I have my ups and downs about New York Times columnist David Brooks. But if one wants to even pretend to have an open mind and hold out any hope for communication across the ideological and partisan divide, liberals have to pay attention to the smartest, most reasonable facts and arguments coming from conservatives, especially conservatives with a demonstrated ability to take something other than the party line. (Same would be true, of course, if the words liberal and conservative were swapped in that sentence.)
In case you don’t know, every Friday “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” on PBS features a discussion of the week’s politics with Brooks and liberal columnist Mark Shields (Shields is now on his third conservative partner in that gig. Can you remember the other two?)
Last Friday, this brief Lehrer-Brooks exchange seemed worth sharing verbatim:
JIM LEHRER: Finally, your thoughts, five years of the Iraq war, what are you thinking about right now, David…
DAVID BROOKS: Well…
LEHRER: … about the war and the rest? What needs to be said about it? Let’s put it that way.
BROOKS: Well, it’s been a searing experience for the country and for a lot of us. I would say it’s changed my view of the world quite dramatically, as I look back.
And I think what I knew, but didn’t practice, was the sense that societies are complex, organic organism, more complex than we can possibly understand. And if you’re going to intervene…
LEHRER: You mean other societies than our own?
BROOKS: Ours, too. Ours, too.
LEHRER: Oh, OK.
BROOKS: And if you’re going to intervene in a society, you have to respect the complexity and respect your own ignorance of that complexity. And that’s something every conservative should really know. But sometimes those facts were held in abeyance in the enthusiasm of the moment.
Here it is in full context.
(And the answer to the trivia question above: First it was David Gergen and Shields. Then Shields and Paul Gigot. Now Shields and Brooks.)