One of these things is not like the other

ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER…. The New York Times’ David Brooks today ponders the appeal of “supremely accomplished blowhards” who hold a place in the American imagination, and who manage to say “obnoxious things that others are only permitted to think.”

Thus, there has always been a fan base for the abrasive rich man. There has always been a market for books by people like George Steinbrenner, Ross Perot, Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Bobby Knight, Howard Stern and George Soros. There has always been a large clump of voters who believe that America could reverse its decline if only a straight-talking, obnoxious blowhard would take control.

And today, apparently, Donald Trump is that man.

Putting aside the interest in the clown du jour, take another look at Brooks’ list: Steinbrenner, Perot, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Knight, Stern … and George Soros?

I can appreciate the point Brooks is trying to make here — he’s trying to identify a cultural archetype. It’s strained and I think the columnist is trying too hard, but I get it.

The problem is Brooks feels the need to go after a liberal, just for the sake of going after a liberal. His list was lacking in personalities from the left, so he threw Soros in there to satisfy an ideological quota. But he shouldn’t have — in what universe is George Soros comparable to Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh as “obnoxious blowhards”? Has Brooks ever actually heard Soros? Love him or hate him, the guy is a mild-mannered, civilized philanthropist, who presents his ideas in a cool, rational fashion. Soros seems disinclined to even raise his voice, much less say “obnoxious things that others are only permitted to think.”

For that matter, Brooks’ list includes “blowhards” whose books become bestsellers, but as near as I can tell, Soros’ books don’t exactly fly off the shelves.

In other words, this is just lazy, forced neutrality. Brooks wasn’t satisfied noting a phenomenon; he had to make it a bipartisan phenomenon. When he couldn’t think of someone on the left to fill the role, Brooks just threw a prominent liberal into the mix, even if it didn’t make sense.

And as Jim Sleeper noted this morning, this is consistent with a revealing Brooks pattern.