Andrew Sullivan has replied to this post of mine. I am a little under the weather, and a whole lot fed up with this entire argument, but again, if it is a blogfight Andrew Sullivan wants, it is a blogfight he will have.
To the tape:
In a response brimming with gratuitous hostility towards yours truly, Pejman Yousefzdeh nevertheless makes a few points worthy of response. I wrote that “several Democrats immediately supported [Bush's] massive tax cut – while no Republicans, in the wake of an Obama landslide – supported a desperately needed stimulus.” I was thinking of the House vote, which attracted not a single Republican vote during what looked remarkably like the beginnings of a second Great Depression. Bush’s tax cuts, on the other hand, got 28 Democratic votes in the House – with no economic crisis at hand and after the president was inaugurated with fewer votes than his opponent. Yes, in the Senate, “Arlen Specter (while a Republican), Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins all supported the stimulus.” And one has already been purged for it; and the other two hang by a thread.
First off, I have no personal hostility or animus towards Sullivan, whom I have never met, and who, I am perfectly willing to assume, is probably a delightful character in person. My impatience is with the slipshod nature of Sullivan’s commentary, which is entirely partisan, and oftentimes entirely contrary to what the facts actually say. That lends what one might term a frustrated tone to much of my commentary. I am sorry if this upsets Sullivan, but given the fact that he himself is tremendously harsh towards the targets of his Blogospheric ire, I won’t lose sleep. One is tempted, however, to remind Sullivan that he may just have to accept all of this “as part of a new media with no filters,” with the upside being that at least, I am criticizing Andrew Sullivan on substance, and not flinging bigoted remarks his way.
As for the rest of the first paragraph, Sullivan has managed to point out that there were more Democrats in the House of Representatives who liked tax cuts than there were Republicans who liked Keynesian stimulus. So? How this constitutes some form of Obama-hatred is beyond me; opposing Keynesian stimulus is more of an article of faith amongst Republicans than opposing tax cuts was to Democrats during the Bush Administration. Not everything on the planet revolves around the emotion of political hatred. Additionally, Sullivan admits that he forgot about the existence of the Senate, though he tries to mitigate that by stating that of the three Republicans who supported the Obama Administration’s stimulus package, one turned into a Democrat (because he couldn’t survive a Republican primary–the politically opportunistic nature of this switch is unmentioned by Sullivan, leaving the reader to perhaps imagine that noble principle drove Arlen Specter’s conversion), and the other two are “hang[ing] by a thread,” which I guess is Sullivan’s way of being overly dramatic about the fact that as New Englanders, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins are more moderate than many of their Republican colleagues. Again, all of this tedium obscures the fact that Sullivan (embarrassingly) forgot that three Senate Republicans supported the stimulus; I recognize Sullivan’s impetus to distract by trying to use the Imperius Curse to get legions of angels to dance on the head of a pin, but really, all of this nit-picking does more to undermine Sullivan’s point, than it does to reinforce it.
Sullivan then responds to the following that I wrote:
[W]hen President Obama announced his Afghanistan policy–and got attacked for it by the Left – it was Republicans who came to his aid, and offered their full-throated support for the policy. Does this not count as a form of bipartisan cooperation initiated by the Republicans to assist a Democratic President?
Not really – since they were so already on the record behind both wars initiated by their own president that taking on Obama on this would have required taking on Bush.
Shorter Andrew Sullivan: “Bipartisan cooperation shown by the Republicans towards the Obama Administration is tainted if it is a continuation of a Republican stance undertaken during the Bush Administration.” This is unreal. Sullivan might have thought to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, Afghanistan represents a huge point of principle for Republicans, and that Republicans believe so strongly in the need to prevail in Afghanistan that they are willing to put politics aside, let it stop at the water’s edge, and throw their support to a Democratic President who adopted an Afghan policy largely in accordance with what Republicans hoped for. Sullivan might have also thought to admit that without Republican support, the Obama Administration’s Afghan policy would have had, at best, vanishingly small Congressional support, given how much Democrats were against it. But no; Republican support for the President of Afghanistan somehow doesn’t count because George W. Bush gave the policy cooties. Or something. Note, by the way, Sullivan’s reference of George W. Bush as “their own president” in reference to Republicans. Funny, I thought that George W. Bush was everyone’s President, just as I believe that Barack Obama currently is everyone’s President. Writing for myself, I’d say this kind of divisive rhetoric is gratuitously hostile towards the best traditions of our democratic republic. It certainly contains more gratuitous hostility than any that little old me showed to Andrew Sullivan.
Next comes the following passage from me:
For that matter, has Sullivan forgotten that the very tax deal he celebrates this week with endless, meaningless, Baghdad Bob-ish, nauseating frequency, featuring one ludicrous “meep, meep” after another, is a tax deal that was crafted in negotiations with Republicans? ThatRepublicans are supporting this deal, and are trying to save it–and the Obama Administration’s prestige–in the face of Democratic assaults so virulent that F-bombs have been thrown the White House’s way, and House Democrats have even stated that they will not bring the tax package for a vote? Why is all of this not equivalent to some Democrats supporting a Bush tax cut?
With the following response from Sullivan:
Pej has a point there. But the principle of low upper rate taxes is a Republican principle, and it is this for which the GOP fought. Lower taxes, in contrast, were definitely not a Democratic principle in 2000, when many, like Gore, urged that the surplus should go to shore up social security and pay down the debt. Pej goes on to argue that the ubiquitous Bush as Hitler smears during W.’s two terms are equivalent to the muck thrown at Obama, that cultural artifacts such as the image above prove the left’s secessionist dreams, and that Vanity Fair’s Bush Joker and Maclean’s Bush Saddam are no better that Forbes’ Obama with Stalin. My point is that the Bush-as-Hitler crap (which I decried at the time) did not start at the very beginning, but emerged after Bush’s decision to go to war with Iraq, using torture as a method, adopting radical notions of executive power in a permanent wartime, and being responsible for an incompetently occupied country where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered. The high-level demonization of Obama began from the very start – with no real cause at all, except that he won an election easily.
Once again, Republican support for President Obama is somehow considered suspect if it is in line with Republican principles. Apparently, according to Sullivan, Republicans can only be good Republicans if they start acting like Democrats. Additionally, Sullivan believes that mass violations of Godwin’s Law–along with all of the other artwork and photo-shopping I brought up in response to Sullivan’s dare (see the last sentence of the third-to-last paragraph)–are more acceptable because they supposedly occurred when people began to disagree with the Bush Administration’s policies. To which, the reply is twofold: (1) Disagreement with the Bush Administration’s policies did not, and do not justify Hitler analogies (those who think otherwise, clearly forget history); and (2) Has Andrew Sullivan forgotten this scene?
I don’t recall any Republicans pelting the Obama motorcade with projectiles in protest of his inauguration. I certainly don’t recall any right-wing version of Michael Moore making a movie celebrated by Hollywood praising such activities. Sullivan will respond by pointing out that Bush’s election was controversial. But that never justified the violence that was evinced by the protesters. Sullivan seems to think that if he can trace Bush-hatred to a specific policy disagreement, then the Bush-hatred becomes acceptable, or at least, understandable. What he fails to get, however, is that even if one considers the policy disagreements, the hatred was completely and entirely out of proportion to the disagreements at issue. Out of proportion hatred, is out of proportion hatred, pure and simple. Context may help explain the hatred, but it doesn’t even remotely come close to justifying it. If Andrew Sullivan wants to see what “gratuitously hostile” looks like, all he needs to do is to cast his mind back to 2001, when Bush-hatred began (far earlier, it ought to be emphasized, than Sullivan would care to admit it began).
Finally, there is the following from Sullivan:
But their complaints about legitimacy after Bush vs Gore were far more defensible, it seems to me, than the far right delusions about Obama’s birth certificate. And after 9/11, there was huge support for the president by the vast majority of Democrats – something I encouraged (look at W’s polling numbers in the winter of 2001 – and imagine anything like that for Obama since the Depression began.) I do not recall any major Democrat saying he hoped that Bush would fail in the war on terror, the way Limbaugh broadly hoped for the failure of Obama in the economic crisis. And the attempt to turn Obama into an un-American from the get-go was pre-meditated, and dabbling in dangerous racial waters.
(Emphasis mine.) Ahem:
BRENDA BUTTNER: You’re basically saying he’s [Bush] going to get re-elected. I mean essentially.
ELLEN RATNER, FNC political analyst: Well, unless the economy tanks –
BUTTNER: The economy could. That’s what people vote on.
RATNER: Well, unless he messes up the war [with Iraq]. My hope.
BUTTNER: Your hope?!
RATNER: Well, I don’t want him to be reelected!
BUTTNER: Right, but I mean, “mess up the war,” what do you mean by that?
RATNER: I mean, do something that will make Americans say, ‘maybe we shouldn’t have done this.’ You know, that kind of thing.
Ellen Ratner’s Wikipedia entry is here, for those wondering who she is. But you know, why limit this merely to statements made during the War on Terror? Here’s E.J. Dionne before the 2001 inauguration in a piece entitled “Democrats begin waiting for George W. Bush to fail”. Dionne urges Democrats to do more than to simply hope that the Administration fails, but states pretty clearly that the hope for failure was a common one for Democrats–a point reinforced by this:
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.”
Carville was joined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who seemed encouraged by a survey he had just completed that revealed public misgivings about the newly minted president.
“We rush into these focus groups with these doubts that people have about him, and I’m wanting them to turn against him,” Greenberg admitted.
The pollster added with a chuckle of disbelief: “They don’t want him to fail. I mean, they think it matters if the president of the United States fails.”
Minutes later, as news of the terrorist attacks reached the hotel conference room where the Democrats were having breakfast with the reporters, Carville announced: “Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!”
The press followed Carville’s orders, never reporting his or Greenberg’s desire for Bush to fail. The omission was understandable at first, as reporters were consumed with chronicling the new war on terror. But months and even years later, the mainstream media chose to never resurrect those controversial sentiments, voiced by the Democratic Party’s top strategists, that Bush should fail.
That omission stands in stark contrast to the feeding frenzy that ensued when radio host Rush Limbaugh recently said he wanted President Obama to fail.
I mean, I guess it’s nice that Carville and Greenberg begged people to disregard everything once they learned of the terrorist attacks, but why hope for failure in the first place? Isn’t that A Bad Thing To Do, according to Andrew Sullivan? And why should it be forgiven, or not considered, merely because these statements were made before the War on Terror began–assuming, of course, that they were made at least a few seconds before planes started hitting the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, PA, after which point, the War on Terror might have been said to have begun?
Is it okay to ask these questions of Andrew Sullivan? Is it okay to point out anew that simple research via Google serves to undercut his arguments?
Or would it be considered gratuitously hostile to point out that once again, when it comes to argumentation, the Daily Dish goes where facts rightfully fear to tread?
NOTE: I welcome comments, but if a comment takes a personal shot at Andrew Sullivan, or takes one at me with an attempt to question my motives, I’ll delete it and ban the user. Disagreement with my ideas, or Sullivan’s, without introducing a personal element to the comment is welcome. Let’s keep things civil–as the proprietor of this blog, I insist that we do so.