Getting "Sullied": Be Careful What You Dish Out genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Andrew Sullivan

I have no particular axe to grind with Andrew Sullivan... except for noting the inconsistencies in the many axes he grinds ad nauseam. His latest obsession is Bill and Hillary Clinton (of course focused on Hillary's presidential aspirations).

Frankly, given his persistent efforts to negatively link Hillary to every "ism" he's ever pondered, it's hard too imagine that he hasn't ground his axe down to a rudimentary toothpick with which to extract the last shard of evidence...from her teeth...for his relentless indictment.

Suffice it to say that in this latest instance, Sullivan has fast become the epitome of "The lady doth protest too much"...and my apologies to good ladies everywhere. Sullivan now argues, by virtue of quoting the following from Faye Wattleton (transcribed by a reader and sent to him) who observed her appearance on Hardball with Chris Mathews (think mainstream media misogynist).

Chris Matthews: Faye, you first, you know Hillary Clinton, you know Bill Clinton. What's Bill's role in this thing, is it a good role or a bad role?

Faye Wattleton: Well, I think that Bill Clinton's role is that of the spouses of all the candidates, he's participating as a surrogate for his wife who is running. And I think that its entirely consistent with the ascension of other women to the top offices in their country; they come about it as the result of the president being their spouse or being members of prominent families. So I don't think that we should be so upset and agitated about Mr. Clinton's participation - we should continue to focus on the issues that the people want to hear about...these other matters are really side issues.

From these remarks, Sullivan intuits that the Clinton's are comfortable to conflate nepotism and feminism in order to achieve their objectives...thereby corrupting feminism and "everything they touch". So let me summarize the trajectory of Andrew's of Andrew's readers sends him a transcription of
Faye Wattleton's comments on Hardball and he agrees with it such that it proves the Clinton's have corrupted feminism? Well there you have closed.

Regardless of one's opinion on the Clinton's and Hillary's aspirations, Sullivan's argument is the equivalent of entering a vacuous room that has been hermetically sealed and is devoid of any light...with a camera that lacks a flash order to take the quintessential picture of darkness. Unless random chance results in his capturing the definitive number of angels able to dance on the head of a pin, I'm similarly at a loss to recognize the Earth shattering nature of Sullivan's latest Clintonian hypothesis.

To my knowledge, Hillary Clinton is not only the first woman candidate with a chance to win the presidency; she is also the first spouse of a prior president to seek the office. Concluding that her candidacy must be a willful act, by the Clinton's, to conflate nepotism and feminism...and thus corrupt order to simply painting the unprecedented as presciently predictable. The fact that a president's legacy is rarely static suggests that asserting an understanding of this novel event is undoubtedly unbridled arrogance.

Yes, the Clinton candidacy turns political convention on its head...but concluding this candidacy is more lacking in ideological purity...or more willing to defile the grand order of "isms"...than those that have preceded it could just as easily be interpreted as a misogynistic projection intended to assure the status quo. At the very least, Newton's notion that for every action (force), there is an equal and opposite reaction (opposing force) seems an appropriate consideration.

Clearly the Clinton's are ambitious...and likely to a fault. However, they aren't the first political family to exhibit as much. They're not even the first political cabal willing to exploit the advantages they perceive to be available. I suspect we have an example of one in the White House at this very moment. Yes, the Clinton candidacy is unique in its structure...but it isn't unique in its execution. Looking to view the efforts of the Clinton's as a unique aberration or a full-scale deviation from established politicking is to ignore history.

Attempting to attach pejorative narratives in order to defeat them is nothing new either...and those who seek to paint the Clinton strategy as particularly distasteful are nonetheless politically motivated.

Sullivan's vast body of words betrays his effort to portray the Clinton's as unacceptable outliers. His frequent protestations with the narrow mindedness of the Catholic Church and his incessant lamentations on the state of conservatism demonstrate his own willingness to champion efforts to undo years of status quo while still remaining a card carrying conscript.

Are his efforts a corruption of those "isms" or merely the acts of an individual who hopes to alter them? Couldn't the established arbiters of the Catholic Church and the GOP establishment view Sullivan's actions to be the equivalent of the Clinton's? One can easily make the argument that his actions are intended to undermine their long-established order and their theoretical tenets.

Sullivan's efforts to reshape Catholicism to accept homosexuality can just as easily be viewed as an attempt to corrupt it. The same can be stated with regards to his displeasure with the current iteration of GOP conservatism. He may not believe that social issues should dominate the Republican landscape, but those who imagine themselves to be the party's purist guardians would no doubt beg to differ. Wouldn't both groups be justified in assailing Sullivan's "perversion" of both?

The presumption that feminism can be narrowly defined...or that it has been what it always was and will be what its always been is merely an attempt to erect an argument to further "sully" the Clinton's.

Sullivan contends he is a feminist. He also argues that he is a conservative and a Catholic. The truth of the matter is that he is these things...but clearly only to the extent that he defines them.

Sullivan is entitled to support the candidate of his choice. However, his ongoing efforts to disguise his justification as an adherence to ideological purity, is simply superficial subterfuge.


1 On January 26, 2008 at 6:39 PM, Dr X wrote —

To put it mildly, this was not one of Sullivan's better posts. He makes no secret of his deep disdain for Hillary, but it often seems to get the best of him. I just don't see how Faye Wattleton's comment translates into corruption on the Clintons' part.

2 On January 26, 2008 at 9:25 PM, Jimi wrote —

Sullivan is just another in a long list of 'journalists' who intuit what candidates think, believe and know. Chris Matthews? Maureen Dowd? Oh how the list goes on! They are all so busy 'intuiting' that smaller things like the issues and possible solutions can sadly only get lip service when it comes to airtime.

Another wonderful post Daniel.

3 On February 1, 2008 at 3:41 PM, mike/ wrote —

i am so glad to see you post this. almost two weeks ago i had to do a post on my site that i called "new rule."

in the post, i made a rule for myself that the first mention of the Clintons filled with vitriol on Sullivan's blog I would stop reading it for that day. needless to say, i haven't been able to read much of it for the last two weeks because of this and for the same reasons you cite.

actually, i really haven't missed it. Sadly, though, i do miss his LGBTQ references and "from my window." not to mention that sometimes, though rarely, he will post something that a reader writes to him that calls him a total ass. he at least can recognize that once in a while; just not about the Clintons,

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Andrew Sullivan’s disdain for the Clinton’s is unmistakable. He justifies his criticism of the Clintons as an adherence to ideological purity. While he contends he is a feminist, a conservative, and a Catholic…each is constrained by his own subjective ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 26, 2008 4:47 PM

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