Friday, June 10, 2005

When it comes to the Times columnist David Brooks, I tend to disagree with his viewpoints but respect, appreciate and even enjoy his style.

After reading his , however, I can't help but wonder: is Brooks on the government payroll?

In large part I ask the question in jest. From both his columns and a few interviews I've seen, I get the impression that Brooks is someone whose journalistic and personal integrity would proscribe even the idea of receiving payment in exchange for espousing specific political programs.

Nonetheless, at the end of his latest piece on AIDS in Africa, there's a singularly telling line:
This is a world of people trying everything, of doctors from Russia, Egypt, Cuba, Germany and Zimbabwe. Many are backed by money from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, finally doing the work they've always dreamed of doing.

We could be on the verge of a recovery boom.
Does anyone else find the emphasized line -- especially in its context -- the least bit curious?

As Brooks touches on elsewhere, President Bush has quite often been criticized (and in my view, rightly so) for actively promoting policies which facilitate rather than hamper the spread of AIDS. Further, his insistence on unilateral aid delayed its delivery for years, thereby preventing many AIDS victims from receiving what little relief they sought.

Yet what grates me most is the implication that both the money and the relief program are somehow singularly attributable to the President. That is sheer poppycock. Not only has Bush worked against AIDS relief, but the money in question comes from U.S. taxpayers, and the program itself is administered by the U.S. government. If anything, that line should have read "money from the U.S. Emergency Program for AIDS Relief."

To return to my initial point, the fact that a writer as acutely discerning as Brooks should be so atypically exuberant -- and so specific in his praise -- makes me wonder, given the Armstrong scandal earlier this year, whether he isn't perhaps being paid to shill for one the President's programs. Odds are, I'm just being overly cynical, and David Brooks is simply drawing attention to a program he sincerely believes in. But even if that's the case, the fact that I'm doubting Brooks at all illustrates just how much damage the Bush administration's tactics have caused: even someone as reputed as Brooks can now be legitimately associated with one of the administrations more perfidious scandals.


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