Spin fiasco: With friends like Matt David, Brooks and other duped scribes don’t need enemies

Why would New York Times national columnist David Brooks peek out of his Manhattan perch on Thursday, March 29, to offer up a Sweeping Pronouncement On All That Is Wrong With Modern Republicanism — and base it on obscure maneuvering days before in the San Diego mayoral primary, maneuvering that occurred long before the actual election? Why would the Huff Post’s Bill Bradley, a California analyst but far from a student of San Diego politics, write essentially the same column? Especially in Brooks’ case, the answer is almost certainly that the pundits were spun by former Bush 43/Schwarzenegger/McCain/Jon Huntsman media guru Matt David (pictured left). He’s Nathan Fletcher’s campaign manager, a sharp and funny guy who for years has cultivated California and national media (me included) with insider tales about his mavericky Republican clients. But David was too clever by much more than half in how he framed the tale of how his latest maverick — poor Nathan — was driven to leave the GOP by knee-jerk right winger Carl DeMaio. The result is that Brooks, Bradley and plenty of other pundits look like dopes for peddling Matt’s spin.

Another Matt — Matt Welch — did the best dissection of the Brooksian madness here. (My version is here, focusing on George Skelton’s doltish version of Brooks’ column.)

Here’s the headline on Welch’s piece about these journos’ attempts to make DeMaio seem like Rick Santorum West:

David Brooks and the Liberal Media Lament That a Gay-Baiting GOP “Moderate” Mayoral Candidate in California Can’t Beat an “orthodox conservative.” Who Is, uh, Gay. And Libertarian.

Take it away, Matt W.:

This is what happens when political narrative overrides journalistic impulse. Imagine how different this story might have been spun if the dominant opinion-journalism narrative going around was about how the Republican Party was at long last ditching gay panic in favor of robust fiscal reform. 

Pretty amazing. Matt David convinces his pundit pals in Manhattan and Los Angeles that Fletcher was undone because he wasn’t conventional enough for the San Diego GOP — and the San Diego GOP has just endorsed someone utterly unlike anyone it has ever embraced for mayor.

And in doing so, DeMaio didn’t just beat the handsome war hero Fletcher. DeMaio also beat veteran District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, the favorite of incumbent San Diego Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders and someone prominent in San Diego politics for at least 20 years before DeMaio even came to town.

The next time David Brooks or Bill Bradley get a call from Matt David, I wonder what expletives they’ll greet him with. Getting these pundits to describe an immense outlier like Carl DeMaio as an “orthodox conservative” makes them look like fools.

Virginia Postrel delivers more deserved flaying of the spin victims here.

I’m not saying the Fletcher narrative about an inflexible GOP demanding orthodoxy doesn’t have some merit to it. But DeMaio is far too unusual in his own right for the narrative to hold up as it would in other circumstances.

If, say, Hillary Clinton had lost the 2008 Dem nomination to Joe Biden or some other veteran white male Dem pol, she could easily claim that she was just too different for her party to embrace — Dems just weren’t ready for the first woman leading the ticket. But when Dems nominated Barack Obama over Hillary, the they’re-scared-of-someone-different thesis doesn’t work.

If Nathan Fletcher had lost the party endorsement to an establishment Republican like Dumanis or San Diego Councilman Kevin Faulconer, then the narrative of they’re-scared-of-someone-different would have much more juice. But when 39 of the 55 Republican Party officials chose DeMaio over Fletcher and Dumanis, the they’re-scared-of-someone-different narrative looks weak.

But Brooks and Bradley couldn’t have known this. That would have required, yunno, actual reporting.

3 thoughts on “Spin fiasco: With friends like Matt David, Brooks and other duped scribes don’t need enemies

  1. Here’s a comment I made on the NEW YORK TIMES David Brooks’ ode to Nathan Fletcher — a slobbering piece praising San Diego mayoral candidate Fletcher to the skies for his opportunistic departure from the GOP.

    I ran into a commonly reported problem — the NY TIMES website would not accept my comment. I tried several times, but it never appeared. But hundreds of left wing comments WERE posted by people who wrongly assumed Brooks had a clue about this story. Unlike the WS JOURNAL, the NY TIMES does screen comments — apparently for message as well as the usual reasons.

    Judge for yourself if my comment is somehow offensive — and offensive to whom.


    It’s sad that the NY TIMES chooses David Brooks as the voice of the “reasonable” GOP. But not surprising, I suppose.

    In this piece, Brooks writes about a San Diego political contest that he knows nothing about. But his factual ignorance doesn’t keep him from making grandiose judgments in the race.

    Brooks claims that Nathan Fletcher is all about pension reform. He is not. He was afraid to back the groundbreaking GOP pension reform measure, waiting until a week before it was qualified for the ballot before putting forward a token effort in support. Carl DeMaio and the GOP did the heavy lifting.

    If you want to know Fletcher’s position on city pension reform, ask the local public employee labor unions. They like Fletcher, though most of the unions will support rabid Democrat Bob Filner. But the police officers’ union has already formally endorsed Fletcher.

    Then Brooks labels GOP competitor and front-runner Carl DeMaio an “orthodox conservative.” I guess that’s similar to being an Orthodox Jew, or Greek Orthodox — a stereotyped extreme social conservative.

    But DeMaio is gay, and openly considers himself in a “committed relationship” with Jonathon Hale. DeMaio’s views on social issues range from moderate to occasionally libertarian. It’s on fiscal issues that DeMaio is “conservative” and concentrates — he’s a bulldog representing the taxpayers.

    “Orthodox conservative”? In what parallel universe?

    Apparently the only source Brooks used in this ode to Nathan Fletcher was — Nathan Fletcher. This is blatant propaganda — even by Brooks’ abysmally low standards.

    • Bonnie isn’t the leader among relibpucans. Take a look at the poll you cite. DeMaio has better numbers than she does.If you are going to pontificate with a piece that explains why your previous posts was wrong but not wrong you may want to make sure you have your facts straight.By the way, while the Survey USA is a helpful indicator of sentiment, the poll does not show how people would vote. There have been three polls floating around town showing DeMaio in the lead, with either Filner or Frye as second place. Dumanis is a third or fourth in each poll I have seen. Fletcher is bottom of the pack, and Faulconer just doesn’t register. Oddly the poll shows that Kehoe is stronger than Bonnie or Filner.

  2. Umm take a look at the Republican column in the Survey USA poll. You say Dumanis is the clear leaedr among Republicans. DeMaio has the same favorables with R’s and lower unfavorables with R’s than Bonnie. What you say in your blog is false by the same poll you cite. Moreover, who votes in primaries? older voters 55-plus. Again, DeMaio has a solid advantage here. the Survey USA poll over-samples younger voters when compared to their actual turnout in the primaries.Finally, Bonnie’s saving grace is independent voters. Again, who votes in primaries? Partisans.They say never engage in wits with the unarmed. Colin, never try to be a political analyst unless you know well .I’ll leave things at that.

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