like Brooks deserves no such thing.

  54. 54
    Calouste says:

    @catclub: I can tell you one thing about a three page tax code, and that is that there will be no more mortgage deduction, because there is no way you can write the law for that in 3 pages. And no mortgage deduction means a real estate crash and a Great Depression.

  55. 55
    dubo says:

    For some reason it didn’t strike me until just now but…

    Not only is Brooks saying to ignore their policy proposals, he’s saying to do so in an article where the thesis is that they’re great because they’re great wonks


  56. 56
    burnspbesq says:

    Speaking of Dreher, this is what he’s losing his shit over today. Good Lord, someone please break this man’s keyboard.


    ETA: the comments are fabulous.

  57. 57
    ed_finnerty says:

    at this point he is just trolling us

  58. 58
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Brooks on NPR reminds me a bit of Dancing Dave. There’s a bit of the suck up in him. Shields just sucks. What a bore.

  59. 59
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @catclub: I see a lot of Carson bumper stickers in Florida.

    Apparently when they hear Dr Hibbert speak, their addled GOP pates go: that’s the guy for me!

    The rest of us wonder what’s wrong with him.

  60. 60
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Gin & Tonic: So you’ve met my boss.

  61. 61
    agorabum says:

    @Marmot: saying “policy is not important” is perhaps the best embodiment of the Republican Party today. So Brooks is a good spokesman for the right…

  62. 62
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities.

    This probably reads better in the original German. It’s pretty obviously stolen straight from a review of Mein Kampf. In 1925-26 Schicklgruber pretty much told everyone what he’d do if he ever took power, & no one believed him–he was, after all, just signaling priorities…

  63. 63
    Jeffro says:


    Rod if you don’t stop clutching your pearls so hard you’re going to get arthritis.

    I’m dyin’ here…

  64. 64
    Jeffro says:


    Not only is Brooks saying to ignore their policy proposals, he’s saying to do so in an article where the thesis is that they’re great because they’re great wonks

    Right…they’re not just ‘packaged’, they have ‘substance’…but actually let’s not look at the substance, because their plans are all “wildly unaffordable”…and yet, they’re ‘wonks’. Why is it that in Republickinstan, words mean the opposite of what they mean in the real world??

    Maybe Brooks’ plan is to have us all too dizzy to vote?

  65. 65
    Jeffro says:

    Side note to all: while Brooks vs. Krugman is quite the contrast, Rampell’s column in the WaPo is spot-on.

    Shorter version: they’re lying, lying outrageously, and they do it because we in the media don’t call them on it nearly enough.

    (Don’t be thrown by the headline =)

  66. 66
    SoupCatcher says:

    @Jeffro: From your link:

    In recent weeks, Trump has suggested that he can simultaneously cut tax revenue by trillions of dollars, protect entitlements from cuts and balance the budget. He’s also pledged to raise taxes on the rich while simultaneously cutting taxes for the rich.

    This legerdemath, as a friend of mine put it, has proved successful; despite disobeying all laws of arithmetic, Trump’s policies have been characterized as coherent, fiscally conservative, even populist. Maybe this has something to do with America’s declining math scores.

    Legerdemath! Love that creation.

  67. 67
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    @cmorenc: Lying is the most uncivil of behaviors.

  68. 68
    burnspbesq says:


    That’s going to enter the lexicon on a permanent basis, and quickly.

  69. 69
    Amir Khalid says:

    Brooks is plainly not one of those who take the trouble to check that what they write makes sense. He’s too good for that.

  70. 70
    Cervantes says:


    [“Legerdemath” is] going to enter the lexicon on a permanent basis, and quickly.

    It’s not a new coinage. See here for a good example (credited to Omer Rosen).

  71. 71
    Downpuppy says:

    3 weeks ago somebody wrote

    This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.

    Maybe that guy can explain to Brooks why it’s necessary to hold candidates responsible for insane proposals.

  72. 72
    jl says:

    Dean Baker also calls out David ‘BS’ Brooks on his ignorance, or dishonesty, and with much more detail than Krugman.

    David Brooks Praises Marco Rubio for Pushing 20-Year-Old Ideas on Welfare Reform

    But note that Brooks has built himself self-serving fire walls on criticism of his BS. By Brooks’ own standards, his own posturing and the style of his smarmy marketing pitch is more important than rude discussion of facts history and substance provided by Krugman and Baker.

    For, Krugman and Baker don’t slather on the right syle points, which indicates lack of character.

  73. 73
    Amir Khalid says:

    Nor does Brooks remember any of his own previous writings.

  74. 74
    Zinsky says:

    Brooks is supposed to be the heavyweight, balanced intellectual of the Republican Party. And he basically says policy positions, regardless of how ridiculous, don’t matter. These handjobs don’t have any idea how to govern, do they? Why does anybody take these assholes seriously? Give them an island, lots of guns and then leet them kill and kill and kill to their hearts content. Maybe if we are lucky, they eradicate themselves…

  75. 75
    Downpuppy says:

    @Amir Khalid: Once Upon A Time I thought pundits remembered their own columns, but after 2 years writing the Thomas Friedman Breakdown Watch at Smirking Chimp, won’t make that mistake again.

    But it’s still fun to mock them for it.

  76. 76
    Cervantes says:


    after 2 years writing the Thomas Friedman Breakdown Watch at Smirking Chimp

    You did that? That”s great! What was it like?

  77. 77
    Duane says:

    @Bostondreams: @Bostondreams:

    Mr.Beruff needs a cart ride.
    Seriously, that would stop this shit.

  78. 78
    Downpuppy says:

    @Cervantes: Accidental. He was writing about how bad things were going in Iraq, and I innocently thought that this would lead to some rethinking.

    Once we all realized how silly that was, we just made jokes.

  79. 79
    Cervantes says:


    Friedman jokes are by far the best thing about him!

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