Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sullivan's Clinton shtick

Andrew Sullivan suffers. And oh, how he wants us all to suffer with him. His neurosis could make a brawny man weep a-boo-hoo for Sully's CDS-afflicted cerebal cortex. Obsession, sending a cascade of neuropeptides through his neural tissue, may cause him to gasp like a hooked fish but his hankie quick to remove any hint of lickspittle beguiles him into the quiet, insidious work of deposing his darkest, deepest fear: The Clintons.

Denigrating The Clintons feeds his raison d'être, a crutch against otherwise mediocre political meanderings. Woe is he, a fine writing talent wasting his craft on polemics that rival Jonah Goldberg's wacky farragoes. Yet, what is a conservative to do in an era when rightist ideology lies scattered like withered petals on the lawn of the Rose Garden? His former war hero, the talking codpiece, has been unmasked as a proven idiot. And worse.

In the archives of Salon, one can find anti-leftist, antiwar Sullivan harangues. Two examples: in 2003, "Idiocy of the Week: Sheryl Crow, brain-dead peacenik in sequins," and his immortalizing column in 2000, "Why is this race even close? Because George W. Bush has campaigned better, proposed more forward-thinking programs and proved, in the end, that he's smarter than Al Gore." Cue up the laugh track.

Sully wailed a post-9/11 "shriek, hitting an ear-piercing decibel that, whether intended or not, [drove] out the possibility of rational discussion," by acting as a self-appointed inquisitor "to evaluate whether his fellow writers and commentators [were] sufficiently patriotic." David Talbot summarized in October 2001, "Sullivan has often fallen to his own knees before President Bush in Salon."

In May 2001, gay columnist Michelangelo Signorile derided Sullivan for his plagiarism and Bush-worship:

...attacking the gay left after first pilfering its ideas and claiming they are his own, the writer Andrew Sullivan wrote a critique of Hollywood's closet. Sent to me by several perceptive readers of this column and my other work, it appeared on his Web site, where Sullivan licks the boots of George W. Bush daily. . . Perhaps we shouldn't expect fairness, let alone admissions of intellectual growth and a change of heart, from someone so self-obsessed and seemingly insecure.

Fast forward. The New York Review of Books wrote last year:

For more than two years, Sullivan relentlessly shilled for Bush and for the war on terror, including its "central front" in Iraq. It wasn't until the early months of 2004 that he broke with the "shrewd," "quiet," "underestimated" figure of the President, first over Bush's endorsement of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, then in moral repugnance at the evidence of government-condoned torture at Abu Ghraib. In October 2004, he "endorsed"—as he rather grandly put it, as if he were an editorial board—John Kerry as "the lesser of two risks." Since then he has attacked the administration with all the vehemence he formerly lavished on its detractors. Nowadays, on Sullivan's blog, Rumsfeld is labeled a "war criminal," Bush a "boneless wonder."

What may sting the "odd duck" more than the loss of idealized Daddy Bush now transformed into modern history's most unpopular American president was Sully's exposure "by the gay press for advertising for 'bareback' sex (unprotected by condoms) in an AOL chat room... denounced as a hypocrite by his liberal gay critics for engaging in risky sexual practices after attacking President Clinton for his own incautious behavior."

Oh, my. Does Andrew hold questionable moral standards: one for he, and another for thee?

Joining the Obama bandwagon under the guise of a post-partisan, post-boomer world, aka meet the new boss, same as the old boss, may distract Sullivan from reckoning with an existential strife as a gay conservative "small-government independent" without a political home save the media circus. Perhaps anxiety over having been so incredibly wrong about Bush has mobilized a return to a familiar diversion, his undying hatred for his pet scapegoats, The Clintons.

At his Daily Dish during last night's primary returns, his brain fogged at 11:27 pm by WWTSBQ resentment when he failed to calculate simple arithmetic. He prematurely announced that Oregon is "[a]lmost a mirror image of Kentucky tonight: currently a 60 - 40 Obama win." Ah, poor fact-challenged Sully. Almost? A 35-point victory for Hillary over Obama is more than twice as large as Obama's 16-point win over Clinton, n'est-ce pas? Of course, I don't expect a hit-and-run blogger posting fodder for sticky eyeballs to match the depth of analysis of the always-astute Anglachel.

Nineteen minutes earlier at 11:06 pm, Sully approvingly posted a reader's message under the headline, The Clintons And Race, which opened with wild-eyed wonder at "how horrible, how evil it is to vote against a black man -- because he's a black man?" Predictably, it was Hillary's fault because magically the reader through an inexplicable Vulcan mind-melding process knew that, like he, "Hillary saw the exact same exit polls and passed up a chance to speak out against them." Sullivan's response?

The Clintons have only one principle: their own power. Minorities are there to serve their purposes. If not, not. I saw this very vividly in the 1990s. They haven't changed. It's always only about them.

One should question how clearly Sullivan can see.

Peruse Sullivan's writings at the Times Online, a scornucopia of anti-Clinton vitriol:

Hillary’s suicidal gamble with race poison
Clinton's decision to stop chasing the black vote has become her undoing as shown in last Tuesday’s North Carolina primary

Obama-Clinton, a hate-filled dream ticket
The Democratic front-runner is no street-fighter, which is why Hillary would make a perfect running mate

Hillary and her old enemies cuddle up for a kill
Last week was officially the moment that the race for the Democratic nomination slipped through the looking glass into surrealism

Judgment Day looms for Hillary the wrecker
Pennsylvania could show that the paradigm that has reigned in US politics for at least two decades has been shattered

The Clintons, a horror film that never ends
The Clintons live off psychodrama. They love to push themselves to the brink of catastrophe and then accomplish the last-minute, nail-biting...

In the later March 9 article misogynistic hit job, Sully bared his adolescent fangs for Hillary, and because she is indelibly inked in Andrew's lexicon as the wife of Bill, he conjured a fright fest, The Clintons:

Put your own movie analogy in here. Glenn Close in the bathtub in Fatal Attraction – whoosh! she’s back at your throat! – has often occurred to me when covering the Clintons these many years. The Oscars host Jon Stewart compares them to a Terminator: the kind that is splattered into a million tiny droplets of vaporised metal . . . only to pool together spontaneously and charge back at you unfazed.

The Clintons have always had a touch of the zombies about them: unkillable, they move relentlessly forward, propelled by a bloodlust for Republicans or uppity Democrats who dare to question their supremacy. You can’t escape; you can’t hide; and you can’t win. And these days, in the kinetic pace of the YouTube campaign, they are like the new 28 Days Later zombies. They come at you really quickly, like bats out of hell. Or Ohio, anyway.

But that will never capture the emotional toll that the Clintons continue to take on some of us. I’m not kidding. I woke up in a cold sweat early last Wednesday. There have been moments this past week when I have felt physically ill at the thought of that pair returning to power.

Why? I have had to write several columns in this space over the years acknowledging that the substantive legacy of the Clinton administration (with a lot of assist from Newt Gingrich) was a perfectly respectable one: welfare reform, fiscal sanity, prudent foreign policy, leaner government. But remembering the day-to-day psychodramas of those years still floods my frontal cortex with waves of loathing and anxiety. The further away you are from them, the easier it is to think they’re fine. Up close they are an intolerable, endless, soul-sapping soap opera....

...And evil means that anything the Clintons do in self-defence is excusable – even playing the race card, and the Muslim card, and the gender card, and every sleazy gambit that the politics of fear can come up with. This is how they have arrested the Obama juggernaut. It’s the only game they know how to play.

Sully's self-delusions would never allow him to acknowledge the media inventions that viciously trashed Hill and Bill in the 1990s and freshly minted smears during the current 2008 campaign. Nor can he admit his willing and heavy-handed participation. The neurotic's prize is to be right more than anything and he will fight to prove that he's right even when he's wrong.

Lucid revelations would require an honest assessment, a self-introspection, but Sullivan, soaked in sweat from hidden abscesses stewing in his brain, hasn't nurtured the skillset or the awareness to give up shaking his waah-waah baby rattle at a politically powerful couple who have caused him no personal harm. Does he covet their clout? Or is he milking an established press corp melodrama to hasten his career trajectory?

What can one expect of a gay political pundit who, for years, ironed the wrinkles of the Emperor's new clothes and polished George's boots?

Someone has to pay for poor Sully's disappointments. So he dons his night vision goggles to hunt his perceived terror... The Clintons.

Imagined zombies have driven him mad but I suspect his shtick fetches a handsome fee.

UPDATE 5/22: Sullivan refers to people "who voted for the Clintons"--as he did 20 May 2008 09:48 pm at his Daily Dish (no, I won't link to his blog)--a sexist remark since Bill isn't running for office no matter how many ways the media darthling tries to spin his preposterous assertions. Sen. Hillary Clinton is the name Sullivan most often avoids. Why is that? You know why.

CREDITS: Illustration from the David Levine Gallery.