Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brooks on a good day

Critics of David Brooks (myself included) have a tendency to focus solely on the stumbles, those times when the misdirection fails, the shtick grows thin , and the factual misstatements becoome simply too blatant to ignore.

This does a disservice to Brooks, but more importantly, it undercuts the effectiveness of the criticisms. Even if you do not like David Brooks (particularly if you don't like David Brooks) you should, from time to time, check out what he does on a good day.

Last Friday's column provides a good example. The central thesis is, at best, disingenuous – – though Trump remains a longshot, you cannot completely rule out the possibility of a nomination – – but once you get past the basic dishonesty of the title, the rest of the article is about as smooth and well executed as anyone could hope for.

Take the opening analogy:
A little while ago I went rug shopping. Four rugs were laid out on the floor and among them was one with a pink motif that was dazzlingly beautiful. It was complex and sophisticated. If you had asked me at that moment which rug I wanted, I would have said the pink one.

This conviction lasted about five minutes. But then my mentality flipped and I started asking some questions. Would the furniture go with this rug? Would this rug clash with the wall hangings? Would I get tired of its electric vibrancy?

Suddenly a subtler and more prosaic blue rug grabbed center stage. The rugs had not changed, but suddenly I wanted the blue rug. The pink rug had done an excellent job of being eye-popping on its own. The blue rug was doing an excellent job of being a rug I could enjoy living with.
The rug story is simple and accessible, but it does a good job capturing the underlying dynamic. Home furnishings are definitely an area where most of us tend to initially gravitate toward the flashy before having second thoughts and opting for the more tasteful. It is not at all unreasonable to suggest that voting might follow a similar pattern .

The rest of the piece follows very much in the same thing. Reasonable, thoughtful and scholarly, making good points and citing the right people, from Nate Silver to Montaigne. No one is better at projecting a calm, professorial tone than Brooks, even when he's whistling past the graveyard.

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