In a stunning display of moral arrogance and effete pique, David Brooks recently savaged Ted Cruz as a purveyor of “pagan brutalism” unfit to call himself a Christian, let alone lead a nation.
Mr. Brooks, whose career rests on his role as liberal elites’ arbiter of conservative conduct, lost his well-coiffed cool as he descended into attack mode against the only enemies he appears to recognize: conservatives. He began with a willful distortion of a legal case in which Senator Cruz, while Texas Solicitor General, sought to uphold Texas’ interpretation of its own laws in relation to the sentencing of a habitual offender. Senator Cruz did not actually lose that case. But Mr. Brooks gleefully repeats a caustic remark made in that regard by Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose pseudo-intellectualism and aura of self-regarding piety make him Brooks’ own intellectual twin. Mr. Brooks’ point is not merely that Senator Cruz was wrong (itself highly debatable, whatever that giant intellect of Anthony “sweet mystery of life” Kennedy may dictate). Rather, Mr. Brooks presents this incident as proof that Senator Cruz is a vicious hypocrite who would lead Christians down a road to political and personal perdition.
The criticism is not of the most subtle variety. Opines Mr. Brooks: “Cruz is a stranger to most of what would generally be considered the Christian virtues: humility, mercy, compassion and grace.” One also doubts whether Senator Cruz’ slacks have quite the sharp crease Mr. Brooks so famously admired in those of President Obama. Indeed, one gets the definite impression that Mr. Brooks already is pining for the “good old days” when someone of Mr. Obama’s sartorial splendor could captivate the nation with promises of “hope and change.”
For Mr. Brooks the essential beginning assumption in judging people like Senator Cruz, Mr. Trump, and their supporters is that the times are not, as most Americans are convinced, particularly bad. According to Mr. Brooks, Mr. Obama, has not, in fact, produced serial disasters for the people, economy, and culture of the United States:
The Obama administration has done things people like me strongly disagree with. But America is in better economic shape than any other major nation on earth. Crime is down. Abortion rates are down. Fourteen million new jobs have been created in five years.
Obama has championed a liberal agenda, but he hasn’t made the country unrecognizable. In 2008, federal spending accounted for about 20.3 percent of gross domestic product. In 2015, it accounted for about 20.9 percent.
One might ask Mr. Brooks “whose side are you on, anyway,” or even, “what planet are you on,” for it does not appear much like planet earth. But the answer is self-evident. Mr. Brooks and his friends among the well-dressed on planet upper-crust New York are doing fine, so there certainly can be no need for panic, let alone unpleasantness or, worse yet, a loss of decorum. One might lose a cuff link, after all.
The myopia intrinsic to the argument that America is “not unrecognizable” because federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has increased only marginally is itself beyond measure. Nit-pickers may point out that the early figures are from the immediate post-real estate bubble explosion, or that the Bush figures themselves make Bill Clinton’s trailer-park presidency look good. And some may note the riots in Ferguson and across the country, may observe the statistics and real-life tragedies clearly showing that middle-class and working people are noticeably worse off now than before Mr. Obama took office, or have the temerity to complain about civil prosecution of Christians for refusing to participate in same-sex celebrations or fund abortion. Some knuckle-dragging bigots (the wrong Christians) even may have a problem with court-mandated legal status for same-sex marriage. But Barneys still sells the right suits, so everything is good.
Except that those terrible people like Ted Cruz are stirring up the villagers again. And that must be stopped.
Cruz’s programmatic agenda, to the extent that it exists in his speeches, is to destroy things: destroy the I.R.S., crush the “jackals” of the E.P.A., end funding for Planned Parenthood, reverse Obama’s executive orders, make the desert glow in Syria, destroy the Iran nuclear accord.
Mr. Brooks is genteel enough to say that he agrees with some of these positions (he does not say which). “But the lack of any positive emphasis,” he continues, “any hint of reform conservatism, any aid for the working class, or even any humane gesture toward cooperation is striking.”
As one who is sartorially challenged, I still dare to ask, “cooperation with what? With a President who rules by decrees, insisting that he can suspend immigration laws, impose new regulations, and conduct wars without so much as a by-your-leave to Congress?” Then again, Mr. Brooks seems to believe that insistence on constitutional forms—you know, proper law-making—might lead to rudeness, and so should be soft-pedaled, especially by Good Christians.
And what is a Good Christian, for Mr. Brooks? Someone who takes other people’s money and gives it to those he deems worthy of receiving it.
The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity. Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence. He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind.
Mr. Brooks references George W. Bush as the kind of “happy and hopeful warrior” he thinks a conservative should be. Perhaps Bush II’s massive deficits, spending sprees of colossal proportions, and re-regulation setting the stage for Mr. Obama are what Mr. Brooks considers conservative and Christian. But conservatism, for those outside Manhattan, is about protecting the actual communities in which actual Americans (many of whom do not even know how to use cuff links) actually live. Those communities are being destroyed by an intrusive federal government, including the IRS with its tax code that punishes the thrifty, the hard-working and especially those who cannot afford accountants and tax shelters. They fear an EPA that can declare their land “wetland” and close their place of work. They know from the lawsuits, the vitriol being spewed on college campuses, and the indoctrination being forced upon their children in public school—that people of faith now are expected to live that faith only at home or in church and hide their deepest beliefs whenever they come in contact with those, especially in the school system, who despise them.
There is more, of course. Mr. Brooks is careful not to actually accuse evangelicals of bigotry for their opposition to same-sex marriage. But he does say they are on the losing side of history and will only be “further marginalized” by opposition to it. And this is the crux of his effete pique. Mr. Brooks, for all his increasingly silly claims to be conservative, is quite convinced that “history” is on the side of those like Mr. Obama who seek a new order, in which the state distributes goods and status to all people. Confident he will always get or keep “his,” Mr. Brooks can only define Christianity as encouraging the state to see that the masses are kept quiescent with handouts.
That this vision is not conservative, and that it bears little relationship to America outside Mayor Bill de Blasio’s realm should be obvious. That our chattering classes, should they continue to adhere to this vision, either will become irrelevant or eventually find themselves fighting over the last silk stockings at Barneys even as the mobs break down the doors, also should be clear. Unfortunately for Mr. Brooks, it appears that sufficient attention to one’s cuff links precludes recognition of unpleasant realities until it is too late to do anything about them. Best, then, to leave Mr. Brooks to his well-upholstered kennel to defend the standards of a rotted-out ruling class.
Mr. Obama long ago showed what happens to those poor, trusting creatures kept in the Left’s kennel. Let Mr. Brooks, Mr. Kennedy, and others of their country-club ilk continue with their unselfconscious parody of William F. Buckley, Jr. Let them stand athwart history, saying in well-modulated tones, “would you please slow down a bit?” The rest of us must look for conservative leaders who will help us do the uncouth work of salvaging what we can of our national character.
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