I was fortunate to have one of the best managing editors anyone could ask for. He was a living caricature of newspapermen in the old black and white films. Hard drinking, cigar smoking, rude, crude and lascivious. Today he'd be facing an assortment of sexual harassment charges. God, the man was smart.
One of his favorite sayings was, "You bend over backwards to be nice to someone and you end up with teeth marks in your ass."
Having just written a complimentary essay on David Brooks' analysis of the non-effect of right-wing talk-show jocks, I'm now rubbing thick slabs of salve over my posterior. Of course this man is no friend, but in a spirit of non-partisanship, I thought I might point out something good a conservative once said.
Brooks came on the air and called the President's prize a "travesty." Undeserved. Political. He should have turned it down. He's spoken on science, economics, politics, etc., so Brooks cattily quipped that the president should get a prize in each of these categories. I was dumbfounded. Brooks should be awarded his own prizes in the areas of pettiness, provincialism and shallowness.
Determined to find out if I had heard this right, I tuned into the Jim Lehrer News Hour later that evening because I figured this simple-minded noodle-brain might just repeat himself. He came through like a champ. Unfortunately, ditzy Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post was filling in for Mark Shields.
In one swell swoop Brooks trivialized the entire Nobel selection process: ". . . the idea that he would win it with five Norwegian lefties, to me, it is something of a joke. The last thing he needs now is to be treated as the global messiah. People want him paying attention to local issues." There's also a great big world out there, Brooks, and some of those countries have nuclear weapons. I'd say those were pretty pressing issues. If one of them dropped something on us, health care reform would cease to be such a hot topic.
Brooks reiterated that the president should turn it down:
LEHRER: How could he do that?
BROOKS: He could just – well, people do it.
MARCUS: Marlon Brando not going to the Academy Awards.
Boy, there's a comparison.
Lehrer suggested that Brooks take 30 seconds to write the speech. Brooks said the president could say, "I some day hope to deserve it. But this is not something that I have merited yet. I am a humble person. I'm aware of who I am and what I have achieved so far. And, so far, I don't think I earned this." Hopefully, the president would speak more eloquently than this simpleton.
Lehrer turned to Marcus to ask if she would write the same speech. "No, but I would love to hear it. Wouldn't that have been fun?" Helen Thomas, she ain't.
These two would tie for first place in the silliest clown category.
The Nobel should be above politics, Brooks observed. "They are not the Norwegians for Democratic action. They are not a political action committee. They're supposed to be somewhat above politics and above cause mongering, celebrating genuine accomplishment. But over the last few years – and maybe forever – it is just a nakedly political prize sent to send – meant to send political messages."
Draw your own conclusions by linking to The Daily Beast's The Complete List of Nobel Peaceniks.
This comedy of errors would play beautifully on Saturday Night Live. The highly respected Jim Lehrer, always composed to the point of being a bit dry, was absolutely flummoxed. After Brooks uttered his idiotic observations, Lehrer would pause and then just keep pausing, all the while staring at Brooks as if he had two heads. I think Lehrer was truly speechless.
Maybe Brooks raised the ire of conservatives with his above mentioned opinion piece and he was trying to get back in their good graces. Or, maybe, he's really as small minded as he sounded on NPR and NPT. Maybe he just doesn't get it – that this award is not only an honor for President Obama but for the whole country.