David Brooks and Susan Estrich


David Brooks and Susan Estrich

An email conversation about the news of the day.
July 2 1998 6:58 PM

David Brooks and Susan Estrich


Dear David:


It has been a wonderful treat to share the breakfast table with you these last three weeks. I'm glad that you're changing your mind about the Internet--I think it is the future, and that people who are our age and sternly resist are the modern equivalent of Luddites. Remember when we used to complain that our parents were Neanderthals....

The medium does change the mode of communication--you and I , not to mention our readers, have a different relationship than if we were pitted against each other in a modern talk show, and told to feel free to interrupt. I think this mode of communication is stunning for its openness--for its unguardedness and intimacy, but that is also its danger. People say things they never would to your face, which is not always good. We communicate differently, more intimately, I think, but also, with greater viciousness....

Still. It has always seemed to me that the far more interesting question in left-right pairs such as ours is not where we disagree, but where we agree. Don't fight over the toast, SLATE editor Jodie Allen said in her first message to us both. And that's right. I am so tired of fighting over toast. So predictable. In another life, we might have been on the same team.

But I can't say that I envy life in Washington right now. The worst aspect of my spat with Stuart is the recognition that I thought I could be good humored, friendly and inoffensive--and that such is not possible. Blood sport that politics has become, who wants to play? I still am stunned by the ferocity of Stu's response to our sighting, but I've been convinced that it's a reflection of just how on edge everyone is these days. I remember when politics was fun.

During the 1988 campaign, Lee Atwater used to say that he learned about politics on talk radio; after it was over, I decided to learn too. I hosted a show for eight years, and filled in for Michael Jackson, and I learned how easy it is to play the political debate as entertainment; to turn it into a sport; to turn people against each other, get them to call each other names, etc. And then what?

It is hard to play without being a target or a shooter.

I have lost my taste to be shot at, or to destroy anyone. Maybe it's motherhood. I disagree with people, I don't hate them, want to lock them up, destroy them, or know who they slept with. I actually liked Jackie Bennett when we met him. I still like Stu. I'm glad I've had this chance to know you, and look forward to following your work in the future. You're very good at this stuff, to say the least.

As for religion, I believe in it too. Not five weeks in New York worth, perhaps--are the kids with you--but enough to know that it is important to be something. I sometimes shake my head at the parents I see who are desperately worried about every piece of food that goes in their children's mouths, but not at all about their spiritual fulfillment. I think raising a child to be "nothing" does a disservice to them.... But now we're off politics to religion, which one is never supposed to discuss ... and is probably a sign.

Happy 4th.

All best, Susan

PS. Three cheers for the federal judiciary. Some days, I'm still proud to be a lawyer. . . .


David Brooks is a senior editor of the Weekly Standard. Susan Estrich is a law professor at the University of Southern California.