Ed Driscoll

Goodbye to Sullivan & Sophistry

In his “A Long Overdue Goodbye to Andrew Sullivan,” Pejman Yousefzadeh, whom I believe first started blogging in 2002, right around the same time I did, writes, “Andrew Sullivan was one of two big-time bloggers–the other being, of course, Glenn Reynolds–to have helped put me on the blogospheric map. For that, I shall always be grateful.” Those early days of blogging were heady times indeed; living in California, I remember Glenn would sign off at around 9:00 or 10:00 PM pacific time, then I’d switch over to James Lileks’ Bleat, which would go live right around that time, then check if Steven Den Beste had written his daily mega-post of at least 5,000 words (or so it seemed at the time), and then around midnight, I’d see what new items Andrew Sullivan had posted. Forget Carson, Cavett, Snyder, and Letterman, this was some quality late-night programming tailor-made for discussing the immediate aftermath of the post 9/11-world:

At the outset, when I first started blogging, Sullivan’s political views and mine coincided quite neatly. After a while, they began to diverge. I certainly changed some of my political views as the years went on, and I don’t quite see how anyone could go an appreciable period of time without reappraising at least some political views. Sullivan’s views, of course, changed drastically. He went from being a supporter of George W. Bush to a fervent opponent. The shift began when Bush signed on to the Federal Marriage Amendment issue, and Sullivan reacted with outrage. I always got the sense that this issue became the jumping-off point for other Sullivanesque disagreements with the Bush administration; over Iraq, over interrogation and detention policy, and over foreign policy in general. Of course, it ought to go without saying that Sullivan was and is entitled to change whatever political views he wanted and wants to change.

So while Sullivan and I had our differences, some of those differences were reasonable in nature. Others . . . not so much.

In 2008, Sullivan decided that he really liked Barack Obama a lot. But he didn’t want to be identified as a contemporary American liberal, so he started concocting all sorts of ridiculous claims that the onetime senator and future president was and is a conservative. Hayek was cited, as was Locke, as was Oakeshott. Oakeshott was cited a lot. The claims, of course, made no sense whatsoever, but that didn’t stop Sullivan from making them, even as the rhetoric and policies from the White House became more and more port-sided. Of course, Sullivan could have taken the honorable road and simply announced a fundamental shift in his political philosophy. But instead, Sullivan, like Shakespeare’s Caesar, claimed and claims to be as constant as the North Star when it comes to his ideology, and his approach instead has been to desperately try to shoehorn Barack Obama into that ideology. It never worked before, it doesn’t work now, and it won’t work in the future, but Sullivan, not recognizing defeat when it stares him in the face, keeps on trying to make it work. The whole thing is rather pathetic, really.

Sullivan had begun that shtick four years earlier, in the aftermath of George W. Bush not supporting the notion of gay marriage during the election year of 2004. Sullivan, who had previously dubbed Bush 2002’s “Man of the Year”, at first hemmed and hawed over whether he would support him in again. And then this classic bit of sophistry appeared in the Sunday addition of the London Times and on Sullivan’s own Daily Dish blog:

The argument that Kerry must make is that he can continue the war but without Bush’s polarising recklessness. And at home he must reassure Americans that he is the centrist candidate, controlled neither by the foaming Michael Moore left nor by the vitriolic religious right.

Put all that together and I may not find myself the only conservative moving slowly and reluctantly towards the notion that Kerry may be the right man — and the conservative choice — for a difficult and perilous time.

I guess you could make the case that Kerry’s conservative in some fashion — he dresses nicely; his hair style is a cross between cold warriors JFK and Jack Kemp, freeze-dried to Shatner Turbo-2000 levels of perfection. But back in the real world, one need only look at Kerry’s infamous radical chic, anti-war, anti-American C.V. to realize that Sullivan was making himself look increasingly silly trying to make Kerry into something he obviously wasn’t rather than simply saying, I disagree with Bush on my defining issue, and as a result, I’ve moved to the left. Or, rather I moved back somewhere to the left; Sullivan was associated the New Republic magazine prior to blogging, after all.

And then the late summer of 2008 would of course see the emergence of Andrew Sullivan, Ace Uterus Detective, as Pejman goes on to note. By that time, Sullivan’s self-beclowning was complete.

Six years prior though, when he named GWB his man of the year in 2002, Sullivan wrote, “Forget the bloviations of the Hate-America-First crowd. History will one day credit Bush with patience, multilateralism and conviction. But right now, history is still being made. And there is a war to be continued and to be won.”

Well, it sounded good at the time, I guess.

Related: Will Andrew quit blogging permanently? “That’s what he says. I kinda doubt it,” Kathy Shaidle writes, and she’s been blogging as long as Andrew.

As they say in the music world, you have to break up the band before you can have the triumphant reunion tour to replenish the coffers — as Andrew himself well knows.

Update: “Conspiracy Theorist Andrew Sullivan Quits Blogging,” John Nolte writes at Big Journalism. But like the Stones and The Who sitting out most of the 1980s, it’s only a matter of time before the lucrative reunion tour begins: “Because Sullivan trained his debunked conspiracy theories at the child of a conservative woman and the Pope, he will always be welcome in the mainstream media.”