The Op-Ed page of the NY Times publishes pundits with very different points of view. Normally, they carefully ignore each other. In the last two weeks a subtle spat has broken out between Paul Krugman and David Brooks.
- May 4, Brooks: "The Paranoid Style" made fun of the "conspiracy theories of Kevin Phillips, calling his work "intellectual dishonesty on stilts." He concluded that some Americans "are willing to believe any whacked-out theory, so long as it focuses hatred on Bush."
- May 8, Krugman: "Who's Crazy Now?" agrees that conspiracy theorists indeed exist, and gives as examples Bill O'Reilly and Sen. James "The Hoax" Inhofe. He goes on to explain that "many of the administration supporters can't handle the truth", and so "have consistently questioned the sanity of Bush critics. But now those harsh critics have been vindicated." The real conspiracy theorists, on the right, will continue to blame every failure of this administration on others.
- May18, Brooks: "Sir Galahad of the G.O.P." discusses how the G.O.P. "base suddenly turn[ed] carnivorous and out for your flesh" when the issue is immigration. He wrote that "they lashed out in ways identical to the Bushophobic left." He ends on a note of hope that a new immigration reform constituency is growing based on the "overwhelmingly positive response to the President's speech."
The spat is sort of fun, but the height of intellectual dishonesty reached by Brooks has to be described as "stilts on steroids."
He continues to call critics of this administration Bush haters, and questions their sanity by using words like "Bushphobic." He forgets that the 'crazy hate filled left' wished so much for Bush's success that he was given the highest approval rating that any President has ever recorded the history of the Gallup organization. (Sept 24, 2001, 90% Approval) No phobia forced his poll numbers down to levels that may break another record: his performance did that. It wasn't the right who contributed to making the response to the speech "overwhelmingly positive:" it was the 'crazy, reflexive Bush hating whackos' of the left.
The truth is that Bush's party is a party based on hatred and polarization. Bush has done his share in continuing this legacy of hate, but he didn't start it. The Republicans have been doing it for decades - from the "Southern Strategy", to Nixon's dirty tricks; from Reagan's speech on States Rights in Philadelphia, Mississippi to Lee Atwater and H.W.'s Willy Horton ads; it is how the GOP wins elections. By cynically using 9/11 and the war as weapons with which to bludgeon political opponents, George and Karl have reached new depths, but it's not a new direction.
Brooks' duplicity reaches new heights because he well knows that it's a party built on anger and hatred. He has seen and written about what the conservatives did with Harriet Miers' nomination. He also wrote how McCain's compromising to create the Gang of 14 was condemned as a "betrayal" and a "private surrender" by the grand old party base.
In spite of Krugman's not so subtle request that the sanity of Bush critics not be questioned, Brooks went straight ahead and wrote of the left's Bushphobia even in a piece devoted to the anger of the right. So please Mr. Brooks, let's not have any more lectures on intellectual honesty, or civility - especially when you applaud the entrance of Giuliani onto the national political scene, a man who is potentially even more divisive than Bush.