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When David Brooks Failed the 'Palin Test' | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

When David Brooks Failed the 'Palin Test'

As I note in my Daybook here today, there’s a major profile of David Brooks in the new New York magazine, a puff piece that gives the columnist and TV pundit far too much credit for being the last “reasonable” man. It’s the old syndrome of over-praising Brooks for being “the conservative liberals can tolerate.”   Just today he has a particularly weak column that Paul Krugman, in a rare public New York Times  insider spat, has just attacked in a blog post.

The New York piece, as do most that seek to give Brooks undue credit (same goes for Kathleen Parker),  cites one of his quotes critical of Sarah Palin.   He has also in recent months called her “a joke” and only qualified to be a TV “talk show host.” Of course, that was always true.   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 can 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.   Yet he still gets credit for allegedly breaking ranks with his  friends on Palin -- and remains the conservative Democrats, and journalist who should know better, love.    

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