David Brooks (journalist)

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David Brooks
Born (1961-08-11) August 11, 1961 (age 53)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Residence Washington, D.C., United States
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Chicago (A.B. 1983)
Occupation Columnist, pundit
Religion Jewish
Spouse(s) Sarah (née Jane Hughes)
(1986-2014; divorced); 3 children)

David Brooks (born August 11, 1961)[1] is an American conservative[2][3] political and cultural commentator who writes for The New York Times.[4] He worked as an editorial writer and film reviewer for the Washington Times;[1] a reporter and later op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal;[5] a senior editor at The Weekly Standard from its inception; a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly; and as a commentator on National Public Radio. He is now a columnist for The New York Times and commentator on the PBS NewsHour.[1]


Brooks was born in Toronto, Ontario – his father was an American citizen living in Canada at the time – and grew up in the middle-income Stuyvesant Town housing development in downtown New York City. During Brooks' childhood, his father taught English literature at New York University, while his mother studied nineteenth-century British history at Columbia. Although his family was Jewish,[6][7] Brooks himself is not especially observant.[8] As a child, he attended the Grace Church School, an independent Episcopal primary school in Greenwich Village. When he was 12, his family moved to Philadelphia. He graduated from Radnor High School (located in a prosperous Main Line suburb of Philadelphia) in 1979 and from the University of Chicago in 1983, with a degree in history.[1] His senior thesis was on popular science writer Robert Ardrey, best known for his 1966 book espousing "hard" primitivism, The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry Into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations, in which he argued that humans were descended from "killer apes."

As an undergraduate, Brooks frequently contributed reviews and satirical pieces to campus publications. In his senior year, he wrote a spoof of the life-style of wealthy conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., who was scheduled to speak at the university: "In the afternoons he is in the habit of going into crowded rooms and making everybody else feel inferior. The evenings are reserved for extended bouts of name-dropping."[9] To his piece, Brooks appended the note: “Some would say I’m envious of Mr. Buckley. But if truth be known, I just want a job and have a peculiar way of asking. So how about it, Billy? Can you spare a dime?” When Buckley arrived to give his talk, he asked whether Brooks was in the lecture audience and offered to give him a job.[10]

Upon graduation, Brooks became a police reporter for the City News Bureau, a wire service owned jointly by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times.[11] He says that his experience on Chicago's crime beat had a conservatizing influence on him[12] In 1984, mindful of the offer he had previously received from William F. Buckley, Brooks applied and was accepted as an intern on Buckley's National Review. According to Christopher Beam, the internship included an all-access pass to the affluent life style that Brooks had previously mocked, including yachting expeditions; Bach concerts; dinners at Buckley’s Park Avenue apartment and villa in Stamford, Connecticut; and a constant stream of writers, politicians, and celebrities.

Brooks was an outsider in more ways than his relative inexperience. National Review was a Catholic magazine, and Brooks is not Catholic. Sam Tanenhaus later reported in The New Republic that Buckley might have eventually named Brooks his successor if it hadn’t been for his Judaism. “If true, it would be upsetting,” Brooks says.[13]

After his internship with Buckley ended, Brooks spent some time at the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University and then got a job writing movie reviews for the Washington Times. In 1986, Brooks was hired by the Wall Street Journal, where he worked first as an editor of the book review section, enlisting William Kristol to review Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, which catapulted that book to national prominence. He also filled in for five months as a movie critic. From 1990–94, The Wall Street Journal posted Brooks as an op-ed columnist in Brussels, from whence he covered Russia (making numerous trips to Moscow); the Middle East; South Africa; and European affairs. On his return, Brooks joined the neo-conservative Weekly Standard on its inception in 1994–95. In 1996, he edited an anthology, Backward and Upward: The New Conservative Writing.[5][14]

In 2000, Brooks published a book of cultural commentary entitled Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There to considerable acclaim. The book, a paean to consumerism, argued that the new managerial or "new upper class" represents a marriage between the liberal idealism of the 1960s and the self-interest of the 1980s.

According to Christopher Beam, in 2003, New York Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins called Brooks and invited him to lunch.

Collins was looking for a conservative to replace outgoing columnist William Safire, but one who understood how liberals think. “I was looking for the kind of conservative writer that wouldn’t make our readers shriek and throw the paper out the window,” says Collins. “He was perfect.” Brooks started writing in September 2003. “The first six months were miserable,” Brooks says. “I’d never been hated on a mass scale before.”[13]

In 2004, Brooks book On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense was published as a sequel to his 2000 best seller, Bobos in Paradise, but was not so well received as its predecessor. Brooks is also the volume editor of The Best American Essays (publication date Oct. 2, 2012). Brooks also authored The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement.[15] The book was excerpted in The New Yorker magazine in January 2011[16] and received mixed reviews upon its full publication, by Random House, in March of that year.[17][18][19][20][21][22][23] The book has been a commercial success, reaching the #3 spot on the Publishers Weekly best-sellers list for non-fiction in April 2011.[24]

Brooks was a visiting professor of public policy at Duke University's Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, and taught an undergraduate seminar there in the fall of 2006.[25] In 2013, he taught a course at Yale University on philosophical humility.[26]

Personal life[edit]

Brooks met his ex-wife, the former Jane Hughes, while both were students at the University of Chicago. She converted to Judaism [27] and changed her given name to Sarah.[28] In 2012, Brooks and his wife moved from their home in Bethesda, Maryland, to the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C., where they purchased a home.[29] Brooks said during a February 2015 interview with Brian Lamb that he and his wife are divorced.[30]

According to The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, in a September 2014 interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Haaretz, Brooks revealed that his oldest son serves in the Israel Defense Forces.[31]

Political views[edit]

Ottawa Citizen conservative commentator David Warren has identified Brooks as the sort of conservative pundit that liberals like, one who, in contrast to hardliners like Charles Krauthammer, is "sophisticated" and "engages with" the liberal agenda.[32] When asked what he thinks of charges that he's "not a real conservative" or "squishy," Brooks has said that "if you define conservative by support for the Republican candidate or the belief that tax cuts are the correct answer to all problems, I guess I don’t fit that agenda. But I do think that I’m part of a longstanding conservative tradition that has to do with Edmund Burke, which is be cautious, don't think you can do all things by government planning, and Alexander Hamilton, who wanted to use government to help people compete in the capitalist economy." In the same interview with Howard Kurtz in September 2012, Brooks talked about being criticized from the conservative side, saying: "if it’s from a loon, I don’t mind it. I get a kick out of it. If it’s Michelle Malkin attacking, I don’t mind it." With respect to whether he was "the liberals' favorite conservative" Brooks said he "didn't care," stating that "I don’t mind liberals praising me, but when it’s the really partisan liberals, you get an avalanche of love, it’s like uhhh, I gotta rethink this."[33]

Brooks describes himself as having originally been a liberal before, as he put it, "coming to my senses." He recounts that a turning point in his thinking came while he was still an undergraduate, during a televised debate with free-market economist Milton Friedman. As Brooks describes it, "was essentially me making a point, and he making a two-sentence rebuttal which totally devastated my point. That didn’t immediately turn me into a conservative, but ....”[34]

Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Brooks argued forcefully for American military intervention, echoing the belief of commentators and political figures that American and British forces would be welcomed as liberators.[35] [36] In the spring of 2004, some of his opinion pieces suggested that he had tempered his earlier optimism about the war.[citation needed]

Brooks' public writing about the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is in line with the opinions of his neoconservatives former colleagues on the Weekly Standard, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald.[37] His dismissal of the conviction of Scooter Libby as being "a farce" and having "no significance"[38] was derided by political blogger Andrew Sullivan.[39]

On August 10, 2006, Brooks wrote a column for The New York Times entitled "Party No. 3". The column proposed the idea of the McCain-Lieberman Party, or the fictional representation of the fictional moderate majority in America.[40]

Brooks has long been a supporter of John McCain; however, he did not show a liking for McCain's 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, calling her a "cancer" on the Republican Party.[41] He has referred to her as a "joke," unlikely ever to win the Republican nomination.[42] But he later admitted during a CSPAN interview that he had gone too far in his previous "cancer" comments about Palin, which he regretted, and simply stated he was not a fan of her values.[43]

In a March 2007 article published in The New York Times titled "No U-Turns",[44] Brooks explained that the Republican Party must distance itself from the minimal-government conservative principles that had arisen during the Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan eras. He claims that these core concepts had served their purposes and should no longer be embraced by Republicans in order to win elections, which he considers the most important purpose of a political party designed to serve the political class.[vague]

Brooks has frequently expressed admiration for President Barack Obama. In an August 2009 profile of Brooks, The New Republic describes his first encounter with Obama, in the spring of 2005: "Usually when I talk to senators, while they may know a policy area better than me, they generally don’t know political philosophy better than me. I got the sense he knew both better than me. [...] I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant, and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”[45] Two days after Obama’s second autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, hit bookstores, Brooks published a column in The New York Times, titled "Run, Barack, Run", urging the Chicago politician to run for president.[46] However as of December 2011 in a CSPAN interview, Brooks' opinion of Obama's presidency was more tempered, giving Obama only a "B-" rating, and said that Obama's chances of reelection would be less than 50-50 if elections were held at that time.[43]

In writing for The New York Times in January 2010, Brooks described Israel as "an astonishing success story".[47] He wrote that "Jews are a famously accomplished group," who, because they were "forced to give up farming in the Middle Ages... have been living off their wits ever since".[47] In Brooks' view, "Israel’s technological success is the fruition of the Zionist dream. The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world."[47]

Social views[edit]

Brooks opposes what he sees as self-destructive behavior, such as the prevalence of teenage sex and divorce. His view is that "sex is more explicit everywhere barring real life. As the entertainment media have become more sex-saturated, American teenagers have become more sexually abstemious" by "waiting longer to have sex...[and] having fewer partners." He sees the culture war as nearly over, because "today's young people...seem happy with the frankness of the left and the wholesomeness of the right." As a result, he is optimistic about the United States' social stability, which he considers to be "in the middle of an amazing moment of improvement and repair."[48]

As early as 2003, Brooks wrote favorably of same-sex marriage, pointing out that marriage is a traditional conservative value. Rather than opposing it, he wrote: "We should insist on gay marriage. We should regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity.... It's going to be up to conservatives to make the important, moral case for marriage, including gay marriage."[49]

Brooks also takes a moderate position on abortion, which he thinks should be legal, but with parental consent for minors, during the first four or five months, and illegal afterward, except in extremely rare circumstances. (New York Times, April 22, 2002.)[50]

On the legalization of drugs, he has expressed opposition to the liberalization of marijuana, advocating that it encourages moraly reprovable behaviour. Brooks stated he smoked it in his youth, but quit after feeling highly embarrassed during a class presentation under the influence.[51]

Brooks' writing on sociology has been criticised for relying on stereotyping and misleading information. Sasha Issenberg, writing for Philadelphia magazine, fact-checked Bobos in Paradise, concluding that many of its comments about middle America were inaccurate or the exact reverse of the truth.[52] He reported Brooks as insisting that the book was not intended to be factual but to report his impressions of what he believed an area to be like: 'He laughed..."[The book was] partially tongue-in-cheek"...I went through some of the other instances where he made declarations that appeared insupportable. He accused me of being “too pedantic,” of “taking all of this too literally,” of “taking a joke and distorting it.” “That's totally unethical,” he said.' Brooks later said the article made him feel that "I suck...I can’t remember what I said but my mother told me I was extremely stupid.”[53] Michael Kinsley argued that Brooks was guilty of 'fearless generalizing... Brooks does not let the sociology get in the way of the shtick, and he wields a mean shoehorn when he needs the theory to fit the joke."[54]

Sidney Awards[edit]

This article is about the Sidney Awards given each December by David Brooks. For the award presented by the Hillman Foundation, see The Sidney Award.

In 2004 Brooks created an award to honor the best political and cultural journalism of the year. Named for philosopher Sidney Hook and originally called "The Hookies," the honor was renamed "The Sidney Awards" in 2005. The awards are presented each December.[55]

Partial bibliography[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d David Brooks Analyst Bio Online NewsHour
  2. ^ "David Brooks." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. Biography In Context. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
  3. ^ "David Brooks." Gale Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale, 2011. Biography In Context. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
  4. ^ Eberstadt, Mary (ed.), "Why I turned right: leading baby boom conservatives chronicle their political journeys," Simon and Schuster (2007).
  5. ^ a b Columnist Biography: David Brooks, New York Times
  6. ^ Jewish It's Back, The Weekly Standard, Feb 20, 2003
  7. ^ A Loud and Promised Land, New York Times, April 16, 2009. "As an American Jew, I was taught to go all gooey-eyed at the thought of Israel..."
  8. ^ Christopher Beam, "A Reasonable Man", New York Magazine (July 12, 2010)
  9. ^ University of Chicago Maroon, April 5, 1983.
  10. ^ "Everybody's a Critic", Mary Ruth Yoe, University of Chicago Magazine(February, 2004).
  11. ^ Biography page for David Brooks on PBS.
  12. ^ Beam, "A Reasonable Man" (New York Magazine, 2010).
  13. ^ a b Beam, "A Reasonable Man", New York Magazine" (2010).
  14. ^ PBS biography of Brooks.
  15. ^ Random House website The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement.
  16. ^ Brooks, David (January 17, 2011). "Social Animal How the new sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Social Animal by David Brooks - Book - eBook - Audiobook". Random House. Retrieved 2012-01-22. 
  18. ^ Bell, Douglas (March 11, 2011). "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, by David Brooks". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 
  19. ^ "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement | Books Inc. - The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller". Books Inc. Retrieved 2012-01-22. 
  20. ^ Nagel, Thomas (March 11, 2011). "David Brooks’s Theory of Human Nature". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  21. ^ Myers, PZ (March 11, 2011). "David Brooks' dream world for the trust-fund set". Salon.com. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  22. ^ Wilkinson, Will (March 10, 2011). "The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review". Forbes.com. Retrieved March 16, 2011. 
  23. ^ Brooks, David. "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (9781400067602): David Brooks: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-01-22. 
  24. ^ "Publishers Weekly Best-sellers". The Maui News. April 3, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2011. 
  25. ^ Brooks, David (February 4, 2007). "Children of Polarization". The New York Times. 
  26. ^ Harrington, Rebecca (2012-12-19). "David Brooks To Teach 'Humility' At Yale". The Huffington Post. 
  27. ^ http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new_york/times_new_york_conservative
  28. ^ Brooks, Sarah (June 19, 2008). "What's in a name? In part, my religion". Washington Jewish Week. 
  29. ^ Post on Brooks's 2012 purchase of a new home in The Washington Post
  30. ^ "Q&A with David Brooks". C-Span, February 8, 2015, 40:45. (2 40:45) Lamb: Let me ask you, as I was doing research I kept running into the story, Is David Brooks divorced or not? Brooks: I am divorced. I do not want legally talk about it but I am divorced. 
  31. ^ "David Brooks’ Son Is In the Israeli Army: Does It Matter?". Jewish Journal. 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2014-09-25. 
  32. ^ David Warren, A War Between Two World Views 2009-07-17
  33. ^ Howard Kurtz, "David Brooks, Riling Up the Right" The Daily Beast September 30, 2012
  34. ^ Yoe, Mary Ruth (February 2004). "Everybody's a critic". University of Chicago Magazine 96 (3). Retrieved September 11, 2009. 
  35. ^ Brooks, David (March 9, 2003). "The Certainty Crisis". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  36. ^ Brooks, David (April 28, 2003). "The Collapse of the Dream Palaces". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  37. ^ Greenwald, Glenn (September 29, 2009). "David Brooks: our nation's premier expert warrior". Salon.com. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  38. ^ Brooks, David (July 3, 2007). "Ending the Farce". New York Times. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  39. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (July 3, 2007). "What Rule of Law?". Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  40. ^ Brooks, David (August 10, 2006). "Party No. 3". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  41. ^ Shea, Danny (October 8, 2008). "David Brooks: Sarah Palin "Represents A Fatal Cancer To The Republican Party"". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  42. ^ David Brooks: Sarah Palin Is A 'Joke', TPMTv on YouTube, November 15, 2009
  43. ^ a b "CSPAN Book TV: In Depth - David Brooks" (December 4, 2011) CSPAN Book TV: In Depth - David Brooks
  44. ^ Brooks, David (March 3, 2007). "No U-Turns". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2008. 
  45. ^ Sherman, Gabriel (August 31, 2009). "The Courtship: The story behind the Obama-Brooks bromance". The New Republic. Retrieved September 11, 2009. 
  46. ^ Brooks, David (October 19, 2006). "Run, Barack, Run". The New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2009. 
  47. ^ a b c Brooks, David (January 12, 2010). "The Tel Aviv Cluster". The New York Times. 
  48. ^ New York Times, April 17, 2005, 4-14
  49. ^ New York Times, November 22, 2003, A-15
  50. ^ Brooks, David (April 22, 2007). "Postures in Public, Facts in the Womb". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  51. ^ Brooks, David (January 2, 2014). "Weed: Been There. Done That". The New York Times. 
  52. ^ Issenberg, Sasha. "Boo-Boos in Paradise". Philadelphia magazine. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  53. ^ Beam, Christopher. "A Reasonable Man". New York magazine. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  54. ^ Kinsley, Michael. "Suburban Thrall". New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  55. ^ Brooks, David (December 29, 2005). "The Sidney Awards, 2005". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 

External links[edit]