It was amusing -- if appalling -- to watch David Brooks on the TV yesterday declare that Sarah Palin is a "joke" and only qualified to be a TV "talk show host." Last year, during the 2008 campaign, he believed exactly the same thing but refused to put it in print. It was a Profile in Cowardice and one of the biggest stains on Brooks' career in journalism and punditry.
HuffPost played a key role in bringing this to light.
Last year, in early October, the New York Times columnist admitted at a small Manhattan forum -- fortunately captured on video by then-HuffPoster Rachel Sklar -- that vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was not qualified for higher office ("not even close") and, indeed, was a "cancer" on his party, the GOP. To that point, while offering some criticism of Palin as candidate, Brooks had not offered this frank appraisal to his millions of Times readers.
Days passed and he never did. I kept a running count here of days he was missing in action. Election day came and went and no Brooks slam in print on this "unqualified" angle. Although he said on CBS "Meet the Nation" that she was not fit for president, he immediately took the edge off yet, explaining that she was not his "cup of tea." And, of course, he never did say that selecting an incompetent was a fatal blemish on John McCain.
In fact, Brooks wrote, "Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin."
Brooks also mocked what he called the "smug condescension that has so marked the reaction to the Palin nomination in the first place."
Who needs Mark Shields? Maybe Brooks should debate himself on PBS.
Yet many of Brooks colleagues on the right had no trouble frankly labeling Palin unqualified. The list includes everyone from David Frum to Christopher Buckley. Some cited this in stating they can no longer support McCain.
Matthew Dowd, the key Bush strategist in 2004, jumped on the anti-Palin bandwagon, stating flatly that she was not at all qualified for higher office, and suggested that McCain, no doubt, would regret the Palin pick after the results in November arrive.
Yet Brooks refused to put his own harsh views in print. Will he do it now?
See watch video from yesterday, go here.
Greg Mitchell's latest book is Why Obama Won. He is editor of Editor & Publisher and blogs at Pressing Issues.