"You're a funny man, Sully ...

that's why I'm going to kill you last."


Saturday, January 15, 2005


We haven’t really said much about Sullivan’s admittedly proper attention to the torture issue, other than to note that he has himself to blame intellectually, but apparently others do.

Mark Kleiman has an excellent post in response to Sullivan’s Times Book Review piece on the subject, noting how terminally confused his response to Kerry over it was:

But are they right to criticize Kerry for not being louder and more persistent in his criticism? My instincts are the same as theirs: Torture is horrible; the President was responsible; his opponent should have made it an issue, thus giving the American people a chance to prove to one another, and to the world, that they still revere their flag enough not to want it sullied by things done in dungeons.

But if Sullivan and Djerijian are right to think that raising the torture issue would have been a losing move for Kerry in terms of votes, then is it really right to say that he should done it anyway?

Making it an issue in the campaign would have fanned the
partisanship that Sullivan and Djerijian correctly say made the issue hard to address. The more Kerry talked about torture, the more it would have been perceived as a Democratic/Republican, anti-Bush/pro-Bush issue, and the more deeply the President’s defenders would have dug themselves in to the propostion that what we’re doing isn’t torture and that anyway the people we’re doing it to deserve to be tortured.

Worse, had Kerry run against torture, BushCo would now be in a position to claim that the electorate had validated the decision to do all of the disgusting stuff Sullivan quotes official reports as having been done.

In the end, the best way to end torture would have been to defeat the
President who ordered it and elect in his place someone who was in fact opposed to it, even if not very noisily. Kerry didn’t have to make torture a central issue in the campaign to give the anti-torture crowd someone to vote for. Djerijian, like Sullivan and like me, would have been happy to hear Kerry make torture an issue, because it would have meant that Kerry trusted the voters to make the right choice on that issue. But, as Sullivan acknowledges, the voters probably weren’t to be trusted in that way, especially since they would have been told relentlessly that Kerry’s denunciation of torture constituted an attack on the men and women in uniform.

So Djerijian's argument reduces to saying that he wanted Kerry to denounce torture because he wanted Kerry to show that he had some moral center and some guts. Again, I felt the same way. But do we really want, as President, someone so interested looking gutsy than in stopping the horror?

If Kerry had run on the torture issue, and then lost as narrowly as he did, the media would have been full of denunciations of the liberal purism and moralism that made him prefer taking what looked like a noble stance to getting into a position where he could make that noble stance into United States policy. And I couldn’t have said they were wrong.

And let’s also remember who created that partisanship in the first place. It was most assuredly not the critics of Bush.

We got to Kleiman from The Poor Man, who’s more direct:
Have you ever in your life heard such nonsense as this? Sully, who spent two-plus years comparing critics of the President to traitors and cheering on the worst undemocratic excesses of the Bush administration and the right-wing machine (that paid his salary), is now upset that the opposition won’t open themselves up to more predictable pot-shots from the peanut gallery. “Torture opponents,” troubled by the lack of character Kerry showed by not torpedoing his campaign over this issue, vote instead for the stalwart paragon who presided over, and most likely authorized, the torture in the first place.

And we got to there from Tim Dunlop, who just said:
God, if I click on one more left-leaning blog that has a post about how bloody wonderful it is that Andrew Sullivan is opposing torture, I’m going to put someone in a stress position. Andrew Sullivan opposes torture! And said so out loud! Oh, how fucking wonderful. I am beside myself with admiration. I was actually cut off by a guy in big SUV when I was driving to the shops today and I didn’t get out and blast him in the head with a shotgun. Score another one for moral clarity

This finally brings us back via a commodius vicus of recirculation from turn of phrase and click of mouse to, not Howth Castle and Environs, but (who else?) Atrios.

posted by Sully 1/15/2005 10:04:00 PM

Friday, January 14, 2005

It’s like the guys who hang out on my block who sometimes yell “faggot” when I walk by. Duh.
In Washington? Or Provincetown? If the latter, what would be the point, as it would be like yelling “Debbie!” in a Long Island high school cafeteria.

Or maybe they think he needs the reminder ...

UPDATE: Thanks, Beuatiful Atrocities, for making us laugh with that rejoinder.

posted by Sully 1/14/2005 01:59:00 PM

... it’s not obvious she has read the reports at all ... Every single report on the abuses says the exact opposite ... HAS SHE READ THE REPORTS?

From the guy who got us to spread “always click on the link” throughout the blogosphere with his name attached to it, this is beyond rich. It approaches something like poetic justice.

posted by Sully 1/14/2005 11:25:00 AM

Thursday, January 13, 2005


He again reminds Smalltown Boy of how much harsher he was on Clinton for far less.

posted by Sully 1/13/2005 11:00:00 PM


The santorum correction marks the second time ina week he has publicly corrected an item after we called him on it (without, of course, mentioning it). Way to go!

posted by Sully 1/13/2005 10:58:00 PM


Atrios rolls his eyes, and Attaturk mines the memory hole, at Sullivan’s post-snipe WMD hunt failure admission that, yeah, maybe we started the war a little too soon.

posted by Sully 1/13/2005 09:32:00 AM

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Actually we had already read the Slate story about “santorum,” but Sullivan is lying or just didn’t read the story closely enough when he said it was word of the year at the ADS convention. It was voted most outrageous new word of the year.

Here’s the story:
The Most Outrageous category is tricky; we never agree whether it’s the word itself that’s outrageous (typically for having some vulgar element, as in 2003’s winner, cliterati, for “prominent feminists”) or the concept (as with 2002’s neuticles, “false testicles for neutered pets”). This year the strongest contender was santorum, defined (and heavily promoted) by sex writer Dan Savage — in a campaign to besmirch the name of right-wing Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — as “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.” We dismissed one potential problem — that newspapers wouldn’t print the term if it won — on the grounds that we shouldn’t censor ourselves. And indeed, in the afternoon’s voting, santorum did win, but many newspapers simply skipped this category in their coverage. So much for academic freedom.

So, once again, Sullivan’s latest attempt to make the media look dark and sinister (not that it isn’t) is not what it would first seem.

Nor is it just this innocent. Sullivan and Savage are friends, after all.

posted by Sully 1/12/2005 11:15:00 PM


If Sullivan wants to make Phillip Nobile his new bitch, all he need note about the Standard’s hypocrisy and desperation on the matter is that he has long earned the enmity of the Religious Right for his association with Penthouse and tendency to come out and counter everything bad they say about Kinsey, particularly for his 1977 article claiming Kinsey approved of incest and found it healthy.
The first defender — in New York’s Village Voice (December 11, 1990, pp., 39-41) — was Philip Nobile, a former editorial director of Forum magazine, who is noted for his 1977 article in the well-known science publication Penthouse (December 1977) on the subject of “positive incest.” The following year, Nobile was featuring the views of a pro-incest physician in the San Francisco Chronicle (May 15, 1978, p. 21) with the commendation that “despite the utter amorality of her prescription, I believe she has an argument that should be heard. For she wants to save the children too.” Nobile’s review of Kinsey, Sex and Fraud was principally a personal attack on one of the authors.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? For the arch-Catholic Weekly Standard to publish Nobile’s attack on Tripp is a sign of desperation in and of itself that needs no lengthy rebuttal.

posted by Sully 1/12/2005 04:47:00 PM


Well, we can think of two ways to protect the simon-purity of the blogosphere, neither of which probably occurred to the Queen.

1) Blog anonymously.

2) Be flattered when people start blogs devoted to catching the howlers on your own.

posted by Sully 1/12/2005 04:45:00 PM


(One of our off-topic posts about political rhetoric and how liberals and Democrats can use it to help themselves).

Over at TAPped, Sam Rosenfeld cautions Democrats against buying into the Republican myth that the last Democratic House majority was as corrupt and tyrannical as the Republicans are now becoming, because (he believes) it allows the GOP to justify everything it does.

Sam understands the idea of framing, but misapplies it here, perhaps because (as he admits) he was too young to really remember what those Congresses were like (Mark Schmitt, to whom he links, was there and does).

On the face of things, he has a general point. One of us saw Congress up close during that time period, and it wasn’t as bad as today’s Republicanism. But trying to counter it in the near-term as a strategy for improving our political position is not only likely to be ineffective at doing so, it might even undermine attempts to repostion the Democratic Party in Congress for 2006.

First, the Republicans themselves created this myth, not the Democrats. They have to live with the blowback (just as we noted below in Stratfor’s observation that Americans have been so sold on Iraq as essential to the war on terror that they have more or less equated the two, hampering any efforts to build support if needed among the Bush base for a withdrawal). If they want to flagellate themselves, as the political wisdom has it, don’t get crash the party.

Second, since when does the House of Foley, Wright and Coelho stand as some shining moment in the history of the 20th-century Democratic Party? We were there, and back then we most assuredly did not think so.

Complacency, not corruption, was the sin du jour back then. Wright and Foley were the first Democratic leaders with no memory of serving in a minority party — a most dangerous problem for a party that had run Congress for over 30 years (If there was any low moment having to do with corruption, it was in the 1970s, with Koreagate and Wilbur Mills) and it showed.

Not that it might have mattered even if they had been. The majority was only in number. Foley and Wright would have embarassed themselves if they had tried to steamroller through a starkly liberal agenda the same way Tom DeLay is doing from the right right now (for one thing, they never would have overcome vetoes from Reagan or Bush).

But even if (and, in the last two years, when) Democrats held the White House as well, it was a fractious majority, with the twelve years of extra power Coelho bought with corporate donations compounding the problem of the boll-weevils, as conservative Southern Democrats who voted with Reagan a lot of the time were called. The result was a party that passed only ersatz versions of a lot of what it had called for decades before, and accomplished things mainly by heading off the kind of Republican initiatives it can now no longer prevent.

No, it wasn’t DeLay’s Den of Iniquity. But neither was it anything to write home about.

By defending that era against charges of corruption and arrogance, Democrats would be telegraphing that they want to go back to it, that that’s where they would pick up from if they retook the House. Most voters, we think, would take a pass and we wouldn’t blame them.

That is, of course, exactly the way the Democratic consultantocracy sees things. We call it the 1988 syndrome because someone (Matthew Yglesias, we think) pointed to that year’s presidential election, where many of the current crop of consultants earned their spurs, as a formative experience and indeed the source of the divide between the Democratic establishment and grassroots that the Dean campaign exposed.

The consultants see Dukakis’s defeat that year and the Republican takeover in 1994 as simple win-some, lose-some affairs. No radical rethinking or re-engineering of the party and the way it does things required; just a tweak here and there. To them, both Reagan and the Republican majority are simple aberrations that can easily be corrected if we just follow their advice and emphasize this or that position. As opposed to the rest of us who see it for what it is, the monolithic Borg cube whose power on the American scene is very real and very undeniable, and must be opposed with all the power we can bring to bear. We know that to learn to be a majority again, we must learn to be a minority, and we are just beginning to, ten years too late.

That’s why they don’t want to take on Republicans full-throttle and alienate their voters too much ... they want to have that support available for actual governance. Which is understandable if you came up in a Congress where you could actually find, indeed had to, that kind of Republican to get things done.

But that kind of Republican doesn’t exist anymore, not in any significant numbers. They are barely hanging on, like Christopher Shays, or like Connie Morella they’ve fallen victim to the reverse of the tide that displaced the boll-weevils through the 1980s and ’90s.

You are kidding yourselves if you don’t go into full-tilt opposition mode. We’ll be there for a while in any event; it’ll be a lot longer if we trust in electoral fluctuations to bring us back.

Anyway, this is why we think the honor of the first Bush-era Democratic House leaders should be left to lie in peace. Actual memory of those times recedes every year to the point that the perception is more reliable than the reality; let Republicans rue it as a standard they’ve fallen below.

Do we want to be tomorrow’s Democratic Party or yesterday’s? Every Congress there are less and less of the Democrats who served in those long-ago Houses (and more and more Republicans who didn’t ... they are already feeling this loss of institutional memory). Leave Foley and Wright in history’s amber; we’re the party of Speaker-to-be Pelosi now.

(To be fair, Nancy was elected back in 1986, but she was so far down on the totem pole even in 1994 that she bears no blame for it).

posted by Sully 1/12/2005 01:06:00 AM

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


Jo Fish points to another reason we shouldn’t have Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General (his utter lack of experience even running a prosecutorial office) and we have another one that’s been overlooked ... his role in the now-forgotten (because it occurred prior to 9/11) scandal over Karl Rove’s convenient failure to divest himself of his Intel stock prior to a merger happening over the objections of national-security interests that benefited Intel and its share price handsomely.

Tim Noah at Slate was really the only reporter to give this, and particularly Gonzales’s all-too-prescient after-the-fact role in justifying it, any attention back in those days before the world changed.

What did Gonzales do? Henry Waxman asked Gonzales a few weeks after the story broke if he had issued any guidance to Rove on the ethics of the move (Rove claimed that he had nothing to do with approving the merger, despite a letter from one of the principals singling him out for praise in making it possible).

He wrote back saying, no, he hadn’t, because Rove hadn’t asked for any.

And that’s not what’s eyebrow-raising. Why didn’t Rove ask for any such guidance or a waiver from the ethics rules? Because he was so on the level already he didn’t feel like doing anything that would suggest he might have doubts that what he was doing was right. And that was good enough for Gonzales.

Gonzales isn’t saying that Rove neglected to seek a waiver out of indifference to ethical rules. He’s saying that Rove declined to seek a waiver out of admiration for those rules. Apparently Rove felt that, with waiver in hand, he’d be allowed to bend the rules. No waiver, no ambiguities to exploit. Not getting a waiver might be compared to eschewing contraceptives in favor of the rhythm method or, better yet, abstinence. Or perhaps, given the temptations Rove exposed himself to, a better analogy might be to the Puritan practice of bundling.

Perhaps aware that conventional minds might see Rove’s failure to get the waiver a bit differently, Gonzales takes care to make plain that his office never approved it ("our office made no determination").

That’s the kind of legal contortionism that may make a rather pointed contrast to the behavior you attribute to the Clinton White House (where waivers were sometimes granted, but created the appearance of wrongdoing by that very act — the Bushies learned that when you acknowledge error or malfeasance, all you do is create the impression that you are prone to it) and thus please the base as you take office, but leads down the line to electrodes being put on prisoners’ genitals. (Noah did a followup where he contrasted the scrupulous attention to the law on the same matter paid by Abner Mikva during the Clinton era).

And no one pointed it out at the time. It was a revealing tendency of the Bush administration at that point (revealing its macho tendency to not dare insult the ethics of the men in charge by doing anything that might implicitly question them. No, in the Bush White House we trust our own ethics, do what right even if it just coincidentally benefits us personally and don’t ask for opinions from any pussy lawyers ... real men have their own perfectly fine sets of ethics, thank you very much) and no one, certainly not even Sullivan, found it in themselves to call the Bushies on it back then. They can only blame themselves.

posted by Sully 1/11/2005 11:33:00 PM


It was in The New Republic nearly nine years ago, like, back when Sullivan was still at least nominally the journal’s editor.

(And has anyone thought yet to check into Chertoff’s D’Amato connections? Our experience is that no one came out of working for him without getting a little dirty).

UPDATE: SullyWatch gets results! An hour and 35 minutes, give or take, after we posted, he’s given credit to the original writer.

Also, we wonder if the emailer referring to the Engrish post was inspired by our remarks on that, too.

posted by Sully 1/11/2005 02:11:00 PM

He has to go now, doesn’t he? When all the people directly associated with this debacle have quit or been fired, on what basis does he stay? He fronted the report. He stood by it. He took responsibility for it. On his watch, CBS News became a laughing stock. Is he really going to let everyone else take the hit? Has he lost all sense of self-respect as well as loyalty? For goodness’ sake, Dan. Go. Even Howell did eventually. People will remember the rest of your legacy. But if you hang on to your job as long as you hung on to that “story,” all you will prove is your pride.

Hmm ... one can easily imagine that going through the mind of a certain editor at The New Republic in the mid-1990s.

posted by Sully 1/11/2005 02:07:00 PM


Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to complain about the image on the Standard’s cover (especially when The Nation used one that was even more arguably homophobic, by that, uh, standard ... can’t believe he’s missed that one. Thanks Roger Ailes) and then engage in some truly juvenile mocking of a Japanese accent?

And just what is supposed to be the joke there? What does Hans Blix have to do with this?

posted by Sully 1/11/2005 01:58:00 PM

I haven’t written anything about [Armstrong Williams’] pathetic role as a propagandist for the Bush administration, because it’s so self-evidently unethical it doesn’t need me to spell it out.

Uh-uh. Read “It’s because it was journalistic misconduct that involved a conservative and, as with Jack Kelley and Judith Miller, I was ignoring it in the hope it would go away.”

posted by Sully 1/11/2005 01:54:00 PM

Monday, January 10, 2005


Steve Mussina on the part of the story (follow links) Sullivan and the right willfully miss.

posted by Sully 1/10/2005 01:54:00 PM


The excerpts from the Stratfor report have some bits phrased so archly as to be unintentionally hilarious:
The administration has allowed [Iraq] to become the war [on terror] as a whole in the public mind. That was a very bad move ...
Douglas Adams, call your office. If you still can, somehow ...

We like this clever use of the passive voice: “has allowed”? Uh, no, you highly-paid pencil-pushers, the Administration did not allow the public to think this. It actively encouraged, bully-pulpited, lied, cheated and forced it to think this.

This is basically another way of saying that it oversold the war and has painted itself into a rhetorical corner. Gee, you could practically count the votes with every yellow-ribbon magnet that got sold, but now you find that all those people who Support Our Troops (theirs not to reason why) feel that they doing so means they have to support keeping them there so they get to finish the job and feel gay (well, not literally) when they come marching home. Even if the people who put them there change their minds.

Of course, the people at Stratfor could be slyly pointing to the only possible line of argument the Bushies might be able to use to get their base to go along with a withdrawal from Iraq, or Stratfor’s recommendation that we simply withdraw to the borders (no mention of our failure to seal them off when we first started) and sti back and watch the fireworks, which we actually don’t disagree with ourselves if civil war looks inevitable and (ahem) imminent, which it likely will after the elections.

So if you see some variant of this particular talking point begin to appear in some conservatives’ columns or musings over the next few months, consider it a sign that up high they are seriously considering a withdrawal and are trying to see if they can finesse this with the qaa’idah.

posted by Sully 1/10/2005 01:37:00 AM


If you want truly substantive criticism of the major media, ask a liberal. Steve Mussina finds what’s truly damnable in the casual attitudes of some New York Times reporters to those unfortunates outside the media. He gets to what Sullivan merely circles around.

Oh, and speaking of the Armstrong Williams scandal which Mr. Media Watchdog has so studiously been avoiding saying anything about, how come no one has been salacious enough to note that this is not the pundit’s first brush with scandal:
...[I]n 1997 he got some publicity he wished he hadn’t. Armstrong was sued by a former male employee who accused him of more than 50 incidents of sexual harassment.

In a $200,000 lawsuit, Stephen Gregory alleged that Armstrong kissed him on the mouth, grabbed his buttocks and genitals, and climbed into bed with him on business trips.

He also said his former boss had told him that he loved him, but somehow that didn’t make him gay. Armstrong supposedly needed affection because he wanted to stay celibate heterosexually until he got married.

He said Armstrong docked his pay and fired him after he spurned him. First hired as his personal trainer, Stephen worked on his talk show and eventually became executive producer.

Armstrong failed to get the suit dismissed in 1998. Stephen had an affidavit from a guy who said Armstrong propositioned him in 1996. He also had testimony from an ex-intern who had to brush off his advances on his first day on the job.

They settled the case out of court in early 1999 because Stephen had his own show and wanted to get the case behind him.

See? It hits two buttons. Sullivan could not only rail against the corruption of the major media, he could excoriate them for not outing Williams.

We remembered reading about this in David Brock’s Blinded by the Right, where Brock also seems to recall Williams hitting on him once.

Other than Steve Gilliard’s allusion to it, no one else has brought this up. But it certainly establishes that Williams has a pattern of ethically questionable behavior and deceitfulness, and shouldn’t be let off the hook so easily.

Besides, if he had been a liberal paid by a liberal administration, Drudge wouldn’t have let us forget this.

posted by Sully 1/10/2005 01:30:00 AM


Sebastian ferrets out a disclosure that gives us a ballpark on how much Sullivan gets per speaking engagement.

posted by Sully 1/10/2005 01:09:00 AM

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