If It’s Monday, Then Andrew Sullivan Is Making a Goofy Argument

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on April 25, 2011

The goofy argument in question has to do with–you guessed it!–Trig Trutherism.

The Inspector Javert of Trig Palin’s matrilineal line takes on Dave Weigel for Weigel’s argument that Trig Trutherism stories “have been flogged to death by reporters” with the following:

I have no evidence that these stories have been “flogged to death” by reporters. Does Weigel? Pray tell. Who? For what outlet? He’s a reporter and he admits he never bothered to look into this – because the Democrats hadn’t made it an issue!

Sullivan’s right, but not for the reasons he thinks. The media and Democrats have not flogged this issue to death because the entire issue is nucking futs, as is anyone who is as obsessed with it as Sullivan is. The media has better things to do with its time. So do Democrats–and presumably, at some point, they will clue us in on what those better things are. This is why neither the media, nor Democrats have flogged this issue to death; there is no issue to flog. A more interesting question to ask is whether a non-issue, if flogged, screams in pain.

Sullivan is not done. In this post (with its fatuous title, implying that there is some kind of empirical integrity attached to questions that Sullivan asks regarding this non-issue-rightfully-non-flogged-by-sane-people-with-more-important-things-to-do), he gives us this:

. . . I urge you to read the latest data points on the story, specifically the eye-witness accounts of two journalists who, after two years of silence, are now saying they saw Palin’s pregnant belly covered only by a thin layer of fabric before she gave birth. These are important new parts of this jigsaw puzzle, and they go alongside the handful of pictures we have of Palin pregnant in her one-month public pregnancy. They should be taken seriously and definitely buttress - powerfully – the case that this whole thing is a tempest in a spatula.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Thank God! So we can finally let this particular White Whale go! Right?”


Does this long-delayed meta-story settle the matter? The key thing, it seems to me, is to look at all the facts we now have and try to get beyond the order and manner in which we found these things out. This is not easy. But having tried to do that over this weekend, I still believe that none of these new things, alas, prove the pregnancy the way simple medical records would. To me, however, they do strongly tip the balance toward establishing the pregnancy as fact. . . .

We now turn the microphone back over to Justin Elliott:

. . . Palin’s doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, wrote a detailed medical report on Palin that was released right before the election in November 2008. In the report (.pdf) the doctor described the pregnancy in detail:

At the time of her most recent pregnancy, Governor Palin had no health risk factors other than her age. Routine prenatal testing easly in the second trimester showed evidence of Trisomy 21, which was confirmed by perinatology consultation and amniocentesis. She followed the normal and recommended schedule for prenatal care, including follow-up perinatology evaluations to ensure that there was no significant congenital heart disease or other condition of the baby that would preclude delivery at her home community hospital. This child, Trig, was born at 35 weeks in good health. He was able to go home at two days of age with his mother. He has some minor problems with jaundice that required phototherapy in the hospital and at home for several days.

Baldwin-Johnson is the same doctor who spoke with Quinn, the AP reporter, after the ’08 GOP convention and she also gave an interview to the Anchorage Daily News in April 2008 describing the delivery of Trig (and noting that she had induced labor).

Sullivan’s refrain on this issue is that he does not endorse any conspiracy theory, he is merely asking questions. He simply wants Palin “to debunk this for once and for all, with simple, readily available medical records.” He has proposed, for example, the release of “amniocentesis results with Sarah Palin’s name on them.”

It’s worth noting that this posture is identical to the rhetoric used by Obama birthers (for instance, WorldNetDaily Birther czar Joseph Farah employs the “just asking for definitive piece of proof x” line here).

But the larger point is that continuously demanding more “proof” on an issue about which there is already overwhelming evidence is either irrational or disingenuous. And why would a piece of paper with amniocentesis results and Sarah Palin’s name be more dispositive than the doctor’s many statements and the testimony of all of the reporters who saw Palin pregnant? If you already believe everyone is lying and everything is a hoax, it wouldn’t.

Later, we have this from Captain Ahab Sullivan:

Let’s note something that even Salon would agree with here. There was no vetting of this rogue candidate. The usual mechanism to filter lunatics and hoaxers out of public life was missing. That’s why, by the way, I stayed on the case. I knew no one knew. And I was not able to simply accept that Palin was so obviously sane this was impossible. This was a genuine belief and a real struggle. If I were not a blogger I could have ducked this. But I felt it was my duty not to.

And this is the thing dividing us, isn’t it? If you think Palin isn’t that weird, as the doctor puts it, then it seems simply loopy to even entertain the idea that she could have used a prosthetic belly to fake a pregnancy. If deep down you think she’s so delusional, ambitious and weird that it’s possible, even if unlikely, then you start asking questions that you would not usually ask.

Shorter Sullivan: “I can ask weird, nonsensical questions of Sarah Palin, because she is weird.” Take that, logic!

It is obviously too late to ask the Atlantic to fire Andrew Sullivan. Can the Daily Beast do so? Assuming, of course, that it wants to have any credibility whatsoever with an audience skilled in ratiocination?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=771120437 William Peak

    Best case scenario:

    Couldn’t this all be some sort of meta parody of the O birthers by Sullivan?

    As you point out his demands for evidence sound similar to O birthers demands conversely don’t your explanations parallel the anti-birthers?

    Either way, he has flogged this horse for too long.

    • Anonymous

      Problem is, Sully was Trig Trutherin’ before Birtherin’ was cool.

    • ed

      The line between witty sarcasm and insane demagoguery is a dotted one ….

    • Vader

      “As you point out his demands for evidence sound similar to O birthers demands conversely don’t your explanations parallel the anti-birthers?”

      Why, yes. Yes, they do.

      What’s your point? I think the O birthers are as nucking futs as Sullivan.

    • http://twitter.com/NYKensington Kensington

      Sullivan is many things, but clever is not among them.

  • Anonymous

    Well, certainly Sullivan is certifiably nuts on this issue. But the issue differs in at least one important respect from the “Obama was not born in the U.S.” issue, and that is that if the latter were correct, it would have major legal implications. If Trig’s mom was someone other than Sarah Palin, it really wouldn’t matter much for the country.

  • Crawford

    I think the weird one — likely clinically insane, possibly as the result of medical issues — is Sullivan. He really should be forced into retirement by the expedient of no one publishing him anymore. Let him live out his fading days in peaceful obscurity.

  • Anonymous

    While I’m not a Palin fan, the standard answer to the ‘unvetted and lightweight’ argument should be two simple words. John. Edwards.

    Edwards has Palin beaten in spades in terms of ‘That’s your candidate?!’ wackiness. Twice a popular liberal choice for President (before being eclipsed by Obama). Yet Edwards is of course stuffed neatly down the memory hole.

    • Anonymous

      How about two less simple words? Barack. Obama.

      But to be fair, this is the first time I’ve heard Palin accused of being unvetted. Lightweight, yes; but unvetted? Please…

      • http://theundergroundconservative.wordpress.com The Underground Conservative

        And she’s no lightweight, either. She was way ahead of the curve on the damage QE2 would do to the already flailing economy.

        • http://profiles.google.com/blake.l.daniels Blake Daniels

          And certainly knows her energy issues.

  • Anonymous

    Sullivan is an agent of the Koch brothers, who sent him on a mission to damage irreparably the reputation of the The Atlantic, and Tina Brown/Daily Beast/Newsweek. He’s succeeding brilliantly.

  • Marku

    Henry Blodgett is limping into the issue as well. Strange, the people he respects, the issues he follows. His Spitzer worship, Stockholm style, may be waning in favor of Sully.

  • Anonymous

    I think Andrew Sullivan – at this point and for perhaps longer – has known that Sarah Palin was Trig’s mother. But he so loathes Palin – deeply and completely – that he continues to “ask questions” because he believes that it, even marginally, hurts Palin and raises in the minds of some people doubt about her as a person.

    As a person and, from that, as a viable political force.

    Sullivan openly stated two years ago that:
    “[T]he current GOP is contemptible in all its permutations – from the base to the intelligentsia…. my political judgment, honestly held, proudly expressed, is that destroying this Republican party is essential if this country and the world are going to recover from our current morass.” [link]

    Country and the world?

    Starting with the destruction of Sarah Palin that is exactly what he is doing.

  • Mike

    Let this White Whale go?? OK, she’s white, but she kept herself in pretty darned good shape the whole time.

  • http://twitter.com/NYKensington Kensington

    A few months back Sullivan posted about having a nightmare in which he was trapped inside Palin’s “lush garden.”

    That cuts right to the heart of his Palincentric lunacy: he’s terrified by her vagina!

    • http://theundergroundconservative.wordpress.com The Underground Conservative

      Sullivan envies Palin’s vagina. And her uterus. Wishes he had his own set.

    • http://theundergroundconservative.wordpress.com The Underground Conservative

      Sullivan envies Palin’s vagina. And her uterus. Wishes he had his own set.

  • http://twitter.com/jtLOL ‘Jim’ ‘Treacher’

    “There was no vetting of this rogue candidate.”

    This man is a lunatic.

    • Anonymous

      You’ve got to love the fact that Sullivan not only discounts McCain’s vetting, he obviously doesn’t think that the gubernatorial primary and general election in Alaska (with all the attendant media attention) is a meaningful means of filtering out “lunatics and hoaxers.” By Sullivan’s reconning, how many “lunatics and hoaxers” are in governors’ mansions in America?

  • http://twitter.com/AmPowerBlog Donald Douglas

    Sully’s weird.

  • Nic Steenekamp
  • http://profiles.google.com/blake.l.daniels Blake Daniels

    Sullivan, like all conspiracy theorists, simply falls short for not having a smoking gun. Simply, because none exists. This conspiracy, like all grand ones, would require multiple people (far outside the family as well) telling multiple different stories at multiple different points in time. Forget Sarah. What about Bristol? Presumably she was in high school when she otherwise should have been showing. Right? They’ve gotten Sarah’s doctors to cover up. But also, all of her classmates, even Levi? The man who would open his mouth and sell any story for a nickel has no evidence to provide? Much the same as 9/11, though on a much smaller scale both in importance (obviously) as well as number of people needing to know/be involved, someone would have cracked by now.

    Further, what are the statistics for a health, 17 or 18-year-old girl having a baby with Down’s Syndrome? Certainly they’re MUCH higher for someone Sarah’s age than for someone Bristol’s age, no?

    These points have the benefits of reason and common sense, two things the conspiracy theorist loses as soon as the possibility of believing it enters their mind. Thus, Andrew Sullivan.

    Also, “The usual mechanism to filter lunatics and hoaxers out of public life was missing.” Are you f-ing kidding me? Maybe there was short filtering for a VP slot, but public life overall? Elections to the governorship of a state of our Union no longer counts as an acceptable filter? Please.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FP4EYCHGUHNSZ326G4E35MCGRY Orson

    I gave up after two paragraphs into AS’ psyche. a little exposure is quite enough!

  • Darkiguana

    For a supposedly gay man, he sure is interested in Palin’s private parts.

  • Anonymous

    The kind of people who can claim that an historical figure was a closeted homosexual and that a complete lack of evidence demonstrates that it is undeniably true are not the kind of people one can expect to have a well-reasoned conversation with. They’re born that way, don’t you know.

  • Anonymous

    I can see the importance of a proper examination of this matter; I would suggest beginning with a board-certified doctor’s assessment certifying the soundness in mind and body of Mr Andrew Sullivan, after which we might examine those other lesser concerns.


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