The decision to replace General Stanley McChrystal following his inflammatory remarks to Rolling Stone seems to have been generally well received, but in the grand conservative tradition one man stands at those tides and says, “halt.” That man is David Brooks.
To give Brooks the benefit of the doubt, his Times column today seems to be an exercise in contrarianism, exploring the possibility that McChrystal didn’t really do anything wrong. “Washington floats on a river of aspersion,” he reasons. To be close to a public official means that you endure a good amount of “kvetching” from them, and reporters are under no obligation to publish this venting but for the fact that the modern media is obsessed with spats and inside baseball.
It’s an interesting idea, but then he goes on to attack Michael Hastings, the reporter who wrote the McChrystal piece, stopping just short of calling him an amateur.
…this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.
By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.
The two obvious problems with this are that McChrystal’s comments weren’t the “center” of the profile and moreover McChrystal wasn’t hanging out with a reporter from The Washington Post or Roll Call. This was Rolling Stone, the magazine of Hunter Thompson and, more recently, Matt Taibbi. Mightn’t he have guessed they’d latch on to something controversial?
Hastings lashed back at Brooks on his Twitter, summarizing the column thusly:
david brooks to young reporters: don’t report what you see or hear, or you might upset the powerful.