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An Un-Compassionate View of Ron Paul
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New York Times resident compassionate conservative David Brooks can be quite clever in how he creates mental linkages for his audience. His recent article on his travels observing the candidates in the South Carolina takes no prisoners when it comes to Ron Paul. He reports speaking to “a pawnshop manager who supports Ron Paul and said he has clients who buy a new gun every time the government does something they don’t like.” Two unrelated observations are linked to demonstrate that Ron Paul is supported by “gun nuts.”

He then goes on to assert that “Ron Paul’s supporters are so grateful. The world was once confusing, but then they read ‘End the Fed’ and the scales fell from their eyes. Paul himself is fascinating because as some smart person observed (I’ve forgotten who), he thinks serially, not causally. The income tax happened and the Patriot Act happened and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, bailed out the banks and job growth stinks. Paul doesn’t bother with logical links. He just strings events together and assumes causation.”

The straw man “smart person” is no doubt Brooks himself and he makes a claim that is unsupportable. I doubt if Brooks actually has stopped to listen to Paul very often. Paul does frequently present facts serially when he speaks, but they are generally connected, as when he is discussing the economy or foreign policy.

The Brooks contrivance is to make Paul appear to be a candidate supported by kooks and the unenlightened whose own thoughts are disordered and illogical. Paul is in fact supported by many who are tired of the Washington status quo, of which Brooks is a component. Many Paulistas are both articulate and well informed on the issues, certainly more so than most of the followers of the other candidates. Paul himself presents a consistent and coherent philosophy of government and foreign policy that is anathema to Brooks, so it is not surprising that he tries to marginalize him.


(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Ron Paul 
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  1. David Brooks admitted he promoted the illegal invasion of Iraq even though he did not believe Iraq had WMD or posed a threat to the US or the UK. Brooks thought taking out Saddam would make it easier for Israel to force through a deal with the Palestinians.

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    David Brooks and William Kristol are afraid of Ron Paul, as well they should be. Tarring what they fear as being pathological or irrational is a classic neocon reflex, similar to the Soviet resort to psychiatric diagnoses for political dissenters.

    As coda to your article, today Mr. Kristol called for the GOP to expel RP from the party. Can’t have any more cheering for troop withdrawals at the GOP debates, don’t you see.

  3. David Brooks and Ross Douthat are proof positive that you don’t have to be smart or knowledgable to get a job as an OpEd columnist for the New York Times, you just have to be able to glibly defend whatever the NYT has deemed to be the status quo.

  4. A.C. says:

    What really leaps out from that Brooks piece, aside from the gratuitous Paul-bashing of course, (gratuitous and ironically inaccurate-Paul cares a lot more about causality and logic than the emotionalist Brooks does, judging by his hand-wringing columns) is how UNsurprising it is that David’s kid is the kind who relishes asking snotty questions about gay marriage and thinks of a compromising politician (Boehner no less!) as “a hero”. I’m sure his “conservative” dad has carefully explained the inherent contradiction in retaining a respect for religious liberty in society while endorsing the normalization of homosexuality so that young Master Brooks is a fully informed young man.

    Next time you see an annoying precocious little monster in the grocery store, remember to blame the parents.

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Couldn’t agree more. I would raise Brooks and point out that Paul does not think serially he thinks historically. He sees events as causes and effects going back decades and affecting future decades.

    Paul doesn’t look at issues in an immediate sense he looks at the long game. It’s not about Iran its about a consistent foreign policy. It’s not about bailing out companies its about having a free market.

  6. VikingLS says:

    Wow, David Brooks patting himself on the back for being so smart. I wonder how many of the Republicans in South Carolina would be pleased to see themselves spoken of in such a condescending manner?

  7. tbraton says:

    “New York Times resident compassionate conservative David Brooks ”

    Sorry to correct you, PG, but “New York Times resident compassionate NEOconservative David Brooks” would be more accurate. Before coming to the Times, he was at Bill Kristol’s The Weekly Standard (or as I like to refer to it “The Weakly Standard”).

  8. I’m a die-hard Paul guy, but I’d be the first to admit that his presentation isn’t perfect, and sometimes fails to follow conventional patterns of argumentation. He does better on paper than he does in speech, and I’d recommend that medium for people interested in getting a good bead on his ideas.

    That said, does he “think serially?” No. He is cramped for time (thanks for giving him ~5 minutes per debate, networks!) and he’s tasked with expressing a narrative about the economy to a nation that’s got zero context for it. Consequently, he doesn’t have time to flesh his points out with conventional linkages. Being in his mid-seventies (and I’d wager, not being pre-briefed about the direction of the debate as well as some of the centrists) can’t help.

  9. 138619

    I stand corrected!

  10. maxsnafu says:

    I’m glad Paul’s supporters buy lots of guns and hope Brooks and his ilk don’t. It should make things interesting if the SHTF.

  11. TycheSD says:

    I’m a Ron Paul nut, and I think Ron Paul could do a much better job of articulating his ideas within a debate format. I mean, he’s been in 15 or so of them this election cycle. His performance in this last debate made me angry. Or maybe it was the people in that audience and the accusatory Brett Baier.

    Non-interventionism and the economy need to be connected in a more coherent fashion. I assume Paul has read Chalmers Johnson’s books. Johnson thinks bases at home also encourage over-spending on the military, so bringing our people home, as Paul suggests, and installing them at American bases won’t stop pork barrel spending. These people should be trained for other types of jobs.

  12. TycheSD says:

    In regard to tbraton, are you aware that Bill Kristol yesterday called for Ron Paul to be kicked out of the Republican Party?

    And, if you go to any gun site and read their forums, most of those guys have entire arsenals of guns and are always buying new ones, particularly since Obama has been president. Not all of them are Ron Paul supporters, as many of them favor a very aggressive U.S. foreign policy.

  13. tbraton says:

    “I’m a die-hard Paul guy, but I’d be the first to admit that his presentation isn’t perfect, and sometimes fails to follow conventional patterns of argumentation.”

    MattSwartz, I agree with you. I’m not die-hard Paul guy, but I agree with his foreign policy positions and even much of his domestic policy (I think the Federal Reserve needs to be reined in, but not abolished, and I don’t think going back to the gold standard is a good idea). The presentation of his ideas in debates is where he falls woefully short. I think a comparison with Mitt Romney is instructive. Whatever you think about Romney, I think you would have to concede that he used the four years since 2008 to considerably sharpen his debate performances. I realize that many of his answers are prepared and memorized before hand, but that is true of any stage performer, which is what a politician is essentially. Unfortunately, Ron Paul did not use the intervening four years to work on and hone his debating skills. As a result, many of the good points he is trying to make are not effectively presented. BTW let’s not lose sight of the fact that he is 78 years old.

  14. Andy says:

    I believe that Paul is supported by kooks and ignoramouses as well as by many who are tired of Washington status quo, and who who are articulate and well informed on the issues. Paul’s honesty and consistency re his positions on the issues win him the respect of many on both sides of the aisle which is a reason he does well with independents.I’d guess that if Romney sews up the nomination early more people will vote for Paul to give him more input in the Republican party platform. Obama will be tough to beat and without a decent % of Paul supporters I think Romney will have little chance of victory.

  15. Brooks writes for people like himself, urban careerists who have no idea what Americans are like. The land beyond the Hudson, or better, the Delaware, is populated by simpletons ripe for direction by their cosmopolitan betters. Even this might not be so offensive if the betters were interested in the general good. But they are only interested in the question of self-advantage.

    What the Brooke’s, Frum’s Bennet’s fear is that Paul represents a mentality willing to reject our current sclerotic system. Even where he is wrong, Paul opens the possibility of ejecting the accretion of power vested in established centers. This challenge, no matter how remote, is a threat to people who have waged an intergenerational struggle to gain influence in our failing system.

    Brook’s failure to understand South Carolina reflects the Neo-Con’s failure to understand the American people.

  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I agree with Philip’s general assessment. What frustrates me a little is that many commentators like Philip stop right there: they rightly point out where Ron Paul is correct, where his critics are wrong, and more or less leave it at that.

    In other words, they trust that by presenting a cogent commentary, or a series of them, the people who need to be won over, eventually will be. But this is naive.

    I’d like to see a little more “fighting spirit” in articles like these (and at the American Conservative in general). The Tea Party launched a no-holds-barred insurgency against the Republican establishment, with some success. I would like to see a similarly vigorous insurgency come out of the “Paleoconservative wing” or “Ron Paul wing” (which I really prefer to collectively call the “Patriot wing,” with no apologies for what that implies).

    As they say, you can’t make omelette without breaking a few eggs. We’re at a critical time in American history, possibly on the cusp of disaster. The old, traditional, staid methods — and going along to get along — are insufficient.

    You can’t always win people over with logic. Nor is it always necessary, though it is preferable. Failing this, there are tactics that a determined minority can use to force at least part of its agenda down the throat of an ossified, unresponsive body politic. I believe we need to start examining these.

    A genuine insurgency strategy from the “Patriot Wing” of the Republican party must beyond one man’s candidacy or supportive magazine articles. As great as these things are, they can only be said to constitute a foundation for a credible insurgency — not an insurgency themselves.

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