Saturday, June 12, 2004
MAN IN THE GAP, OR RATHER MAKING THE GAP:
Returning even as Reagan Grief Week winds down to the subject of just “who” won the Cold War, American Prospect executive editor Michael Tomasky finds the one man who really did change history with a single decree — former Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn.
To make a long story short, Horn was the one who decided, on Sept. 10, 1989, to permit East Germans ostensibly vacationing in that nominally-allied but slowly-less-communist country, that international treaties on caring for refugees trumped Hungary’s agreement with the GDR to not permit that country’s citizens to emigrate westward to Austria and, eventually, West Germany, where they were automatically qualified for citizenship.
As anyone alive at the time remembers, that was the straw that broke the Warsaw Pact’s back. Hungary and Poland had slowly been liberalizing, but suddenly the East German state, deprived of its power to prevent its citizens from fleeing, fell into civil disorder that only ended when Egon Krenz, the suddenly-appointed party leader, decided to open the borders and thus turn the Berlin Wall, the symbol of Cold War divisions between nations, into just an ugly piece of architecture one had to crawl over to get to the Kurfürstendamm or wherever. East Germany from thereon in was living on borrowed time and merged with West Germany a year or so later.
Then came Czechoslovakia, later to divorce into the Czech Republic and Slovakia somewhat amicably; then Bulgarian upstarts began the process of ending communism there by taking ten minutes to arrest the aging Todor Zhivkov; finally the year ended with Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu going down in a hail of bullets. Not a single Soviet ally in Eastern Europe remained in communist hands.
As Tomasky sums up:
That was the end of the East. It took until 1991 for the Soviet Union to close up shop officially, but it was clear by the fall of 1989 that the Communist era was over. And the end began not on Pennsylvania Avenue, but at the Austria-Hungary border.
Were those border guards thinking of Ronald Reagan as they cut that barbed wire? Was Horn infused with the great man’s spirit as he made his world-changing decision? Alas, there exists little evidence that the answer to either of these questions is yes. Instead, as Horn said: “There was no other way. We had to look for the humanist solution, no matter what sort of conflict might arise. It was quite obvious to me that this would be the first step in a landslide-like series of events.” The “humanist solution.” As Reagan and his admirers devoted considerable energy to denunciations of humanism throughout the 1980s, Horn’s explanation of his brave action does not sound, to my ear, very Reagan-like at all.
This version of the collapse of the East is, I’d wager, not one you’ve read in the last few days. Or, for that matter, the last few years. The American right has gone to Herculean lengths to cement the Reagan mythology and the story line that puts Reagan at the center of communism’s collapse has taken firm hold. Arguing against it is tough work. The eminent historian John Patrick Diggins did precisely that in TAP’s December 2003 issue; far from expressing the values of Western conservatism, Diggins wrote, “the Eastern European forces of freedom that courageously took to the streets to overthrow communism... represented the three great antagonists of conservatism: the youth culture, the intellectuals of the ‘60s generation, and the laboring classes that still favored Solidarity over individualism.”
He is exactly right. It is not an argument, admittedly, that will have its day this week or next, or even anytime in the near future. But it is one well worth remembering, this week especially.
We’d also like to add one more observation. Well, two.
First is that we’ve heard a lot this week about how, before Reagan came in, a sort of equanimity was taking hold regarding perceptions of the Soviet Union in the West and it took his “evil empire” speech to set everyone straight.
Well, on the surface, OK. There was a distinct sense in some quarters that maybe the Soviets and us could share the world after all, and we could all help out by being less critical of how they chose to run their country. We don’t deny that.
But what conservatives conveniently leave out of this is the causality. This didn’t just happen because everyone in the West went and dropped acid. This happened because of things like My Lai, Chile, Suharto and apartheid. Things that made it difficult to argue that we were on the side inherently more moral. Things that were supported in the name of opposing Communism that differed from it only in that the rigid hand of the state crushed dissent in the name of preserving free enterprise rather than proletarian revolution. Things that bring to mind Tolstoy’s famous and unforgettable (and quintessentially Russian) saying relating to cats and dogs, with conservatives emphasizing the modifiers and liberals looking at the noun.
If conservatives had taken the time and effort to try to come up with a way to explain, or help us explain, how despite those things the free world was still freer than the People’s World, rather than just waving the flag, they might sound more honest proclaiming that part of Reagan’s legacy today.
Second, we were genuinely moved by the services today. The Simi Valley services, with the eulogies by Reagan¹s surviving children, were actually better than the National Cathedral one. We sang along with some of the patriotic songs despite having heard them several million times already this week. And who cannot be moved by the site of Nancy Reagan succumbing to grief one final time on her husband’s coffin, even if mainly by reference to similar scenes one may have witnessed? Pain and grief are universal. You could see that woman finally having to give way to her widowhood.
We remember also the guy shown saluting in Times Square throughout the entire evening service. There was adulation that was still evident on many faces of members of the public shown on TV this week. Even if we didn’t share it, and critique it, we still would like to remind most on our side that it is a very real political fact, however much we may resent that and its practical effects, and that the way to deal with it is not to try to tear it down (you’ll fail and hurt yourself in the process) but to ask ourselves, where among ourselves might American liberals find a leader who inspires something similar in the public? (Besides this guy, of course).
posted by Sully 6/12/2004 12:56:00 AM
YOU WERE SAYING ...:
Jo collects some of Sullivan’s more hysterical pronouncements over the past three years or so, and revises the words of a John Prine classic here.
posted by Sully 6/12/2004 12:50:00 AM
WITH A FATHER LIKE THAT ...:
We liked Bush Sr.’s speech too — it was better delivered than anything he ever gave as president — but we thought one line in it was more revealing about the speaker than his subject.
“From Ronald Reagan, I learned courage ...”
George H.W. Bush, barely out of his teens, piloted a bombing mission in the South Pacific which he continued despite taking heavy damage from Japanese anti-aircraft fire. So bad that, after completing the mission nonetheless, he had to bail on the plane not knowing for sure if he’d left two other guys to die (later on in life, he would say he was sure they had). He got decorated for this. And it takes a guy who never even served in combat to teach him courage?
Granted, there are different types of courage. And we don’t necessarily buy into the growing right-wing standard that war is the only place where one can learn or demonstrate courage. Still ...
posted by Sully 6/12/2004 12:42:00 AM
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Just where did Sully get the idea that “almost everyone concedes his historical significance. But that wasn’t what was said at the time”? Of course now that he’s dead and 15 years from the White House everyone is going to look at him in a historical perspective.
Indeed, of the nine quotes offered in something that looks suspiciously like an RNC-fomented talking-points memo, only the very first, from Schlesinger, addresses the question of how history would see Reagan. The others are all very hot, immediate criticism of things Reagan was doing at the time.
And did you notice something else? Besides Schlesinger, only one other quote comes from the second term, when people have to concede that a presidency is not some fleeting four-year loss of mind but an institution.
And — surprise — that quote comes from John Kerry. A quote in which Kerry doesn’t even use Reagan’s name. You knew there had to be an agenda here somewhere (besides the obvious, of course).
Then Sullivan follows this up with the debatable assumption that Star Wars is what brought down the USSR. Even granting this, it’s not even true on the propaganda. It was the possibility of Star Wars in this folklore that brought the Soviets to the table, not the actual program (which was a microcosm of the whole Reagan Cold War strategy: an elegant bluff, as we said earlier, that would have been seen very differently and resulted in very different history had it been called.
UPDATE: Sidney Blumenthal lends support for this over at Salon:
At the October 1986 summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Reagan had agreed to eliminate all nuclear weapons, to the consternation of his advisors, until Gorbachev insisted that testing for the Star Wars missile defense shield in outer space be suspended. Two of Reagan’s utopian dreams collided. But after the exposure of the Iran-Contra scandal, Gorbachev furiously rewrote the script, dropping the objection to Star Wars. (Nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov told him it was a fantasy.)
As well as truly stating what Reagan did as far as ending the Cold War:
Reagan did not bring about the downfall of the Soviet Union, which was crumbling from terminal internal decay. But to the degree that he gave Gorbachev political time and space, he lent support to the liberalizing reform that hastened the end.
Via Approximately Perfect we get this reality check on Reagan-as-conquering-hero from a former U.S. correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail.
It was his arms buildup, Republican admirers say, and his menacing rhetoric that brought the Soviets to their knees and changed the world forever. He was a pleasant man, the 40th president, which makes this fairy tale easier to swallow than some of history's other canards. Truth be known, however, the Iron Curtain’s collapse was hardly Ronald Reagan's doing.
It was Mikhail Gorbachev, who with a sweeping democratic revolution at home and one peace initiative after another abroad, backed the Gipper into a corner, leaving him little choice — actors don't like to be upstaged — but to concede there was a whole new world opening up over there.
Glasnost and perestroika became the new vernacular. For those in the White House like Richard Perle, the prince of darkness who still thought it was all a sham, Gorby now began a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan. He released the dissident icon Andrei Sakharov and hundreds of other political prisoners. He made big strides on freedom of the press, immigration and religion. He told East European leaders that the massive Soviet military machine would no longer prop up their creaking dictatorships. He began the process of something unheard of in Soviet history — democratic elections.
By now, the U.S. administration was reeling. Polls were beginning to show that, of all things unimaginable, a Soviet leader was the greatest force for world peace. An embarrassed Mr. Reagan finally responded in kind. Nearing the end of his presidency, he came to Moscow and he signed a major arms-control agreement and warmly embraced Mr. Gorbachev. A journalist asked the president if he still thought it was the evil empire. “No,” he replied, “I was talking about another time, another era.”
The recasting of the story now suggests that President Reagan’s defence-spending hikes — as if there hadn’t been American military buildups before — somehow intimidated the Kremlin into its vast reform campaign. Or that America’s economic strength — as if the Soviets hadn’t always been witheringly weak by comparison — made the Soviet leader do it.
In fact, Mr. Gorbachev could have well perpetuated the old totalitarian system. He still had the giant Soviet armies, the daunting nuclear might and the chilling KGB apparatus at his disposal.
As for the Gipper, he was bold and wise enough, to shed his long-held preconceptions and become the Russian’s admirable companion in the process.
In the collapse of communism he deserves credit not as an instigator, but an abettor. Best Supporting Actor.
Mr. Martin (no relation to the Canadian PM, we imagine) gets it right, reminding the readers as we did that Gorbachev, not Reagan, was the man with the hand that could sign the right papers to really end things, and also touching on the fact that Reagan’s only-Nixon-could-go-to-China moment was not universally adored by Reagan’s base at that time. We do, in fact, distinctly remember Howard Phillips (a big-time conservative back then but a nobody now, whose most lasting achievement was suggesting to Jerry Falwell that he set up some sort of activist group) calling Reagan a “useful idiot”* and:
The hawks were also mistaken about what steps were needed in the final stage to bring about the dismantling of the Soviet empire. During Reagan’s second term, when he supported Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform efforts and pursued arms reduction agreements with him, many conservatives denounced his apparent change of heart. William F. Buckley urged Reagan to reconsider his positive assessment of the Gorbachev regime: “To greet it as if it were no longer evil is on the order of changing our entire position toward Adolf Hitler.” George Will mourned that “Reagan has accelerated the moral disarmament of the West by elevating wishful thinking to the status of political philosophy.”
Let’s see you say that at the funeral, guys.
ADDENDUM: We remember that even at the end of the Reagan administration some conservatives were still pillorying Reagan for this. John Lofton, famously eccentric conservative Christian columnist then at the Washington Times (and now nowhere that we can tell, thank God, although it wouldn’t surprise us if NewsMax, CNS, WorldNutDaily or some similar organization had given him a home), wrote a whole column around the time Reagan left downgrading every one of the achievements of his presidency as touted by some other rightie (Bob Tyrrell, perhaps). Among other things, he stated clearly the hard-liner objection to the INF treaty and others: the Soviets violate every treaty they sign, so why sign a treaty with them? Someone should track Lofton down now and see what he has to say.
Slate’s David Greenberg also takes up the subject of Reaganite and anti-Reaganite mythmaking in a piece that’s worth your attention. He’s actually harsher than we were on the subject of Reagan’s temperament, but also hammers on Reagan not being the primarily responsible party for the Cold War. His conclusion — that Reagan’s shrewd pragmatism was his most underappreciated virtue — is an interesting contrast with Amenorrheic Annie’s take that he wasn’t (as supplied by Steve Mussina).
And on the subject of AIDS, which by and large the major media have avoided or downplayed when discussing Reagan’s legacy, Bruce Garrett has some interesting information (in addition to the press conference transcripts you’ve already read) about how Reagan responded to Ryan White, the young Indiana boy who got the disease from a blood transfusion and became the first face of AIDS in America. And the information about White himself was taken directly from the website White’s family set up that still exists, not some gay propaganda rumor.
*(added later). Dennis Miller, back when he was still creative, relevant and funny, came up with a comeback line for this that was so great and sounded so much like something Reagan might actually have said: “Well, at least I’m still useful”).
posted by Sully 6/10/2004 11:39:00 PM
THEY THAT SEE YET ARE STILL BLIND:
Attaturk at Rising Hegemon looks at the way Bush’s clothes keep disappearing and reappearing for Sullivan and concludes:
... Dubya is not the beflightsuited manly man of virtue that Sully occasionally opines about, but rather, by American standards are dangerous and callow fanatic who is a big fan of making alleged “evildoers” suffer. There was more to his mockery of Carla Faye Tucker begging for her life than just bizarre behavior, there was sadism.
Today, Sullivan sees the sadism. For this alone Bush should have his ass shipped back to Crawford (though there are numerous others).
Yet, Sully will undoubtedly snap back into some sort of insane immaturity and find Bush’s STRENGTH compelling in the future. That and the pushing conservativism keeps me financially better off considerations that adds up to hypocrisy.
Sully has yet to take the final path and see the truth for what it really is, that this outward strength, is really the cover for what is in actuality the shallow “pick the wings off a fly” vileness that actually makes up Bush’s personality.
(Emphasis in original).
posted by Sully 6/10/2004 11:28:00 PM
George Cerny takes note of Sullivan’s boast that he’s written over a quarter of a million words (written, one wonders, or quoted as well?) and wonders just how difficult that really was.
He does this by way of quoting, in its entirety, a classic old joke about ... jokes, the one about the old guys who tell the same jokes so often they just number them instead (actually, George, best punchline we ever heard: one of the old guys says "247" or something like that and no one laughs. Later someone in the know about this asks why they didn’t laugh and is told, “Oh, that fool Lefkowitz can never do a Swedish accent right.” Actually, it’s more of a sequel joke).
He then suggests something similar for The Blog Queen:
I offer, in the hope of easing his burden, some preliminary notes toward a comprehensive list.
1: "The United States is morally superior to murderous terrorists."
2: "The left does not grasp this."
3: "Europe does not grasp this."
3-a "The French."
4: "They want us to lose."
5: "Bush is a great leader."
6: "More excellent news."
6-a "Another reason to be optimistic, if only somewhat."
7: "This is not a failure. It is, instead an opportunity.
8: "I don't know what to think, but not all hope is lost."
9: "Bush's adviser/cabinet member _________ deserves the blame for this failure."
9-a: Karl Rove
9-b: John Ashcroft
9-c: George Tenet (obsolete)
10: "I'm starting to lose confidence in President Bush."
11: "Thank God, Bush has finally started taking control of the situation by clearly stating a coherent policy."
12: "Off to Provincetown..."
13: "Lecture/Book Tour"
14: "Pledge Week!"
15: "Site Traffic reports"
16: "Why oh why do the Republicans hate gays so much?" (see 9-a)
17: "When will the Democrats show some leadership?"
18: Flypaper (# retired)
19: "The mainstream media cannot be trusted."
19-a: NY Times
20: "_______ on the (left/right) said something outrageous."
20-a "Why doesn't everyone on the (left/right) condemn ________? Are they not outraged? Do they agree?"
21: "I've been wrong. Events have proven this beyond any doubt, forcing me to rethink much of what I believed, and to examine what I wrote in the past. I owe some apologies." (Just kidding)
posted by Sully 6/10/2004 05:15:00 PM
WHAT HE MISSES OUT ON NOT READING THE BLOGS WE READ:
The very liberal Steve Mussina had that Spc. Baker story almost three weeks ago.
As usual, Sullivan is like The New York Times in not admitting the roles of its lesser brethren in breaking important stories.
posted by Sully 6/10/2004 05:08:00 PM
AT WHAT POINT IN TEH CYCLE IS HE NOW?:
Jo Fish does the honors:
Today’s columns have to be among the best of Andrew-does-Sybil bits. It might just make it to the Hall o’ Fame. Start with the “take-down” of the French (what else is new). Entirely missing the point that democracy is a product of some weird combination of culture and necessity, Andrew still believes we can “export” democracy like we export agricultural products. He sticks to the republican party line, just couched in slightly nicer terms that the cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys are all hosed up and blew their chance at empire because they were not tuff-enuff. Who now has designs on Tyranny and Colonialism in the [region] middle-east? Not France, they’ve got the T-Shirt.
But then the Duchess rolls over to and shows his soft white belly, hoping for a few pats for being “tough” on the 1600 Crew and his fellow Republicans. Taking righteous exception to some old Gipper-era press transcripts about AIDS that have surfaced, he's appropriately indignant. Fucking Duh. Those transcripts are the pornography of indifference; and remember Andrew waxes rhapsodic over the guy who directed the porn ... so appropriately indignant and transparently pandering to other conservatives who want to sit on the fence with him and express outrage with at no cost. Gee.
posted by Sully 6/10/2004 05:03:00 PM
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
STEVE! STEVE! STEVE! (OFF-TOPIC):
Steve Gilliard is not only, we think, the best African-American commentator out there, bar none, he’s one of the best altogether. So perhaps it’s only telling that he does this on his own blog rather than on the Times op-ed page.
Why do we say this? Posts that include pithy, quotable aphorims like this:
Americans like to pretend history is what happens to other people
Ouch! As good as anything Fitzgerald or Henry Ford might have said on the subject.
He also put up this great one about black unlove for Reagan.
posted by Sully 6/09/2004 10:26:00 PM
SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS:
WareMouse with an acid comment on Sullivan’s teenage Reagan button:
Wow, tough guy. Bet that really showed those ruffians on the debate team who was running things.
No, you mean the rugby team, as in the guys who found Sulliteen’s dairy confessing to his crushes on various members, then read all over the school PA.
(Also a nice one in this vein here)
posted by Sully 6/09/2004 10:08:00 PM
CAPTAIN BAREBACK RIDES AGAIN:
For the record: Reagan didn’t give me HIV. Another gay man did, with my unwitting consent. I did practise safer sex, but it obviously failed.
“Unwitting consent”? How in the name of logic is that possible? Aren’t the two terms mutually contradictory, as in, one can only consent to that which one is aware of? What would he say if Bill Clinton said he’d given his “unwitting consent” to that blow job? We’d laugh.
Note also that Sully here says he practiced “safer” sex? As we seem to recall, it was like the timeworn adage about pregnancy ... either sex is/was safe, or it wasn’t. No shades of gray there.
If Sullivan cares enough about Reagan’s “clarity” and “honesty,” he ought to at least respect those qualities and save the self-pitying weasel phrases for himself.
And you wonder how he lets Bush get away with it for so long? Or why we keep linking to those ads?
posted by Sully 6/09/2004 05:49:00 PM
OH, THOSE HYSTERICAL MUSLIMS!:
Would Sully be so dismissive if, say, a Jewish group objected to a movie ad or something that depicted swastikas on a huge billboard near the synagogue?
posted by Sully 6/09/2004 02:31:00 PM
Jo Fish, as usual, reporting for duty with yet more proof that, as Mickey Kaus once said, Sullivan really doesn’t understand America as much as he likes to think he does.
Logan Circle, TX, Guy is even more vicious:
Basically, Andrew could be really really cool and different by liking Reagan as a British teen; and there’s no need to worry about little things like funding brutal dictatorships that murder their citizens in Latin America, because Reagan was all about “convictions.”
posted by Sully 6/09/2004 02:27:00 PM
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
TODAY THE SOVIETS, TOMORROW THE SWEDES:
George Cerny wonders whether Sullivan should be eligible for a Sontag Award or something like that.
Also, he gives a good critique and perspective on the famous or infamous “evil empire” speech, noting what’s really scary about it.
This is, in fact, an excellent example of yet another point we wanted to make in Reagan’s wake: just why so many on the left were opposed to the kind of anti-communism Reagan espoused.
Basically, we couldn’t help but see that, to its exponents, especially after McCarthy, anti-communism was pretty much anti-liberalism as well. What they were gunning for was not limited to gulags and central planning. They were going after the entire idea that government has a role to play in mitigating the effects of a capitalistic economy on its population and society. Taking down communism, as the recent history of the American Republican Party unquestionably demonstrates, was the beginning and not the end.
No, this hardly meant that communism as it was (and is) should be defended by anyone. But conservative pundits who still go to lunch on this whipsawing cannot pretend this wasn’t obvious even to them, and why liberals should have gone as whole-hog enthusiastic as they did over a movement that so clearly had them marked as next in line.
posted by Sully 6/08/2004 05:11:00 PM
THE GIPPER AND THE VIRUS:
Reminded by too many people of the fact that he is, you know, not only gay but HIV-positive, and that there is no really good way to play Reagan’s legacy in this respect, Sullivan at last chooses to respond in the dark hours (again, it is really annoying that he claims it’s 3 a.m. when it’s not).
Expanding on his earlier passing remark, Captain Bareback has no choice but to admit that “Reagan should indeed be faulted for not doing more to warn people of the dangers of infection early enough.” So far so good. But then he goes, as anyone working this subject does, to Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On ... and then seriously misrepresents it.
Yes, Shilts is unsparing, as he should be, regarding the resistance and denial to AIDS prevention and awareness within the gay community and its institutions at that time. But there’s a fair share of blame to go around, and neither the public-health establishment (Robert Gallo and his massive ego, which held up an effective HIV test for a crucial year after it had been developed by ... the French, deserves as much individual blame as anyone in that narrative) nor the administration comes off easy.
What Shilts faults Reagan for doing, or rather not doing, was publicly acknowledging the AIDS crisis until 1987, after the last election in which he could have been an issue had passed, at which point his administration was already weaker politically than Clinton’s at the comparable time (please, don’t argue this point, we remember it all too well).
Yes, there were considerable scientific obstacles and yes, direct exhortations to use condoms from Reagan himself probably would not have been heeded. But that was not what people on the front lines like Fauci and Kramer were asking most for.
One sentence, just one sentence, from Reagan in 1982 or 1983 to the effect that this disease was public health crisis might have given nervous moderate Republicans in Congress the cover they needed to vote for more money for education and prevention ... and more importantly, for things like research efforts to try and identify those possibly infected who were still out there cruising bathhouses and telling people (and themselves) that purplish mark on their back was just a bruise they got while working out ... just a bruise. Things like that, targeted appropriately, might have made a difference to hundreds of lives. Yet Reagan didn’t speak up until more American lives had been lost than on 9/11, Antietam and D-Day put together, basically calling for the locking of the barn door after most of the horses had been stolen.
Here’s the damage:
What did this mean in practical terms? Most importantly, AIDS research was chronically under-funded. When doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health asked for more funding for their work on AIDS, they were routinely denied it. Between June 1981 and May 1982 the CDC spent less than $1 million on AIDS and $9 million on Legionnaire’s Disease. At that point more than 1,000 of the 2,000 reported AIDS cases resulted in death; there were fewer than 50 deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease. This drastic lack of funding would continue through the Reagan years.
When health and support groups in the gay community were beginning to initiate education and prevention programs, they were denied federal funding.
When Rock Hudson, a friend and colleague of the Reagans, was diagnosed with AIDS and died in 1985 (one of the 20,740 cases reported that year), Reagan still did not speak out as president. When family friend William F. Buckley, in a March 18, 1986, New York Times opinion article, called for mandatory testing for HIV and said that HIV-positive gay men should have this information forcibly tattooed on their buttocks (and IV-drug users on their arms) Reagan said nothing. In 1986 (after five years of complete silence), when Surgeon General C. Everett Koop released a report calling for AIDS education in schools, Bennett and Bauer did everything possible to undercut and prevent funding for Koop’s too-little-too-late initiative. Reagan, again, said and did nothing. By the end of 1986, 37,061 AIDS cases had been reported; 16,301 people had died.
But the irony is that portraying Reagan as being anti-gay because of his religious convictions, while wrong, is, in fact, the kind interpretation. Looking at history it is clear that Reagan’s inaction during the first decade of the AIDS epidemic was due to indifference, emotional callousness and greed for political power.
It’s that that Sullivan’s second-greatest hero has to be called to account for.
UPDATE: Sebastian seconds much of this and adds:
Some (yes, we’re looking at you Andrew Sullivan!) would give Reagan credit for spending $5.7 billion on AIDS during his presidency. What Andrew won't say (or acknowledge) is that barely half (56 percent) of this was discretionary spending, the bulk of the remainder the result of entitlements (primarily Medicare & Medicaid.) In 1984, Robinson’s “large sum of money specifically earmarked for AIDS” was a whopping $60 million. Discretionary spending on AIDS did not exceed $1 billion until FY1989 (at $1.3 billion.)
LATER UPDATE: From Atrios we get to read this post about just how (un)seriously the Reagan administration took AIDS.
We also read here, on the same blog, that Larry Kramer, whom Sullivan cited, is about to nail Reagan to the wall in his usual style in the next issue of The Advocate.
posted by Sully 6/08/2004 01:26:00 AM
Monday, June 07, 2004
Sebastian on Sullivan’s preference for using Democratic Underground as wholly representative of the left.
Watching Andrew Sullivan regularly link to DU — when he could quote Atrios, DailyKos, MaxSpeak or Pandagon (to name a few,) is like watching a one-trick pony that’s forgotten its only trick.
posted by Sully 6/07/2004 03:05:00 PM
REPUBLICANS ONLY NEED APPLY FOR THIS LEVEL OF INDULGENCE:
I even got to go to a rally where he promised to raise our taxes. It was a gaffe. We didn’t care. We loved him.
Let no one ever take him seriously again when he raps on Bill CLinton for character reasons.
posted by Sully 6/07/2004 02:35:00 PM
THERE YOU GO AGAIN ...:
Virginia Postrel’s post is not (surprise) as Sullivan represents it, as you might have guessed. In fact, the quoted bit is actually a quote in and of itself of an old book review her magazine chose to repost on the occasion of Reagan’s ride into the sunset, merely arguing that, back in the early 1980s, some of Reagan’s critics chose to differ with the argument, now obvious in retrospect, that the Soviet economy was slowly rusting out.
What’s unusual in this, as opposed to the innumerable other instances when Sullivan misrepresents something he’s linked to, is that in this case one needn’t even click to see the misrepresentation take place. Schlesinger is quoted as saying that, based on his anecdotal experience in Moscow (a standard no economist of any political leaning, especially those familiar with how the Soviet economy worked and didn’t work), the Soviet economy was not on the verge of collapse. That does not equal a viewpoint that the Soviet Union was not evil.
It took a long Google search, but here’s something written by Schlesinger seven years ago that suggests he did not have a favorable view of the Soviet Union or its governing philosophy:
The twentieth century has no doubt been, as Isaiah Berlin has said, “the most terrible century in Western history." But this terrible century has — or appears to be having — a happy ending. As in melodramas of old, the maiden democracy, bound by villains to the railroad track, is rescued in the nick of time from the onrushing train. As the century draws to a close, both major villains have perished, fascism with a bang, communism with a whimper.
Democracy, striding confidently into the 1900s, found itself almost at once on the defensive. The Great War, exposing the pretension that democracy would guarantee peace, shattered old structures of security and order and unleashed angry energies of revolution — revolution not for democracy but against it. Bolshevism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, militarism in Japan all despised, denounced, and, wherever they could, destroyed individual rights and the processes of self-government.
Democracy requires capitalism, but capitalism does not require democracy, at least in the short run.
Capitalism has proved itself the supreme engine of innovation, production, and distribution.
Postrel is at least honest enough to note that the perception of the Soviet economy as vital and alive was shared by some on the right as well, which brings us to the real issue that neocons desperately wish to duck today: how can they reconcile their own beliefs that the Soviet Union was a lightbulb slowly burning out with the establishment of things with titles like the Committee on the Present Danger to argue that the United States needed to arm, arm and arm right now to confront the Soviet menace? The criticism some of us have made in retrospect was, maybe your need for a military buildup was not as directly correlated to the Soviet threat as you think? Remember how badly Team B, the neocon hucksters (one of whom was a yet-unknown junior wonk named Paul Wolfowitz) got it wrong in the late 1970s by arguing that the CIA had consistently underestimated future Soviet military capabilities and that their approach, wildly overestimating them, was morally superior because at least their fears were in the right place? (No one involved in Team B should be allowed to take credit for realizing the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse because they sure as hell didn’t think so at the time. Matt Yglesias has a prime example of how one of themost distinguished B-boys, Richard Pipes, is trying to have it both ways even now). Money quote from Zakaria:
Describing the Soviet Union, in 1976, as having “a large and expanding Gross National Product,” it predicted that it would modernize and expand its military at an awesome pace. For example, it predicted that the Backfire bomber “probably will be produced in substantial numbers, with perhaps 500 aircraft off the line by early 1984.” In fact, the Soviets had 235 in 1984.
With enemies like these, the Soviet Union didn’t need friends.
Actually, one has to wonder, really, if the acceptance on both sides of a USSR that was here to stay has more to do with simply preferring a world largely governed by known quantities, a world where assumptions could be safely made and acted upon, a world where both sides knew the devil as opposed to the uncertainties we are now seeing were behind Iron Curtain #1. To our collection there was almost no serious thinking on either side about what would happen when the Cold War ended until just before it did.
QUICK UPDATE: Atrios, who probably would have saved us the time had we waited to read him this morning, agrees.
posted by Sully 6/07/2004 01:33:00 PM
SO GO, ALREADY!:
Roger Ailes on how Sullivan’s inability to ignore the Republican Party’s increasing enshrinement of homophobia as a fundamental value is getting tired.
UPDATE: Atrios, in the same post linked to above, juxtaposes this with the Kushner-bashing.
posted by Sully 6/07/2004 01:25:00 PM
OUR RESEARCH DEPARTMENT AT WORK:
Jo Fish shows Sullivan that the powers of the new Iraqi government are indeed limited.
posted by Sully 6/07/2004 12:39:00 AM