David Mamet Stopped Being a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal’ Back in 2008


In 2008, when President Barack Obama was just a surging senator, the famed (and rich!) writer David Mamet penned a political essay for the Village Voice that was titled “David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.'” It was hugely successful — basically the biggest story in this website’s history, seen by over 2 million people — and it’s full of personal and ideological conflict, digression and flashes of frustrating genius. It sure was controversial — again, you can still read it here. The new issue of The Weekly Standard, meanwhile, has a story called “Converting Mamet,” over three years later, which refers to the playwright’s political beliefs as “newly discovered,” as if he didn’t lay it all out way back when. What the fuck, as Mamet might ask. More in Press Clips, our daily media column.

Republican Replay: The crux of the Weekly Standard piece seems to be that now Mamet is more comfortable with his conservatism, especially since he’s read more books now — and wrote one. (He’s also releasing a political play in the fall, just as he was in 2008, when he wrote about politics here.) But, if you hadn’t sensed it from his work already, Mamet was pretty plain about where he stood in the Voice — that something in him had changed and that it was coming out increasingly in his work. He wrote in 2008:

But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.

The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

Though the Standard says our headline “hyped” Mamet’s views for attention (maybe so their article didn’t seem so stale), it came from his words: “I found I had been–rather charmingly, I thought–referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as ‘National Palestinian Radio.'” He called himself “disenchanted.”

Mamet went on to equate George W. Bush — “whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster” — to JFK, whom he “revered.” By a reformed Mamet’s count, though, they came out almost even (with Bush a little worse). Then in the essay he defended the military and big business before championing the American dream. He decided that America is, to him, foremost a “marketplace” and not a “schoolroom,” and thus, “a free-market understanding of the world meshes more perfectly with my experience than that idealistic vision I called liberalism.” Voila, a conservative.

And here again, years later and with new political work to push, David Mamet: conservative, but in a more sympathetic publication. Zzzz.


BREAKING: Keith Olbermann is an asshole, and also really good at being on TV. This ESPN oral history excerpt is well worth a read.

Weekly Wars: The pink paper that comes out on the same day as ours has hired two men and a woman.

And in other hiring news, Arianna Huffington won’t stop doing it.

New Girls: Jane Pratt, founder of Sassy and Jane, magazine bibles of the ’90s, has launched a new website,, which is an absolute rush of (both wacky and heavy) T.M.I., from lube to rape to naked body suits. In her opening essay, Pratt cries after a bikini wax, but not for the reason you think.