David Brooks, building a mystery

Yesterday, David Brooks assembled sounds into phonemes that after hours of cogitation settled into sentence structures, only this time these structures got attention on shows I know I shouldn’t be watching. Let’s look at a couple of those structures together.

Anti-Trumpists, Brooks argues, are so blinded by rage that they miss how actual policy decisions affecting billions globally emerge from the White House. He’s got a dandy conceit explaining the phenomenon too:

It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.

I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country.

Pretending that he’s bumbling into certainties is purest Brooks. “I sometimes wonder[ed]” whether the George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations weren’t Potemkin villages in which Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Schultz, Caspar Weinberger, Don Regan, etc in effect ran the country. I sometimes wonder if anyone is dense enough to think he or she can sever symbolism from action.

But, to quote Dan Savage, it gets better:

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.

I can’t speculate on whom David Brooks gets cocktails with, but I face Trumpists on social media and, yes, in my family circle a couple times a week. I know what they’re going to say because they’re not shy about saying it, loudly. When not espousing the conservatism of which Trump, contra David Brooks, is the culmination, these people flaunt their boorishness. It’s not that Trump curdled their sense of empathy – it’s that they identify with the president’s sense of beleaguerment. They’re under siege. I mean, you can’t even open a door for a woman in 2017 without worrying about a sexual harassment accusation ten years down the line, for crying out loud!

No liberal was under any illusion that Trump would govern like a New York Democrat. In November we knew he was too stupid to overrule Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, opening American coasts to drilling, and passing a tax break paid for by the poor to plutocrats like his children and son-in-law, among other things, are what Presidents Rubio, Romney, and Cruz would have signed, and they’ve got at least three more functioning brain cells than Donald Trump. A columnist with a penchant for monikers would have better served his purported intellectual honesty by razing Bush II and Reagan’s Potemkin villages.”There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity, ” David Brooks actually wrote. The William F. Buckley who floated the idea of tattooing AIDS victims and saw no difference between hysterical anti-communism and opposing civil rights legislation. Believing in the myth of the intellectual Buckley versus the “lowbrow” Sean Hannity – proof if we needed any that you can never trust a #NeverTrump-er.

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