Monday, June 05, 2006

Mr. Brooks explains the world


A transcript of the 2006 Bradley Symposium, which I attended May 25, is now online in PDF format. It is an edited transcript, and one of the things they saw fit to edit out was NY Times columnist David Brooks' reference to his Mexican nanny in the following exchange:
ROBERT STACY MCCAIN: My question is for Mr. Brooks. I’m Robert Stacy McCain, Washington Times. Ten years ago, twelve years ago, fifteen years ago, there was talk of a liberal elite in America that was out of touch with the people. Is it not true today that there is a conservative elite that is out of touch with the people? In your book, the Bobo book, for want of a better name (Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, 2000), you described how you go from a beginner to being at the table. Is there something wrong with the process of the construction of the American elite that puts it at odds with the people?

DAVID BROOKS: I just think today there are multiple elites. Maybe once there was one cohesive elite. But in Washington we certainly have multiple elites who don’t seem to agree on anything. And then, if you look at the country, the people who claim to be against the elites are invariably sitting on Wall Street or in Washington or in Berkeley. We have a corporate elite; we have a cultural elite.
So I guess I would say just a few things. Temperamentally, I think the heart of America is in middle-class suburbia. And neither elitism nor populism rings very powerfully in this area, I think.
And secondly, I would say that if you’re just trying to gauge, impressionistically, the popular mood, I would say that the odd thing about this moment is that while there is great disillusionment with people who are running the country, as measured by right track/wrong track and all the other things, there is no hunger for angry outsiders, in my view. I think there is a hunger for some sort of boring, wise-men stability. And so you get anger, but also exhaustion.
And therefore there is not the populism you would expect to see when people are sick of the two parties. That’s paradoxical.
So I don’t think we’ve got an out-of-touch elite. We’ve got a confused country.
So: David Brooks is not out of touch. You are "confused." And never mind the huge audiences for Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage or Lou Dobbs, Mr. Brooks says. We have "a hunger for ... boring, wise-men stability." Just as long as we've got that straight!

Thank God for Tammy Bruce, who followed up to make this excellent point:
In regards to David’s comments, it would be a great mistake to presume that a rebellion, socially, at the grassroots level is going to manifest, as it always has, in a Reform party, in Ross Perot or in Pat Buchanan. It is happening now—it is manifesting, quietly and not so quietly, necessarily. As an example, the immigration debate is probably more prominent now because of the Minute Men, and the nature of what’s happening there. This coming weekend, they break ground on the building of their own wall in various plots of private property along the border.
It’s manifesting not in marches, necessarily, as it used to, but through the Internet, in blogs and talk radio, phone calls in the usual, standard framework, quietly, with citizens calling their representatives and making demands like they’ve never made before, and more passionately. So I think what’s going to be important for the elite—and I can’t say I’m not part of it, because I’m sitting up here, but I hear from hundreds of people every week from every state in the union and around the world—is that there is a quiet revolution underway. It is different and doesn’t fit the old model, but you’re going to see it. You’re going to see changes, but you’re not going to know how they happened unless you tap into the new media framework, as opposed to thinking that something is not happening because it doesn’t look like it used to.
Thanks, Tammy.



I just received an e-mail message from John Podhoretz:
Stacy--you owe David an apology. Not only doesn't he have a Mexican nanny, he doesn't have a nanny at all. His wife Jane has been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years.
Holy crap! My apologies, of course, but why didn't anybody advise me of this two weeks ago? I posted this on the day of the symposium:

Mr. Brooks, who is very intelligent -- he might have missed, at most, three questions on his SAT, two of them on the math part -- began his reply by acknowledging the unspoken subtext.

I've been experiencing a slight hearing problem in my left ear for the past few days .... but I believe Mr. Brooks began by saying, "You know, I was just discussing this the other day with my Mexican nanny ...."
Again, with the hearing issue (it went away last week, but has now returned) I am not sure I caught exactly what Mr. Brooks said, but I distinctly heard the phrase "Mexican nanny" -- he didn't say "Guatemalan gardener" or "Colombian cook" -- and Mr. Brooks' allusion to the immigration debate seems also have been clear to Ms. Bruce, as seen by her reference to the Minutemen.

So I now suppose Mr. Brooks was joking about having a Mexican nanny, and apologize for having mischaracterized his domestic situation.