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Bring Out The Comfy Chair

Thursday, October 26, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Andrew Sullivan asserts that his appearance yesterday wasn’t an interview, but an “inquisition.”

The odd thing is that here are the questions Andrew holds out as beyond the bounds:

“Are you a Christian?”

“Do you believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead?”

“Do you consider yourself under the authority of Benedict, or before him, John Paul II?”

I agree with Andrew’s point that some commentators post disgusting things at bulletin boards.  We take them down as quickly as we can when they appear at Townhall.com, and I am generally against message boards for that reason, but I lost that argument when Townhall.com launched.

But assinging me the sins of the haters is a silly argument, like many in his book. The interview is tough but fair, and my observation that he didn’t know the basics of American Constitutional law wasn’t an inuslt, but an obviously correct assessment.

The reason Andrew has been the subject of quite a lot of scorn today is that he could not defend his mess of a book.  He wrote a book about theology, but objected to questions about theology.

He made obvious errors of fact, and objected to those errors being pointed out to the audience.

And he is simply ill-informed about American Constitutional law, and I called him on it.  It is, I suspect, embarrassing for a would-be intellectual giant to be called on a lack of knowledge so profound on a subject on which he has presumed to write, especially as one theme of the book is the necessity of “knowing what you do not know.”  But I didn’t write the book, and he is trying to promote it.  Is it Andrew’s position that he is above criticism and that his errors should go unremarked upon as an exercise of courtesy?

Look.  Here’s an excerpt from p.240 of The Conservative Soul:

There is, in other words, a presumption in the way a government interacts with its own citizens.  That presumption is that they will treat each citizen absolutely alike, unless it has a very compelling reason not to.  And it is up to the government to prove it has a good reason to discriminate rather than up to a citizen to prove she is equal under the law. 

This is not just wrong, but completely and undeniably wrong, and any law student in America who has had one semester of Con Law knows it.  Sullivan does not have any legal training, but if he is going to hold forth on the law, he needs to own his own lack of basic knowledge and get someone to read the manuscript who has a clue. 

This matters because so much of Sullivan’s argument about same sex marriage turns on this flatly erroneous assertion as to the fundamental premise of what government must do and prove when it comes to making distinctions between its citizens.  I suspect similar errors in Sullivan’s statements about Catholic theology, but I am not well read there so I leave it to others to review his book and his interview statements. 

In short, I think the book is an attempt to pass off easily exposed half truths and worse as objectively true assertions of fact in the service of a political agenda that Andrew Sullivan passionately wants the country to embrace but which it refuses to do.  His anger throughout the interview stemmed, I have to conclude, from the sudden appearance across the microphone of a host who had read the book in detail, could call out its many flaws, and who refused to be diverted into non-book related subjects which required no defense of his own written words.

Sullivan is, I think, incapable of defending the book so he attacked me.  Fine.  The transcript and audio are available for all to read and hear. 

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