June 18, 2004


Mark Steyn on the old-timey media view of Ronald Reagan:

What was shameful and pathetic back then was Reagan refusing to string along like everyone else. The ‘evil empire’ speech horrified the New York Times’s world affairs grandee, Anthony Lewis. ‘Primitive,’ he sniffed. ‘That is the only word for it.’

'Accurate' is another. Steyn has lately come to the attention of the Boston Phoenix’s Dan Kennedy, who is offended by the idea of an intelligent, sharp-writing conservative. Kennedy quotes an expert:

"He’s kind of a glib guy, and he’s a better writer than most of them. And that gets you a long way on that side," says Joe Conason, a liberal columnist for the New York Observer and Salon. "I mean, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter can’t write. The thing he shares with the rest of them, obviously, is that he has no idea of limits or boundaries or decency."

Ever read any Conason? Helium-weight ideas burdened by depleted-uranium prose. He is to judging writing as Kennedy is to criticising accuracy. Check this:

Steyn lumped the Globe in with the London Mirror, whose editor was forced out after it was revealed that his paper had actually faked photos of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners.

The Mirror published the fake photographs; it didn’t actually fake them. Stupid Dan. In other media disputes, the Andrew Sullivan - Jonah Goldberg conflict ain’t pretty. I read (and enjoy) both of them, and can’t pick a clear winner here; being pro-gay marriage, I’m usually inclined to support Sullivan, but I can’t agree that Bush’s opposition to gay marriage should be a deal-breaker -- the same way John Howard’s failure to completely embrace free trade isn’t a deal-breaker with me, a free-trade absolutist.

I’d probably think differently if Howard opposed marriage between free-traders. In any case, broader issues currently at play (war, etc) move social concerns like same-sex marriage to a lower place on my list of priorities than might be so otherwise.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 18, 2004 05:00 AM

OT, but thought you'd be interested Tim:

Hezbollah works to promote Fahrenheit 911 in the Middle East!


Posted by: Susan at June 18, 2004 at 05:07 AM

TO: Tim Blair
RE: Andrew Sullivan's Writings

I gave up on Andrew about a year ago. His homosexuality was becoming more and more the source of his thinking. This means, in my opinion, he's thinking with his other head. And, from what reports I'm getting of late, it's having a detrimental impact on the rest of his thinking too.



Posted by: Chuck Pelto at June 18, 2004 at 05:12 AM

I used to read Andrew Sullivan regularly, but I try to avoid his site now. Whenever the topic turns to gay marriage, Sullivan loses all rationality and flies instantly into "anyone who disagrees with me is EVIL!!!" hysterical ranting. I understand that he is emotionally tied up in the issue, but if he wishes to be taken seriously as a pundit and as an adult, he should learn about the concept of self-control and be willing to assume that his opponents might be arguing in good faith--especially since he agrees with them on other issues (like Jonah Goldberg).

But until he's done with his histrionic, poor-martyred-me pity-party, his site won't be seeing many hits from me. The guy makes a living from BLOGGING, for God's sake--he really needs to get down off the cross.

Posted by: Sam Barnes at June 18, 2004 at 05:38 AM

Heh! If Hezbollah is offering help to distribute Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" muckflick, maybe Tim's poll about "Who is the new (and anonymous) leader of Hamas?" isn't too far off the target, if only in a spiritual sense.....

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 18, 2004 at 05:52 AM

Who the hell is Dan Kennedy? I'd wager that for every person who's heard of him, ten have read Mark Steyn.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 18, 2004 at 06:00 AM

Mr. Gillies,

I suppose Conason fares just a bit better. Maybe six Steyn-hoisters for every Joe Schmoe.


Posted by: Rick at June 18, 2004 at 06:06 AM

Joe Conason was the one who wrote that we were exploring Mars for the oil, motivated by Halliburton.

Posted by: Yaron at June 18, 2004 at 06:16 AM

You should stop by Ace of Spades HQ - Ace has been all over this. COmments in today's Allah are also hummin'.

Posted by: ccwbass at June 18, 2004 at 06:29 AM

Yes, heaven forbid that someone passionately and consistently advocate ideas that they believe in, Chuck and Sam. He should just keep quiet about it on his own site. And of course writing passionately and painfully about the tribulations of a cause so central to one's nature is just throwing a "pity party". Ok, sure.

I'm sort of struck by how many people feel the need to righteously declaim that they stopped reading Sullivan's site because he "kept shoving his homosexuality down their throat" (it makes me titter with excitement even writing that phrase). Um, what did you expect when you went to Sullivan's site? The issue of gays and society is his main topic of interest, and he has written several books on the subject. There are plenty of blogs out there. I'm sure you can find a nice chaste one if reading Sullivan seems too dirty for you.

As for Conason, the idea of reading anything he wrote is so disagreeable to me, I stopped reading him a long time ago when he kept shoving his boring prose and liberal smugness down my throat.

Posted by: goldsmith at June 18, 2004 at 06:44 AM

The problem I and others have with Sully at this juncture is that: (a) he comes off as having been intellectually dishonest (a trait for which he has no compunction about criticizing others); and (b) he seems willing to sacrifice his commitment to the war on terror for a social issue that, as Tim notes, should really be on the back burner until we've assured the survival of Western Civilization.

Posted by: SWLiP at June 18, 2004 at 07:24 AM

I'll buy the first part of that argument - that Sullivan is coming off as somewhat shady by pretending that he's still on the fence for one audience, while having already declared for Kerry a month ago for another audience.

The surrogate Democratic campaign (Michael Moore and the Soros-funded groups) are terrible on terrorism-related issues and the situation in Iraq, but the official campaign has been maneuvering to the right of Bush. Kerry claims he's for staying the course in Iraq with more troops.

Do I trust Kerry? No. But he's certainly made it possible for someone like Sullivan to vote for him.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at June 18, 2004 at 07:55 AM

Sullivan has claimed (almost verbatim) that the war on terror is important; that Bush is the best man to fight the war on terror, that Kerry would make a mess of it... and that since gay marriage is FAR more important an issue than making sure that no more September 11s happen, that no "self-respecting gay man" could ever vote for Bush.

Parse it, folks. Gay marriage is more important than the lives of American citizens, and ANY GAY CITIZEN WHO DISAGREES HAS NO SELF-RESPECT.
Thanks, Andy. Your opinion has been noted.

Posted by: DaveP. at June 18, 2004 at 08:23 AM

For those of you who may not be aware, The Boston Phoenix is now free. Makes its money via ads. About one third, at least, of that paper is all ads. Used to have much more content when it wasn't free, but it was not making money.
Dan Kennedy seems to have a lot of respect in the media here. He seems like a nice enough person, but I can't figure out why he's so popular.

I used to read Andrew Sullivan, as well. I stopped reading him for the same reason others have. I would stop reading anyone if they seemed to have a pet topic. Gets boring.

One thing I'm surprised about is that Sullivan has mentioned before about how 'Gay Rights' groups seem to have been hijacked by radical left wingers. Doesn't he realize that non-gay people see this hijacking as well, and are worried by it?

If the radical left were not involved, people would not be as upset. Because they are, people are very wary about what's next.

I know people who would favor giving equal rights to gay people in a relationship, but do not want to use the term marriage. This is because they fear the radical left will require churches, synagogues, etc. to marry gays.

I want gay people to have the same rights as non-gays. Kids, employment, family, everything a non-gay is entitled to in our society a gay person should be also. I would prefer to leave marriage alone. It predates all of our societies. Invent another term, make it equal in the eyes of the state to marriage, and I support it.

Posted by: Chris Josephson at June 18, 2004 at 08:24 AM

I don't spend much time on Andrew's site these days because endless discussion of gay marriage just isn't very interesting to me. It's his site, of course, and he can discuss whatever he wants. I wish him well, and I admire him.

The West has much bigger fish to fry these days than gay marriage, stuff like winning a difficult war and preventing terrorist attacks. Article after article about gay marriage is - dare I say it? - boring. Even a gay attorney I know warns: be careful what you wish for because you may get it, e.g., gay divorce, ugly child custody battles, property disputes, things the gay community has largely been spared.

When Andrew's good, he's very, very good. Come back, Andrew, we need you!

Posted by: Butch at June 18, 2004 at 08:37 AM

I've read Sullivan for years, back when he was with the New Republic and his hobby horse was circumcision! His arguments then persuaded me to actually not have my boys circumcized when they were born.

(For non-American readers, non-religious circumcision has been fairly common in the US for decades).

Sullivan also persuaded me that civil marriage between same sex couples was not a big deal. (Like Chris, I'd be leery of dictating to religious groups on sanctioning it as such.)

All of this is of course dependent on the perseverance and triumph of Western values, not least of which is tolerance. That's why I support the war and why I'm very disappointed in Sullivan's pronouncement.

Sullivan is right that a "marriage amendment" is a cheap electioneering move (it'll never pass) but the larger principle that Bush espoused (judicial activism vs legislative action) is a legitimate beef.

I'll still read him but I'll continue to scroll through the Kerry apologia.

Posted by: JDB at June 18, 2004 at 08:51 AM

My real question is what's Bush's stance on the marriage between plastic turkeys?


Anyway, what's the deal with the gay marriage thing anyway? I assume Bush is tossing a ideological bone to his stable mates, but why? They aren't likely to vote any other way in November, so it doesn't seem to have any tactical political purpose.

Posted by: Quentin George at June 18, 2004 at 08:53 AM

By the way, virtually 90% of my gay and lesbian friends have no interest in getting married.

They prefer the status quo and dread some long term lover giving the big cow eyes and dropping hints on "buying the ring" and "setting a date".

There's more to marriage than insurance benefits and tax advantages, y'know, and it isn't always easy!

That's why lesbians have jokes about whether to rent or to buy a moving truck.
(hint: because they're always moving in then moving out of domestic situations with other women.)

Posted by: JDB at June 18, 2004 at 09:02 AM

I rather liked Dan Kennedy's column about Mark Steyn. Especially the bit where he compares Steyn unfavorably to Maureen Dowd.

Posted by: Peter Fallow at June 18, 2004 at 09:31 AM

1) The U.S. President has absolutely nothing to do with the U.S. federal constitutional amendment or state constitutional amendment proceedures; he has no ability to authorize, block, hasten, delay, or otherwise interfere with any such amendment. So whether a Presidential candidate supports or opposes an amendment is only an issue insofar as it reflects the character and beliefs of the candidate.

2) Bush supports a federal amendment to ban gay marriage, thus opposing what Sullivan considers equal rights for gays.

3) Kerry has endorsed a Massachusetts state constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, thus opposing what Sullivan considers equal rights for gays.

4) There is therefore no difference between Bush and Kerry on the issue of gay marriage except how to enshrine a prohibition on it. Which is in practice no difference, because the President has no authority over either proceedure.

5) Sullivan claims that Bush's position is enough to make him beyond the pale, but Kerry's is not, despite the fact they are, for all practical effect, identical.

Therefore, Sullivan is either acting irrationally, or he is lying when he claims gay marriage is why he opposes Bush.

Neither does him any credit.

Posted by: Warmongering Lunatic at June 18, 2004 at 10:35 AM

"They aren't likely to vote any other way in November, so it doesn't seem to have any tactical political purpose."

The people who make up the so-called religious right typically didn't vote until Southern Baptist James Earl Carter ran for President. After four years of Jimmy they voted for Reagan.

The fear isn't that they'll vote Democratic (although about 40% do), it's that they'll stay home.

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at June 18, 2004 at 12:13 PM

Sullivan did not lose me over the gay marriage issue – though his obsession with it was becoming a bit tedious for somebody not exactly emotionally involved with it. He lost me when he started his crusade for "fiscal conservatism" aka "higher taxes".

He needed cover of this strictly Democratic version of fiscal conservatism for withdrawing his support from Bush. Abu Graib scandal was also most helpful. These issues are suppose to dilute his real reason for dumping Bush: the gay marriage. We are to see him as a thinking man, who, with anguish, drops his support for a candidate over a number highly principled positions.

And as far as I am concerned, all this is his business.

However, the real issue here is his reluctance to admit his anti-Bush stand to the readers of his blog. Even when Kathryn Lopez of NRO directly challenged him in March to declare himself one way of the other, he pretended that he was still trying to make his mind. All the while he already has announced in The Advocate that he would not support the Prez .

Cynical me is thinking that he did not want to declare his anti-Bush position before his next pledge drive. One needs to have a broad base of contributors…

Posted by: Katherine at June 18, 2004 at 12:26 PM

Personally, I agree with Lileks, "We can argue about the direction of western society after we have ensured its survival"

Posted by: Wayne at June 18, 2004 at 12:43 PM

Guess what guys ?

I think gay marriage sucks.

Guess what else ? I think gay sex acts are gross. And I think people who make their preference for gay sex the focus, the core, of their whole life - OK, I won't say they suck.

But they are pathetic. Get a life guys. You only spend a few minutes a day fucking each other. Have a few other thoughts for the rest of the day. Get a hobby maybe. Surf the Web - start up an argument with Andrew Sullivan. Anything. Just stop boring the tits off the rest of us about how gay you are.

Posted by: Robert Blair at June 18, 2004 at 12:57 PM

Robert: maybe you need to stop obsessing about what gay people do. Then maybe you would notice that this post was about one gay man -- singular -- in particular and not the entire covey or flock or murder or whatever you call them of gay persons.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 18, 2004 at 01:25 PM

Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan lost me when he started advocating the gasoline tax. And not especially because it's a good or a bad idea (I know next to nothing about economics), but because he advocated it while admitting that he does not drive. My intellectual-dishonesty meter shot to the top. And if I can't trust him to see the hypocrisy of that suggestion, what can I trust him on?

Posted by: Rebecca at June 18, 2004 at 01:43 PM

Not on Mr Blair's high priority list. Frankly Tim, who gives a fuck what your priorities are.

Oh that's right your little fan club of stupid Americans - backed up by a bunch of former One Nation wannabes - cares.

If only you had a real job in a real news media outfit. But alas you have never had a real media job. Face it Tim, you are just a stupid blogger that not even Murdoch would employ.

See Tim to be a real journalist you actually have to go out and do original reporting and interview real people - and not just lift selected quotes and then take them out of context to fit your own views.

I guess little Andrea - the rightChick - will be on the warpath now. Come on Andrea let's see you get all angry at someone for pissing your bandwidth away.

Posted by: John Blair at June 18, 2004 at 01:45 PM

Guess what guys? Gay marriage is sweet. Why should most of us have all of the fun of legal and moral commitment, parenting and joint tax returns while some other couples, by law, must remain unentangled, unencumbered and unfettered?

But Sullivan has lost me over his brand of conservatism. Faulting Bush and defaulting to Most-Liberal-Senate-Voting-Record Kerry conserves the expenditure of good logic, and that's all.

Posted by: c at June 18, 2004 at 01:49 PM

John Blair,

What the F***? Step away from the keyboard slowly the nice men in the white coats are here to help you.

Posted by: Stacy at June 18, 2004 at 01:50 PM


Where is Tim? John, probably thinks he is out on a long LUNCH, enjoying EXPENSIVE WINE.

Posted by: Stacy at June 18, 2004 at 01:53 PM

A new troll! Joy!

Posted by: Quentin George at June 18, 2004 at 01:55 PM

If the gay lobby argues that the union of one man and one woman in marriage is "discriminatory", then, as a man married to a woman, does that mean that my marriage is a form of "discrimination" against gays? When will the thought police be around to arrest me for the crime of being straight and married? You know where to find me.

Posted by: Stephen at June 18, 2004 at 01:59 PM

With a new boring name and an utterly unimpressive debut. Oooh, he said "fuck" and called me "the RightChick"! My widdle hawt is all a-fluttah!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 18, 2004 at 02:00 PM

My comment was in reply to Quentin's, if that isn't obvious.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 18, 2004 at 02:01 PM

A new name, Quentin, but the same approach and "logic" as other trolls. No originality at all, just the usual frothing at the mouth. "He" even anticipates a response from Andrea, and could be an old troll with a new nomme de plume.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 18, 2004 at 02:03 PM

Guess what guys ?

I think straight marriage sucks.

Guess what else ? I think straight sex acts are gross. And I think people who make their preference for straight sex the focus, the core, of their whole life - OK, I won't say they suck.

But they are pathetic. Get a life guys. You only spend a few minutes a day fucking each other. Have a few other thoughts for the rest of the day. Get a hobby maybe. Surf the Web - start up an argument with Markos Zuniga. Anything. Just stop boring the tits off the rest of us about how straight you are.

Man, it's too easy.

I don't actually believe that straight sex is gross, I was just playing juvenile switcheroo. I actually think that all sex is sort of gross, but rather exciting as well.

Oh, I see our weird bitter anti-Tim troll is back. This one is weird because it always addresses Tim and/or Andrea, and seems singularly and and unsettlingly focused on them, rather than engaging us below stairs.

Oh well. Off to drink some EXPENSIVE WINE and then have some GAY SEX.

Posted by: goldsmith at June 18, 2004 at 02:49 PM

I think straight sex is gross too, but kind of exciting. And gay sex.

I just don't think what I do in my intimate moments has a huge bearing on who I am.

If it did then undoubtedly I have to self-identify as Wanker-who-has-occasional-sex-with-humans.

Posted by: Robert Blair at June 18, 2004 at 03:14 PM

I thought the post was about gay marriage in general ...

BUT - I am here to stand firm in the cause of homophobia! Homophobes have rights too y'know!

We must speak out now against the ever-rising tide of homophobia-phobia.

Posted by: Robert Blair at June 18, 2004 at 03:27 PM

"To be a real journalist you actually have to go out and do original reporting and interview real people."

You have to learn how to write, too. And punctuate. Even we stupid Americans know that.

Posted by: Butch at June 18, 2004 at 04:52 PM

Sullivan's support for unrestricted passage of HIV positive immigrants, and his boostering of Bush's ridiculous "invite the world" amnesty plan, were all enough for me. He is not worth reading.

Posted by: Steve Edwards at June 18, 2004 at 05:53 PM

I can't take seriously anyone who claims Ann Coulter can't write. She most certainly can, and she's always enjoyable to read, not because of what she says sometimes, but for how she says it. Any self respecting reader has to give her credit for the ability to somewhat humorously draw blood without using profanity.

I've not read Sean H., although I find him articulate, if a bit strident, on the radio, so I can't comment on the assertions of his critics.

Stridency, you see, isn't a reason to critique writing style. They're two separate things, and I guess it's easier to make fun of writing styles than it is to do the hard work and try to find and argue the holes, if any, in their arguments.

On the other topic, Sullivan has revealed himself a one-issue shrill-monster, with the fallback position that only homophobes would disagree with him, in hopes that will dispel commentary. While I can understand Robert Blair's comment above about preventing homophobe-phobia, I'd prefer that there was a way to get people to stop playing the homophobe card entirely - you see, it, too, is just a way to avoid cogent discussion.

Posted by: Patton at June 18, 2004 at 06:03 PM

Personally, I agree with both Sullivan and Tim B - let gay people marry if they want to. Why shouldn't they be as miserable as the rest of us?

Or if it's too radical, perhaps we could adopt Bill Maher's compromise solution - just let lesbians marry. After all, marriage is more of a female thing anyway; most men only get married because of peer pressure.

Posted by: tim g at June 18, 2004 at 06:47 PM

Just two points to make, so I'll keep this short.

  1. There are two main parties in the US: the 9/10 party and the 9/12 party.
  2. 2% = abnormal, by any meaningful definition of the word. And abnormal is a bad basis for a law or a social policy.
Thanks. That is all.

Posted by: Psmith at June 19, 2004 at 12:57 AM

The gas tax; advocating higher taxes; taking the strawperson gay marriage issue as an issue higher in importance than the War on Terror--it's clear Andrew Sullivan has lost his mind. Pity. He used to have a most admirable writing style. I wonder what unmoored his head to reality?

If we lose the WoT Andy might be tossed off a high building or stoned to death. I'd say that's more important an issue to consider than whether the flowers in the chapel should be roses or lilies.

Posted by: ushie at June 19, 2004 at 04:00 AM

I remember reading a Canson article a while back where he claimed that Bush wanted to send people to the Moon and Mars on behalf of Haliburton to get at lunar and martian oil reserves. Seeing as oil is an organic byproduct, I found his thesis rather unplasuible. But afterall:

GWB only carse about oil

GWB wants to go to Mars


GWB wants to go to Mars for the oil.

With rock soild logic like that who needs facts?

Posted by: Jason at June 19, 2004 at 09:53 AM

PSmith: 2% = abnormal, by any meaningful definition of the word. And abnormal is a bad basis for a law or a social policy.

One meaningful definition of "abnormal" is as a descriptive term. Something uncommon is "abnormal." Another is as a normative term. Something morally wrong is "abnormal." There's no reason the former implies the latter, but people describing homosexuality as "abnormal" conflate the two, either deliberately or because they don't realize the difference. 2% relates to the first definition; it has no relation to the second. Whether homosexuality is "wrong" is not determined by the number of people involved.

As for your latter point: the smallest minority on earth is the individual.

Ushie: Sullivan has not suddenly become a liberal. He's just a deficit hawk. He has criticized Bush many times for his big government domestic agenda. He has just been saying that he thinks running a large deficit is more irresponsible than raising taxes is.

Posted by: David Nieporent at June 20, 2004 at 05:53 AM