When someone I know tells me the enjoy reading David Brooks, my opinion of them suffers, and I die a little inside.
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Of course the Columnist knows he didn't just get this job for his Idea. The Columnist got this job because the last newspaper is liberal, or perceived as liberal, but wants very, very much to also be fair, so one or two of its columnists are conservative. But you have to be a very specific kind of conservative to fit in at the last newspaper, whose most important readers are sensitive, liberal and rich (not coincidentally, just like everyone the Columnist writes about). You have to be a "not-too" conservative, preferably an erudite one who claims his conservatism from, say, Burke. You have to support the Republican Party most of the time but be careful to concede that they've perhaps gone just a bit too far some of the time. In this unjustly successful phase the Columnist will be one of the most influential people alive. Or at least "influence" will be something else he projects, alongside "seriousness." Our Columnist may not have started intending to become The Columnist. He may have preferred to be a humorist or essayist or maybe even a simple Ideas magazine editor. But no one turns down a column, and now his time is occupied with Sunday show panels, the follow-up books, debates of world-shaping importance (conducted only with other Columnists of his stature), and Ideas Festivals. (The Columnist spends the Bush years being wrong about Iraq.)