Tuesday, August 05, 2008

David Brooks is Dead Wrong About Barack Obama

Let's get something out of the way quickly: Sen. Barack Obama is not the most credentialed presidential candidate the Democratic Party has ever sent to the general election. He has made many judgement missteps along the way, and he has only himself to blame for it. The candidate at times can also appear weak, arrogant, aloof, lacking in substance and yes, elitist. But let's not confuse all this, as NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Tuesday, with Obama being "not in it;" of his being psycho-socially detached from virtually everything professionally noteworthy in his life.

What Brooks fails to understand in his oversimplified Freudian assessment of Obama's psyche is something truly monumental, heretofore not seen in American politics: the very likelihood that Sen. Barack Obama will make history as the first black president of The United States of America. Given that black men were still being lynched and beaten just 45 or so years ago simply for being black, this accomplishment not only is historic and electric, but it carries with it an unfathomable amount of pressure and stress. Yes, Barack Obama is an agent of change. He is a light, a force, a movement. He is not merely a candidate, and anyone who views him that way is terribly myopic. An Obama victory can and will forever change not just America's political landscape, but it's socio-economic one as well. There is great purpose to Obama's candidacy, much more beyond simple politics. His victory would end America's first 233 year phase and usher in a new one. When Brooks writes that Obama "lives apart," he is grossly minimizing the significance of Obama the man, the candidate, the movement.

Brooks downplays the race factor and writes that Americans more so "are wary and uncertain" of Obama. He's right about that in one sense, but not in his intended meaning. Yes, Americans are wary and uncertain...the same way they are wary and uncertain when they see a black man walking towards them on a dark street, or when they are alone in an elevator with a young black man, or when LA cops see them driving in a white neighborhood late at night. I'm not sure what bugs the shit out of me more, white people's racism towards blacks or elite whites like Brooks minimizing it. The fact is, the black man walking down the street, getting in the elevator, or driving in Beverly Hills could very well be, like Obama, a Harvard educated lawyer. But to the "wary and uncertain" whites, it doesn't matter. And this is precisely where Brooks gets it all wrong.

Brooks summarily tears apart Obama's entire career as if it's truly meaningless. That Obama's a self-made success with infinitely more impressive credentials than, say, George Bush, gets lost on Brooks. His job as a conservative pundit is not to speak the truth about Republicans, but to distort the truth about Democrats. But the truth is, Obama is the American Dream personified. Of mixed-race heritage and from a poor, broken home, he made his way into the finest academic institutions in the country, and became the first ever black editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He spent years as a community organizer, 12 years as a law professor, 6 years as a State Senator, 3 as a U.S. Senator, and stands the best chance of anyone in history of becoming the first black president. Yet Brooks' column conjures up the image of some emotionless, spiritless, disconnected automaton who somehow managed to accomplish this greatness without ever having any real, intimate relationships or intellectual curiosity. That he somehow robotically drifted his way to being some sort of comatose-like wonder, having fooled everyone and touched no one. Give us a break, Brooks. Your shameless partisanship precedes you. You're a Rove in sheep's clothing.

What Sen. Barack Obama stands for, what his candidacy means, transcends politics and in many ways is a larger than life phenomenon. It signals the beginning of a new dawn in American life. It's unfortunate that David Brooks cannot, or will not, see that.

HELP ELECT BARACK OBAMA PRESIDENT: It's now time for us to pull together as Democrats and unite behind Obama and his historic candidacy. These are exciting times. I urge you to support Obama by sending the campaign whatever you can afford. In politics, money is key. There are many swing states this year--Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri among them. With a sizeable war chest for campaigning, ground teams/staff, ads, mailings, Internet/email promotions, etc, he can win these states. We are commited to helping the campaign raise as much money as possible to combat the bountiful warchest of Sen. John McCain and the GOP. Click here to make a contribution. It's time to change America.


Anonymous said...

This hurts me to no end to write this, but Obama will lose because of old bitter racist white men. They view this election as their last stand for white power. They know that the domographic changes that have been going on for the last 10 years are going to change our country forever. But not this time if they can help it.

The only good thing is that McBush and the GOP will get the blame for our slide into third world status, but it will hurt all of us who voted the other way too.

What fools white men are!

(I am white btw)

Anonymous said...

David Brooks should be tested for a bissociative identity disorder. Contrast what he wrote today versus what he wrote in December about Obama in the race against Hillary Clinton:


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Mr. Brooks is using a time-dishonored technique that columnists of the opposing political party often use to assassinate Sen. Obama's character: pose a superficial (sometimes rhetorical) question and use a dubious understanding of pop psychology to provide a facile answer to it. Brooks asks why Sen. Obama isn't MORE popular in the polls than he is (conveniently ignoring the fact that he would still bear McCain), and then answers his own question with a fatuous argument that Obama is and was never fully involved in anything he has done in his life. Who appointed David Brooks judge and jury of another man's life? More importantly, could ANYONE withstand the harsh criteria which Brooks uses to determine whether one's life is fully engaged? It's obvious that Brooks' column is the work of a hack!

Anonymous said...

Brooks is a douche bag. Republican hack. If Obama loses this election it won't be because of David Brooks but because the republicans are busy once again removing democrats from the voting lists. Every time I hear someone like David Brooks or McCane slam Obama unfairly I quickly go to Obama's campaign website and donate some more money. Im not alone.

Anonymous said...

The "thing" everybody is forgetting is Obama is white. He is white and was raiseded in a "white" community and culture, in a white family with "white" goals, values, etc. I'm white so I don't know how that may differ from a black upbringing, but I'm sure there're differences as purported by Rev. Wright. And "half" of my family was not subject to lynchings as Ostroy points out. It's to be noted that Obama's white grandmother had an excellent job as a bank executive and his mother an advanced degree. Here is where Obama's background differs from the average white background as well as average black backgroud. He was not raised in a poor family by any means and attended the best and most expensive schools. Few of either race have those advantages. Now, that his skin is darker than that of a white person he undoubtedly suffered from situations that a "normal" white person, and a "normal" black person do not have to endure. His background is unique and different. He has to have some psychological issues because of his almost unique experience.

So even if Obama is considered to be black person he was raised as a white person among mostly white people at extremely elite schools, in his highly educated home and among whites elsewhere.

I think was the point Brooks was making.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how Brooks can say Obama wasn't a black liberation advocate and didn't have a close affiliation with Wright's church. I'd say attending the same church for twenty-one years, donating huge sums of money, getting married there and having your children baptized there and calling the preacher your mentor, friend, "old uncle" is having a very close connection to and affiliation with and supreme loyalty to the doctrine of the church. Brooks got it wrong.

Anonymous said...

Ostroy, you are full of shit!

Three months ago you were calling Obama an empty suit. Now, he's "He is a light, a force, a movement." Actually, you are correct. Obama is a 'movement', he's a bowl movement.

Then you claim, The Mesiah is "...from a poor, broken home,...", yet you don't mention he went to private schools as a child. Private school is not quite the same visual as your "poor, broken home" bullshit.

And just because you get an "uncertain" feeling when you see a black man walking towards you on a dark street, doesn't mean all white people think like you do. Its OK to get an uncertain feeling when anyone is walking towards you on a dark street. In fact, I would argue that it is part of your survival instinct to get an "uncertain" feeling when you are in a vulnerable situation. Democrats like to use their Pro Slavery Pro Segregation Guilt and turn that "uncertain" feeling into a racial issue.

Ostroy, your entire blog is smoke, mirrors, and bullshit.

The Ostroy Report said...

Anon 9:45, if you don't like my site so much why are you here wasting your precious Republican time when you could be out there Hannitizing yourself?

But, to give you the respect you chose not to give me, let me address your missives with a courteous reply. Your comprehension of what I wrote is way off. That Obama is a "light, a force, a movement" speaks not of his qualifications as president per se, but what he represents on the larger scale. That he is the agent of change that could transcend race, color, bigotry and ignorance and heal many of this nation's 233 year old wounds. If you really want to know my honest thoughts about Obama the candidate, I thought I made it very easy for you right there in the very first three sentences:

"Let's get something out of the way quickly: Sen. Barack Obama is not the most credentialed presidential candidate the Democratic Party has ever sent to the general election. He has made many judgement missteps along the way, and he has only himself to blame for it. The candidate at times can also appear weak, arrogant, aloof, lacking in substance and yes, elitist."

Are you simply choosing to read what you want and ignore that which disproves your very points?

Context, baby, context. It's a beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece Andy. Brooks is such an idiot. Read his book "Bobo's in Paradise". This guy is so scared of anything slightly new, hip or different. So pathetic.

It's ironic that his article points in the opposite direction of most of the criticism that Obama gets. So which is it? Is he an "elite" or is he "apart", and not "of" any particular group. The right's trying to have it both ways.

Yeah, of course Obama's not "of" all these different clubs Brooks mentioned. He's NOT a Kenedy, he's NOT just an inner city kid, he's NOT just an ivy league guy, he's NOT just black, he's NOT just white. He's a mix of many different, ideas, cultures and traditions. OMG! He's....he's.... A TRUE AMERICAN!!!

We can't have one of THOSE in the White House can we! ;)

Last thing Andy. Next time put the "Obama's not perfect" stuff a little later in the piece and the "let's donate and help him out" stuff a bit sooner. At LEAST until he's elected!

But seriously, good piece overall. Let's all write to the times and point out what a fool Brooks is. (Not to mention racist. Sorry! But it is.)

Anonymous said...

"...Sen. Barack Obama is not the most credentialed presidential candidate the Democratic Party has ever sent to the general election." is liberal-speak for "we don't have anyone qualified, let's throw in the black guy"

Anonymous said...

Can some of you white guys please explain what you mean when you describe Senator Barack Obama as "arrogant?" I am a black woman and I do not understand what it is about Obama that lead a lot of you guys to call him "arrogant" and even "cocky." I see him as a confident, self-assured man who is no different from any of the white men who ran for president this year. Please enlighten me for I am at a loss as to why it is such a prominent concern that pundits write columns about it and take up hours of air time discussing it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white woman who hasn't decided she's for Obama, but I read the comment's of 4:04 and I wonder why Obama has been charged with arrogance. It's got to be a "guy" thing and I'd like to know, too. Or, maybe it's women calling Obama arrogant and it's sexism.

Anonymous said...


From a white Southerner, "arrogant" is code for "talking sense with pride and dignity while black".

David Gergen, who has been around GOP politics for more than 30 years knows what I'm refering to and reminded Jake Tapper and George Will about it on "This Week" last Sunday.

Anonymous said...

6:07 Others have anothier point of ivew:

Rex Murphy in the Toronto GLOBE AND MAIL says "Barack Obama no longer will settle for being president. The job, apparently, is now beneath him. During the last leg of his Obama -palozza world tour last week, the sublimely self-assured Democratic nominee drew huge crowds of enraptured European admirers . . . and generally presented himself 'as some combination of emperor and rock star.'"

"Obama said 'I know my country has not perfected itself' . . . 'People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment' he declared."

C.Krauthammer in the Wash. Post said "Maybe this sort of jaw-dropping presumption will propel Obama to the White House. But given his lack of experience and accomplishments, he may simply be encouraging millions of voters to ask: "Who does he think he is."

He's also been accused of having a messiah complex. Since arrogance means "offensively exaggerating one's importance." there are many who think his saying "this is our moment" and also his acting as if he were already president; and, that he implies he will exceed the boundaries of that office by fulfilling his messianic promises.

He's arrogant in the usual sense of the word with no racial overtones.

Anonymous said...


Note neither conservative used the word arrogant and each qualified their statements.

I wonder if Charles Krauthammer was brought to question just who George W. Bush thought he was when he ran for President back in 2000. Bush had less government experience than Obama, twice was a failure in the oil business and it was only his name, a loan you and I could not get, deep-pocketed friends of his Daddy's and the use of eminent domian for private business gain that made him a millionaire.

Every single political operative who has worked on a political campaign understands what is going on.

You may choose to put on blinders if you like. The GOP sheep are well versed in such willful ignorance.

Anonymous said...

10:23 You vividly make the point exactly when you remind us that George W. Bush was totally unready to be president and that we simply cannot afford to make the same mistake again by electing Obama, another inexperienced candidate who also does not keep his word.

Anonymous said...


So experience is what matters, right? Well, who was the most experienced politician to win the White House in the last 40 years? Richard Nixon.

The point I made is that Charles Krauthammer is a fucking hypocrite and his work is purely partisan hackery.

Bill Clinton was charged by the right as being "too inexperienced" and "too risky". Ronald Reagan was charged by the left with the same as well as being nothing more than a "minor celebrity". Both are now icons of their respective parties and, arguably, the most successful Presidents of the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Nixon accomplished some very good things for out country. He did not go wrong because of any lack of ability to lead. He failed by his like of a strong moral standard. His experience was an asset as indicated by what he accompished.

Krauthammer is not a hypocrite; he doesn't like Obama and doesn't hide that fact and the5 fact that he is parisan. Hence,he is not a hypocrite.

You condemn Nixon for his ethics and give Clinton a pass. No matter - he should be given a pass. However Clinton served as governor and he was a good one. We could see how he governed by examining his governship.

Reagan was president of SAG and was governor of California. He was successful at both jobs.

You're right -- experience does count.

Anonymous said...


What a joke of a response.

Krauthammer's hypocrisy is failing to apply the same standard and it causes his argument to fall apart. But that's what often happens when a column is pure partisan hackery.

Benedict Arnold was a war hero and accomplished some great things for the Revolutionary cause. He was very experienced. He was also a traitor.

Because I did not mention Clinton's scandals does not mean I gave him a pass. I did not mention Reagan's scandals, either Bush's scandals or any scandal whatsoever. So your point is moot.

Barack Obama has served in public life longer than did Reagan or GW Bush prior to their being elected President. He has a record of accomplishment as well as high accolades from across the aisle in both Illinois and in the US Senate.

I did not state experience does not matter and agree that it does mean something. It should certainly factor in the decision-making process.

Anonymous said...

10:47 Since Krauthammer is openingly a conservative Republican he is not required or expected to ever favor, support or defend the otherside. He is not a hypocrite who pretends to be one thing but in reality is another. Like being a "family values" conservative and committing adultery. Do you now understand the maning of "hypocrisy"?

Your examples of good presidents were those who had no experience. And you pointed out that the worst president we had was Nixon who was the most experienced. Since his "failure" was not in governing (being President) but in lying, your claim that his experience did not make him a good prsident is irrelevant He presided well. He made excellent governing decisions.

Therefore, your point that experience does not contribute to the ability to govern was wrong and supported the side of the argument that experience is important.

Your brain is moot.

Anonymous said...


Uh, I don't think you intended to respond to yourself but it fits well with the apparent voices in your head imploring you to show your ass...

Only if one separates the "good" decisions Nixon made from the "bad" decisions he made can one come to the incredibly stupid conclusion that his "experience" only applies toward the "good" decisions and does not apply toward the entirety of his acts as President. I acknowledge your inartful attempts at parsing but, as usual, they are woefully inadequate and reveal a limited mental faculty.

A person who acts or speaks in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings is a hypocrite. If Charles Krauthammer believes Obama is arrogant for presuming to be qualified to run for President with a thin resume, it only stands to reason and logic he would have had the same concern about George W. Bush. Being a partisan is not a defense and reminds one of the Nixon defense... if the President does it, it's not illegal.

Anonymous said...

Nixon did not get us into an unnecessary war; Nixon did not ruin the economy; Nixon did not befriend our enemies Nixon was a good president. Nixon made an ethical mistake, as has John Edwards, but it had nothing to do with his exeuctive abilities. Although it did put us under the presidency of an inexperienced politician.

A "partisan" cannot be a hypocrite because he is clear about his bias.

On top of everything else you are vulgar. This is my last response to you.

Anonymous said...

"Good" Presidents are not faced with the decision to resign in order to avoid sure impeachment. Nixon was going to be impeached over executive decisions he made which were illegal.

Yes, a partisan can be a hypocrite. And your failure to recognize this is the real vulgarity.