Andrew Sullivan on The Conservative Soul
HH: Joined now by Andrew Sullivan, author of The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How To Get It Back, in bookstores everywhere. I will link it at Hughhewitt.com a little bit later. We’ve got Andrew for the next hour and a half. Andrew Sullivan, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
AS: Thank you.
HH: Andrew, you’ve often been invited onto the program to debate about something, and you’ve always declined. Why?
AS: I think twice I’ve been invited, and said…because I just had better things to do, frankly, and I have a blog to fill all day long, and I don’t think that you’re necessarily always the fairest of interviewers.
HH: Okay. Well, we’ll see…we’ll test you at the end to find out if you think it’s fair. This is an interview about a book, not a debate, so let’s do some biography first. What year did you graduate from Harvard?
AS: Well, I graduated twice, really, because I did two degrees. I graduated in ’86 from the Kennedy School, and then graduated in 1990 from the government department.
HH: And did you get a PhD?
AS: Yeah, I got a Masters in public administration, and then a PhD in government.
HH: And the PhD was under Mansfield, Harvey Mansfield’s direction?
AS: Yeah, he was my supervisor, yeah.
HH: Oh, that’s very interesting. Have you had any training in the law?
AS: Not really. I haven’t…I don’t have a law degree, no, except whatever I’ve picked up along the way.
HH: Okay, I just was wondering, because there’s a lot of Con Law in the book, and we’ll get to that. Are you a Christian?
AS: What kind of question is that?
HH: Well, you write a lot about your faith in here, and I would just…
AS: Well then, obviously I am.
HH: Well, I don’t know. I was going to ask. Do you think you are?
AS: Well, if you’ve read the book, you’ll surely know.
HH: Okay. Let me ask you this…
AS: Are you a Christian?
HH: Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?
HH: Okay. And you’re a Catholic…
AS: What is this, by the way? Is this an inquisition?
HH: Well, no. There are questions that come from reading your book closely.
AS: No, I find…it’s quite clear from the book. And already, you see, this is why you’re not a fair interviewer, because you are…this is the kind of question people asked in the Spanish Inquisition.
HH: Well, I actually don’t think so.
AS: I’m not here to be debated on what I believe in the depths of my heart. It’s none of your business.
HH: Well, you write…
AS: I am here to be interviewed about my book.
HH: You write on page 208, “The Gospels, all of them, including some that were rejected by the early Church, are mere sketches of a life actually lived in an experience that can never be reduced to words or text or doctrines. And the world as it was, and still is, was unable to tolerate this immense occasion, and so Jesus was executed. And the life more in touch with divinity than any other life was ended abruptly, when it was still achingly young. The existence of such a life was both so wondrous that it changed everything, and also so terrifying that it had to be snuffed out.” So when you wrote that in touch with divinity more than any other life, that suggests he wasn’t divine. Do you think he was divine?
AS: Yes, I do, and I say the mystery of the incarnation in the book, as you know, because you’ve read it…
HH: Yes, I have.
AS: …so the question is in bad faith, because you’ve read the book and you know the answer to this question. This is why you’re not a fair questioner, because you already know that in the book, I say the mystery of the incarnation is that God…that Jesus is not just God, but he was God made man. You know the answer to the question you’re asking, so why are you asking this?
HH: Actually, I don’t, and I’ll go through some other questions with you here.
AS: No, no, no, no. I just want to…you stop right there, because (laughing) you’re asking these questions in a way that you know the answer already, which means you’re trying trick questions.
HH: Andrew, I don’t.
AS: Try and be intellectually honest for a change.
HH: Andrew, I don’t. I have a lot of questions based upon a very close reading of the book. And if you want…
AS: No, you can’t. If you had closely read the book, you knew the answer to these questions. You’re asking me questions…
HH: Well, actually, I think any fair reader would agree with me.
AS: …as a way to trick somebody.
HH: I’m not trying to trick anyone, Andrew. We’re here for an hour and a half.
AS: You are. You do it all the time.
HH: Let’s move on. As a Catholic…
AS: Let me ask you. Do you believe in the resurrection?
HH: Again, this is an interview, not a debate. I just want to know…I have a lot of questions about your book, fair, legitimate questions. I just want to ask them.
AS: So why…how is it, are you a Christian, about…a question about this book?
HH: Because I thought you might be a Deist at the end of this. I really did. I thought that you might be a Deist.
AS: You think Deists are not Christians? You think…was Jefferson a Christian?
HH: You write that he is, correct?
AS: And you don’t think he was?
HH: No, I don’t.
AS: And you don’t think any of the founding fathers were Christians?
HH: No, I didn’t say that. I don’t think Jefferson was a Christian, and I think…
AS: Who else wasn’t a Christian?
HH: Hamilton was quite clearly a Christian. I think George Washington, it’s debatable. I think Benjamin Franklin probably not, and Thomas Paine absolutely not. Do you agree with those characterizations?
AS: Pretty…well, pretty much, except this binary are you Christian or not. There are many, many varieties, as you know Christianity. Huge, huge differences.
HH: No, I just was asking…for your self-identification as a Catholic, which leads me to my next question. Do you consider yourself under the authority of Benedict, or before him, John Paul II?
AS: What do you mean under the authority? I’m not legally under his authority, no.
HH: No, under a moral authority.
AS: As I say in the book, I am obliged, as all Catholics are, to take his teachings extremely seriously. But the truth of the Church is based on three things, and you’re not a Catholic, so you may not know this. But the Second Council said quite clearly that the authority that we are under as Catholics is both the Pope, secondly tradition and scripture, and third, what Catholics call the Sensus Fidelium, which is the sense of the faithful, the experience of faith in everyday life. It’s the tripartheid way in which Catholics understand their faith. And you’re not a Catholic, are you.
HH: And when we come back…excuse me?
AS: You’re not a Catholic, are you?
HH: When we come back, we’ll continue with that. Yes, I actually am, and I will return to that when we come back to the Hugh Hewitt Show. I’m an Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian, Andrew. But it’s not about me. It’s about your book, and we’ll be right back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Andrew Sullivan, when we left, we were talking about Roman Catholic Church doctrine, and…
AS: You were saying you were an Evangelical Presbyterian Catholic (laughing)
HH: No, it’s Evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian, and…
AS: Oh, now you explain that to me.
HH: But I’m not…my audience can always call me up. They don’t often get to hear you. So I really would like to stay on your book, Andrew, and so…
AS: Well, let me just urge your audience if they’re interested in this, to read the book, because…
HH: It’ll be linked at Hughhewitt.com…
AS: …in it, it’s quite clear that I’m a Christian.
HH: It’ll be linked at Hughhewitt.com.
AS: And they can also read my blog every day, where only last week I said I have great hope that what Jesus taught and was is true. So…
HH: But is it iconoclastic Christianity, Andrew Sullivan?
AS: I bet your pardon?
HH: Is yours an iconoclastic Christianity?
AS: No. The iconoclasts destroyed my Church where I grew up in England. They destroyed the Catholic Churches I loved. They destroyed icons. I have great respect for the beauty and majesty and imagery of Catholicism throughout the ages.
HH: But an ordinary orthodox Roman Catholic Church would assent to the idea that Benedict as Pope has teaching authority over their lives, and that bishops can, in fact, interpret scriptures and issue orders which ought to be followed by the faithful. That’s a…
AS: No, you’re wrong. You’re completely wrong. The Second Council was very clear, and I’ll say it again. They absolutely should respect and listen to carefully, as I have done, and as you know, the Pope, this Pope’s first encyclical I greeted with great delight, and explained and wrote about, and supported, and thought was quite beautiful. We have every duty to listen with great respect to what the Church teaches. But we are also supposed to listen and read the Gospels, and the tradition of the Church, and we’re also supposed to look for God in our own lives, and understand how God impacts our actual lives. So there’s three authorities for Catholics, not just the Pope. That’s the first Vatican Council, which I know you regret. But the Second Vatican Council said something very different, and that’s what’s now the Catholic faith.
HH: Now on page 46, you write, “to take a very basic issue, like the matter of conscience. For many non-fundamentalistic Christians, conscience is the ultimate arbiter of what they believe. In fact, the right to believe only what one’s own conscience can ascent to was at the root of the Reformation…long defined such denominations as the Baptists. The Catholic hierarchy long resisted such an idea until the Second Vatican Council, when it was endorsed, along with religious freedom, and an acceptance of religious pluralism.” There are no footnotes in The Conservative Soul, Andrew Sullivan. What would you footnote that to?
AS: The Second Vatican Council.
HH: But is there…
AS: Have you ever read John Courtney Murray?
HH: No, I haven’t.
AS: Well, then, you need to…
HH: Is there a particular…
AS: …because he was the greatest American influence on the Second Vatican Council.
HH: But there are documents of the Vatican Council. There are…
AS: Yes, there are, but this is…there are many documents, as the…
HH: So which one elevates conscience to the authority of the teaching of the bishop or…
AS: No, what it says is, because it was the first time in history, and I mean, you know the Second Council was the first time that the Catholic Church renounced the fact that the Jews were responsible for Christ’s death. It democratized, in many ways, decision making in the Church, and it said yes, your conscience matters, and you as a Catholic are not supposed to simply submit to what some Pope says. You’re supposed to actually try and believe it. In order to believe it, you have to understand it. In order to understand it, you have to get a little distance from it to think about it, and you have to ask in your entire soul, the depths of your soul, whether you can believe it. And that is what is called your conscience. Now Benedict, of course, has attacked this idea of the Second Council, even though once before, as you know, Benedict was an architect of the Second Council, along with Hans Kung. He was a liberal, a Catholic liberal, in the old days. But both he and the previous Pope really tried to ratchet this back, but they’re the radicals.
HH: And so Andrew Sullivan…
AS: The real Catholic…Second Vatican Council Catholics of course believed in the conscience of the arbiter, not the sole arbiter.
HH: Let me try this a separate way. If, in fact, a Catholic is in a state of mortal sin, as the Church defines mortal sin, may they receive communion?
AS: I think that’s a very hard…no, they should not, if they sincerely believe that they are in a state of mortal sin, yes.
HH: And if the Church has a teaching about what moral sin is, and it is sufficiently clear, and it’s in the Catechism, and you reject that definition, or a Catholic rejects that definition, does that empower them to receive communion?
AS: I think that’s up to the individual. What the priest would say in any particular pastorl sense is that that depends between what you and your priest say, and the conversation you have, and the conscientious decision you reach. Now your entire mindset is authoritarianism. That’s your politics, that’s your belief, that the point of all faith is to submit to authority, and to give up judgment and conscience, and the kind of faith that I believe in. I disagree, and I think most Catholics disagree, and I think the Second Council disagrees.
HH: And it’s…
AS: But you know, that’s what you want. You support a president who has complete unitary executive authority to seize people at will and imprison them and torture them. And you believe in a form of Christianity in which the individual conscience has almost no role at all.
HH: Given that I haven’t written any of that, I find it interesting you’ve come to that conclusion. But you may hold that opinion for as long as you’d like.
AS: You support a president that suspends habeas corpus. I’ve read it.
HH: I’m more interested in this book. Again, I would love a footnote.
AS: And you support his imposition of torture. I’ve read it.
HH: I would love a footnote at some point, and I have not. But I would like you to go back to the book again. When you write that…
AS: You don’t support the president’s detention policy?
HH: Again, Andrew, it’s your book. If you want to have me do an interview with you on your blog about my book at some time, I’d love to do that. But I want to focus on The Conservative Soul.
AS: But the basis of your arguments are entirely based upon your worldview. It’s perfectly up to me to be able to ask you to describe where you’re coming from, because you’re not simply asking these questions, Hugh.
HH: You can. I allowed you to do that.
AS: You are accusing and cross-examining.
AS: That’s the way you do these interviews.
HH: I’m just asking questions about what you wrote.
AS: No, you’re not. You’re asking loaded questions to which you know the answers, to trick people into…you do it all the time, Hugh. That’s your modus operandi.
HH: You quote a lot from Montaigne. What’s your favorite essay in Montaigne? There, is that a loaded question?
AS: No. I think if I had two favorite essays, I think De l’experience, which is the final essay in the collected essays, and the great Apology For Raymond Sebond, which is the central essay.
HH: And which translation did you use for the book?
AS: Donald Frame, whose translation is peerless. And if any of your readers want to read Montaigne, get that translation.
HH: I have it in front of me. I have it in my hands. My question is why didn’t you footnote your references to Montaigne?
AS: I don’t…none of my books are footnoted in the sense that they’re essays. I don’t want…this is an essay. I don’t want to clutter it up with all that. It’s…you can find…you can find these things. I’m not misrepresenting Montaigne.
HH: I’ll be right back with Andrew Sullivan. We’ve got another hour and fifteen minutes, so it’s going to be great fun on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Andrew Sullivan, on…my favorite essay of Montaigne’s is the education of children, the first book, number 26, in which he writes, the surest sign of wisdom is constant cheerfulness. You’re not very happy today, so I’d like you to enjoy the interview a little bit more. It’s really not an inquisition.
AS: Oh, it is an inquisition. You know it is.
HH: Okay. Let’s get…
AS: I’m having a blast on this tour. I…and as you know, I have plenty of…I’m running the cheesiest 80′s videos on my blog. I have fun all the time. I’m a very cheerful, happy person.
HH: All right.
AS: I just know Savonarola’s when I hear them.
HH: I just wanted to get…make sure that the audience understood that you were occasionally a happy guy.
AS: I’m extremely happy right now.
HH: Page 176…
AS: I’m very happy fighting back against ideologues and fanatics.
HH: Page 176…
AS: It gives me great joy to do so.
HH: Plato is telling us…you’re talking about from the Republic, the myth of the cave. Plato was telling us that seeing the truth is not completely beyond us. A few can wrestle, writes Andrew Sullivan, have wrestled themselves free of the bondage of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, self-interest, passion and misunderstanding, that human thought is err to. But this is rare. A Socrates or Jesus, or Mohammed, or Einstein, does not come every day. Andrew Sullivan, do you think that Mohammed and Einstein wrestled themselves free of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, passion?
AS: I think they certainly did so more than you or I, Hugh, don’t you?
HH: Well, but you’re holding them up as a standard for the ages.
AS: I’m saying that the part of that book that I’m talking about is how truth…I mean, what is…and the great question that Pilate asked, what is truth? The truth is not quite as easy and as simple as we sometimes think it is. And the truth about everything, the meaning of the whole universe, is something that is, by definition, very hard for humans to grasp. I mean, God, if God exists, must, by definition, be unknowable to us. So that anybody who claims they know exactly what God is, what His position is on the capital gains tax, that he’s a Republican or a Democrat, is just telling you they don’t know God, that there is a critical part of faith which must accept the ineffability of the Divine. And what I find very troubling about today’s…some of today’s, not everybody, but some of today’s fundamentalists is their absolute certainty not only about what God is, but their right to tell other people how to live their lives, according to their view of what God is.
HH: But do you think Socrates…
AS: The lack of humility among these people is staggering.
HH: …Jesus and Mohammed are all on the same plane morally?
AS: No, but they’re all part of the same search for this great truth about the meaning of our lives, and the meaning of the universe.
HH: And did one of them…
AS: And different people will accept…I’m writing this book for anybody, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic.
HH: So they’ve all got part of the truth?
AS: Everybody’s searching for the truth, yes. And the thing about truth is that there can be shades of it. You can capture a part of it, but not the whole of it. That’s what philosophy is about.
HH: I’ll be right back.
AS: That’s what faith is about.
HH: Andrew Sullivan is my guest. The book is The Conservative Soul. I’ll link it at Hughhewitt.com.
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HH: Andrew, last half hour, I wanted to get through the religion parts of the book in the first half hour, but I’ve still got a couple more questions. When you write about the Gospels, all of them, including some that were rejected by the early Church, which rejected Gospels do you think ought to be part of the canon?
AS: I don’t. I just think they’re interesting, and should be looked at as any sensible is. Can I just make a comment about how many advertisements you have on this show? You must be raking in a lot of money. It’s just interesting to hear a Christian network, where Jesus said you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven if you have any money at all, spending half the time raking in money. Do you find any conflict in that?
HH: It’s not a Christian network. I mean, Andrew, it’s not a Christian network.
AS: Salem Radio Network?
HH: No, it’s a publicly traded company, and this is a secular show heard on a hundred stations across the United States.
AS: Secular show? The Salem network, I was told, is a Christian talk radio show.
HH: Well, no, it’s a mistake. They have some Christian teaching and talk stations, but this is…I’m not one of them, and I’m not carried on them.
AS: Well, all I can say about…
HH: We’ve got Bill Bennett and Laura Ingraham and…
AS: …show is so many advertisements. I mean, it’s like been ten minutes sitting here waiting to come back on.
HH: I actually think it’s the industry norm, which is about 38 minutes of talk, versus 22 minutes of news, sports, weather, traffic and advertisements. And I think it’s about 12 minutes an hour of ads.
AS: Wow. It just seems forever.
HH: Well, sorry you didn’t like it, but that’s…we’ve got to make the wheels go ’round, and we’re successful. That’s why we’re not bankrupt like Air America, I guess. Andrew, going back, though, which of the non-canonical Gospels do you recommend to people?
AS: Well, I think what I would recommend is…to anybody, is to read, for example, Elaine Pagel’s work, and some of the amazing scholarship that’s happened in the last ten or twenty years, to see how Christianity, at its very core, was a very contentious and debated and quarrelsome organization. And people disagreed from the minute Jesus died and rose from the dead about what he meant, and they fought about it, and talked about it, and prayed about it, for two centuries and longer. And they still are, and we still are. And that’s not something to be frightened of. As Jefferson pointed out, inquiring into faith, thinking about your faith, doubting about your faith, is part of the process of believing. And the early Christians did it, we still do it, and there’s something about the certainty and intolerance of some contemporary Christian fundamentalists that I think that should be alien to the spirit of Jesus, and alien to the spirit of humility and faith that I’m trying to recover from the politicized Christians which you support so strongly.
HH: So there are no particular of the non-canonical Gospels you want to offer up as a good one?
AS: No, because I frankly think some of them are gobbledygook, and some of them have insights, but I think there’s a reason that the four Gospels were selected by the Church as being the most reliable, even though of course, they contradict each other, and contradict themselves internally, so that they are also fallible, obviously fallible as human documents. But I think they are inspired by this astonishing moment of God made man, called Jesus. And I think at the same time, they’re just words. And the real experience of Jesus is beyond words, and He’s definitely come into my life at times, and taken me by the lapels, and shaken me to my core, and told me to cut out the pride, cut out the certainty, and be humble before God. And I’ve had many experiences like that, and I was told I had a death sentence, and I went through a deep spiritual journey in that, as other people have done in different circumstances. And I learned that the key Christian virtue is humility and listening to God, not telling everybody else the way they should live their lives, let alone fusing faith with politics, and telling people, as Ann Coulter just did, if you don’t vote Republican, you’re Godless. That’s, I think, despicable and wrong.
HH: On page 210, you write that…
AS: Do you agree with me on that?
HH: I’ve got too many questions to debate Ann tonight.
AS: No, no. Answer me that.
HH: No, actually, I want to get to the interview.
AS: Do you think Ann Coulter…the words, using, writing a book called Godless is a despicable thing to write?
HH: It’s impossible to reach, for my audience, for them to get an understanding of who you are, Andrew, and what you’ve written, unless we proceed.
AS: Well, I think they need to understand better how you are, and who you support, and what your politics are, as well.
HH: I think, in fact, from my e-mails, they’re sensing, and I’ll just tell you this. I know you’re on the defensive here, and you’re worried about this, but they’re sensing great defensiveness here, that…
AS: I’m not defensive at all.
HH: All right. So let’s get back to the question. On page 210, you write that, “a core feature of fundamentalism is the notion that the end time will come.” Now does Roman Catholic doctrine believe in an end time?
AS: I think at some point, but it’s not the central focus of Catholicism at all.
HH: Do you believe in an end time?
AS: The focus of Catholicism…I think there may be at some point, yeah. But I’m not here to be quizzed on my…on catechism.
HH: Well, no, it’s just because you wrote this here, and I thought maybe you were trying to separate out from that, that you didn’t, that you rejected it.
AS: No, I think that there is a kind of…some people, a large number of people in America today are convinced, if you read the Left Behind series, it’s amazing. And Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also is convinced the world is coming to an end very soon. The early Christians were absolutely convinced the world was coming to an end imminently. You read the acts of the apostles, they’re convinced of it. Now they were wrong, weren’t they?
HH: Obviously, depending on…
AS: So the early Christians were wrong. St. Paul was wrong.
HH: Well, that’s what…I was coming to your qualification of St. Paul next. It was the last of my religion questions. You don’t like him much.
AS: Oh, I think that some of what St. Paul wrote…he’s a religious genius.
HH: But you said fatally…
AS: And he turned…but he’s definitely different than Jesus. Jesus didn’t construct a Church. Paul did. Jesus didn’t have a theology. Paul created one.
HH: This is where…
AS: So you have to understand the distinction between Jesus and Paul in order to understand Christianity at all.
HH: The line I’m reading from is on page 220. “The conservative account of Christianity, it is first and foremost of a single life, of one man, Jesus. It’s subsequently both an attempt to distill what it meant to be Jesus, most fatally, in the abstract religious genius of Paul.” And I…what do you mean by fatally there?
AS: Because if you just have doctrine, and you do not feel Jesus in your actual life, if you do not feel it in the practice of faith, if you just cling to doctrines and certitudes, you become what Jesus criticized, which was the Pharisees, who said oh, we’ve got it all down. We know what the laws are. And they did exactly to Jesus what you’re doing to me, which is ask them all these trick questions. And Jesus, actually, was smart enough to be silent, and to say no, what matters is love and forgiveness, and how we live our lives. And that’s what Jesus said.
HH: Well, Jesus didn’t write a book, though.
AS: Hugh, you and your pharisaical form of religion, and your cross-examination. You remind me exactly of the Pharisees and scribes in the Gospels.
HH: But Jesus didn’t write a book or go on a book tour, and you did.
AS: So what?
HH: And so when I ask you about what you’ve written in your book, it’s not really a trick question.
AS: Well, I’ve answered what you’ve asked me about that. I’m saying exactly that’s what I mean by…if you mistake doctrine for faith, you are confusing two things. That’s the answer to your question. So ask me another one.
HH: So when you write…and so Paul fatally…I still don’t understand what you think about Paul. Is Paul’s scripture inspired and part of a Christian’s package of…
AS: Yes, but it comes with it, and certain people, certain followers have taken Paul, and believed more in Paul’s certitudes, than Jesus’ example. And that is, I think, a mistake. And what I argue in the book is that taken to its logical conclusion can lead you away from Jesus, not towards him.
HH: All right. Now let’s go to…
AS: So understanding Paul properly, within the context of the Gospels, which is…the Gospels are the core of our faith. St. Paul is an attempt to create a theology out of it. You have to go back to the words of Jesus, as Jefferson did. You know, Jefferson cut out the words of Jesus that he thought were the core truths. By the way, Hugh, from what you’ve said, you don’t believe that America is a Christian nation.
HH: Again, I don’t think I’ve said that, or the opposite. I’m trying to ask questions.
AS: Well, let me ask you.
HH: Again, Andrew…
AS: Let me ask you…
HH: …I’ve invited you, and I’ll have you back to debate…
AS: You refuse to answer questions.
HH: I want to get through the book for people.
AS: You refuse to answer questions, because you know that if you…
HH: I do want to get through the book.
AS: …if you told the truth, if you told the truth about what you believe…
HH: No, I think you’re filibustering, Andrew. Andrew…
AS: your listeners would see you for what you are.
HH: Andrew, I think you’re filibustering, but I’ll make you an offer.
AS: I’m not. You are filibustering. I asked you a question. Answer my question.
HH: I will answer questions for you. (Duane,) who do we have on in the third hour?
AS: Answer my question.
HH: Oh, we have Michael (Barone) at 5:20, eh?
AS: Do you believe that America is a Christian nation?
HH: I believe that America is made up of Christians, but it is not a theocracy at all, no.
AS: So it’s a secular nation?
HH: It’s a secular nation, absolutely.
AS: Great, good.
HH: As I’ve written at great length.
AS: I hope your listeners heard that.
HH: Of course they heard it. They know I’m a Constitutional majoritarian. I wrote this…I talk about it every day. And so that’s what I want to get to, is your idea of government, at this point. First of all, just a note. I’m always alarmed when I find obvious errors in a book. And this was probably an oversight on your part. But Benjamin Disraeli did not bring universal suffrage to Great Britain, as you write on page 268.
AS: You mean he excluded women?
HH: Well, no, he also excluded a whole bunch of men. There was still a tax, you had to be a property holder, he excluded most of the rural poor. It was not even close.
AS: No, no, no. The point is that he brought a huge number…I mean, he faced down the Torry elites and brought in huge numbers of people into the…now if you want to be pedantic like this, which is the way you normally are, because you’re not interested in the real points, you’re interested in catching people out, because I’ve read your interviews, and listened to you. I know what you’re up to. Fine, yes. If you mean that…do you not disagree, do you disagree that he brought in huge numbers of people into the electoral system who weren’t there before?
HH: Yes, but you didn’t write that. You wrote universal suffrage, and I thought it was an error that should be noted, because small errors, and in fact, that’s kind of big, made in effort to prove a point…
AS: You’re pathetic. You really are a pathetic…you’re such a pathetic pedant. You really are.
HH: All right. Good. On that note…
AS: You missed the whole point of this book.
HH: We’ll be right back.
AS: You’re not interested in the truth, Hugh.
HH: Andrew Sullivan is my guest on the pathetic pedant show. Don’t go anywhere.