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February 27, 2006

Today's Pimp Slapping Session

In case you missed it, Ramesh Ponnuru and Andrew Sullivan have had an increasingly (at least on Sullivan's part) bitchy series of exchanges today. Just reading Ramesh Ponnuru's side of things (at NRO's Corner is increasingly hilarious. Just start there and scroll down.)

In the interests of reading them in their proper chronology, let me quote them in their increasingly annoyed order:

ANDREW SULLIVAN CAN'T READ, CH. 815 [Ramesh Ponnuru]

Sullivan says that I did not "point to a single inaccuracy or example of unfairness" in my post on him yesterday. Indeed, I'm now supposedly "smear[ing]" our poor martyr Sullivan. Inaccuracy: Sullivan claimed that Robert P. George "sees no moral difference" between abortion and the murder of an adult. That's not true, and I provided evidence that it's not true.

Unfairness: First, misstating George's views is itself unfair.

Second, Sullivan insinuated, though with a plausible deniability that he is now attempting to exploit, that George has no objection to killing abortionists. This deniability is, however, growing more implausible. I quoted a speech in which George said that pro-lifers should love and pray, ungrudgingly and without cease, for abortionists. Sullivan, absurdly, refuses to acknowledge that these comments amounted to a disavowal of violence against abortionists. Sullivan is holding on to his cheap insinuation for dear life.

Third: Sullivan suggests that it's frightening for the president to associate with someone who holds George's allegedly extreme views on abortion. The views to which Sullivan points are George's alleged inability to see any differences between abortion and the murder of an adult, and his alleged nonchalance toward the murder of abortionists. Since both views are not in truth George's, suggesting that it is not respectable to associate with George because of them is unfair.

It is altogether typical of Sullivan's debating style to attempt to change the subject to an irrelevancy: George's views about masturbation, of all things. What George is getting at is that we do not need to posit a "right" to masturbation to have good reasons for the government not to concern itself with it: not that you'd have any idea of that from Sullivan's description.

I'm not totally sure whether Sullivan's habitual inability to present his opponents' views correctly is a result of malicious lying, indifference to the truth, incompetence in figuring out the truth, or some combination of these things. Readers need not know the answer to that question to conclude that he is untrustworthy. Posted at 12:26 PM

HAT TIP [Ramesh Ponnuru]

I neglected to say that I found Sullivan's comment via a post on The American Interest's blog. (I don't agree with everything in that post: the bit about Sullivan's not living up to his "usual intellectual caliber" strikes me as misdirected charity. I used to make that kind of mistake about Sullivan myself.)
Posted at 01:05 PM

SULLIVAN AGAIN [Ramesh Ponnuru]

His latest bit of bad faith can be found here. For the record: (1) The First Things essay to which I linked yesterday goes through several moral distinctions that separate abortion from the murder of an adult, as any fair-minded reader will see. (2) I have never said (and do not believe) "that the government has in principle an obligation and right to police the private sexual lives of all its citizens to prevent them from sliding into 'immorality'"--that's pure invention on Sullivan's part. (3) I have already come out against the South Dakota bill, which is the latest irrelevancy Sullivan is using to distract attention from his record of misrepresentation.
Posted at 03:55 PM

SO NOW [Ramesh Ponnuru]

Andrew Sullivan is maintaining that I favor laws against masturbation. It doesn’t matter that I have never said a word in favor of such laws. (I haven’t heard this much about masturbation since that Seinfeld episode.) It doesn’t matter that I say I’m against them: I must be lying, he says. And he calls me hysterical. Sullivan is justly fond of Oakeshott’s metaphor of “conversation” as the essence of conservatism. But this sort of thing is why conversation with him is pointless. (Also: Sullivan has a second-hand report that one of Robert George’s colleagues once looked at him sideways! Call out the Guard!) I have another writing project to work on tonight. Tomorrow I’ll try to elaborate on one or two actually interesting points raised during this discussion, with as little attention to Sullivan’s accumulating lies and misunderstandings as possible.
Posted at 08:52 PM

Remember when we actually thought of Sullivan as a political writer worth listening to? I'm filled with gob-smacking heartache at the overwrought hack he hath become, although I think I'd recover if I could roll in enough crazy blog-money from Time Inc. (or at least from a good bandwith fundraiser).

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posted by Harry Callahan at 10:33 PM

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