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David Brooks Repeats His 'Palin Disgrace' in Ripping, Then Backing, Romney | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

David Brooks Repeats His 'Palin Disgrace' in Ripping, Then Backing, Romney

David Brooks is at it again. Three weeks ago, in the wake of the release of the “47% video,” Brooks wrote a column directing scathing criticism at Romney. He accused Romney of not understanding, among other things, “America” and “the social contract” and other matters almost as bad. Hs said he doesn’t even ‘know much” about this country. He was totally out of touch with our “culture.” He even called him Thurston Howell Romney.

You could not imagine that, given those essential faults, that there’s any way Brooks could still consider Romney a valid candidate for president and, with a heavy heart, would have to drop his support.

No such luck.

Instead, within days of facing those brutal truths, Brooks was back in apology, and then booster, mode (he has never renounced his fanboy affection for Paul Ryan). It’s as if Paul Krugman accused Obama of being “anti-American” and then returned to writing love notes as if afflicted with amnesia.

Well, we might expect more from Krugman, but this is really no surprise coming from Brooks. Witness his treatment of Sarah Palin in 2008. He would come to call her (aptly, as most of us recognized during that campaign) “a joke” and only qualified to be a TV “talk show host.” But when it really counted, during the 2008 campaign when there was a very real chance she’d become vice president, he trimmed his sails in his Times column.

Here’s what happened.

In early October 2008, the columnist admitted at a small Manhattan forum—fortunately, for us, captured on video by then-Huff Poster Rachel Sklar—that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was not qualified for higher office (“not even close”) and, indeed, was a “cancer” on the GOP. This was a bit shocking, because to that point, while offering some criticism of Palin as candidate, Brooks had not offered this frank appraisal to his millions of Times readers.

“Not even close” to being up to being a heartbeat from the presidency is about the most damning thing you could say about a Veep wannabe.

Days passed and—Brooks never did put that in his column. At Huff Post, I kept a running count of days he was missing in action. Election Day came and went and no Brooks slam—in print—on this “unqualified” angle. Yes, he’d charge that she was weak and lacking in proper experience, but took the edge off by adding that maybe she was just not his “cup of tea.” And he never did say that selecting an incompetent was a fatal blemish on John McCain and should disqualify his candidacy.

In fact, Brooks wrote, “Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive.” In a key declaration, Brooks also mocked what he called the “smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place.”

Who needs Mark Shields? Maybe Brooks should debate himself on PBS.

Yet many of Brooks colleagues on the right had no trouble—in print—frankly labeling Palin unqualified. The list includes everyone from David Frum to Christopher Buckley. Brooks apparently felt the same way but refused to share this with his Times readers. Some cited this in stating they could no longer support McCain.

Matthew Dowd, the key Bush strategist in 2004, jumped on the anti-Palin bandwagon, stating flatly that she was not at all qualified for higher office, and suggested that McCain, no doubt, would regret the Palin pick after the results in November arrived.

Yet Brooks refused to put his own “disqualified” views in print. Until well after the election. Yet some still call him a man of principle—and remains, according to many in the media, the conservative Democrats love.

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