Thursday, September 30, 2004

Kristol should be the new Brooks

The NYT's conservative columnist, David Brooks, is engaging and pleasant enough to be palatable even to liberal readers. His recent op-eds include a discussion of the "cult of death" that is behind terrorism (only a slightly stronger stance than that of mainstream or moderate American liberals, who might not say "cult of death," but who are still committed to fighting terrorism) and a cutesy division of red-state and blue-state people into spreadsheet people and paragraph people, respectively. Having a palatably conservative columnist strikes me as a waste of space. Wouldn't it be better if the paper's conservative voice were a bit more confidently conservative and better reflected the sorts of op-eds people who don't rely on the Times are getting their views from? Not a polemical, abrasive conservative, but one who will not sugar-coat his conservatism to make it less revolting to the Times's readers. Someone like, say, William Kristol, who today made a brief, albeit confidently conservative, appearance on the op-ed pages.

I enjoyed Bobos in Paradise, and do not wish to imply that Brooks is incapable of writing good op-eds (his piece defending gay marriage, to name one, was absolutely brilliant). It's just that even--especially--if the paper wants to maintain its liberal slant, it would do well to show its readers current conservative thought as it is presented to actual conservatives.

5 comments:

Daniel said...

I usually agree with you, Phoebe, but when it comes to any disparagement of David Brooks (even as slight as this), I'm going to have to disagree. As a personal friend, I feel obligated to defend Mr. Brooks, but even more, he's a U of C grad and Mr. Kristol is not; that alone should be enough to support Brooks being at the NYTimes and Kristol not (excuse me, but I've just come home from a U of C Alumni event).

Besides, Brooks is the thinking man's conservative (not that Bill Kristol isn't). He presents his conservativism in such a wonderful way as it's hard (after you have read his articles) to disagree with him. He is a wonderfully entertaining writer - not just in "Bobos In Paradise" (which accompanied me through Ireland and provided many, many passages to read aloud to my companions) but also in "On Paradise Drive" and in the NYTimes. His recent articles may not be as trong as we may prefer, but they strike me more as writings from someone who is tired of arguing the same point again and again (I avoided the debates and all political talk tonight for this very reason). I can sympathize with this. Personally, I can't wait until we get beyond this election (whatever the result) so that we can just get beyond all of these meaningless squabbles - you know?

Just some thoughts...

Phoebe said...

I wasn't aware of disparaging Brooks--I just think he may not be the right person for the slot at the Times. Someone like Kristol, who's also a "thinking man's conservative," but with a bit more emphasis on that last part, would provide a better view of "the other side" to Times readers. That said, it's neat he's your "personal friend"--did you meet through some kind of U of C conservative conspiracy club? :)

Daniel said...

I guess "personal friend" is a little stretch. How about "decently known acquaintance?" We actually met through some friends who work in the White House that know him... so in a way it is a U of C Conservative Conspiracy Club. I can't tell you anymore because then... you know.

Phoebe said...

I had a brief stint at Criterion, so I glimpsed the U of C's Conservative Conspiracy. It's kinda silly, but I suppose Brooks is the Conspiracy at its most reasonable and sophisticated.

Daniel said...

Or, as I like to think (with just a hint of ego), Brooks is the UCCC at it's 2nd most reasonable and sophisticated...