David Brooks, A Trump Derangement And “Bias Makes You Stupid” Case Study

New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks should have that famous epitaph tattooed on his forehead.

He was once an independent, erudite, interesting essayist of conservative leanings. Then he accepted big bucks to be the New York Times’ token conservative pundit. Soon, after forced contact with Charles Blow, Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman, the Times version on the Stockholm Syndrome took over shortly before the election of Donald Trump, whom, to be fair, the tweedy and classist Brooks surely would have regarded as icky even before his re-education by the Times. Today’s model of David Brooks is incapable of objective analysis, He serves a neon-bright cautionary tale of what happens when bias eats away at one’s analytical abilities and credibility.

Take his latest column…please.

It is called “The Sad Tales of George Santos,” but it quickly devolves into one more gratuitous attack on Donald Trump. What it most reveals, however, is how far David Brooks has fallen.

Halfway through this mess, Brooks writes, after stating the obvious about Rep.-elect George Santos,

In a sense Santos is a sad, farcical version of where Donald Trump has taken the Republican Party — into the land of unreality, the continent of lies. Trump’s takeover of the G.O.P. was not primarily an ideological takeover, it was a psychological and moral one. I don’t feel sorry for Trump the way I do for Santos, because Trump is so cruel. But he did introduce, on a much larger scale, the same pathetic note into our national psychology.

How is Donald Trump like Santos? He isn’t. The only connection is that the Trump Deranged like Brooks can find ways to connect anything they find repulsive or objectionable to the former President.George Santos ran for the House and won while misrepresenting and lying about every aspect of his life, career, and achievements (that is, the lack of them). In sharp contrast with Santos, there has never been a Presidential candidate about whom the public and the media knew as much about as they did Donald Trump. We knew exactly who and what he was. Trump didn’t hide it. He had proudly promoted his personality, opinions and background for decades. Like them or not, he also had real accomplishments and successes. Not only that, but Trump is in the top echelon of Presidents who governed almost exactly as he promised he would.

That also puts him in sharp contrast with Brooks, who joined the Times while creating the expectation that he would remain competent,  fair, objective, analytical and professional, all of which he has abandoned or lost, as this column proves. Brooks doesn’t bother to explain how Trump’s influence over the GOP is moral corruption, he just states it as fact without support. How is Trump “cruel”? Is Brooks talking about his tweets, or substance? Oh, never mind: David knows his readers are as Trump-Deranged as he is, so Facts Don’t Matter. And progressive Democrats have been smearing Republicans as cruel for almost a hundred years. Require people to work in order to make money? Cruel. Insist that people be qualified for their colleges and jobs? Cruel. Punish criminals? Cruel. Insist that immigrants follow U.S. laws and procedures? Cruel.

Once a stickler for substantive evidence, Brooks appeals to authority for his latest Trump Dump to “eminent personality psychologist Dan McAdams” who wrote a  click-bait book called  “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump.” Genuin eminent psychologists don’t psychoanalyze people they have never met, examined, or properly diagnosed. Once, David Brooks would have been the first to point that out, because he was a professional, and had standards. That David Brooks is gone. Long gone.

“McAdams quotes people who had been close to Trump who reported that being with him wasn’t like being with a conventional person; it was like being with an entity who was playing the role of Donald Trump,” Brooks writes. Well, first, those are hearsay accounts from people who didn’t care for Trump, being translated into an unethical diagnosis by a psychologist violating the ethical standards of his discipline, being cited as damning evidence by a partisan critic. Second, as someone who studied the personalities of our Presidents, I must point out that remoteness and lack of accessibility are characteristics frequently seen in leaders. They are difficult to know; they keep themselves apart because they see themselves a separate and different. Washington, Polk, Lincoln, FDR, Nixon and Reagan often struck associates this way. As that list suggests, such a tendency is not a handicap in the White House.

Going back to Santos, Brooks concludes,

Karl Marx famously said that under the influence of capitalism, all that’s solid melts into air. I wonder if some elixir of Trumpian influence and online modernity can have the same effect on individual personalities.

It’s come to this: the erstwhile conservative is reduced to quoting Karl Marx about the evil of capitalism, while blaming the unprecedented fake candidacy of George Santos on Donald Trump.

Remember friends as you pass by

As you are now so once was I

As I am now so you soon well be

Prepare yourself to follow me

…unless you learn now that bias makes you stupid, just as it has David Brooks. If enough people can take that lesson away from his latest column, it will have some value after all.


39 thoughts on “David Brooks, A Trump Derangement And “Bias Makes You Stupid” Case Study

  1. Here’s today’s desperate attempt to understand Trump Derangement Syndrome.

    I’m thinking of Harvard Alum No. 1. He graduated from some prep school, went to Harvard, toiled away at Goldman Sachs and became a swinging dick and master of the universe. Now he has a fabulous apartment, a place in Newport and a yacht. He sails around as if he’s a guy in a Prudential Insurance television commercial for retirement products. He goes to the opera and the symphony. He’s doubtless a member of a club or four. He’s become everything a person could want to be. But deep down inside there’s a little boy who sees Donald Trump and realizes he’s a grifter just like, gasp, The Donald. All those deals he brokered where he took his cut without really earning it by doing anything other than making a few phone calls he knows his cut was just fluff. He’s been running the biggest scam in town: investment banking. And here’s this guy Trump, a real estate developer and TV personality with the most powerful position there is. Clearly, it’s time to ignore the man who’s come out from behind the curtain, because he looks just like all us legitimate guys. Hey, I’m not a grifter, Trump’s a grifter. The Trump Deranged see Trump and they see themselves and the Grifter has no clothes.

    Or something like that.

    • Very interesting observation OB. I would bet many more would fill just that bill and I know a few of them. I don’t think you could name anyone in the financial services industry that actually creates much of anything other than fees.

      • … I don’t think you could name anyone in the financial services industry that actually creates much of anything other than fees.

        Remember Woody Allen’s remark to the effect that a financial adviser is someone who looks after your money until it’s all gone.

  2. I believe the argument Brooks is making is that Trump created a new norm for the GOP and politics in general.

    That a politician can blatantly lie and create their own own reality. Undeniable this is what Trump has done and paved the way for others to do.

    Seems like an apt analysis.

    • How is that apt? The post is about lies regarding one’s credentials and accomplishments. Trump boasts and exaggerates, but he inflates his credentials far less than, say, Joe Biden, or Sen. Blumenthal, who lied about his military service. Trump’s lying is a media/resistance/Democratic Party mantra, but if one wants to claim he lowered the bar on lying—Nixon? Clinton (s)? Seriously?—then, as I wrote, I want to see the evidence. He doesn’t bother with any.

      That’s lazy and just playing to the crowd, not “apt.”

      • Well first of all, Trump has most definitely lied about his past accomplishments, also his current situations as well. But the article isn’t only about lies regarding one’s credentials and accomplishments. That’s a strawman.

        The article is about how Trump created an alternative reality of facts. Claiming Germany’s immigration policy increased crime, claiming Obama kept documents containing nuclear secrets, claiming the US tested more than every other country combined during Covid, claiming the noise from windmills may cause cancer, claiming he didn’t actually make fun of a disabled person, etc.

        It’s whatever he wants to say to make himself look better that day.

        But the big unreality was him claiming he won the election (not just claiming the results should be investigated, but that he actually won).

        That’s the point of the article. Of course other politicians have lied, but nowhere near to the level of Trump.

        It’s like comparing a firecracker to a nuke.

        • “Well first of all, Trump has most definitely lied about his past accomplishments” But he HAS accomplishments. He did build a real estate and casino business. He did make millions. He did graduate from a prestige college and business school. Comparing him to a total fraud like Santos is per se Trump Derangement. Meanwhile Biden claimed, “I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship” during a 1987 campaign stop in New Hampshire, adding that he “ended up in the top half of my class” and “graduated with three degrees from college.” None of that was true.

          The point isn’t that Biden’s lies excuse Trump—the point is that claiming Trump’s dishonesty is somehow off the charts is pure partisan BS.

          Don’t make me list Biden’s equally outrageous and, in my view more substantive lies; or Hillary Clinton’s, just to get started. Trump believed he won the election, or at least that he would have won had there been a level playing field. It wasn’t a lie; it still isn’t a lie. Saying he would have won in a landslide is nonsense, but also inconsequential, typical Trump puffery. If he won, he won.By what margin is irrelevant.

          “Claiming Germany’s immigration policy increased crime” is an opinion—and Trump isn’t the only one who has opined that. (if one immigrant who shouldn’t have been allowed in committed a crime, Trump’s statement is true.) Claiming Putin is responsible for high gas prices, as Biden did, is a major lie, the Lie of the Year. “Claiming the US tested more than every other country combined during Covid” is, again, a self-evident exaggeration. Biden saying that, for example, Officer Sickick was killed during the January 6 riot, or that you couldn’t own a cannon when the Constitution was signed, or that he never discussed Hunter’s business dealings with him—there is documented evidence that this is false—these are material lies. Most of Trump’s lies and fantasies are not.

          Like Brooks, your analysis is that Trump’s lies and exaggerations are worse because he’s Donald Trump. I detest the man, and wouldn’t trust him to mail a letter, but Brooks’ claim, and yours (but at last you tried to back yours up!) are deluded, and in my view, the product of bias.

          • Not to engage in overkill, but if you (or Brooks) wanted to assert that the sequence of Bill, Hillary, Trump and Biden degraded the standards for political truthfulness, I wouldn’t bicker too much. But using Trump as the boogieman can’t be defended on the record. You do know, I assume, that our current POTUS engaged in the most fraudulent misrepresentation of biography in US political history when he stole another politician’s entire life story, plagiarizing a speech by British pol. Neil Kinnock. Now that’s Santos-level fraud. Trump never has come close to that.

            For that matter, none of Trump’s hyping, boasts and falsities come close to Obama’s lie in pursuit of public support for the Affordable Care Act: “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

            • Comparing him to a total fraud like Santos is per se Trump Derangement.

              Hard disagree. The comparison is that Trump has normalized this behavior through his own. He’s an example now being followed by it here’s.

              Trump’s dishonesty is somehow off the charts is pure partisan BS.

              No it’s not. This is all well documented as well.

              • Additionally, Trump “believing” he won the election still makes his claim fall under “alternate facts”

                I don’t see your point there.

                If I believe the earth is flat, that doesn’t change how wrong I am or how I live in a world where reality doesn’t matter.

                That’s the point of Brook’s article and no politician before Trump has ever been so deluded.

                It’s the norm now.

                • We’re talking about lies, of which you apparently don’t understand the definition. Being wrong is not a lie. Santos knew he didn’t go to college. He knew he wasn’t Jewish. Those are lies. You can’t have this discussion if you don’t comprehend the distinction.

                  Brooks wasn’t writing about “delusion.” He was writing about falsely representing oneself. Again, Trump isn’t within miles of Santos on that score…or Joe Biden.

              • No, Tahiti, it’s really not. People like you have just repeated that for years. I reviewed every “lie” in the Post Trump database: many weren’t lies; most were trivial, many others were just opinions people disagree with. Nothing on the list was as outrageous as Biden’s stealing another politician’s life history speech or Obama’s Obamacare lie, among others. Just saying it doesn’t make it so….and all Brooks did was say it. Unless you deal with the examples I gave (and there are many others), your assertion is just obstinacy without substance.

                • Sorry if this wasn’t clear.

                  It’s not about lies, it’s about presenting an alternative reality…”unreality” as the Brooks article says.

                  Trump claiming Germany has increasing crime because of immigration was not true. Maybe he believed it for some reason but it doesn’t matter.

                  What matters is it didn’t actually happen.

                  Another example, Trump claiming gas was slightly below $2 a gallon when he left office.

                  An error? Maybe. An exaggeration? Sure. A lie told on purpose? Could be, but not the point. It’s presenting an alternative and one where Trump looks good.

                  Trump saying ballots were thrown out on rivers in Wisconsin. Maybe the czar of ballot counting in Wisconsin told Trump this…well it still never happened.

                  And the huge alternative reality, Trump still claiming he won the election. Maybe he believes it. Doesn’t matter.

                  It’s false and “unreality”

                  Again, if I say the world is flat, even if I believe it and was told but the world’s smartest scientists then it can’t be a lie, sure, but it’s still an alternative fact/unreality.

                  That’s the point of Brook’s article. It’s about creating a new world/image around yourself full of things that aren’t true. Which Trump is the master of…presenting a false or misleading worldview.

                  • Again, you can’t make your case so you’re shifting the goalposts. You were quite clear: you said “lies”—you jsust don’t know what lying is. When you get into “unreality,” you’re in the category of “things one person thinks is true and another does not.” You are defending Brooks; look at the headline. His piece is abut a man who misrepresented everything about himself—he made it up: false statements intended to deceive. To blame Santos on Trump, Brooks has to show that he similarly has claimed credentials and substantive achievements that he made up entirely—not puffed up, not exaggerated, not misstated, but completely fabricated. To show that Brooks isn’t blaming Trump for conduct that his contemporaries have done more flagrantly than he has, you have to show that Biden hasn’t been worse, and he has been worse: he routinely claims personal accomplishments and experiences that didn’t happen—just like Santos. He just told a phony story about decorating a veteran that has been proved to be complete fantasy—and he’s told the story before. In 2019, Biden told college students a harrowing story about a Navy captain in Afghanistan that was debunked as fiction by The Washington Post.
                    In 2013, Biden said he heard the gunshots of an Amish schoolhouse shooting that killed five students while playing golf nearby in Pennsylvania in 2006. No golf course in the area had any record of hosting Biden.
                    In 2007, Biden said he had been “shot at” during a trip years earlier to Iraq. He later clarified that he was “near where a shot landed.”
                    Again, during his failed 1988 presidential campaign, lied about his academic record and plagiarized the Kinnock speech on the campaign trail. He said he “marched with tens of thousands” of people during the civil rights movement. He didn’t. It goes on and one. Trump making exaggerated statements about Germany isn’t in the same ballpark at all, yet you have mentioned that three times! The fact is, and this is quantifiable, in the matter of Santos-like deception—which is Brooks’ topic, Biden is far, far more of an offender than Trump, and only pure partisan bias can account for claiming otherwise.

                    So just stop.

                    • Odd.

                      I thought I was clear, because in my second comment I said:

                      But the article isn’t only about lies regarding one’s credentials and accomplishments. That’s a strawman.

                      The article is about how Trump created an alternative reality of facts.

                      Which he does all the time. The German/crime comment is a perfect example.

                    • As I said, you saying it doesn’t make it so, and it isn’t so. “Trump creates an alternate reality of facts” is just rhetorical nonsense, as if his lies, exaggerations and the rest are magically different from everyone else’s. It’s an intellectually dishonest argument that applies to your own statements. Lies don’t “change reality,” and Trump has been the victim of lies of the political Big Lie variety that have done far more to distort public comprehension of reality than anything he has said or tweeted.

  3. Also just wanted to quickly point out the Germany/crime comment for other readers.

    Trump’s claim was that Germany had a rise in crime from immigration. The “alternative reality” comes from the fact that Germany didn’t have a rise in crime at all.

    “self evident exaggerations” isn’t an accurate description. These are distortions of reality that many people belive.

    • How do you know Germany didn’t have an increase in crime? Or are you actually talking about reported crimes, which is not the same number?

      As Jack said, if even one immigrant committed a crime, then Trump’s claim isn’t false.

      Not a Trump fan, but a fan of intellectual honesty.

      • “ As Jack said, if even one immigrant committed a crime, then Trump’s claim isn’t false.”

        That really doesn’t logically follow at all. You can’t measure crime rates by saying a policy led to one individual committing a crime, therefore it led to an overall higher crime rate; it’s possible that policy led to decreases in crime elsewhere. For an obvious example, liberalizing restrictions on what kinds of guns people can own might lead to some people committing crimes with those guns they wouldn’t otherwise have had access to, but it would also make responsible owners of those guns no longer criminals. And crime overall might decrease in a more heavily armed society.

        By the same token, liberalizing immigration means fewer people are immigrating illegally. It might also mean some immigrants coming over and committing crimes they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to commit, but you’d have to balance both of those factors in order to determine whether the actual crime rate rose.

        • I suppose it all matters whether being in a country without the proper paperwork is classified as a crime or not, doesn’t it?

          And you’re ignoring my point about whether we’re talking about crime or reported crime. I doubt anyone living in San Francisco really believes that crime in that city hasn’t increased in the last 3 years, even if it hasn’t on paper.

          • “ I suppose it all matters whether being in a country without the proper paperwork is classified as a crime or not, doesn’t it?”

            Yes, I already addressed that. The policy in question allowed more legal immigrants in, thus reducing the crime of illegal immigration.

            “And you’re ignoring my point about whether we’re talking about crime or reported crime. I doubt anyone living in San Francisco really believes that crime in that city hasn’t increased in the last 3 years, even if it hasn’t on paper.”

            So forget statistics, and just say the crime rate has gone up based on vibes?

            I don’t know if you live in San Francisco, but Trump most certainly did not live in Germany, and wouldn’t even have the anecdotal experience necessary to make the claim that crime rates there had gone up. (And again, he cited a specific statistic, 10%, which was wrong. If a San Franciscan says that the SF crime rate has gone up by 10% and they have nothing “on paper” to back that up, it’s fair to point out they’re making that up!)

              • It’s relevant to Brooks’ point that the modern GOP does not care what the truth is. They just say stuff that is convenient for them to say at any given moment.

                • Thus it only proves my point that his was a partisan screed, not the objective analytical essay he is supposed to be noted for. And until you account for and contrast the vast, vast volume of the current President’s outright lies and false claims about his own experiences and achievements, this is the last comment like this you get. You have done nothing to support the contention that Trump and the GOP are any more mendacious and cynically dishonest than the Democrats, and that’s because you can’t. That makes you an untrustworthy commentator. Try another thread where your bias doesn’t cripple your reason.

              • And may I add, it would be nice, just once, if “dog with a bone” troll proved he or she had the ability and class to back off and be a productive commenter on other topics having received a warning, but they never do.

                  • Well that’s embarrassing: I didn’t. There was a parallel commenter who was doing what I also felt you were doing, and it was him that I suspended, not you.

                    I’m very sorry. Your commenting privileges are restored (except on that thread). I’ll alert everyone. Again, my sincere apologies. This was my error entirely.

                    By the way, you need to email me your real name, per the EA comment policies

            • It’s totally relevant to Brooks’ point because that’s his exact point which you perfectly exemplified.

              Trump creates alternative facts, this “unreality” to suit his own purpose.

              You keep ignoring Brooks actual argument. It’s not just about lies and deception.

              • Your last repetitive comment on this thread. I’ve asked you multiple times to deal with the throbbing examples of other Presidents and politicians who have made, and been given passes for more substantive and outrageous lies, and you do not rebut or acknowledge them, just repeating your Trump Derangement cant without analysis. That kind of trolling gets people banned here.

                Move on. You’re wasting my time.

              • No, TW, it is you who is ignoring Brooks’ argument. He is blaming Trump entirely for a culture that many more elected officials and politicians have contributed to, as I have illustrated, and you have not even attempted to rebut. Arguing that Trump alone engages in outrageous misrepresentations as Brooks did and you are is anti-Trump bias, and not a legitimate argument.

                And that’s the end of your participation on this thread. Move on.

          • Of course everyone knows that’s how Trump rolls. That’s because Trump is a fundamentally dishonest person who doesn’t care if things are true when he says them. I’m just not clear on why we should quit pointing that out, especially when so many—even here—seem to deny it.

            • I point it out here constantly, and have for more than a decade. That doesn’t change the fact that pretending, as Brooks does, that he is unique in this respect, or that the current President hasn’t been at least as dishonest throughout his career, is itself deliberate deception. The Trump Deranged just can’t stand the idea that he should be treated with the same standards as everyone else, which is an outright rejection of integrity. The conservative news media immediately went to Biden’s lies as similar to the GOP’s fake Rep. from New York…and, in fact, they are more relevant to Santos, because Biden keep making up fake credentials and experiences. That’s only slightly better than what Brooks did…or you.

              • Trump is unique in the sheer volume and seriousness of his lies. No serious person denies this. No other president’s false statements have led to a riot in the Capitol meant to keep that president in power despite his loss.

                (And before you say these claims weren’t lies because he believed them, ask yourself *why* he believes them. Hint: it’s because he doesn’t care about what the truth is, only what benefits him. That is ethically indistinguishable from being a liar.)

                • 1. The “volume” is a partisan talking point. As I have said, in substantive lies, each of the last three Democratic Presidents have arguably exceeded Trump, and I’ve cited examples….which you can’t deny or rebut.
                  2. Trump’s false statements did not “lead to the riot.” You can believe that it you want, but legally and logically, that’s no more than an unproven and unprovable opinion. (But if Trump made a statement like yours, it would be called “a lie.”)
                  3. I agree that Trump doesn’t care about the nuances of facts. That makes him irresponsible and incompetent, but it doesn’t make him dishonest. That means that the conduct IS ethically distinguishable by definition.

                  And you are now officially blocked from beating this drum any longer. See if you can find another issue and post where your Trump-biases don’t distort your reasoning.

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