The daily rantings of President Obama’s favorite blogger are philosophically incoherent, intellectually lazy, and increasingly insane.
Leon Wieseltier created a stir this week when he floated the idea that Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan’s harsh attacks on Israel may be motivated by anti-Semitism.
For good reason, many argue that Sullivan should not be taken seriously and deserves to be ignored. Yet he still drives political debate on the Internet, and is widely read — even by President Obama.
And so, in an otherwise slow political news week as Washington was crippled by snow, Wieseltier’s verbose essay for the New Republic sparked a round of debate among Sullivan defenders and critics.
The anti-Semitism charge isn’t one to be thrown around lightly and so I’ll set it aside, because all one has to do to make a case against Sullivan is simply to evaluate him on the basis by which he evaluates others.
For instance, in one of his more controversial posts, Sullivan lamented last month that he was “sick” of Israelis and Palestinians. And then he offered this solution: “My own view is moving toward supporting a direct American military imposition of a two-state solution, with NATO troops on the borders of the new states of Palestine and Israel.”
This is clearly an unworkable idea, a fact that should be obvious to anybody with a shred of understanding of the conflict, regardless of ideological inclinations. But if anybody should recognize this, it should be Sullivan himself, who consistently bashes neoconservatives for arrogantly and naively believing that America can use its military might to impose its vision on the world.
Here is Sullivan, in 2008, explaining why he was wrong to support the Iraq War:
I heard and read about ancient Sunni and Shiite divisions, knew of the awful time the British had in running Iraq but had never properly absorbed the lesson. I bought the argument by many neoconservatives that Iraq was one of the more secular and modern of Arab societies, that these divisions were not so deep, that all those pictures of men in suits and mustaches and women in Western clothing were the deeper truth about this rare, modern Arab society; and believed that it could, if we worked at it, be a model for the rest of the Arab Muslim world. I should add I don’t believe that these ancient divides were necessarily as deep as they subsequently became in the chaos that the invasion unleashed. But I greatly under-estimated them — and as someone who liked to think of myself as a conservative, I pathetically failed to appreciate how those divides never truly go away and certainly cannot be abolished by a Western magic wand.
It’s very difficult to square this epiphany — which he claims as a central aspect of his break with modern conservatism — with his rather draconian proposal to have U.S. troops invade Israel in order to impose a two-state solution that neither side has agreed to. He might recall, for instance, that the British had a pretty “awful time” occupying Palestine before the establishment of a Jewish state, and it’s fair to say that the divisions between Israelis and Palestinians are quite deep. And this doesn’t even take into account that the Palestinians themselves are divided between Hamas and Fatah.
Another frequent argument that Sullivan gives for his break with conservatism is President Bush’s reckless spending. Here’s what he wrote in a 2005 column for the Times of London:
President Bush has added $1 trillion (£520 billion) to the national debt in only four years and is proposing to add at least another $2 trillion with his social security reform. With his Medicare prescription drug benefit, about whose massive expense he deceived Congress, he has enacted the biggest new entitlement since Lyndon Johnson. Bush has increased spending on medical care for the poor by 46%. He has doubled education spending in four years; federal housing spending has gone up 86%.
At the time Sullivan wrote that, the largest annual deficit run up by the Bush administration was $412.7 billion in 2004, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By contrast, the lowest deficit Obama expects to run were he to serve two terms is $706 billion, according to the White House’s own budget projections. When the Times column was published, Bush-era spending had never gone above 19.6 percent of gross domestic product, and yet, if Obama were to serve two full terms, outlays would never fall below 22.8 percent of GDP.
While Sullivan may still try to blame Bush for all deficits Obama may incur through 2017, the same logic could be used to absolve any president from any responsibility for anything. Bush, for instance, came into office in the wake of the bursting of the tech bubble, eventually corporate scandals exposing malfeasance originating during the Clinton-era rocked Wall Street, and Bush “inherited” the problem of terrorism that necessitated a defense buildup. But in the real world Bush does deserve blame because instead of responding to the new realities by curtailing his domestic agenda, he continued as if nothing had changed, and put us on a fiscally reckless path that Obama is exacerbating.
Though he once decried the creation of new entitlements, Sullivan has become a tireless advocate for Obamacare, which adds 15 million people to Medicaid programs that are bankrupting the states, while providing subsidies for millions more. Ironically, as the prospects for Obamacare dimmed, the same Sullivan who once criticized Bush for “increased spending on medical care for the poor,” last month condemned the “glee with which the GOP is greeting the end of any access too [sic] health insurance for millions of the working poor…”
Sullivan has also echoed the Obama administration’s line that it’s necessary to pass the health care bill to control costs. In one post he argued that it would be a “huge mistake” to abandon the health care bill, which he called “a necessary start on a critical reform without which we hurtle toward bankruptcy even more quickly.” To give up, he wrote, would be “surrendering to forces that are as proto-fascist as any we have seen in recent times.” He explained: “This is about more than health reform and we have to see it in that context. This is about a cynical nihilist attempt to break this presidency before it has had a chance to do what we elected it to do by a landslide vote.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?