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David Brooks David Brooks  

Herman Cain ‘smoking’ ad wins NY Times columnist David Brooks’ seal of approval

Photo of Jeff Poor
Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

New York Times columnist David Brooks often receives the scorn of many conservatives for taking positions contrary to ideology in the name of moderation and smart politics. But what did Brooks think of Herman Cain’s Web ad featuring his campaign manager smoking a cigarette at the end of it?

Brooks’ impression might surprise some. In his regular appearance on Friday’s PBS “NewsHour,” host Judy Woodruff inquired about the ad and Brooks all but gave it two-thumbs up.

“My heart melts for that smile,” Brooks said. “I just I like it. Everybody is going crazy, ‘Oh, it’s terrible.’ First of all, that guy Mark Block, that guy — I went into journalism to hang around guys like that. I thought it would be fun to hang around ne’er-do-wells like that.”

The New York Times columnist likened the ad to a more nostalgic era of cinema.

“And, you know, I don’t mind the smoking,” Brooks said. “I like film noir, Humphrey Bogart. Lauren Bacall smoked a lot. I think it’s fine, but people are going crazy about it.”

Brooks’ liberal counterpart syndicated columnist Mark Shields on “NewsHour” agreed because it’ a break from the traditional campaign TV spot.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Shields said. “I have to say that I`m so tired of the formula political ad, the candidate with the jacket over the shoulder, the two beautiful kids, and the dog walking into the sunset, you know, with jaw jutting.”

Watch:

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Shields explained it was sort of fitting for the unconventional Cain campaign strategy.

“This is totally – it’s authentic,” he said. “It’s natural, it’s non-formulaic. And it’s completely consistent with Herman Cain’s absolutely eccentric campaign. And authentic and eccentric, I would say that those are the two … the cigarette smoking. People smoke cigarettes. They do. We kind of deny it, I guess, in public buildings, but people do.”

As for Cain’s success in a non-traditional national campaign over the regional campaign of an Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada – Shields said there may be something to it. But Brooks wasn’t convinced:

PBS “NewsHour” host JUDY WOODRUFF: And you mentioned Mitt Romney in Ohio. Herman Cain is campaigning all over the country.
SHIELDS: He is leading in the latest Ohio poll, too, which may have accounted for Mitt Romney’s…
WOODRUFF: So maybe it`s good to stay away from Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina.
BROOKS: Yes, I wouldn’t advise that as a campaign strategy.