David Brooks is arguably wrong, but we have to wait to find out

Media | Building/Consensus

David Brooks devotes today's New York Times column to two points: 1, that we should take at face value the conclusions by David Kay, Richard Kerr, and senate Intelligence Committee, that there was no political pressure to slant the intelligence analysts*; and 2, that the very problem with the CIA is that it should be more politicized, and less "scientific". Just the sort of hack piece you'd expect from a guy who also writes a column for the Atlantic Monthly, edits the Weekly Standard, and is a regular campaign panelist on All Things Considered and The Newshour.

I thought to write a letter– but I thought of the what my constructive methodology suggests, which is to find out what other people are saying first. So I clicked on the link Discuss this column. There have been 6800 posts since Brooks starting writing four months ago, so each of his 34 columns (he writes twice weekly) would appear to attract 200 responses.

How many people regularly agree or disagree with him– or whether they think is argument is scrambled and is unworthy of the Times, it would be nice to know. I've read through scores of responses to today's piece, and none of them even remotely substantively backs up anything he has to say. "Maybe Henry Kissinger could lead the investigation," suggests timcorn. "I've got it. We could hire the Dade County election commisioners to hold the data up to the light and discern the intent of foreign leaders," suggests quercophile. The coup de grace comes from gmpierce: "The process you describe could just as well be called 'Faith-based Intelligence Analysis.'"

I expect that the a few of the more droll observations will be posted on the Times's letter page in a few days, at which the original op-ed would mostly be forgotten. Will a few letters really illustrate the grand mindlessness of this particular column? And we readers would be left to fuzzy guesswork to ascertain whether David Brooks is up to the job as an informed commentator. In analyzing media commentary, some objective measure may be helpful.

Note: the closest thing we have right now is Brooks's Lying In Ponds partisanship index, which does confirm that Brooks is hardly a right-wing partisan, and is generally evenhanded on Democrats. But in the case above, he's just talking nonsense, which makes it two columns in a row now (see my previous article on his weak treatment of 'electability')

*Postscript (Feb 5) This may be true, strictly speaking, but it misses the key point. The reporting of Seymour Hersh in the October 23, 2003 New Yorker, and Kenneth Pollack, in the January Atlantic Monthly (both of which quote each other's research), paint the picture that the intelligence analysts were telling it straight, but the Vice President's office was cherry-picking only the analysis that they wanted to hear. This also is the analysis offered by Sidney Blumenthal in this comment in the Guardian. That's the most important point that deserves attention.

Was a single letter to the editor published regarding this column? I saw none in Today's paper, and ran a search for the last few days. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I'll write the Times.
July 7th update: Here's assessment of David Brooks by Nicholas Confessore in the Washington Monthly, Paradise Glossed: "if you peruse Brooks's considerable pre-Timesian oeuvre, you'll find that the same inconsistency is evident throughout his work. There is Brooks the Journalist. And there is Brooks the Hack."