@NYDailyNews / Twitter realDonaldTrump takes a dump on the...
@NYDailyNews / Twitter

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Apparently New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “intellectually dishonest” or the word “disingenuous” because he is both. Brooks is claiming to be a part of the resistance, an “anti-Trumper” to be precise, but you would never know it to read his blather. New York Times:

… the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us.

I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.

The anti-Trump movement suffers from insularity. Most of the people who detest Trump don’t know anybody who works with him or supports him. And if they do have friends and family members who admire Trump, they’ve learned not to talk about this subject. So they get most of their information about Trumpism from others who also detest Trumpism, which is always a recipe for epistemic closure.

It gets better. Here’s how Brooks’  column from January 8, “The Decline Of Anti-Trumpism” began. 

First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by.

A “normal, good meeting” — the same week Trump told a group of bi-partisan senators (which contained one Democrat, by the by, Dick Durbin but it was supposed to be bi-partisan) that countries which weren’t predominantly white were shitholes? That’s a normal, good meeting? By whose yardstick, may we know? The entire African continent is demanding an apology. Apparently, they didn’t see it as normal nor good.
But Brooks is a man with a direction — a direction, literally. That is to conflate and distort everything into his one and only dogma, of both siderism. Midway through the column, Brooks explains why anti-Trumpism is in decline: it’s because Michael Wolff’s book is the same as Sean Hannity’s ranting. They’re both  “low brow,” and that’s the common denominator of both sides, pro-Trump and anti-Trump. Low brow makes both movements identical. Seriously. But this is nothing new, this is just another brick in the wall. Driftglass:
Mr. David Brooks of The New York Times has one job.  And I mean that literally.  One job.  The job of defending the Beltway’s most important institution — the High and Holy Church of Both Sides Do It.
And since Mr. Brooks’ one job is defending a flagrant and easily debunked lie, it is equally important that Mr. Brooks Both Siderist collaborators and fellow travelers in the media never, ever let Mr. Brooks or any other Defender of the Faith appear in any venue where anyone who is not of the body —

— might drop by and start throwing inconvenient facts around.
Both Siderism is a team effort, because the lords and ladies of the Beltway are all keenly aware of the disastrous professional and financial consequences that would come crashing down on their collective heads should their mighty and powerful and ridiculous and incredibly fragile enterprise ever collapse.

Johnathan Chait of New York Magazine wrote his own column, “David Brooks Picked A Bad Week To Say Trump Runs A ‘Normal Good Meeting,’” and it’s a hoot.

Was Paul Ryan “pleasantly surprised”? [after a half hour on the phone with Trump explaining the difference between foreign and domestic surveillance] Was Trump “well-informed enough to get by”? Not if the definition of these terms requires the president understanding his own administration’s position on a bill that was coming to a vote that very day.

Later in the day, of course, Trump ranted to senators about immigrants being allowed to enter the United States from ““shithole countries.” News reports do not make this sound at all like a “normal, good meeting.”

Also yesterday, Trump gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal in which he made a number of claims that, had a non-Trump president uttered them, would have consumed the national media with astonishment. For instance, he claimed that former FBI agent Peter Strzok — who sent texts to a fellow agent disparaging politicians in both parties — had committed treason. “A man is tweeting to his lover that if [Democrat Hillary Clinton] loses, we’ll essentially do the insurance policy. We’ll go to phase two and we’ll get this guy out of office,” Trump said. “This is the FBI we’re talking about — that is treason. That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”

These were all “meetings” in the common usage of that term. Two or more parties gathered at a pre-arranged time and place to discuss matters — are they normal and good? Trump even had a meeting this week he deemed, “the greatest meeting ever witnessed,” claiming that anchors were sending him fan mail, they were so blown away.  And of course that’s the meeting Brooks is using as the linchpin of his argument. Trump stayed conscious for 55 minutes and reprised his “Apprentice” persona, quipping, “When’s the last time you took a Republican to dinner? You guys oughtta go out.”  Now he’s a statesman and a wit. Lord Chesterfield must be rolling in his grave. 

Brooks’s column used his observations about Trump’s surprisingly impressive focus and mental acuity to conclude that Trump’s critics had been overreacting and losing their dignity. Anti-Trumpers, he argued, were “getting dumber” and reducing themselves to “monotonous daily hysteria.”

This is essentially the position Brooks has taken about every step in the Republican Party’s long march into extremism and madness. After having depicted Trump as a final break, Brooks was returning to his natural condition.

It is obviously true that, in a large country, a broad spectrum of opinion will inevitably produce excesses on every side. Even a president as deranged and racist as Trump will be talked about, by somebody, in excessively harsh terms. Yet Brooks’s conclusion that Trump critics have on the whole exaggerated his flaws, that Trump is in fact reasonably well informed, affable, and sane, does not seem to be a reasonable conclusion at all. Instead it is an expression of Brooks’s unavoidable tendency to impose a sheen of normality on a political party that is anything but.

“Normality” in this case is defined as both sides do it. No, they don’t. If Obama had ever inflicted a shadow of a scintilla of the damage and insult that Trump has, the Senate would have met the very same night to begin impeachment proceedings. Read how Newt Gingrich went for Bill Clinton’s jugular back in the day and then defended Donald Trump against far graver charges. David Brooks is unquestionably smart enough to see what’s really going on, but it’s obviously to his profit that he continues to rationalize and conflate behavior in order to continue with his both siderism narrative, apparently oblivious to how dishonest and destructive it is to do so. 

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