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Falling In Love Again

Mine is the love that dares not speak its name ... the love of a liberal-and-proud-of-it woman for the conservative former Wall Street Journal columnist-Weekly Standard editor/ current New York Times columnist and author, David Brooks.

Oh, we've had our hard times -- like his insistent support for neocon policies -- and most recently been significantly estranged.

But he drew me back in one fell swoop last night ... as I watched him on the PBS News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Oh, David.

JIM LEHRER: David you said in a column this week that natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, exposed the basic fault lines in American society. Your thesis, please sir?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, what you get is these meteorological storms and then these political storms because in the moments of extremis people see who's up and who's down, who's at fault and who is suffering.

For example, in 1897 there was the famous Johnstown Flood, a pond owned by millionaires including Andrew Carnegie flooded the town of Johnstown. The public anger over that helped spawn the Progressive Movement.

Then in 1927 you had the great Mississippi Flood, which flooded New Orleans. And there you had great demand for the government to get involved in disaster relief which had not happened much before then. And that helped lead the way to the New Deal.

You also had the situation where the town fathers flooded some of the poorer and middle class areas to relieve some of the pressure on the rest of the city and then reneged on their promises for compensation for the people who had their homes destroyed. The anger over that, helped lead to the rise of Huey Long, the populist governor.

So in moments of extremis, people see the power inequalities, the poor suffering, the rich benefiting and then they react. And so you get these political reactions.

JIM LEHRER: And okay, now, move it to Hurricane Katrina and what we are seeing down there now.

DAVID BROOKS: I think it is a huge reaction we are about to see. I mean, first of all, they violated the social fabric, which is in the moments of crisis you take care of the poor first. That didn't happen; it's like leaving wounded on the battlefield.

So there is just -- in 9/11 you had a great surge of public confidence. Now I think we are going to see a great decline in public confidence in our institutions. And so I just think this is sort of the anti-9/11 as one of the bloggers wrote.

JIM LEHRER: And you think, David, they will think about them, not just about those folks in New Orleans but the whole country now? You think that's a possibility that this has exposed more than just New Orleans?

DAVID BROOKS: This is -- first of all it is a national humiliation to see bodies floating in a river for five days in a major American city. But second, you have to remember, this was really a de-legitimization of institutions.

Our institutions completely failed us and it is not as if it is the first in the past three years -- this follows Abu Ghraib, the failure of planning in Iraq, the intelligence failures, the corporate scandals, the media scandals.

We have had over the past four or five years a whole series of scandals that soured the public mood.

You've seen a rise in feeling the country is headed in the wrong direction.

And I think this is the biggest one and the bursting one, and I must say personally it is the one that really says hey, it feels like the '70s now where you really have a loss of faith in institutions. Let's get out of this mess.

And I really think this is so important as a cultural moment, like the blackouts of 1977, just people are sick of it.

To reiterate the point I made earlier, which is this is the anti-9/11, just in terms of public confidence, when 9/11 happened Giuliani was right there and just as a public presence, forceful -- no public presence like that now.

So you have had a surge of strength, people felt good about the country even though we had been hit on 9/11.

Now we've been hit again in a different way; people feel lousy; people feel ashamed and part of that is because of the public presentation. In part that is because of the failure of Bush to understand immediately the shame people felt.

Sitting up there on the airplane and looking out the window was terrible. And the three days of doing nothing, really, on Bush was terrible. And even today, I found myself, as you know, I support his politics quite often.


DAVID BROOKS: Looking at him today earlier in the program, this is how Mark Shields must feel looking at him, I'm angry at the guy and maybe it will pass for me. But a lot of people and a lot of Republicans are furious right now.



Blogger katiedid said...

Oh I saw that, too. It was one of the more wonderful moments on TV news this past week. All those guys, him, Oliphant, and Page, are ones that usually find ways to disagree on this or that. But for once they were all on the same page, and respectfully pointing out their own different little takes while nodding and actively listening to one another. Why don't more folks watch Leher News Hour??? It's the only evening news I'd care to watch were it not for my massive crush on NBC's Brian Williams (I am a dork, and don't care.) Honestly, it was probably one of the better interviews/discussions I've even seen on Leher's show, and THAT is certainly saying something. I can't share your *swoon* but I know exactly where you're coming from. That was some good TV right there.

3:42 PM

Blogger katiedid said...

I apparently don't know how to spell it seems. Lehrer. Me talk pretty one day, to quote a fave author.

4:05 PM

Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I think yes, the public presentation is a problem: Bush on vacation & then shown looking out the window of the plane, the ludicrous comment about rebuilding Trent Lott's house (!), Condi Rice shopping in New York. But in my mind, the presentation is only a very, very small part of the problem.

I am too angry to post anything more coherent than that. Thanks for posting this, I missed it on TV.

5:01 PM

Blogger actonbell said...

I'm sorry I missed this!
David Brooks is a wonderful writer, even if I don't always agree with him. I actually have a blog in my archives somewhere raving about one of his articles...

5:05 PM

Blogger still life said...

all I can say is thank you for this post.
The anti 9/11 just about sums it up.

5:09 PM

Anonymous janey said...

I missed this also, thanks for posting it. I can always rely on you to post the most interesting stuff. And this is really facinating - putting all this in an historical context. One of my favorite movies was a small b/w 1940 movie and remake a few years ago based on a true story - The Winslow Boy. A boy is accused of a theft and his family gives up everything to fight for his innocence. Essentially, Brit law then said that the gov't is soverign and cannot be forced to reverse or even rethink a decision. The barrister's ending statement was that "What you do to the least of me, you do to me" and "Do not side with the mighty over the weak". Apparently our government did of both. A society is judged on how it cares for people who can least care for themselves. Based on that I think our gov't has alot to answer for. Sorry if I rambled abit.

6:09 PM

Blogger boisdejasmin said...

M, thank you for this post. Brooks is very spot on in his observations. The fundamental failure of our institutions is that they have substituted a language of economics for the political voice and guise of morality for the welfare system. These issues are bound to have repercussions.

Interestingly enough, the current administration makes me think of the Soviet one from the 60s and 70s (same hawkish attitude, same narrow mindedness, same desire to ground the political organism on the ideology without concrete solid plans). Of course, I do not want to draw the analogy further, for it is too sad to contemplate.

6:19 PM

Blogger dddragon said...

Thank you for posting this. I don't have time to watch Lehrer - because this is a show that I would want to sit and really pay attention to and I can't (my dad does, faithfully) and mostly get my news in soundbites as I leave the tv on and do my various daily duties around the house. I guess my theory is that if I leave it on long enough that something meaningful will be heard. And it has a few times.

It means alot to me when a man like Brooks says something like he did on Lehrer's show.

6:33 AM


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