The Corner

Partisan Writing

Ramesh seems to be doing just fine without me, but there are two points worth adding to this conflict between Sullivan and Ramesh. Andrew, despite his better instincts, continually attacks Ramesh’s book without having read it. One could only imagine his fits of outrage and indignation if someone of his prominence dedicated as much time and effort to smearing him and his next book without ever cracking it open.

But, more importantly, Andrew unfairly and inaccurately keeps trying to get under Ramesh’s skin by saying things that aren’t true about the book (often by hiding behind emailers to do it). Namely, Andrew says Ramesh’s book is “partisan” — in the usual damning sense, i.e. dishonest, politically motivated etc. This is nonsense in my opinion. But it’s also a hard charge to take from Andrew. His writing is relentlessly partisan. No, not so much in favor of Republicans and Democrats (though the anti-Bushism often approaches parody).

No, Andrew’s partisanship is far closer to home: himself. He is constantly trying to start “movements” which place Andrew Sullivan as the Harriet Beecher Stowe of this cause or that. From gay marriage, to his “eagles,” to torture, to his new “anti-Christianist” Jihad Andrew’s writings are relentlessly polemical in favor of his causes, particularly the ones he can claim credit for starting. Contrary arguments are often — though certainly not always — treated with disdain. Useful facts are trumpeted while inconvenient ones are trivialized. Ditto with various convenient principles. One day federalism is great, when federalism helps gay marriage. The next day federalism is a hindrance to liberty and justice. One day pro-life views are the height of honor, now they are proof of Christianism. Nasty insinuations and charges of bad faith often fly with abandon. If you think of Andrew as the candidate and party chairman of the Party of Andrew, it helps you understand where he’s coming from a lot of the time.

Now, I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew is honest and sincere in his beliefs and his positions and he can be very powerful in his arguments for them. But I see no reason to say differently about Ramesh. As he notes, his views often line up with the Republicans. Shocking! He’s a conservative, so they should line up more often with the more conservative party. But it is flatly unfair and wrong to assume that Ramesh’s is dishonest for honestly expressing his views. Moreover, if you read the book, you’d know his views are anything but in lockstep with the GOP. Indeed, in a match-up between Ramesh and Andrew, I think it’s no contest. Andrew is the more partisan. This is understandable, because it’s very difficult to get any critical distance from your own views, particularly when you’ve festishized your own Olympian “independence” the way so many do today. At least Ramesh knows where he ends and the GOP begins. And no fair-minded reader of Ramesh’s writings — in the Party of Death or in National Review — would dispute this.

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