David Brooks on Palin and Obama

David Brooks, in an interview for The Atlantic, has described Sarah Palin as a “fatal cancer to the Republican party” and has criticized her Bush-like anti-intellectualism:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.

He also commented on Obama’s intellect:

Obama has the great intellect. I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I’m getting nowhere with the interview, it’s late in the night, he’s on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he’s cranky. Out of the blue I say, ‘Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?’ And he says, ‘Yeah.’ So i say, ‘What did Niebuhr mean to you?’ For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.

And the other thing that does separate Obama from just a pure intellectual: he has tremendous powers of social perception. And this is why he’s a politician, not an academic. A couple of years ago, I was writing columns attacking the Republican congress for spending too much money. And I throw in a few sentences attacking the Democrats to make myself feel better. And one morning I get an email from Obama saying, ‘David, if you wanna attack us, fine, but you’re only throwing in those sentences to make yourself feel better.’ And it was a perfect description of what was going through my mind. And everybody who knows Obama all have these stories to tell about his capacity for social perception.

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  1. 1
    diane says:

    But don’t you think this anti intellectualism is part of the whole republican party? They aligned themselves with the religious right, who believe in the strict interpretation of the bible who cannot believe in science for fear of going to hell.

    it fits with their authoritarian style of government, where the average voter is not encouraged to think for themselves, where knowledge is scorned, ex. elitist colleges like Harvard.
    Sometimes I wonder, where DO they want their children to go to school, where is the BEST for them?
    Is it the liberty U?

    No, the southern/ white/right wing Republicans males treat expect their voters to listen to them, not question them and to do as they say.  It absolutely amazes them when they are questioned or are brought up on charges for wrong doings. Somebody DARED to question their actions!!!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Anti-intellectualism is prevalent in this country, regardless of party. It is far more common among Republicans, but we can’t call it universal if some Republicans such as Brooks are also critical of it. It is not unique to Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s campaign pandered to anti-intellectualism, which was rather strange consider both Hillary and Bill’s background.

  3. 3
    Ed says:

    Someone once said that the American system of government is a system “designed by geniuses that can be run by idiots”. We certainly have had our share of idiots as President, and still the country has been able to survive and even prosper.  Every once in a while, though, there comes along a situation or crisis that calls for extraordinary, intelligent leadership. This happened to the United States back in the thirties and we were blessed enough to have FDR come along and lead. We are again in such a situation and, thank God, Barack Obama has come along, not to save America but to lead America.   I know many Americans don’t believe that intelligence is a requirement for President, as long as the candidate has the same ‘values’ as them. I have a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems, which I worked my butt off to get, and you can call me an elitist if you want, but in my opinion we really need someone in the Oval Office that has enough brains to lead us out of this mess. McCain finished fifth from last in his class at the Naval Academy and now jokes about it.  Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School and was the President of the Harvard Law Review.  That in itself is a tremendous accomplishment, considering Obama’s upbringing.  Obama went on to teach Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago for ten years and his vast knowledge of the Constitution and the men who wrote it will allow him to restore the integrity of our system of checks and balances, which is sorely needed at this moment in our nation’s history.  I believe that both men truly love America, but only Obama has the vision, courage, and ability to lead this country in this time of crisis and uncertainty.  This is one election that really is a ‘no brainer’.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:


    “can call me an elitist if you want”

    Ok, you are an elitist. We need elites to run the country, not people like Bush and Palin who are blinded by ideology and lack the knowledge and understanding to solve problem when their ideology turns out to be wrong.

  5. 5
    Mitch says:

    Just to clarify, I believe McCain finished 6th from last, not 5th from last, since he was number 894 of 899, which would mean there were 5 folx with worse ranking (numbers 895, 896, 897, 898, and 899).

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