What's on the mind of media types this Christmas season? Obama's "great" speeches and the "atrocity" of Sarah Palin and Sen. Joe Lieberman, says Times columnist David Brooks, an Obama supporter and Palin-basher whose neo-liberal outlook nevertheless places him at the right end of the paper's cavalcade of liberal opinion writers.
In his weekly Wednesday "Opinionator" exchange with fellow columnist Gail Collins at nytimes.com, Brooks provided a peek into a typical media Christmas, that is, "holiday" party:
He began with self-mockery:
Brooks: Tis the season for holiday parties, which means I'm spending a lot of time with the Beltway establishment. Let me tell you, you people who live outside the beltway are completely out of touch. We in the D.C. establishment are a wonderful group of really smart and intelligent people and if you guys don't let us micromanage your affairs, you don't deserve the happiness and wealth we could provide.
Collins responded with some sarcasm of her own from a liberal viewpoint:
Collins: Do I hear a note of sarcasm? Yes, what a really happy holiday this would be if only the government had not barged in with those intrusive bailouts and saved the banking system. Interference from Washington is a terrible burden to us all, from the simple farmer who yearns to be freed from oppressive crop supports to the elderly who pray to be released from the chains of Social Security
Brooks then told us what media types discuss among themselves:
Brooks: The only problem with us inside the Beltway types is a certain tendency toward a herd mentality. For example, this year I'm especially lamenting the fact that we have a near one-party press corps. All my conversations are the same: Haven't Obama's speeches been great? Isn't Sarah Palin an atrocity? Why don't they just pass health care already? I agree with some of this, but it's still boring to be part of the same blah, blah, blah.
Collins: Well, the good thing about New York is that only half the conversation at any party is about politics. The other half is shop talk, which I really do like, particularly when it's not my shop and I get to hear gossip about which restaurant is closing next or who's sleeping with who in the world of post-post Freudian therapy.
Brooks revealed "polite society"'s conventional wisdom about another politician currently reviled by the left:
Brooks: The big theme of holiday conversation is what an atrocity Joe Lieberman is. Everybody agrees apparently. Most people who agree couldn't even tell you what the Medicare buy-in is or what his position on health care reform is. They just know that in polite society it is imperative to detest old Joe.
Collins: David, excuse me! I have been making this point for several years now. In fact I believe I announced in 2007 that Joe Lieberman was responsible for everything terrible that's happened to the world since 1999.
Brooks: As a matter of fact, I like Lieberman enormously. (I know we disagree on this.) I think he is performing a valuable national service. First, he is representing the American people. Their No. 1 one concern with health care is cost control. He's standing up for that.
Collins: Joe Lieberman is not representing anybody but Joe Lieberman. I've thought that ever since his last election, when he got bounced by the Democrats and ran as the nominee of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Why wasn't it Lieberman for Connecticut? Because it's got to be all about Joe, that's why.
Collins repeated that theme in her Thursday column, which opened:
Let us contemplate the badness of Joe Lieberman.
Later, Collins got really personal:
The theories about Why Joe Is Doing It abound. We cannot get enough of them! I have decided to start a rumor that it all goes back to the 2004 presidential race, when Lieberman not only failed to win any primaries, but was also bitten by either a rabid muskrat or a vampire disguised as a moose.
Other than that, my favorite explanation comes from Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who theorized that Lieberman was able to go from Guy Who Wants to Expand Medicare to Guy Who Would Rather Kill Health Care Than Expand Medicare because he "isn't actually all that smart."
I used to cover Lieberman when he was the majority leader of the State Senate in Connecticut. We got along very well, except for one interview, during which he talked about working for J.F.K., and how he kept a Mass card from Robert Kennedy's funeral to remind him of the principles to which he had dedicated his career. Showing me the card, he remarked casually that he hadn't looked at it for some time.
I wrote an article using the neglected Kennedy card as a metaphor for Lieberman's fall from his old ideals into the pragmatic politics of a party leader. He was outraged and wounded, and I believe I apologized.
Taking back the apology now.