David Brooks, struggling to find a niche within the increasingly loony right, today performs a breathtaking triple-axel-triple-toe-loop feat of revisionist history that had my head spinning.
For example, did you know that:
Neocons came in for a lot of criticism during the Iraq war, but neoconservatism was primarily a domestic policy movement. Conservatism was at its peak when the neocons were dominant and nearly every problem with the Republican Party today could be cured by a neocon revival.
Well, that sure will be news to all those folks over at the Project for the New American Century, whose hallmark was war, war and more war, including Bill Kristol, the son of Irving Kristol, whom Brooks venerates in this column.
But as mind-boggling as downplaying the centrality of hawkishness to the Necons
is Brooks's seeing them as avatars of domestic progressive policies:
In the 1980s, when conservatism was at its most politically and intellectually vibrant, the dominant voices in the movement celebrated Lincoln, the Progressive Era and even the New Deal
That's a sentence that doesn't need to just be unpacked, it needs to be ransacked.
I did not know that:
when Ronald Reagan started his campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., and went after "young bucks" and "welfare queens," it was in the spirit of the Great Emancipator.
when Reagan appointed James Watt as Interior Secretary and complained about pollution coming from trees, he was carrying on TR's environmental legacy.
when Reagan began dismantling the New Deal, he was actually enhancing FDR's legacy.
But having churned out this nonsense, Brooks then morphs into what nearly every Brooks column is -- It's all about Values
Neocons put values at the center of their governing philosophy, but their social policy was neither morally laissez-faire like the libertarians nor explicitly religious like some social conservatives.
"See," David says, "those guys (and me) are not cruel market conservatives, going after the New Deal, and we are also not crazy social conservatives, single-mindedly trying to ban abortion and gay marriage.
"No, we are the ones with real values." What are these values? Well, quoting James Q. Wilson, we should "induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants for public assistance, would-be lawbreakers, or voters and public officials.”
What a great idea? Why didn't we think of that? All we have to do is lecture people about values and the economy will improve -- no need to raise the minimum wage, provide economic stimulus, preserve social security, expand Obamacare.
Nope -- just values will do it.
At the end, Brooks says the GOP is deserting the great principles of the Neo-cons by, e.g., advocating cuts in food stamps. "I'm not like them.", Brooks says. "I'm like those '80s giants like Reagan, Kristol, Cheney et al, who of course wanted to cut the same kind of thing, but not as much as the current crop of crazy cons."
There's a word for this: Gobbledygook