It simply cannot be true. It’s got to be a prank or a smear job. But there is a report today that the President reads and respects — respects! — David Brooks and Thomas Friedman’s opinions. If that report is true — if it is true — it’s going to rape my last living bit of faith in Obama. The poor man cannot both be president and respect David Brooks and Thomas Friedman’s opinions. There is no master carpenter so skilled he can join those two things. There is no proper fit between them.
I’m not a despairing person, but that damn report has me as close to despair as anything in the news has come in years to causing me a total meltdown. David Brooks and Thomas Friedman are among the most pathetic members of a very difficult to respect bunch: America’s “mainstream or traditional” commentariat. And it seems everyone — just about everyone who thinks for him or herself and takes the time to be reasonably informed — knows their opinions are junk. If the report really is true, then they have got to test the President for drugs.
But politics is full or rumors. This is probably just another one of them. Besides, Obama is far too bright to respect junk opinions, and it therefore seems likely the report is just as much junk as a column by Brooks or Friedman. Near as I can discover, here’s the passage in GQ Magazine that today’s disturbing report traces back to:
Relations, in any event, are not good. Obama incessantly refers to “the cable chatter” with palpable disdain, and he frequently grumbles to his aides about the media’s coverage of his presidency. His press conferences are fewer than Clinton’s (though more than Bush’s) at the same stage of their presidencies—and, says Clinton’s former press secretary Mike McCurry, “I feel sometimes when I watch Obama do these that he looks like he’d rather be having a root canal.” Obama does reserve a certain respect for opinion writers such as Tom Friedman and David Brooks of The New York Times, Jerry Seib of The Wall Street Journal, E. J. Dionne of The Washington Post, and Joe Klein of Time. “My impression is that he reads a lot of columnists,” says Brooks, “and therefore he sort of cares about what they say.”
At first, it might seem evident from the above that Obama really does respect the opinions of Brooks and Friedman. But then you realize how vague are the key phrases, “a certain respect”, and “he sort of cares”. Most tellingly, the latter phrase is attributed to Brooks! Brooks is an old hand at making up things, so how creditable can his word be? The more I think about it, the more I wonder why this report has been picked up and republished again and again.
Can you imagine, though, what it would be like if the report were true? What if Obama were so out of it that he was neither a decent enough nor shrewd enough judge of people’s opinions? The implications would be enormous.
How many opinions each day is it his job to assess? How many of those opinions he has to assess deal with national security or even world security? What would it mean that the President of the United States routinely could not tell the difference between his wisest and his most foolish advisors?
Seriously. Wouldn’t it be Bush all over again?