I have a jukebox in my head that is easily triggered. Today, as I was listening to Hugh Hewitt try to interview Andrew Sullivan about his new book, The Conservative Soul, the Steely Dan song Pretzel Logic repeated on a continuous inner loop that only I could hear.
Sullivan is one of our founding blogfathers and a prodigiously gifted writer. If weblogs are the most personal form of modern public writing, Sullivan is in large part responsible for breaking down barriers between blogger and reader. I used to be a daily visitor to his site, subscribed to his Weekly Dish and corresponded with him to voice my support. Then came Lawrence v. Texas, the imminent possibility of legally sanctioned gay marriage, and President Bush’s advocacy of a constitutional amendment to protect the marital status quo. With a swiftness that gave mental whiplash to loyal readers like me, Sullivan reversed himself on well documented, long held positions, such as his support of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.
Sullivan soon turned to empty Clintonesque word games and the absurd pretense of being politically undecided during the 2004 election campaign until he endorsed John Kerry. The breathtaking candor that defined his pre-Lawrence writings has been overtaken, to my regret, by intellectual dishonesty. His blog has become so incoherent and colicky that it depresses me to read it. He seems to value controversy over consistency. I suspect he prefers to be the resentful outsider, a literary sniper taking potshots at those whose standing he begrudges.
Certainly Andrew has delighted in "Fisking" – one of his memorable additions to the bloggers’ lexicon – hypocritical figures elevated by the old media. Likewise I coined my own Sullivan-inspired phrase: to sully. Andrew has been spoiling for a fight with Hugh Hewitt since 2003 and today finally appeared on Hugh’s radio show with a different agenda than book promotion – to Fisk Hewitt as a “Christianist” apologist for the Bush administration. I have not read Sullivan’s blog for many months, but I am astonished that his aim is now so false.
Hugh is an essentially decent man and, in his misguided smear, Andrew draws unflattering comparisons upon himself. Hewitt is the hub of the center-right new media network and uses his considerable influence to serve humanity beyond the political realm. He relishes a well-matched debate and defends his philosophy wherever it is challenged without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric.
Since his ideological U-turn, Sullivan can be seen only in the public company of “yes men” like Chris Matthews and Bill Maher, who never require him to justify his positions – and Andrew’s self-imposed isolation has improved neither his debating skills nor his disposition. Varifrank offers a humorous recap of today's interview.
I feel sorry for Sullivan and assume that anyone so quick to scorn others probably loathes himself enough for both of us. He has carved out a new niche as the preeminent stalker of the conservative blogosphere, throwing rocks at his erstwhile friends’ windows and mistaking them for glass houses.
Meanwhile, my inner jukebox keeps playing these lyrics from Pretzel Logic.
They tell me he was lonely, he's lonely still
Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah