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May 31, 2007

Defend Yourself, Sir!

Exhibiting some of that tim-honored blogospheric transparency and collegiality, Andrew Sullivan links to Jon Cohn's defense of HillaryCare and James Fallows' demolition of No Exit, the Betsy McCaughey article that Sullivan published in The New Republic and that most now agree to be a pack of lies and half-truths. But it's the oddest link in the word: "HillaryCare right the first time," Sullivan asks? "A truly counter-intuitive argument, too counter-intuitive for me, in fact. Bonus: Sully-bashing!"

There is Sully-bashing in it, to be sure. While editing The New Republic, Sullivan ran a curiously influential article attacking the Clinton health care plan that Fallows -- about as honest and mild a journalist as you'll find -- called "error-laden, tendentious, and dishonest." The New Republic has apologized for publishing the piece. And the piece's worth is an empirical, rather than an ideological question: It either was cynical screed of lies and mendacious misrepresentations, or it wasn't. The evidence is pretty clear on this point. But I'd certainly be interested in hearing Sullivan defend its honesty and worth. And he's even got a blog where he could do so! How about it?

May 31, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

You'll be waiting a long time on that, Ezra. Sully is more in the "Lets not bicker and argue about who killed who" camp than the serious examination of what hes done wrong. Hes perfectly good at changing his mind, but for some reason he is really vehement at support of right wing crap, like for example his piece on Hillary care and his infamous 5th column statement, and displayed in his calm statements about how cheney and rumfield are war criminals

Posted by: mickslam | May 31, 2007 10:20:34 AM

I for one honor it.
-Tim

Posted by: Tim | May 31, 2007 12:14:59 PM

from Jon Cohn's TNR article: The following February, life imitated art when Elizabeth McCaughey, a very real scholar at the conservative Manhattan Institute, decided to tell the world about the myriad flaws of the Clinton plan by writing a screed for a political magazine. (As it happens, it's the one you are holding in your hands.)

You would never know from this paragraph that The New Republic has apologized for publishing the piece. One suspects that paragraph had a good workover on the editing table at TNR (not torture, mind you, just enhanced interrogation). TNR is the magazine that must not be named. Nor any link to Fallow's takedown. TNR hasn't changed, even though they have a stable of good writers, they still cannot be honest and open about their editorial errors - which are barely hinted at by pinched, febile apologies, or ignored as you have pointed out about Kinsley.

Since Sullivan doesn't allow comments on his Atlantic blog, no one will hear anything negative about Sully in that place, and he's just blown off both Cohn and Fallows. So much for journalistic integrity.

I re-subscribed to TNR in the first days of the recent sale (after a several decade absence because their line made me ill in the head), before it became clear that nothing would change in their editorial behavior.
But I regret it and it won't happen again.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 31, 2007 12:26:02 PM

See, the only defense I could think of would be too devastating to make. Sullivan simply doesn't understand public policy. He knows rhetoric, he knows grand strokes, he understands culture, and has his own sense of right and wrong. But he has no general concept of economics, foreign policy, and the actual workings of government. And so from a general sense of libertarianism, he published a seemingly devastating article, even though he couldn't make heads or tails of it personally, attacking big government, and a personality he couldn't stand.

But that would raise the question of why he should have been editing a political journal, and what business he has writing outside his narrow field now.

Posted by: Davey | May 31, 2007 1:38:37 PM

I think Davey's on the mark here. Sullivan is all about abstract principles, except where he's writing from personal experience, leaving a big gap called 'policy'.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | May 31, 2007 3:20:10 PM

To follow on Davey's point, Sully's recent bout of scaremongering over Social Security reminded me that even when he's on the right side (as he is, for now, about Iraq), he's just not a good thinker. He doesn't understand numbers, he's prone to weird enthusiasms (anyone remember his piece on testosterone therapy for HIV positive men from the Times magazine?), he's functionally innumerate, and even when people explain his errors to him, they tend not to sink in. He's a fine polemicist but a terrible public intellectual, and he gets the roles confused.

Posted by: Steve | May 31, 2007 3:23:14 PM

Whatever you guys say--and it's mostly true, I guess--Sullivan still runs the best goddamn blog on the internet. It's just superior in a startlingly large number of ways. And I happen to like the fact that he has no comments. So nya-nya to all you naysayers.

Posted by: Korha | May 31, 2007 4:55:54 PM

While you are asking him about the TNR hit piece he published, ask him about this truly strange post he has up today:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/quote_for_the_d_38.html

Didn't both Sully and Will (along with the vast majority of conservatives) unmoor themselves from the "realism" that most of us were dealing with when they were beating the war drums?

Please.

Posted by: Mike P | May 31, 2007 6:40:00 PM

Sullivan proved his manhood by publishing the insane McGaughey piece by the insane McGaughey--O joy, a Brit could help demolish a program that might have led, down the road, to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lives saved. Sullivan and his pals chortled over the fate of Lani Guiner. He heaped scorn on Clinton--whom he loathed more than he loathes our war-criminal-in-chief. He has never apologized for calling dissenters fifth columnists, even when they proved to be right. Joe Wilson proved to be right, too--but for Sully he's an arrogant prick. WHY DOES THIS BLOWHARD continue to be read and cited, even by people who should know better, like Josh Marshall? Why do people like Fallows agree to share a platform with him?

Posted by: Steve Din | May 31, 2007 11:30:49 PM

He's a fine polemicist but a terrible public intellectual, and he gets the roles confused.

It might be too flippant to characterise it as a 'British thing', but not completely so. An adversarial system and an unashamedly partisan press often rewards surface erudition, ingenuity and the ability to string together a rhetorically-effective argument over logical coherence and wonkish research. (I'm reminded of The History Boys, and its obvious modelling of Irwin on Niall Ferguson.)

I don't mind his self-contradictions and enthusiasms, but he's not temperamentally an editor, and his decisions at TNR proved it.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Jun 1, 2007 1:00:06 AM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 6, 2007 12:02:47 AM

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