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The Incredible Journey: Andrew Sullivan, from Unpredictable Conservative to Pedantic Liberal Mouthpiece

Posted on October 28 2009 11:31 am
David Forsmark is the owner and president of Winning Strategies, a full service political consulting firm in Michigan. David has been a regular columnist for Frontpage Magazine since 2006. For 20 years before that, he wrote book, movie and concert reviews as a stringer for the Flint Journal, a midsize daily newspaper.
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Finally, after two weeks of Andrew Sullivan enthusing over Obama on the weekend panel gabfest, The Chris Matthews Show, to the point that Matthews called it a “romance,” Matthews finally popped the question:

MATTHEWS: Are you still a man of the right?

Mr. SULLIVAN: I think of myself as a conservative, yes. And I think actually, at this point, Obama represents more conservatism than the Southern populism of the GOP.


Apparently, a “conservative” is whatever Andrew Sullivan is.  He just can’t bring himself semantically to express what he has done romantically—admit that his love for Obama has caused an ideological switch.

Perhaps that’s because in that little corner of Andrew Sullivan’s mind that is still anchored to reality, he knows that around 20% of the country calls itself “liberal,” while the number for self-identified conservatives in a recent Gallup poll has increased to 40%.  (If you push the moderates to choose, that number in some polls pushes it to nearly 50%.)

As I noted last week, Andrew Sullivan’s first step on his journey to the Left was his hatred of social conservatives who oppose gay marriage. And George W. Bush became the object of that hatred, particularly when gay marriage bans on the ballot in states like Ohio were credited with Bush pulling out a win over John Kerry.

Sullivan should take note of another gay conservative, Bruce Bawer, who, instead of taking an ideological journey, went on a physical one.  He moved to Norway to “marry” his partner, seeking that famed European “tolerance.”  As he writes in While Europe Slept, however, he found that the anything-goes attitudes of Europe also applied to allowing a creeping influence of Sharia Law.  Bawer decided that while in America Jerry Falwell did not want him to marry, but otherwise basically left him to live his as he pleased, was not such a big deal, compared to fanatics who thought he should suffer the death penalty for his sexual choices.

Sullivan has not only transferred his allegiance to liberalism ideologically—if not semantically—he has aligned with the Left politically, denying what is plain for everyone to see, and which even the mainstream press rebelled against last week, standing up for Fox News’s right to cover the White House.

MATTHEWS: Andrew, the question is, do you think the White House, which is the Democratic president, and his troops, professionals, are they professionally smart in targeting people like Limbaugh, people on Fox, people like that on the on the airwaves, wingnuts, people like are they smart to go after them and make them the issue?

Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN (The Atlantic, Senior Editor): I think that Obama’s skill is actually not directly going after people, but letting them destroy themselves. This has been his long rope-a-dope strategy. Everybody who attacks him is really Wile E. Coyote; he’s the Road Runner. They create these extraordinarily elaborate traps to blow him up, and they end up blowing themselves. And beep-beep, he’s running on to a health care reform. And that’s what he does. And he has this sort of, I mean, for the first black president, he’s really WASP-y. I mean, he’s a really he’s got this, like, incredibly cool, clipped, classic, bourgeois-meets-Kennedy kind of crispness to him, which is actually kind of the great sort of solvent to this kind of this kind of anger and rage. And people, in the end, they need to vent. But they don’t want to venter to run their country, they want a grown-up to run the country. And right now I think they’re best not directly attacking them, letting them have their say, getting out of the way and putting forward this sort of moderate, bipartisan affect for the president. It’s brilliant…

At this point, I guess a Looney Tunes reference speaks for itself.

I sure am glad that the White House is NOT directly attacking Fox News.  What a relief!

But let’s talk about “wingnuts.”  During the show, Matthews lumped in Limbaugh, Palin, and the “birthers,” gratuitously, to the ascent of his panel.  But sitting there was a guy who bought into the most ludicrous birther conspiracy of them all, the wild internet hoax that Trig is not Sarah Palin’s child.

For months, Matthews has demanded that every Tea Party protester or Member of Congress he perceives as too right wing answer the question, “Was Barack Obama born in the United States?” He has never demanded that Andrew Sullivan answer the question, “Is Trig Palin the son of Sarah Palin?”  Nuttiness gets a pass from Matthews if you are a disciple of The One.

Sullivan and Matthews expounded more on their self-hypnosis that opposition to Obama is really helping him:

Mr. SULLIVAN: In the long run, I think Fox News is a kind of poison pill for the Republican Party because the things you need to rile up your base and to entertain and get big ratings and the money incentive that is now really driving this you know, the trouble is there isn’t a conspiracy. The trouble is the sort of conservative, industrial complex, which is basically a media entity, is dictating the politics of Washington. And no one in Washington there’s nobody left in the Republican Party to stand up for the institution and say, `No. We stand for this.’

Ms. PARKER: But I think ultimately, for the same for the reasons I’ve already outlined, that the far right will suffer more because we’re people are not going to want to be associated with that level of partisan rhetoric and vitriol. It’s not…

Mr. SULLIVAN: Everybody was saying in August, the tea parties are rocking the White House. And when you take a look right now back at the polling, you see that was the moment the White House regained initiative on health insurance reform.


Mr. SULLIVAN: That’s when the thing bounced back. Because people were like, `Well, they’re all’…

MATTHEWS: What do you think happened, Andrew? Why did the people performing at these tea parties end up turning the public and it’s showing in the polls. The president’s polls came way back in September after that crazy period. Why do you think that helped him?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Because people know there’s a problem here in health insurance, they know it’s going to bankrupt the country, they know it’s not giving them good quality health care and they want someone to fix it. And they watch these people and realize these people don’t want to fix it, they want to attack this guy.

Okay, I really AM a pollster, I don’t just play one on TV.  So, here are some basics.  First, the only poll in which the Presdient came “way back in September,” was one that asked all adults, rather than most of the Summer polls which polled likely voters.  Matthews has had liberal guests on Hardball point that out in the middle of his happy dances about the polling comeback, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of his tingle.

But forget that technical point, here’s a basic one.  The Tea Parties happened all Summer.  The President’s polls took a big hit in the Summer WHILE THE TEA PARTIES AND TOWN MEETINGS WERE GOING ON.  The slight bounceback—or at least stabilization—of Obama’s numbers came in September, AFTER THEY STOPPED.

The only people who can translate that into “it helped him” are those who desperately want it to be true.

The Gallup Poll shows more people for the first time in a long time identify themselves as “conservative” over “independent,” with that increase accelerating under Obama’s presidency.  Yep, talk radio and blogs like this one in the Conservative Industrial Complex are killing conservatism, all right.

Of course, the discussion soon turned to the favorite topic of smug elites, what a disaster Sarah Palin is for the Republican Party, and how she will kill the Republicans in 2012 by her very presence:

MATTHEWS: Are they going to break the rule this time and not go with the person who almost did last time?

Mr. SULLIVAN: I don’t know. I think it’s, I’m sorry to say I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s going to be fascinating, because I do think there are these amazing forces beginning to collide. And Romney is, yeah, the he looks right as a president, he seems like grown-up even though he isn’t, even though he’ll say anything anybody says is necessary to get more power for himself, which is his entire career. And, of course, one, the Mormon question with the evangelicals remains. It was never quite resolved last time. And I think there will be an evangelical rival to him. I also think Palin is going to be around and very strong, and I think Ron Paul should again, he’s now proved himself one time around.

Okay, I never warmed up to Romney, because, frankly, the guy could use a few rough edges.  I’m not sure the public will elect someone who says “Golly” all the time.  However, saying he is not a grown-up, with his considerable accomplishments—especially compared to Barack Obama’s—is just silly.  But to dismiss Romney, express contempt for Palin, but show respect for Ron Paul, shows that Sullivan probably doesn’t even believe what he is saying; he’s just clumsily trying to plant land mines into the debate.

That would be more effective if anyone still though Andrew Sullivan had any credibility as a conservative—or if the weekend Chris Matthews show wasn’t such a ratings stinker that it makes Hardball look like a ratings juggernaught—like Beck and Limbaugh, say…

In case you’re wondering if I just cherry picked Andrew Sullivan’s comments, that he MUST have said something that remotely resembles the interesting writer of a decade ago, check for yourself.  If anyone can find a conservative point made by Andrew Sullivan in the transcript of the Chris Matthews show, even a moderating caution that Obama’s agenda may be too far Left in ANY way, I’ll send you a dollar.

But as for Andrew Sullivan’s career as a conservative thinker,  let’s return to the Looney Tunes cast for the verdict:

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