JIM LEHRER: Let's go to another dispute, the so-called Al Qaeda Seven. Liz Cheney and her group criticized some justice department lawyers, because they once represented some Guantanamo detainees. Where do you come down on that?
DAVID BROOKS: Ah, well, I think the ad, which sort of accused whose values do they have - do they have Al Qaeda or Taliban values, I thought it was tremendously unfortunate. I mean, it's just part of a long range of corrosive language. And to be fair to Liz Cheney, if you Google "Taliban" and "Liz Cheney", millions of people have called her a member of the Taliban and made similar charges.PBS Newshour, 3/12/10
You know what mentality I have always hated? Since elementary school hated? The idea that just because someone once picked on you, once kicked your lunch box, once pushed you down, once cut you in line, once made your life hell, it somehow gave you license to do the same. In elementary school through high school, the idea was as soon as you got to the exalted grade of the kids who were picking on you, you could then pick on the kids who occupied the grade you were in now. It was, and is, a stupid idea. Picking on the freshman as a senior does nothing to the senior who picked on you. It just continues a cycle of meaningless and ridiculous abuse, for no other reason than because you had to deal with it and you refused to be the last one.
It is a simple-minded, mean mentality. It depends on making someone else a victim in order for the former victim to be the victor, to feel powerful.
It is an immature philosophy and displays a distinct lack of empathy. It is also what David Brooks suggests we use in order to "be fair" to Liz Cheney.
Brooks is probably right; any other week, if you were to Google "Liz Cheney" and "Taliban", you would probably garner a lot of hits comparing the two. Right now, though, most of the hits are about the ad itself and Brooks' defense of Cheney. In a normal week, a lot of those would be malicious. Most would be blatantly false. I'm saying "a lot" and "most", because I'm sure there are also pages ripping apart those other pages and defending Cheney.
You know what else? I'd bet my teeth that none of those people calling Liz Cheney a member of the Taliban are from the Department of Justice. You know, the people Liz Cheney is now directly comparing to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Funny thing, that. Funny how the school mentality can still be defended by those well into their forties when employed by people getting toward the middling of their own fortieth decade.
There is no "being fair" to Liz Cheney when she blatantly uses her non profit to disseminate the exact same tactic being so egregiously used against herself and her own father.
There should only be condemnation for so spectacularly failing to progress past the idea that passing along this sort of mean-spirited and completely baseless accusation to a whole new wave of victims. David Brooks thinks there is some sort of balance that has been reached here: Liz Cheney was attacked by someone, so she gets to attack someone else with that as part of her excuse. Sorry, but no. And that sort of rationalization calls Brooks' own assessing skills into question as well.
The other thing that gets me is how neither Jim Lehrer nor Mark Shields makes this argument; Shields should have mentioned that the DoJ lawyers probably weren't the ones slandering Liz Cheney all over the interwebs. And then he should have mentioned that even if they were, that still does not excuse Cheney's sinking to their level.
Because that is the other very real issue here. When has it become appropriate in the public discourse to pull what is essentially a "I know you are, but what am I?" smack down? This is beyond concerning. This says that somehow, no one progresses past elementary school (a thought I've often had and feared, and now discover may be the abject truth of the matter). And that? Is unacceptable.
Making excuses for Liz Cheney, calling an ad tremendously unfortunate instead of calling it out for what it is - a baseless, fear-mongering attack ad - does not make one a member of polite society. Couching one's statements and one's bets doesn't make one the better person.
And, no, the ad in question doesn't sort of accuse. It does accuse, full stop. The fact that Brooks can't even make that statement without waffling, and the fact that no one corrects him, makes me worry.