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David Brooks on Kos the Keyboard Kingpin

by RonChusid

If Kos’s original goal in blasting TNR for revealing information sent out on the Townhouse list was to limit controversy and unfavorable publicity, his strategy has failed. Besides all the talk in the blogosphere, this has now spread to the opinion pages of The New York Times. When I first read in Raw Story that David Brooks writing about the Kos vs. TNR dispute I expected a take from Brooks which I would disagree with. Reading the actual column I find Brooks generally has Kos pegged pretty well.

Much of the column repeated the background information which I previously discussed here and here. Brooks certainly goes too far in some comments. For example, I fail to see that Brooks made any case that Tom DeLay is Kos’s “moral doppelgänger.” Despite going too far in some comments, Brooks makes two points about Kos which are similar to those I have often made here. Brooks notes a pattern in receiving support from Kos:

The Kingpin’s first enemy was the Democratic Party establishment, and it pleased him to see Howard Dean take it on. When the Dean campaign hired the Kingpin and his co-author and onetime business partner Jerome Armstrong as paid campaign consultants, this was an appropriate sign of respect, and the Kingpin did lay his hand of blog approval upon the Dean campaign (while disclosing the connection).

When Sherrod Brown, the Democratic Senate candidate in Ohio, hired Armstrong last year to help with his campaign, this was also a sign of respect. The Kingpin had instructed his Kossack cultists to support Brown’s Democratic primary rival, Paul Hackett. But the Kingpin switched sides and backed Brown over his former anointee.

The Kingpin often directs his wrath at the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. But the centrist Democrat Mark Warner has also hired Armstrong as a consultant, and the Kingpin has graciously exempted Warner from the seventh circle of Kos hell. Warner is frequently celebrated on Daily Kos as something akin to the second coming of F.D.R.

And so it is in the realm of the Kingpin. Those who offer respect get respected.

We’ve often noted how little attention Kos has paid to ideas (with some notable exceptions such as here). Brooks notes this in the conclusion to his column:

But the truth is that the new boss is little different from the old boss — only smaller. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and many other Democrats bow and scrape. He has managed to spread the gospel of Kossism far and wide, which is not really about ideas and philosophy. “I’m just all about winning,” he has said.

And so the Kingpin has his relationships and his understandings and his networks and his compromises. In just a few short years he has achieved a level of self-importance it took those in the pre-blog political class decades to acquire.

He has challenged his enemy and become it.

13 Responses to “David Brooks on Kos the Keyboard Kingpin”

  1. Can’t argue with the last line.

    “In just a few short years he has achieved a level of self-importance it took those in the pre-blog political class decades to acquire.”

    I think he came by his position in the way a lot of flame and die wonders do – he hit the right media with the message that people wanted to hear and repeat.

    The fact that it is usually short lived is due to the shallowness of the message and the lack of experience in the thinking behind it.

    Now that Kos has had some taste of the bigger picture and how tough it is going to be to stay on top of the wave, I think he is learning what a lot of people find out when they try to tear something down from the outside: it’s bigger than you are.

    You have to join to make real change. You have to be willing to acknowledge that others have different opinions based on experience and probably broader and deeper knowledge. You have to learn not to presume too much.

    You have to show some respect for people who do matter, whether you agree with them or not.

  2. Just wish he had learned some respect a little earlier.

    Wonder, too, if his minions will fall in step when they realize he can be self-serving, and is not a guru. Some may never really know how much he over inflated Dean’s actual ground game. How will they react to the Warner love-in as winning, when I suspect he as much likes him because the traditional forces will be producing the win?

    So he damaged Kerry just because he couldn’t produce him, then?

    What he created is bigger than him now, and people do have a forum. But they are just part of the solution, as well as part of the problem.

  3. “So he damaged Kerry just because he couldn’t produce him, then?”

    It was necessary to serve his client. The Dean campaign realized there was not room for two New England liberals in the race. To stake out the anti-war position, the Dean campaign had to do something about Kerry, who had much better credentials as an anti-war candidate long term.

  4. The NY Times: Kos The Kingpin

    As we all know the liberal blogosphere is enraged when they feel that the conservative blogs are ignoring certain reports, but as far as I know there does not exist a conservative e-mail list in which conservative bloggers debate what strategy they sho…

  5. In a previous post Ron Chusid had written:

    “I don’t know about the validity of the accusations against Armstrong, or the subsequent extending to Kos regarding selling favorable publicity at daily
    Kos (although Kos’s actions with regards to the Dean campaign make him quite vulnerable to such questions being raised).”

    If you don’t know about the validity of the
    accusations, then why are you repeating them in such a positive fashion (especially since you are both on the same side)?

    Also, why would you be quoting (in an approving fashion) David Brooks? (A prominent right-wing commentator and former editor of the Weekly Standard). It really undermines your argument, and reduces your
    credibility.

  6. Terry,

    I’m not discussing the Armstrong accusations. I”m discussing other issues which arose since then independent of the initial accusations.

    I purposely did not mention the accusations at first due to limited information to judge their validity. However, once Kos and TNR got into this war talk of it was all over and whether or not I referenced it no longer mattered.

    It is your credibility, not mine, which comes into question from the last paragraph of your comment. You make it clear that you consider it valid to assume David Brooks is wrong as he is a prominent right wing commentator.

    In order to have credibility it is important to judge writings based upon their merit, not who says them or their political connections. I feel I have credibility, while those who offer a knee jerk defense of Kos do not, precisely because I do evaluate all arguments and information independently. I do not assume that one person is always right because they are on “the same side” and someone else is wrong because they are a conservative. In this particular case, as has ocassionally happened in the past, Brooks does make valid points.

    As for “sides” I do not simplify agruments by assuming every liberal blogger is on our side. Kos has done some good things, but has also done bad things which have undermined attempts at achieving positive change. Having Kos seen as the voice of the liberal blogosphere is ultimately harmful and will limit the ability of liberal bloggers to be taken seriously beyond the blogosphere or to be effective.

  7. Terry

    The validity of the accusations against Jerome have not been proven yet – Kos has said as much. Ron has acknowledged that.

    I’ll not that many times we’ve all seen Kos disagree with the “same side” and that seems to be acceptable to many. Well then, so too it should be acceptable if others disagree with the “same side.”

    The big tent theory – we won’t all agree all the time.

  8. A couple of other points to add:

    There have been a huge number of issues raised over this. It started with Armstrong’s issues with the SEC which I have stated I am avoiding due to lack of sufficient information. This is largely a legal issue so having detailed information is critical. I have not repeated the claims against Armstrong in a “positive fashion.”

    On the other issues I have sided with Kos when I agreed, and with TNR or others when I agreed with them. I agreed with Kos that what he writes on a private mailing list should not be repeated (although I did not agree with Kos that this shows TNR has moved to the right.) I disagreed with TNR’s claims that Kos controls the blogosphere due to use of membership in the liberal blog network.

    Same with Brooks. I disagreed with his comparison to Kos to Tom DeLay. Next to Tom DeLay, Kos is a virtual saint, with his errors being rather trivial compared to DeLay’s crimes.

    On the other hand, Brooks dealt with two issues where I have criticized Kos in the past. The first is bashing some as being DLC-type centrists when it suited his goals, while simultaneously backing candidates who have been more conservative than those he bashes. He regularly bashes Kerry, who has a more liberal record than either Dean and Warner, with Warner outright positioning himself publically as being more moderate than Kerry. The second is in stessing style over ideas and substance.

    If Brooks says the same as I have said in the past, I cannot suddenly argue that Brooks is wrong today.

    As for sticking to our “side” it is Kos who has done actual harm. What I write here on this blog about Kos has little impact. In contrast, Kos has repeatedly defended and spread right wing talking points about Kerry. For example, when the Republicans tried to trap Kerry at the Grand Canyon, Kerry defended his IWR vote by noting how he would have used the authorization differently. In several interviews around the time he was talking about how he would have used the authorization to achieve a diplomatic solution rather than going to war.

    The Republicans sprung their trap by claiming that Kerry was saying he would have voted to “go to war” and Kos has repeated that line. When he has written about the Grand Canyon statement, he has left out the portion where Kerry stated he would have used the authorization differently.

    This is just one example of how Kos has distorted Kerry’s statements to attack him. In this case it was important as Bush and Cheney have been justifying their actions with the false claims that Kerry also voted to go to war. In this case Kos has helped to undermine the anti-war cause.

    The dishonest (although legal) manner in which Kos supported Dean and attacked Kerry, expecially after revelations that Kos was paid at a greater rate than typical consulting fees to buy favorable publicity, does leave him more open to the current accusations that he and Armstrong are engaging in a scheme to sell favorable publicity thru Kos’s blog. While it leaves him open to such criticism, this is hardly proof of such accusations. Some in the liberal blogosphere will accept Kos’s word regardless, but for others he is going to have to do more than attack TNR to convince them of his innocence.

  9. I don’t have NYTimes Select, but judging from your quote, David Brook’s criticism of Kos is that:

    – he is using his influence to support various candidates.

    – he used his influence to support Howard Dean, and Howard Dean hired him as a consultant, which was disclosed by Kos.

    For the first criticism, John Kerry and I would think all influential politicians use their influence to support other candidates. I don’t see why this is a bad thing.

    His second criticism is that he used his blog to support a candidate who was also paying him as a consultant, which was disclosed.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with that as long as it is disclosed. Perhaps you feel differently. That’s ok, but why not make that your argument?

    My problem with using David Brook’s quote is that he isn’t attacking Kos’ actions, instead he is using Kos’ ethical actions to imply that Kos is acting like a mafia don.

    David Brook writes “The Kingpin’s first enemy was the Democratic Party establishment” then he implies that Kos is some kind of mafia don, then he writes “He has challenged his enemy and become it.”

    So not only is he implying that Kos is awful, but that in being awful he has become just like the “Democratic Party establishment”!

    David Brooks’ essay, has lots of implying, but no substantive criticism.

    Brooks is an important part of the GOP noise machine, the fact that he is attacking Kos means that he thinks Kos is a threat to the GOP. You can bet that if he thought Kos was a threat to the Democratic Party, he would be slathering praise upon him.

    If you want to criticize Kos’ actions, that’s fine, but please no more David Brooks!

  10. Ron

    I composed my above comments before
    reading your latest comment.

    I think your latest comment would be
    a good post to criticize Kos’ actions.
    Much better than quoting an empty
    commentary by David Brooks.

  11. Terry Says: June 25th, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    “Brooks is an important part of the GOP noise machine, the fact that he is attacking Kos means that he thinks Kos is a threat to the GOP. You can bet that if he thought Kos was a threat to the Democratic Party, he would be slathering praise upon him.”

    Well said, Terry, well said.

  12. Brooks is a colmunist who has to come up with a new column frequently. The fact that he is criticizing Kos means that this is a major topic of the last few days. It doesn’t say anything either way about whether Kos is a threat.

    Brooks typically takes the GOP line, but he also expresses disagreement from time to time.

    See more on David Brooks here.

  13. Terry,

    “I think your latest comment would be
    a good post to criticize Kos’ actions.”

    Actually this is all stuff I’ve posted before. In the main posts I’ve been concentrating on what is said this week rather than dragging up all the old stuff. (Come to think of it–perhaps that is part of the problem as the conservative blogs are all concentrating on the really old stuff).

    However, I thought the more detailed comment on Kos was needed here to put my comments on David Brooks in perspective since not everyone reading this post has necessarily read my earlier posts on Kos. If much of David Brooks’ column is saying things I”ve said in the past, I can’t very well say David Brooks is wrong now on the same items.

    Also note that I’ve quoted more from his column than I might normally do since it requires a subscripation to read the full post. It’s harder to comment with simply a link when many can’t follow the link. Similarly I often quote larger sections when referring to a liberal column at the NY Times.