Lileks for the Defense
As for Andrew Sullivan, I used to read him regularly and have repeatedly invited him on the program. He has repeatedly refused, though he has committed to appear for two hours when his book comes out, provided we talk only about the book. His attacks on various writers are in something of a rotation, and generally proceed from some fact not in evidence. His most recent broadside proceeded from my column yesterday combined with my opinion from the time of the film’s debut that I didn’t believe the Passion of the Christ was anti-Semitic. I still don’t.
Sullivan’s “christianist” rhetoric, like a great deal of other similar rhetoric, is deeply offensive, and is in fact hate speech, designed not to describe but to incite, specifically to incite an emotional, irrational hatred of the person(s) to whom it is applied. Sullivan has never defined the term, but its accordian-like quality allows it to expand to take in Roman Catholic-turned-Presbyterian, Arlen Specter-supporting big tent Republican me. It is a label intended to be both derogatory and dismissive, one designed to avoid argument, especially arguments that can’t be replied to, for example, the argument that same sex marriage has never –not once in the history of all the states and the federal government– received the assent of a majority of legislators and the signature of the executive. It has never not been rejected by a majority of voters when placed before them in an initiative.
A few days ago I gave my reasons for supporting Israel, all five of them secular. In Painting the Map Red, I provided a detailed argument on why the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court imposing same sex marriage was deeply harmful to constitutional majoritarianism. My defense of the Harriet Miers nomination was based on the assumptions I had about the skills set of a White House Counsel and big firm managing partner, her view of executive powers in wartime, my understanding of whom the Framers had intended to sit on the court (and they certainly did not intend it to be the club of professors and appeals court judges) and the political consequences of the rejection of Ms. Miers. These are just three of many areas in which my political beliefs are formed from sources completely independent of my religious beliefs. The attempt to dismiss any commentator as “Christianist” has much in common with any of many other slurs intended to close down an argument before it begins.
Mostly, though, Sullivan’s invention and use of the bigoted term was intended as shorthand for those who think George Bush a very good man and a very good president. I am a defender of the president, though not when I think he or his Adminstration makes an error like the ports deal or the briefs in the Michigan affirmative action cases. Sullivan’s frenzied, sometimes even hysterical attacks on pundits and analysts who admire the president and his team are the means to understanding Sullivan. He is consumed by Bush hatred. So much so, in fact, that he has branched out into hating those who not only don’t hate Bush, but admire him.
I do believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Gonzales and Ashcroft have run the global war on terror about as well as it could have been run, and their commitment to its prosecution has been unyielding. I admire their courage and their consistency. This presidency is already among the most significant of our nation’s history, and like Reagan’s, will be admired for generations long after the Bush haters have been forgotten.
When the next president arrives in January, 2009, my opinion of him (or her) will largely be based upon his (or her) handling of the war and appointment of Supreme Court justices. The faith, or lack of it, of the president will not influence my opinion of their tenure, just as the faith or lack of it, doesn’t impact my assessment of doctors, lawyers, musicians, filmmakers, bloggers or other pundits.
Apart from faith, I do not, however, trust haters of any sort. Thus my contempt nad pity is reserved for anti-Semites, anti-gays, anti-blacks, and yes, anti-Christians. Bigots are, at their core, all the same, no matter what the object of their hatred. Sullivan has slipped –slowly, and by small steps– into the disfiguring hatred of bigotry. I hope for him, as for Mel Gibson, that he recovers.