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NYT’s Brooks, Rolling Stone Writer Exchange Fire Over McChrystal

Op-ed columnist pens critical column; Michael Hastings responds

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks took Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings to task on Friday for his now-legendary profile of General Stanley McChrystal. Brooks feels Hastings reported what should have been off-the-record “kvetching,” and defended those in power who “vent.”

“The most interesting part of my job is that I get to observe powerful people at close quarters,” Brooks began his column. “So every few weeks I find myself on the receiving end of little burst of off-the-record trash talk. Senators privately moan about other senators. Administration officials gripe about other administration officials. People in the White House complain about the idiots in Congress, and the idiots in Congress complain about the idiots in the White House — especially if they’re in the same party. Washington floats on a river of aspersion.”

McChrystal, “like everyone else, kvetched,” Brooks continued. “And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

“By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.”

Hastings took to his Twitter feed to respond:

[Q]uestion for [D]avid [B]rooks: does he really think WH and McC had good relationships? [S]igns point to lack of listening to kvetching!

[D]avid [B]rooks to young reporters: don't report what you see or hear, or you might upset the powerful.

[Q]uestion 2 to [M]r. [B]rooks: how much time has he spent listening to the troops kvetch in a warzone? [J]ust askin'

Hastings then suggested Brooks is "lashing out because a [R]olling [S]tone writer hurt his feelings earlier in the year."

Hastings then posted a broken link, presumably to the item. But I'm guessing Hastings is referring to Matt Taibbi's January post, "Translating David Brooks," in which Taibbi surgically rips apart Brooks' column on Haiti.

Taibbi wrote: "Not many writers would have the courage to use a tragic event like a 50,000-fatality earthquake to volubly address the problem of nonwhite laziness and why it sometimes makes natural disasters seem timely, but then again, David Brooks isn't just any writer."