Saturday, March 27, 2004

Sociology Is More Fun When You Make It Up 

David Brooks is a hack. No one should have ever taken him seriously to begin with. Even before I read this article, it was pretty clear to me that his journalistic style usually involved making crap up and baseless generalizations.

Which he continues to do this week in the Times. I've got no real problem with him appearing there, because as a representative of the Conservative movement, he makes them all look lazy and stupid (though it would be nice if the Times had more than one real, feisty liberal op-ed columnist). But really, today's Dick Clarke column is absolutely horrible. I'd really like to write the man a letter, even though it wouldn't really make any sort of difference.

He attacks Dick Clarke's decorum and tone, without ever refuting a single thing Clarke says. There is not one factual rebuttal of any of the claims Clarke has made. It paints Clarke as a tool of the Democrats, completely partisan, without pointing out that Clarke is a Republican who began his job under the first Bush administration.

This conservative argument is pretty desperate, as it relies on the idea that Clarke has some sort of stake in seeing Bush defeated. Clarke will not receive any personal gain from a Kerry presidency -- the man is on record saying he will not seek another job in government again. The only thing he has to gain from a regime change is a presidential administration that actually cares about fighting terrorism.

Here's a good example:
All of Bush's errors, on the other hand, are magnified. Shrill passages about Bush's stupidity are inserted into Clarke's tendentious prose. In 2002, Clarke said there was "no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration." But now Clinton is portrayed as the Winston Churchill of the antiterror brigades, and Bush is Neville Chamberlain.

What Brooks fails to mention is that the Richard Clarke is actually completey correct in saying that. What he means is that the Bush administration did not use the plan for fighting terrorism that Clinton's guys had developed. The plan was not passed on to them, because they did not take it. Also, at the time he said that, Clarke was a paid employee of the Bush administration, which has a track-record of demanding its employees stretch the facts for their own political gain. But it's fun to quote something out of context and then use hyperbole (as well as an interesting view of history in which the appeaser comes after the hero) to make a true statement seem ridiculous.

So you can attack Clarke for his "shrill partisanship," but it'd be nice if you pointed out that Clarke is not a partisan. He's a career bureaucrat who is a Republican and has nothing to do with the Democratic party and nothing to gain from their victory.

Please, Mr. Brooks, if you're going to refute the objectivity of Richard Clarke, or claim he's exaggerating his case, prove it with examples of him doing those things! Don't just make stuff up!

But this is, of course, the only way conservatives have of defending themselves at the moment. Because they cannot deny the factual accuracy of Clarke's claims, they attack his character and attribute to him bizarre motivations.

Yes, the Bush administration has had a lot of trouble with all those Partisan Democratic turncoats, haven't they. It's funny how many of them they employed. Rand Beers, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke... it's a wonder that their background checks didn't reveal that all of them were secretly working for John Kerry, biding their time until they could stab Bush in the back.

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