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June 16, 2004

What Do Yasser Arafat and Andrew Sullivan Have in Common?

No, I mean besides that.

Apparently they're big fans of stating two quite-divergent positions before two different audiences, when they wrongly assume that one audience will not hear of the statements made to the other.

Jonah Goldberg, who's bent over backwards to deal fairly with Sullivan, catches Sullivan making absolutist, anyone-but-Bush statements in an advocacy essay in The Advocate (a gay magazine).

And yet his currently stated position on his blog -- read largely by rightish libertaranians and warhawks -- is that he's still deciding between Bush and Kerry. His posture, over and over, is that he is a reluctant Bush critic who's offering advice to a man he could potentially support in November.

Still deciding, Andrew? How's this square with your "still deciding" posture?:

But it’s time to say something very clearly: Bush’s endorsement of antigay discrimination in the U.S. Constitution itself is a deal-breaker. I can’t endorse him this fall. Like many other gay men and women who have supported him, despite serious disagreements, I feel betrayed, abused, attacked.

That's all well and good. You're entitled to feel that way. You are not, however, entitled to hide those opinions from readers of your blog in order to attempt to advocate to them under the false flag of political alliance.

Compare that forthright anti-Bush statement, delivered to a largely-leftist gay audience, with the, errr, rather more "nuanced" fare he offers to readers of his blog:

National Review's Kathryn Lopez made the following remark before my spring break: "I do wish Sullivan would save time and come out for Kerry now. In just a matter of time he will come up with the rationalizations, but it's taking him painfully long to get on with it. I'm betting all Kerry will have to do is say that he's against terrorism." I'm mystified by this remark. It has always seemed to me that a political writer is not necessarily partisan. Some of us are actually trying to figure out who's the better candidate for the next four years and haven't made our minds up already.

A long, long time ago -- well, six months ago -- I said Sullivan is, was, and always has been a political hoaxer, someone posing as having some rightish views in order to ingratiate himself to the right and then, quite dishonestly, preach to them from within the church rather than from the outside, as it were.

He's maintaining his pose as an independent because he knows that he's a more effective advocate for Kerry in that guise. No one wants to listen to a partisan supporting the party line. But an independent... now that's different. And someone whose mind has been changed...? Even better still.

Advantage: me.

Overstatement Alert: When I say he's a "hoaxer," I don't literally mean he's falsified the entirety of his political dossier. I don't mean he's a bicycle-shorts wearing Manchurian Candidate.

I simply mean that he has always been a natural ally of the left, and a natural opponent of the right. And I mean he has quite-consciously decided to emphasize his rightish credentials in order to more effectively preach to the right, and he did all this in order to achieve his primary, secondary, and tertiary goals of gay marriage, gay marriage, and of course gay marriage.

This is tactically smart -- I am more willing to give a listen to James Baker's anti-war arguments than Noam Chomsky's, for example -- but it is fundamentally dishonest. The entire tactic is a bit of a confidence game, an exploitation of the simple fact that we're much more willing to agree with our allies than our opponents.

And Jonah's most excellent catch is perfect proof. We now have Sullivan on-record to a left-liberal audience stating that he'll never support Bush, while, for the heathens he's attempting to convert to his cause, he claims he's in an extended period of internal torment over the question.

He's not in any such internal torment, and never has been. He was a Kerry supporter before he even knew Kerry would win the Democratic nomination. He was a Kerry supporter a year ago, he was a Kerry supporter when he claimed to K-Lo that he was still in a state of Hamlet-esque internal dialogue, and he's a Kerry supporter now.

He's just not saying so, because the moment he says so, he'll lose a good number of Bush-supporting readers, all of whom are good prospects for conversion to the cause.

It's time for honesty, Sullivan. You are posing as a Bush supporter, or potential Bush supporter, or former Bush supporter, and thus someone whose critiques on the deficit or Abu Ghraib are to be taken all the more seriously, because, hey, you're no liberal hack screeching about these things. You are taking advantage of the time-tested Gee, even Andrew Sullivan says so... tactic.

But this pose is disingenuous. You are, in essence, a liberal hack, and your critiques on these issues should be discounted on the basis of the source they're coming from. Stop dishonestly claiming to be an undecided independent on Bush. If we have the right to have the New York Times' bias clearly and honestly admitted to us -- as you have long maintained -- I can't see how you can claim the right to continued dishonesty as to your own bias.

Update: Check out Sullivan's post:

AEI - hardly a liberal institution - knocks down any notion that George W. Bush is comparable to Ronald Reagan on fiscal matters...

In other words: You can trust them as to an anti-Bush judgment, because they're basically on Bush's side.

Okay. Fair enough.

Does it not follow then that someone with an anti-Bush agenda should be trusted a little less when it comes to anti-Bush judgments?

Hmmmmm... Maybe AEI would do Bush a favor by claiming to be "undecided" between Bush and Kerry.

Why not press my luck and predict something else? Sullivan is going to react quite emotionally and nastily to Goldberg's politely-worded (but tough-minded) query. He'll restrain himself somewhat at first, but over the coming weeks we're going to hear an awful lot about political inquisitions, loyalty oaths, the much-reduced space allowed to us for our own personal exploration of difficult political issues, etc.

You know-- all that whiny bullshit by which Sullivan cries "victim." The right to privacy he's always nattering on about (last seen being used to explain why Gary Condit shouldn't be forced to ask those mean policemen's questions) will conveniently morph and expand one more time to include a paid writer and poltical commentator's publically-stated political beliefs.

And no, I'm not saying that gay men are nasty and emotional. But I am saying that this particular gay man is. I've seen his work before; this should be a doozy.

Hey-- I Almost Predicted It! I was just a week or so late.

I predicted he'd announce for Kerry here, on May 16th. You all called me mad! You're insane, you all cried!

Insane...?! Insane?!! My mental derangement has given me the power to see things more clearly! More clearly than the so-called "sane," their perceptions obscured and blinkered by conventional mores and logical thinking!

Check out the date on Sullvian's J'Accuse piece. May 11th, baby.

Might as well mention this almost-prediction from May 10th, too.

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posted by Ace at 09:25 PM

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