NYT’s David Brooks Accuses Kos of Being “Vicious” but Refuses to Say Why

Last night on the PBS NewsHour, David Brooks defended Sen. Joe Lieberman from attacks on the internet. Brooks is an astute and insightful writer, but he is too often indirect, and last night he abandoned any duty to be specific:

[Lieberman is] also agitated and angry, and anybody would be, by the vitriolic and vicious attacks he’s withstood for the past two or three years, which can’t be repeated on the television. He’s been the subject of an internet assault which is unprecedented…We’re talking about the netroots, who are the real problems for Lieberman, people generated by the Daily Kos and other web sites– I find privately most of the Democrats despise those people because… they practice politics so viciously. [But the Democrats] don’t want to get in the crosshairs. And they don’t want to offend the liberal base of primary voters.

(This transcript is from Malachite, on Daily Kos.)

Brooks may have a point. But it would be impossible to know that till he speaks directly about what he means rather than employing broadbrush innuendo and referring portentously to “private” conversations. Why can’t he tell us on television? What is wrong with television that when the liberal base of the Democratic party makes charges against a leading senator, they cannot be repeated? Is the MSM mere shadow theater?

I of course want to saddle up my hobbyhorse: the Israel issue. I wonder whether Brooks is not referring to strains within the leftwing Democratic party base over Israel. Here’s BioPitt, complaining lately on Kos about anti-Israel voices that refuse to denounce terrorism:

It’s also becoming abundantly clear why there’s a trickle (not a flood, but a trickle) of Jews leaving the Democratic Party, and why few Jews associate themselves with anti-Iraq War protests, even though they, like myself, may feel the same sentiments as you do about that war (except for the “started by Zionists” canard).

By your actions, by your refusal to sympathize with Jews and Israelis without saying “but”, by your refusal to recognize the nature of a rejectionist, annihilationist movement, you paint yourselves into a corner that makes you the virtual laughingstock of cyberspace.

Obviously these issues figure in the Lieberman-Lamont race. Israel was not mentioned in the debate the other night, but one of my commenters brought it up, all the way from New Zealand. Peter Morris:

Why is it so hard saying it. Lieberman was for the Iraq war because of Israel. He didn’t put the country first or even his party first. He put Israel first. There, now that isn’t so hard saying isn’t it.

Let’s try and sort out the complexities: as Kos reports, Jewish voters are generally opposed to the war and not sticking with Lieberman. But as I have argued here, a religious devotion to Israel, in which I was involved as a young man, surely played a part in support by liberal hawks for the Iraq war. And as the Walt-Mearsheimer groundswell has shown, many of the people called upon to wage the war on terror, the military, seem to want to think about this. Especially as the over-identification of Israel’s interests and ours plays out in the Iran drumbeat.

Even if these are the views Brooks can’t talk about on television, they are important politically. They help explain why right and left are seeking common ground: why the Libertarian Party has joined forces with the Green Party in Maryland to support the antiwar candidacy of Kevin Zeese, the only campaign I have seen on television in which the issue of the identification of American interests with Israel’s is brought up. They explain why the greatest concern about human rights in the occupied territories appears in the Nation and The American Conservative (c.f., its coverage by Scott McConnell.

Maybe we are wrong when we say that the U.S. was influenced by Israel in its decision to occupy Arab lands and initiate a cycle of violence as the answer to radical Islam. Or when we say that separating America’s interests from Israel’s (somewhat) is an essential step in draining the terrorist swamps (as opposed to the neoconservatives and Paul Berman and Ken Pollack, who said that there was no connection between American non-participation in the peace process in Israel and an American invasion of Iraq). Maybe we don’t know half the story (as the commenters who say that Israel is buoying the American high-tech economy protest to me all the time). Fine; show us we are wrong in the good old American way. Have the discussion openly.