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David Brooks: This Mess Goes Back to Watergate

Columnist says that scandal has led to the current political climate of constant scandals
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2019 12:02 PM CDT
The letter from Attorney General William Barr to Congress on the conclusions reached by special counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia probe.   (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

(Newser) – In a New York Times op-ed, David Brooks writes that apologies are needed in the wake of the Mueller report—from both sides. Among Democrats, he names Rep. Adam Schiff and Beto O'Rouke as examples of those who predicted proof of collusion. "If you call someone a traitor and it turns out you lacked the evidence for that charge, then the only decent thing to do is apologize." But Brooks thinks "Republicans and the Sean Hannity-style Trumpians" have something to answer for as well. For two years, they've complained about a "deep-state conspiracy" against the president. "They should apologize for peddling the sort of deep cynicism that undermines our country’s institutions." For Brooks, the whole mess can be traced back to Watergate and the culture of scandal it produced.

"The sad fact is that Watergate introduced a poison into the American body politic," he writes. "Richard Nixon’s downfall was just and important, but it opened up the mouthwatering possibility that you don’t need to do the hard work of persuading people to join your side. Instead, you can destroy your foes all at once through scandal." And that's the toxic world we now live in, where scandals pop up one after the other and get covered according to a media template. "It’s all a wonderful game," he writes. "You don’t have to know anything about a boring policy subject like economics, poverty or foreign affairs. You can have a long career in politics and media by simply treating public life as an arena of life-or-death gossip." His one sign of hope: Actual voters often don't seem to care as much about scandals as does the "cognoscenti." Click to read the full column. (Read more Mueller report stories.)

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