I don’t recall when I started reading Andrew Sullivan. I’m pretty sure I read Love Detectable first. I still recommend this masterful collection of essays devoted to platonic male friendship, the case for homosexual marriage, and living with AIDS for skeptics who have never forgiven him for his insane, inane support for the Iraq War and stating that American liberals would unite to form a “fifth column” with Islamists. Let me quote him directly (the link is dead, alas): “[W]e might as well be aware of the enemy within the West itself – a paralyzing, pseudo-clever, morally nihilist fifth column that will surely ramp up its hatred in the days and months ahead.” This is the language of Robert Bork and Ann Coulter: an attack on the intellect that Sullivan himself would repudiate when Trig’s Mother or whatever he calls Sarah Palin these days uses it. Actually, the sentence does not qualify as language — it’s an excrescence unworthy of Khmer Rouge agitprop.
These days Sullivan exists for me as a metonym for an hour-by-hour mastication of sociopolitical currents: free of id, not without humility, given to boyish crushes on leaders who radiate granitic moderation or, alternately, leaders whose “boldness” he can pimp as contrarianism (as a cherub flapping around the Reagan diadem in the eighties he must have loved Richard Nixon’s Six Crises). His latest infatuation: Paul Ryan and the budget plan which has put the Beltway punditocracy in a ten-day swoon. Longtime critic Juan Cole will have none of it; but one of Cole’s commenters posted the smartest observation:
Andrew has two… I think needs is the right word, although that comes off as a little presumptuous, and they show with intensity in his writing. The first and by far the most pronounced (and the creepiest) is a need to have a leader he really believes in. I mean REALLY believes in, that he can hurl himself into the cult of personality of completely and wholeheartedly. Reagan, then (and to an extent still) Obama, then David Cameron, then Paul Ryan.
The problem is that he’s smart enough to (eventually) see reality when its waved under his nose. Longtime readers will have noticed that the bloom is DEFINITELY off the rose when it comes to Obama, and that his hymns to Reaganism have gone from ‘constant’ to ‘nearly non-existent’ over the years. It’ll happen with Ryan too, and even faster.
The second and less obvious need is to believe that the universe REALLY CAN be made to work along conservative, market-driven lines. For all he claims that conservatism isn’t an ideology, he believes in it with the same fervidity as he does his Catholicism. And so anytime someone comes forth with an agenda that even has the blush of credibility, he is all over it.
This latest eye-roller won’t keep me from reading Sullivan, but it’s a helpful reminder of what the blogging class considers matters of consequence are frivolities to the rest of us.