The Corner

Offense Taken

I’m with Ramesh. It’s no secret I’m a fan of Andrew’s. But I took some offense to Sullivan’s suggestion that NR (and the Weekly Standard) were adhering to some sort of party discipline on the matter of Bennett. Tapped says I’m spinning, but I have little to no respect for their opinion. I do respect Andrew’s opinion, however, and since he made that comment about NR several hours after my piece went up, I have to assume he included me in the broadside.

To be honest, I don’t understand Andrew’s position. He says he sticks to his original remarks — that Bennet should be “left alone” — but then goes on to air all of the criticisms against him. That’s fine. Except for the fact that Sullivan is a privacy rights absolutist. We just spent a week reading his denunciations of Rick Santorum and sodomy laws because of their intrusion into the private sphere. His position on Gary Condit was driven by his steadfast faith in a right to privacy, as well. Indeed, his own privacy has been grossly and unfairly violated by a crusading journalist (to use an overly generous term) bent on nothing more than shaming Sullivan. Well, why the equivocation and point-scoring against the “God squad” and “theocons” on the Bennett story? Gary Condit’s privacy was violated in pursuit of solving a bizarre murder mystery. Condit lied when the stakes were much, much higher. And, if I recall correctly, Andrew was nevertheless dismayed by the media’s pursuit of his private life. Surely, by Sullivan’s own admission, what Bennet did was less serious, less hypocritical and more irrelevant than, say, Bill Clinton’s behavior or Gary Condit’s. And Alter and Green’s invasion of Bennett’s privacy for purely political ends is less defenisible than the “invasions” of Bill Clinton’s privacy — which Alter and the Washington Monthly steadfastly denounced. If you’re going to be a privacy absolutist — I’m not one — then you have to be an absolutist for everybody and anybody’s privacy — so long as they haven’t broken the law or been grossly hypocritical (two criteria Sullivan concedes the Bennett story does not meet). Otherwise, the right to privacy is fairly meaningless. Sure, Green and Alter are not agents of the government, but that hasn’t stopped Andrew from defending the “spirit” of the right to privacy in the face of media intrusions in the past.

Anyway, in my own defense, my position on Bennett is as best I can tell perfectly consistent with literally a dozen or more columns I’ve written about “hidden law,” adultery, hypocrisy, gambling and the rest. The idea that I’m practicing some sort of party loyalty — “discipline” in Andrew’s words — is ludicrous and offensive if that’s what Andrew meant. My hope is that he misspoke.


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