The Strange Romance of Hillary and David Brooks

A day after the annual festival of hearts and roses, cupid’s arrow was still lodged in the back of David Brooks, the conservative columnist of the New York Times. Only his punch-drunk love was directed at a most unlikely candidate: Hillary Clinton.

In a piece for yesterday’s Times entitled “No Apology Needed,” Brooks sought to defend Clinton from “the liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” which continually, and in his view, mistakenly, seek the Senator’s apology for voting in favor of the Iraq war. The article came one paragraph short of becoming an official endorsement of Hillary’s presidential aspirations.

You may ask why someone who has William Kristol’s “The Weekly Standard Reader” on his “What I’m Reading” list would stick his bespectacled head out for Clinton. Well, if you’re to believe Brooks, the change of heart came after he went back and “investigated” some “public comments” Clinton made prior to the war. And, having done so, Brooks has now come to see the Senator, not as a “classic war supporter,” but as “a person who [in the run up to the war] was trying to seek balance between opposing arguments” (in other words, an opportunist), “a person who deferred to the office of the presidency” (like Congress had not ceded enough power to the president post-9/11), and “a person who, as president, would be fox to Bush’s hedgehog” (she, along with the American and Iraqi people, became the real hedgehogs after Bush unilaterally launched his catastrophic war).

But something far more pernicious is at work here. As it turns out, Brooks, in his half-hearted defense of Clinton, is less concerned with shielding a public figure from unjustified attack than he is with installing a like-minded politico to the presidency of the United States. At its core, this moment-of-revelation-turned-love-fest is nothing but insurgent political warfare at its best and, when exposed, should be seen for what it really is: a cry of distress by a Republican who, barring a significant shift in the political winds, can’t bear to see his party evicted from the White House in 2008. Thus, to cure the Bible belt blues, Brooks has resorted to a rather unique cure: jumping ship and getting on the Hillary for 2008 bandwagon, the next-best alternative to a Republican presidency.

Instead of relying on political and historical sophistry to ease his pain, however, Brooks should ask his now departed Times colleague, William Safire, about the Senator’s real stance on the Iraq war from which he will learn facts truly comforting to a conservative. In a column titled “Hillary, Congenital Hawk,” written during less turbulent times for the Republican party (December 8, 2003), Safire described, accurately, the former First Lady’s Bush-like positions on America’s burgeoning military conquest in Central Asia, i.e., stay the course, failure is not an option, more troops. As Safire recounted in his article, when asked by Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” whether she felt she had been misled into voting for the war, Clinton flashed her true hawk-like colors, answering that “There was certainly adequate intelligence without it being gilded and exaggerated by the administration to raise questions about chemical and biological programs and a continuing effort to obtain nuclear power.” At that point, even the White House, perhaps with the exception of Vice President Cheney, started to back-peddle from employing WMD-related propaganda.

In seeking to quell the many calls for yet another Clinton apology, Brooks himself should seek absolution in his attempt at a bit of revisionist history. More importantly, however, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, should recognize Clinton for what she really is, not for what’s most pleasing to the partisan eye. To that end, one thing is for certain: Hillary won’t apologize anytime soon.

ALBERT WAN, a lifelong New York, is a lawyer currently clerking for a federal judge. He can be reached at: