Once upon a time, Andrew Sullivan was a creative, independent voice in the wilderness. I used to read and appreciate him a lot. He was articulate, and didn’t fit in any ideological boxes. He had the invaluable trait of calling out and answering the most important arguments of his opponents instead of following the prevailing fashion of ignoring them and sticking to a list of talking points. He was editor of The New Republic for a while, and that became it’s style, too. It was a great read.
It seems to me he’s changed a lot, and not for the better. It could be he’s just changed away from my point of view, but I don’t think so. I’m on “his side” when it comes to the torture issue, and several others. The problem isn’t with his point of view. The problem is that the spark of intellect, of originality, just isn’t there anymore.
His slide downhill seemed to start with the Iraq war. As he said later, he supported it “like a teenaged girl supporting the Jonas brothers.” Once we were in the war, he became one of the more strident and hysterical defeatists. As a Vietnam veteran, perhaps I took it too personally that he seemed to be doing his level best to demoralize the troops and the country in a war he did so much to promote, but, regardless, as history has shown, his defeatist attitude was as irrational as his earlier warmongering.
Things haven’t gone uphill in the meantime. Lately, his posts have begun to dwell more and more on the various moral shortcomings of the people with whom he disagrees. In other words, he sounds like everyone else. The most notable example is his recent bout of Palin Derangement Syndrome. One wonders what it is about Palin that sets him off so. Is he really afraid the rest of the media will ignore her faults? Why this fanatical crusade to expose her every deviation from the Sullivan standard of moral rectitude? From a purely practical point of view, it doesn’t hurt Palin, and just supplies ammunition to the people on the right who loathe him.
Reading Sullivan now is like reading the last novels of Sinclair Lewis for someone who loves “Babbitt” and “Main Street.” Perhaps there’s some connection between his physical and intellectual health. Hard to say.