Andrew Sullivan’s marvelously misguided theory about how Obama played Putin when it came to Syria

If you’re a true believer, it’s very hard to admit that your idol has feet of clay. For some, it may be impossible. Andrew Sullivan currently falls into the latter category. He has written an almost pathetic post assuring his followers that Obama cleverly baited a trap for Putin and Putin, that preening fool, fell into it.

According to Sullivan, everything we think we know about Obama’s apparently feckless Syria policy is wrong. Sullivan is willing to concede that Obama was careless when, a year ago, he mentioned a “red line” about Syria. Once Obama had done that, however, Sullivan assures us that Obama instantly knew that he had the perfect bait with which to hook his fish.

In Sullivan’s world, Obama wasn’t flailing when he said that he intended, on his own executive initiative, to bomb Syria. He wasn’t being a rank amateur when he announced the intended date, time, and location of his “muscular,” yet delicate, attack.

Obama wasn’t backtracking when he abruptly announced that, despite the urgent need to bomb Syria, he would wait until Congress convened, deliberated, and voted on an attack. Obama also wasn’t prevaricating (some might say “lying”) when he explained that he hadn’t drawn a red line; the world had drawn a red line, and he was simply helping the world enforce it.

Likewise, Obama wasn’t guilty of rank hiring malpractice when he put before the world a Secretary of State who announced that any US attack against Syria would be so infinitesimally small that a toddler could withstand its impact. That same potential malpractice was inapplicable when that same Secretary of State remarked, to the administration’s explicitly expressed surprise, that Bashar al Assad could make everything good by turning over his weapons which, said Secretary of State hastened to add, could never actually be done.

And of course, no one in the administration was made to look like a fool when Russian President Vladimir Putin instantly announced that he had brokered an agreement with Assad by which Assad agreed that he’d be pleased to turn over all his nasty weapons, at a date, time, and location of his and Putin’s determining. In the same vein, Obama didn’t look like a fool when he went before the American people on Tuesday night and said that war was the only answer, except that he’d be happy to wait on Putin’s proposed peace plan.

Finally, says Sullivan, there was no humiliating slap in Obama’s face when Putin hired a PR firm that wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which Putin threw all of Obama’s words back into his face, including Obama’s 2009 statement that there was nothing exceptional about America.

Instead, according to Sullivan, everything went according to Obama’s carefully laid scheme. America hasn’t bowed out of being the top power broker in the Middle East, and Putin hasn’t leveraged his Third World nuclear power into being the Big Dog in a region that responds well to loud barks. Obama won! We’re just too stupid to recognize victory when it’s clothed in such subtle garb.

Here’s what Sullivan says really happened: Obama engaged in a strategic game that would have made Machiavelli proud. He’d cleverly figured out that Syria is unsalvageable, so he’s now foisted responsibility for it onto Putin. You heard me. That’s what Sullivan says:

If the end-result is that Putin effectively gains responsibility and control over the civil war in Syria, then we should be willing to praise him to the skies. Praise him, just as the far right praises him, for his mastery of power politics – compared with that ninny weakling Obama. Encourage him to think this is a personal and national triumph even more than he does today. Don’t just allow him to seize the limelight – keep that light focused directly on him. If that also requires dumping all over the American president, calling him weak and useless and incapable of matching the chess master from Russia, so be it. Obama can take it. He’s gotten used to being a pinata.

All this apparent national humiliation is worth it. The price Russia will pay for this triumph is ownership of the problem. At some point, it may dawn on him that he hasn’t played Obama. Obama has played him.

It’s now all so clear. The Great and Powerful Obama willingly put his credibility and America’s stature on the line in order to lure Putin closer and closer to the Middle Eastern tar baby. Obama understood that it was never in America’s interest to go in. Being wise beyond all mortal recognition, however, he also understood that America, because she’s got the best military in the world, was always expected to go in. The only way Obama could avoid that horrible fate (a fate, incidentally, that the vast majority of American people think is a lousy idea), was to appear like a bumbling, incompetent idiot, thereby inveigling Putin to step in. Well played, Obama! Well played!

Sullivan’s theory about Obama’s wonderfulness is really quite perfect, until one realizes that he’s wrong about a central fact: Putin’s and America’s goals are different. Unlike Obama, with his anti-American “responsibility 2 protect” doctrine (America can only step into another nation’s war if it’s not in America’s interest to do so), and unlike the American people, who have soft hearts, and hate to see innocents massacred, Putin doesn’t care at all if Syrians engage in a slaughter that leads every man, woman, and child to the grave.

What Putin cares about is (a) humiliating Obama, which he did magnificently; (b) humiliating America, which I’m sorry to say he also did magnificently; (c) becoming a player in the Middle East for the first time since the Cold War, another magnificent accomplishment; and (d) finally, having access to Syria’s chemical weapons, while keeping Russia’s arms market afloat by selling to Syria and Iran.

Put another way, Obama was no Machiavelli. He was one of those dumb dogs playing poker with a master strategist and tactician. As for Sullivan, he’s got his head so far up . . . well, you know, that he’s blinded by the light shining through Obama’s tonsils every time the President opens his mouth to spout another lie or prevarication.

Hagel wins over Andrew Sullivan by groveling to gays and smearing Jews

Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel apologized for making a fairly nasty gay slur more than a decade ago.  The execrable Andrew Sullivan is proud of Hagel, especially because Hagel’s mea culpa wasn’t accompanied by a companion mea culpa to the Jews and the State of Israel, as to both of which Hagel has directed a boatload of smears, insults, and threats.

According to Sullivan, Hagel recited his dictated apology perfectly, and it’s a mercy that Andrew and his ilk trained Hagel so well, because it won’t be the first apology Hagel will probably be called upon to make.  Why?  Because of the Joos, whom Sullivan views in much the same way the Arab crowd does:

Antisemitic imagery from the Arab world

The rest is smears – and there will be more to come, knowing how fanatical and ruthless the Greater Israel lobby is.

Hagel need not worry too much, though. Sullivan rightly divines that, in Obama’s America, as long as you make nice to the gays, it’s okay to start preparing the pathway to a new Jewish genocide:

This [i.e., Hagel's ability to appease various Leftist victim groups] is fast becoming a litmus test of whether an American president can nominate a defense secretary without getting the blessing of the AIPAC chorus. Yes, we have sunk that far. But this could be a turning point for a saner Middle East policy.

I think the Palestinians have a phrase for a “saner Middle East policy“:  “There is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him.”

It’s not just that Sullivan is ever more proudly wearing his antisemitism alongside his homosexuality.  It’s not even as if he sounds as if he’s reading out of the Cliff Notes version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  What’s so horrific is that he has a bully pulpit on the blogosphere — and, moreover, one that, to those unaware of modern media’s ideology collapse, seems respectable.

Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan is a mental slob and a moral deviant (something entirely separate from his sexual identity, which is his own business).  In a free nation, he’s allowed to be a pea brain and antisemite, but it says something just awful about America that he has a large and loyal following.

And if we want to take horrific and multiply it by appalling, what’s really astounding and depressing is that, as I know from my Leftward friends, many of his most devout followers are Jews.  Or rather, I should say that, genetically they’re Jewish and they observe the High Holy Days, but their sensibilities are shaped entirely by Leftist politics.  Like all useful idiots and appeasers, they’re pretty sure the crocodile, once it starts its attack, will pass them by for someone who forgot to grovel and pander as well as they did.

Oh, wait!  I’ve thought of something even more dreadful than horrific multiplied by appalling:  It’s not just that Andrew Sullivan approves of Chuck Hagel.  It’s that our president — reelected by 52% of the American population — does too.  Rather than leading the call for surrender of arms, smart Jews should be stockpiling.

Something enjoyable for those among us who think Andrew Sullivan is an intellectual fraud and tyrant

There are two thinkers on the Left whom I credit with helping me become more conservative:  Paul Krugman and Andrew Sullivan.  Both of them wrote (and still write) incredible horse pucky in publications I routinely read as a yuppie liberal.  I eventually realized that, if these two were lauded as the shining intellectual lights of my political ideology, than I was in the wrong ideology.  (And yes, I know Sullivan used to advertise himself as “conservative,” but that was a skin deep pose as far as I’m concerned.  His writing always pushed Progressive boundaries.)

Both men are not only ideological dead ends, they’re also unpleasant human beings, given to hurling personal insults and hiding behind their own hyper-inflated reputations.  Andrew Sullivan, though, adds to this a measure of spite and monomania — something that became apparent with his obsession about Trig Palin’s birth — that makes him the kind of person one just loves to see knocked down, and then kicked around a bit.  I don’t mean physically, of course, I mean intellectually.

If you enjoy the sight of having Andrew Sullivan get the intellectual stuffing kicked out of him, please take a few minutes to read Jesse Bering’s Scientific American post detailing the “debate” he’s had with Sullivan over male circumcision:  Hey, Andrew Sullivan, Stop Calling My Penis “Mutilated”.  Debate really isn’t an accurate word, though.  Sullivan’s contribution is a single shrill, vicious, emotion-laden, fact-free, strawman-filled, heterophobic screed.  Even by Sullivan’s own standards, it’s bad.  Bering’s part of the debate is humor and lots and lots of scientific fact.

By the way, as you read it, please keep in mind that Sullivan is a darling of all the science-worshiping Progressives.  He perfectly illustrates the fact that science is to be worshiped only when it marches in lockstep with the agenda.  When it doesn’t, as the Climategate scam demonstrated, Progressives will bend the science rather than change the agenda.

Obama’s true home town: the Leftist thought bubble *UPDATED*

My purpose in writing this post is to reveal and challenge the Leftist thought bubble in which Barack Obama lives.  Before I get to that point, however, I want to give you a little look at the on-the-ground effects that bubble has on those who are exposed only to Leftist thought.

At American Thinker, John Kenneth Press shares with readers a letter he received from someone who was with him throughout the PhD program at NYU.  He thought she was a friend.  He was wrong.  As she explains, he was not worthy of friendship because he had committed thought-crimes, which meant that she was sullying her “global citizen” soul by consorting with him.  Please note that this gal wasn’t accusing Press of serious things such as advocating genocide, or pedophilia, or racial superiority, or any of the other big no-nos.  Instead, he had the temerity to say, both in person and in his book, that multiculturalism isn’t a good idea.  She responded this way:

In the process of becoming a doctoral candidate my bubble was burst and I began to realize that the relational framework in which I lived in was not enough and I have begun to take responsibility for the political consequences and social implications of my own thoughts and actions.  This shedding of my more provincial self, therefore, lead to a more nuanced look at my associations and actions. I could no longer approve-by-association your public work to rally against building a mosque downtown, your concept of Americanization, your tea-party work, blog postings, etc.  I had to begin to consider our relationship not fraternally but as colleagues.

So frankly I cannot approve of your politics and maintain my own personal integrity as a global citizen.  I apologize if this sounds hurtful as I do have a tender spot for you.  I feel as if we grew up together in a certain sense – bumping into the sharp edges within this rabbit hole called NYU.  I fondly remember the steps we traveled together; I am grateful for the company at the time; and I wish you well in the future.

What will leap out at most-people is the narrow, angry, provincialism that this woman expresses, neatly wrapped up in high moral sentiment.  When struck me, though, was what an execrable writer she is.  It’s hard to imagine more awkward, pompous, bombastic, disorganized writing.  She is, in other words, the perfect PhD product of modern academia.  What should strike fear into your heart is the thought that, if computers take over grading standardized tests, all our young people will be taught to aspire to this type of writing.  Computers like long words and long sentences, and have little regard for logic, intelligibility, or simple human decency.

That gal’s condescending, pious, hate-filled screen reinforces what I’ve said before regarding the muddled, turgid opinions that liberal judges write:  the only way to fight common sense, law, and logic is to write badly.  Bad writing can have a superficial lucidity, but it will invariably collapse under the weight of logical scrutiny.

All of which gets me to Barack Obama’s reading material, revealed when he gave an “in-depth” interview to Rolling Stone magazine.  Daniel Halper has already called Obama out for his Alinsky-esque attack on Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist in that same interview.  Before 2008, no president would ever have done that.  Even Richard Nixon was careful to keep his enemies list private.  This viciousness, though, is vintage Obama, so it irritates, but doesn’t surprise.

What also shouldn’t surprise is Obama’s description of his reading and viewing material, a list that puts him in sync with 100% of America’s college educated Progressives.  Nevertheless, it’s worth noting, since it’s a laundry list of writers and performers who are distinguished by their fealty to the liberal canon, even if that puts them at odds with facts and logic.

What do you read regularly to keep you informed or provide you with perspectives beyond the inner circle of your advisers?
[Laughs] Other than Rolling Stone?

That goes without saying.
I don’t watch a lot of TV news. I don’t watch cable at all. I like The Daily Show, so sometimes if I’m home late at night, I’ll catch snippets of that. I think Jon Stewart’s brilliant. It’s amazing to me the degree to which he’s able to cut through a bunch of the nonsense – for young people in particular, where I think he ends up having more credibility than a lot of more conventional news programs do.

I spend a lot of time just reading reports, studies, briefing books, intelligence assessments.

Newspapers?
I’ll thumb through all the major papers in the morning. I’ll read the Times and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, just to catch up.

Do you read Paul Krugman?
I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman’s obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan’s on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.

Talk about a bubble.  As a reformed liberal, and one who lives with a committed liberal, I’m familiar with every one of Obama’s intellectual and ideal influences.  Jon Stewart is an obscene clown, who titillates his liberal audience with f-bomb laden riffs lauding Progressives and attacking conservatives.

The New York Times and the Washington Post are Democrat Party mouthpieces.

I suspect that Obama threw in the WSJ reference to burnish his intellectual chops.  Nothing he’s ever said or done is consistent with an understand of even the most basic market principles.  Of course, he could read the WSJ to figure out what will improve the market, so that he can do the opposite.  That might explain a lot….

Paul Krugman?  I actually owe Paul Krugman big time.  It was the increasing incoherence of his columns that helped me discover the conservative blogosphere.  I used to be a Krugman faithful.  As the Bush presidency progressed, though, I found it harder and harder to make sense of his columns.  The words made sense, and sometimes so did the sentences.  Nevertheless, the logical progression I expect from any argument (“if A and B, then C”) was lacking in Krugman’s posts.  Either the facts were wrong, or the A+B=C part was missing.  I went searching for more coherent, realistic material, and found it at temperate, thoughtful sites such as Power Line, National Review, the Weekly Standard, and IBD.

Andrew Sullivan?  I became familiar with his work when he wrote for The New Republic.  I stopped reading that magazine about a year after he took over.  His shrillness permeated what had once been a thoughtful liberal magazine.  Sullivan is now distinguished for his obsession with Sarah Palin, something that borders on an insane monomania; and for his relentless hostility to Israel.  It’s telling that he is one of Obama’s favorite writers.

The New Yorker?  Tina Brown destroyed it.  It used to be a magazine that veered between sophisticated frivolity and eclectic seriousness, all with a light liberal gloss.  It’s now a hardcore Leftist magazine that savaged George Bush, and that now provides a happy home for the execrable Seymour Hersh and the AGW obsessed Elizabeth Kolbert.  No wonder, then, that the magazine, which once wrote charmingly about eccentric art collectors, and mad scientists, uses ignorance to try to take down gun rights in America.

The Atlantic still has its moments.  Few and far between, but they’re there, so Obama gets a pass for that one.

To the extent that Obama reads “conservative columnists,” I’m sure they rejoice in the names of David Brooks, David Frum, and Kathleen Parker.

All of the people Obama mentions have the gloss of good writing.  Unlike the PhD gal whose letter opened this post, they keep pomposity to a minimum, understand basic grammatical principles, and have good editors.  However, all of them fall down when it comes to logic.  In a collision between theory and reality, theory always wins.  The result is that their writing is consistently distinguished by factual misstatements or by logical contortions and fallacies, since those are the only way in which they can force their conclusions.

Everyone likes to live in a bubble.  Everyone likes to read materials that confirm their own world views.  Conservatives, however, work to understand the opposition by ready opposition materials.  Obama demonstrates that, like the young woman who opened this essay, he is incapable of any sort of interaction with people whose views challenge his own.  And here’s the scary thing:  She’ll go on to teach the next generation and he, unless we rally like crazy behind Romney, will be president for another four years.

If you’re having problems with Romney (and I’m not, since I believe in yielding with good grace to a decent inevitable), John Hinderaker lavishes praise on Romney’s speech last night, and then has this to say about Romney himself:

As I watch Mitt Romney, this thought also occurs to me: Romney is sometimes criticized as “inauthentic,” but this is radically incorrect. As a politician, he has had to tack with the winds from time to time, like anyone else. But as a person, Romney is hugely authentic. His persona is no mystery: he is a Dad. We have all known men like Mitt Romney. We may think they are square and out of date; we may roll our eyes if they are occasionally goofy. But when times are tough, in moments of crisis, everyone knows where to turn: we look to leaders of character, competence and decency, like Mitt Romney. I am increasingly confident that in November, Americans will see Mitt Romney as just what we need after four years of Barack Obama’s incompetence.

UPDATE: And here’s more on Obama’s life in the bubble, as well as its deleterious effects on his already sour and arrogant personality.

Child rape: high standards and zero tolerance *UPDATED*

I never thought there’d come a day when I’d agree with Andrew Sullivan, but I just saw a pig fly by outside my window, so this must be the day.  He and Megan McArdle have differing views about the appropriate response when you see your boss raping a child.  Here’s Sullivan’s response to someone’s suggestion that it’s perfectly reasonable to be passive if you respect your boss (or if the rapist is an uncle or father or friend):

If you see anyone – even your own father – raping a ten year old in the showers, the first thing you do is stop it yourself. You don’t even call the cops right away. You clock the rapist in the head or drag the boy out of his clutches. I’m so sick of these excuses for the inexcusable. McQueary is as depraved as all the others who stood by and did nothing.

Well . . . yes.

McArdle, however, takes a more nuanced approach.  According to her, we should appreciate the McQueary was looking at someone he liked and respected, and that was obviously going to temper his response:

I have been thinking some more about the Penn State case, and why McQueary and Paterno did what they did.  And I have come to the conclusion that most commentators are overlooking a rather obvious contributing factor: they liked Sandusky.

[snip]

Think about what that really entails: overcoming all the shock and horror, the defensive mechanisms that make you question what you’re really seeing. The total destruction of a long relationship as soon as you name it out loud and accuse him to his face. The actual physical logistics of grabbing a naked sixty year old man, detaching him from that child, and then pounding on him for a while as a ten year old you don’t know watches. The fact that the minute you go to the police, you will have utterly ruined this man’s life: he will be jobless, friendless, and branded as the worst sort of pervert by everyone in the country–oh, and also, in protective custody so that the other inmates in jail don’t, like, kill him.

[snip]

When you find out that someone you know is a pedophile, that doesn’t erase your knowledge that they’re also a human being. It does in the public mind, of course, but it’s very different when you know them.

We are evolved to live in small groups, with very deep loyalty to the other members. In most situations, this is in fact a completely laudable sentiment. But this is the dark side: it is very hard for us to betray the members of those small groups to which we belong, particularly if we have strong emotional bonds to that person. There is a scientific name for people who are not bound by these sorts of ties: sociopaths. And as I understand it, they do not, in fact, make excellent agents of justice, because they don’t care about the victims, either.

Etc. I especially like it the way McArdle, in the last paragraph I quoted, manages to suggest that turning on someone you know, if that someone is in the act of committing a vile, immoral crime, makes you a sociopath.

I’ll concede here, solely for the sake of argument, that everything McArdle says is probably correct factually, but nothing she says excuses McQueary’s conduct.  While reacting instantly when you see a man you’ve respected doing something terribly wrong may be difficult, it’s still the right thing to do.  You’re not a sociopath if you uphold moral standards.

Nor are you a sociopath if you overcome your fear of doing the right and necessary thing.  Can’t you just see the Marines or the Army or the Navy having a new “most people” standard?  “Well, most people would run away if someone was shooting at them.  Heck, they wouldn’t even hide.  They’d keep running until they were in the next country.  So, guys, if someone shoots at you and you run away, no worries.  You get a pass.”  It is to laugh!

The law does have a “reasonable man” standard, which means that people are not expected to conform to entirely unreasonable behavior.  McArdle is trying to craft such a standard for McQueary.  Indeed, with that sociopath reference, she’s trying to say that all reasonable men, seeing a child being raped by a figure of respect would sneak away.  The problem with this is that the universal revulsion towards Sandusky’s conduct, as well as the universal condemnation towards McQueary’s response, says she’s way off base about the average/reasonable person’s response.  The reasonable man, confronted with the same situation, believes that the right and moral thing to do is to rip the child rapist off the child, not to sneak out and call Daddy.  To analyze McQueary’s probably fears and doubts is merely to offer reasons for his behavior that don’t rise to the level of valid excuses — and that’s true even if many of us would have the same problem in the same situation.

UPDATE:  David Brooks makes precisely the same point McArdle did, which boils down to “I bet you wouldn’t have behaved any better than McQueary if you were in his shoes.”  He’s also just as wrong as she was.  As a society, we have to believe that each of us would have behaved better.  We cannot allow McQueary’s conduct to stand as the appropriate response to witnesses a man rape a young boy.  Incidentally, those of you who have children know that a 10 year old boy cannot be mistaken for an older child.  A ten year old is little.  He’s a boy, not a man or even a proto-man.

In order to have something reasonably approximating a moral, functional society, all of us have to believe that we would be proactive in rescuing the child, and we each have to have a mental image of ourselves acting so that, should the situation arise, we have a moral and practical template to follow.  That some of us, indeed, many of us, might pull a McQueary and choke when the moment comes is NO EXCUSE.

Talking with Jesse Kornbluth again, this time about whether Harvard grads get a free pass

Jesse Kornbluth was again good enough to visit my post commenting upon his article lauding Andrew Sullivan as a blogger amongst bloggers.  If I was a guy, and he and I had met in person, I would have slapped up on the back with a cheery “Hey, Jesse man, great to see you again.”  I’ve discovered that I disagree with Jesse on a whole lot of things, but I certainly appreciate his willingness to come back here and take his stand on the things in which he believes.  So, welcome, Jesse, and let me get right to your points.

Because his is a short comment, I’ll first print it in its entirety here, and then take on what I believe to be its fundamental deficiencies.  As always, my answer will be longer, because I tend to develop my ideas at greater length.  I’ll assume that Jesse does not do so because he is being a polite guest at another’s forum, rather than because he lacks the energy, will or data.

One of your message board commenters has said you’ve heard the last of me. Not so. I was raised to write thank you notes, and I do want to thank you, Bookworm, for taking the time and thought to deal both with my piece and my defense of it.
And I also wish to encourage you. You say you were not among those who doubted Barack Obama’s citizenship, but you do want to investigate his alleged brilliance as a student. You write:
As for me, I’m much more interested in Obama’s college and law school grades. I’d be interested to see whether they support the narrative that he [is] an unusually brilliant man. Since I find his off-teleprompter speech limited, unmusical and ill-informed, I have my doubts.
I can only speak to this investigation as it refers to Harvard. Consider:
BARACK OBAMA
— He was the first African American president in the history of the Harvard Law Journal. [This is generally considered the highest honor you can get at Harvard Law School.]
ANDREW SULLIVAN
— Harkness Fellowship to the Kennedy School
— His Harvard doctoral thesis, “Intimations Pursued: The Voice of Practice in the Conversation of Michael Oakeshott,” won the government department’s Toppan Prize, for the best dissertation “upon a subject of Political Science.”
JESSE KORNBLUTH
summa cum laude thesis, “The Contradictions of Commitment in the Work of George Orwell”
magna cum laude Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature
Just on the record of those three Harvard guys, you should feel encouraged to persist in this effort.
All best.

One of the fundamental differences between Jesse and me is that he thinks Ivy League credentials cover a multitude of sins.  I do not.  Whether you went to Podunk Community College or Hah-vahd Law, if you’re a dishonorable man (that would be Sullivan) or man who fails to demonstrate a well-furnished mind or any analytical ability (that would be Obama), or perhaps a man who is too forgiving of or naive about those who share his alma mater (Jesse himself), my focus will be on the matter at issue, rather than some yellowing diploma.

Much has been written about Obama’s tenure at Harvard.  Indeed, I’ve written on the subject myself, so my regular readers will pardon me for the repetition here.

I attended a premier public, not private, law school at roughly the same time Obama was gracing Harvard’s halls.  I was a good student, and a sociable one, so I interacted with many lawyers who worked at huge, well-paying, reputable firms.  Rather consistently, they told me that they hired Ivy League grads for the cachet, not because they were any good.

The lawyers’ complaints were always the same:  the Ivy Leagues had done away with reliable grading, either because of massive grade inflation or because they’d switched to a pass/fail system.  This meant that all the Ivy League (plus the Boalt) graduates they interviewed presented themselves as top-of-the-class brilliant people.  For a large percentage of them, this was a lie.  From the lawyers’ perspective, hiring one of these grads was like buying a pig in a poke.  It was reasonable to assume that the grads were smart because they’d gotten into a cachet school in the first place, but it was fatal to assume that they had the knowledge, skills or attitude necessary to become a good lawyer.  If you were lucky, you hired someone wonderful; if you weren’t, you could still boast that your firm was a draw to Ivy League lawyers.

Now that Obama’s past is no longer untouchable, people are revisiting his law school experience.  As Ace shows, even absent actual grades, one can figure out a lot of things about Obama’s law school performance.

Using a variety of sources, Ace explains that, when Obama attended Harvard, neither grades nor Law Review were done anonymously.  This was quite different from my own experience.  At my law school, our tests didn’t have our names, just random numbers, so the professors graded based solely on the test’s quality, not the test taker’s relationship with the professor or the test taker’s skin color.  Law Review admission was based upon those same blind grades or upon an essay that was submitted anonymously.  Again, no favoritism based upon anything but the work’s quality.

At Harvard, however, grades were not anonymous, which left a lot of wiggle room for those professors committed to affirmative action.  Also, when Obama was there, in the interests of that same affirmative action, the Law Review had an explicit set-aside of spaces for blacks.  The obvious message to those blacks who made it to Harvard law was that, once there, they didn’t have to try very hard.  The driven ones worked hard because it was their nature.  As for the less driven ones, though, why bother?  You’d still get the perks and honors. Obama’s failure to publish anything of note while on Law Review is so unusual that, in the absence of his academic records, it’s reasonable to assume that he was not one of the driven ones and that he got his august position for reasons other than academic merit.

The magna designation beside Obama’s degree leaves me equally cold.  It turns out that about half the Harvard law class was magna.  Garrison Keillor must have been thinking of Harvard when he spoke of a place in which “all of the children are above average.”

Because Obama has refused to release any of his academic information, because his off-teleprompter speeches reveal a surprisingly ill-informed man (his is the opposite of a well-furnished mind), because his work history is invisible or lacking in any achievement beyond getting a series of  increasingly higher ranking jobs, and because racial preference was rampant in the grade-free environment that was Harvard law, I can’t pretend to be impressed by his diploma.  The diploma is a mere piece of paper when compared to a man whose most significant accomplishment seems to be impressing gullible liberals.

Andrew Sullivan’s academic credentials don’t move me either.  The world of academia is a hermetically sealed world in which having the right ideas (by which I really mean the Left ideas) regularly trumps the more important markers of decency, morality and common sense.  As only a sort of aside, my uncle was reputed to be the most brilliant student ever to graduate from the Jewish Gymnasium in pre-war Berlin.  He was also a miserable, angry Communist who ended his days, not in a haze of academic glory, but as a low-level civil servant pushing paper in a small government office in Denmark.  His embittered, ugly personality were of much more importance in his life than either his brains or his education (an education far exceeding in quality anything Harvard has to offer).

Sullivan is too old to point to his sheepskin as a mark of intellectual quality.  The true evidence of his intellectual and moral quality — or, as I argue, his striking deficiencies in both those categories — is his current work product.  As I’ve demonstrated in other posts, so won’t belabor here, that work product is dishonest, disingenuous, lazy, mean-spirited, defamatory, obsessive and antisemitic.  But other than that, he’s a great product of America’s finest school.

As for Jesse himself, as one of my readers commented, he graduated with high honors at a time before Harvard’s grading system was corrupted by the modern post-deconstructionist Marxist garbage that passes for education in this day and age (not to mention the fact that professors today are embarrassed to give bad grades to young people whose parents have coughed up $50,000 per year for them to hear the tripe that so often passes for knowledge at schools today).  For that, I commend him.  He’s clearly a bright man.  But my focus has been narrow:  I think Jesse betrayed his intelligence and education when he blithely praised Andrew Sullivan, a man with no moral compass and a vicious streak as wide as the Charles.

Back to you, Jesse.  You know you’re always welcome here.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

I can’t help but say, “I told you so” regarding the entire Andrew Sullivan/Jesse Kornbluth thing

In the past week and a half, I’ve had a couple of vigorous go-arounds with Jesse Kornbluth regarding his sycophantic Andrew Sullivan article in the Harvard Rag, er, Mag.  My take was that Kornbluth either carelessly missed or, worse, actually supported Sullivan’s shoddy journalism.  Kornbluth, as you may recall, anointed Sullivan as the world’s “best blogger.”  In his defense, Kornbluth threw his own resume at me (and, although I can’t recall right now, might have thrown Sullivan’s resume at me too).  He did not defend his failure to do deeper research into the myriad factual failings behind Sullivan’s coy, dishonest, and slanderous attacks on Sarah Palin, Trig Palin and the Tea Party.

After that whole go-around, I feel someone vindicated in my position (and totally disgusted, I might add), to learn that Sullivan, trying to defend Tony Kushner, relied on a radically antisemitic site to find a completely vile quotation falsely attributed to Yitzhak Shamir.  (For those who haven’t already heard, CUNY was originally going to give an award to Kushner, but was talked out of it when the depth, breadth and depravity of his antisemitism was exposed.  The usual suspects, Sullivan included, immediately sprang to his defense.)

For information about Kushner’s antisemitism (and don’t forget his anti-Catholicism), go here and here.

For the full story of Sullivan’s unsurprising dive into the antisemitic abyss, go here.

Rebutting Jesse Kornbluth’s rebuttal re his original Andrew Sullivan article

Jesse Kornbluth, whom I took to task for his Sullivan hagiography, has responded to my rebuttal to his defense of that same hagiography.  True to my lawyer’s credo, I’m trying here to have the last word, although I certainly don’t mean to preempt Kornbluth from doing the same, if he is so inclined.  As I did before, I’ll put Kornbluth’s entire response here (indented) along with my comments:

3,467 words. Whew! (Okay, that includes generous quotations from my article and message board post.) If length mattered, Bookworm, you prevail.

We can kick this back and forth forever, but on the assumption we both have more serious work, let me make a very few points, in as few words as possible.

Just FYI, Kornbluth came in at 1,060 words but he didn’t quote me or Sullivan at any length.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Certainly, brevity can be a virtue, but there is merit to solid argument and analysis, regardless of the number of words in play.  I leave the reader to consider content — mine and Kornbluth’s — without regard to word count, and to determine which added more value to the debate.

Here’s Kornbluth again:

First, your take on my conduct as a professional journalist. The important words are “careless” and “laziness” — I am “as lazy a writer and researcher” as you had supposed. And why? Because I could have answered your charges had I done any research; instead, I challenged you to look for links that I should have discovered myself, if only I had done any research at all.

This is a remarkable accusation. It is credible only to those who think that a former Contributing Editor to Vanity Fair, New York, Reader’s Digest, Departures, Architectural Digest and The Los Angeles Times Magazine — and an occasional contributor to the New Yorker, The New York Times, Esquire and many other magazines — either 1) built a career on lazy, fraudulent reporting or 2) had a loss of professionalism when the subject was his favorite blogger or 3) found in Harvard Magazine (of all places!) a journal that did no fact-checking or shared his views on Sullivan so completely that it didn’t give a damn what I wrote about him, as long as I burnished his halo.

Which of those do you believe?

If you believe that whatever meager reputation I have built over a 40-year career is built on deception or that I am in my dotage and unable to do my job properly or that all those East Coast publications that have published me are liberal-left and lack the high standards of [name any conservative publication], then nothing I say will make any difference.

I believe that I couldn’t care less about Kornbluth’s resume.  I was looking at his journalistic conduct vis a vis a single article.  The fact that he wrote for myriad publications for which I have little-to-no respect is irrelevant to the quality of the magazine article at issue.

I should add that Kornbluth may not be aware that I’m a neocon who cut her eye teeth on all the publications he names, plus a few more he doesn’t name.  I read them assiduously, and with the attention of a true liberal disciple.  It was that attention to detail that led me to neoconservativism, since I could no longer tolerate the unacknowledged bias, carelessness, and rank dishonesty that plagued so many of those magazines and newspapers.

By the way, I certainly don’t mean to imply that Kornbluth was guilty of any of those sins.  As it is, before reading the Harvard Mag article, I’d never heard of Kornbluth, so I read the article with an open mind as regards authorship.

Kornbluth again:

Or we could consider what actually happened here.

l) All those links you cite, Bookworm? I read almost all, if not all, of them while I was working on the profile of Sullivan. A chore — and a bigger chore than usual, because I’ve been a regular reader of Sullivan’s blog for years and I’d read most, if not all, of them before. If that is “lazy,” please define “conscientious” for me.

Perhaps, in my lexicon, “conscientious” means applying analytical skills to the reading material.  As it is, if Kornbluth did indeed read the material I cited, he seems to have blithely accepted Sullivan’s own spin.  As I’ve mentioned before (repeatedly), Sullivan’s spin consists of making vile accusations and then backing off with some version of “I’m merely suggesting this, and it’s mere coincidence that I’m offering these suggestions over and over, in every means possible and without any evidence, with a relentlessness that verges on obsession.”  Just saying….

Kornbluth:

2) “…it’s reasonable to believe that, because he was not looking for evidence [of] Sullivan’s periodic monomanias, he did not find that evidence.

Did you read my profile of Sullivan, Bookworm? I presented Sullivan as “an intellectual diva, prone to epic battles.” I noted his obsessions: Israel, torture, gay rights and, yes, Palin and the use of language in politics. Anyone who reads Sullivan knows that these topics will come up again and again. Monomania — an obsession with a single subject or thought — is, for Sullivan, no more than a description of his method of blogging. In this, I plead guilty. And so should you, Bookworm. We all ride our little hobbyhorses.

Sullivan is all Kornbluth says:  a dilettante, a diva, a gadfly.  He’s also, which Kornbluth doesn’t say, a slanderer.  That would seem to detract from his lavish praise for the man.  It’s one thing to ignore eccentricities, or even to offer them as charming qualities in an otherwise sterling human being.   It’s another thing entirely to gloss over behaviors and obsessions that have bypassed eccentricity and veered into rank dishonesty.

And back to Kornbluth:

3) Bookworm writes:
“What bothered me was that Kornbluth failed to discover that Sullivan has taken a fair amount of deserved flack for (a) obsessing about Trig Palin’s putative maternity….”

Failed to discover? Then how do you explain this — from the Harvard piece:

Andrew Sullivan did not support John McCain in 2008. The torture flip-flop would have been enough of a reason. Then McCain added Sarah Palin to the ticket. The combination of her scant government experience and “raw political talent” terrified Sullivan—and with only two months between her nomination and the election, he started hammering.
“I was told: ‘Don’t touch this, it will hurt your reputation,’” he says. During a campaign when most pundits were, at worst, quizzical about Palin, Sullivan filled his blog with questions she was never going to answer. Did he pay a price? “I have become more of an outlaw in this town because I couldn’t hide my amazement from my peers—I’ve definitely become more alienated from mainstream media.
Since the election, Sullivan has continued to press for clarification about a rumor the mainstream media won’t touch: that Trig is not Palin’s son. Sullivan hasn’t flung any accusations at Palin; he’s just pounded her ever-changing stories about Trig’s birth, and her unwillingness to provide a birth certificate for him. In the heated conversation that surrounds all things Palin, nuance has been lost—and Sullivan has been cast as a crank who takes pleasure in badgering a woman who may have no political future. His response: “Early on, I figured out that anything I write about her can only help her, but I don’t care about that. The job of a journalist is to find the truth..

Is it not obvious that “don’t touch this” refers to the questions about Trig? And that, from this passage, Sullivan knew he would be criticized? And that he was criticized? And that I knew he had been, because I asked him about it?

The problem with Kornbluth’s writing is that he acknowledges Sullivan’s Palin monomania in a way that it gives it credibility.  Keep in mind that the above passage occurs in the context of an entire article praising Sullivan as the world’s best blogger.  It also seems that Kornbluth is being as disingenuous as Sullivan himself when he says “Sullivan hasn’t flung any accusations at Palin….”

As I used some of my 3,467 words to demonstrate, the only thing that has stopped Sullivan from making these direct accusations is the moral cowardice that permeates so much of his writing — writing that I quoted at some length.  Sullivan assembles vast amounts of so-called evidence (rumors; innuendos; artful, and always coy, questions), all of which lead inevitably to a specific conclusion, and then announces that he, personally isn’t actually saying anything at all — and that he’s especially not asserting the logical conclusion that one must reach if one accepts his purported facts.

Because Kornbluth didn’t state explicitly that Sullivan has repeatedly attacked Palin’s relationship to Trig, I assumed he hadn’t done his research.  Apparently I was wrong.  It seems that Kornbluth simply buys into Sullivan’s little authorial game of bait and switch, a game that sees Sullivan strongly implying something, and then taking cover by arguing that he hasn’t actually said it.  That line of argument may work in middle school, but it shouldn’t work amongst those with somewhat more analytical experience and intelligence.

As for the birth certificate, I can find no evidence that either Kornbluth or Sullivan cared one iota about the President’s missing birth certificate (a document tied in with a Constitutional requirement for his office).  I must therefore assume that Sullivan’s obsession with Trig’s birth certificate, as well as Kornbluth’s tacit acknowledgment that this is a valid question, both belong in the realm, not of impartial journalism, but of mad dog partisan political attacks.

(And before Kornbluth asks, no, I’m not now, nor have I ever been a Birther.  I’ve always believed that Obama was born in Hawaii.  I’ve also thought it was mean-spirited and inappropriate for him to hide the certificate.  As for me, I’m much more interested in Obama’s college and law school grades.  I’d be interested to see whether they support the narrative that he an unusually brilliant man.  Since I find his off-teleprompter speech limited, unmusical and ill-informed, I have my doubts.)

Kornbluth’s turn again:

[You’ll hate me for this, but the Harvard snot in me compels me to point out that you misspelled a key word. A “flack” is someone who works in public relations --- essentially, what you think I do. “Flak” means criticism and is derived from warfare --- anti-aircraft guns and the bullets they fire.]

I don’t hate you at all.  I’m a terrible proofreader, and I tend to type words by sound as much as by spelling.  Regular readers know that I make these mistakes, which I call “thinkos” rather than “typos,” and I always appreciate corrections.  I’m sufficiently secure about my writing not to be offended by constructive criticism.  So — thank you.

And back to Kornbluth:

The bulk of your response, Bookworm, is an analysis of Sullivan’s blogging. How he dances right up to a statement, then pulls back, disingenuously. Well argued, though this doesn’t require your a-game. Yes, he doubts that Palin is Trig’s mother — that’s why he writes about the “question” so often. And of course he’s going to examine all the rhetoric around the Tucson shooting — his hero is George Orwell.

One can’t simply dismiss my argument about Sullivan’s writing style as a naive failure to recognize his Orwellian drive and curiosity.  What both Sullivan and Kornbluth seem to miss is that Orwell understood better than anyone else that words can be used to obfuscate as well as to elucidate.  Sullivan’s perpetual little verbal dances are not intended to analyze data.  Instead, they are quite obviously intended to advance specific and defamatory lines of argument, all the while maintaining plausible deniability.

In other words, Sullivan seems to have read Orwell to learn the worst lessons about writing, not the best.  For him to spend substantial amounts of time relaying, without analysis, gross slanders about both the Tea Partiers and Palin in the wake of the Tucson shooting, and then to add approving codas to those slanders, is not an example of “examin[ing] . . . rhetoric.”  It is, instead, a nice Goebellian example of advancing the Big Lie.

Kornbluth speaks again:

Finally, re Tucson, you write:
I find it peculiar that Kornbluth defends Sullivan’s journalistic acumen by saying that “the air was thick with accusations that day.”  It shouldn’t have been.  The air should have been thick only with known facts that day.

“Should,” Bookworm? That’s not a word I associate with journalism. JFK shouldn’t have been shot. We shouldn’t have invaded Iraq. Donald Trump shouldn’t make an ass of himself. Yes, the air “should” have been thick with facts that day. Sadly, that wasn’t what happened.

Pardon me, but that argument makes no sense whatsoever.  In the real world (as opposed to the Progressive echo chamber), journalists are supposed to report facts.  Sullivan, however, repeatedly and approvingly used (and uses) his well-read blog to relay completely unfounded slanders — slanders of both of an American political movement and an American politician.  If Kornbluth thinks that’s journalism, we are indeed at an impasse.

Here’s Kornbluth’s last point, after which I too will wrap up my argument:

So, to the facts, which you concede: Andrew Sullivan never said, in so many words, “Trig is not Palin’s kid.” Nor did he say, “Tucson was a conspiracy.” As for what he did write, why not take it up with him?

In answer to Kornbluth’s question, I took the issue up with Kornbluth because:

(a) I try to avoid Sullivan, whose emotional, gossipy, malicious writing offends me (although he has a knack for finding interesting videos);

(b) Harvard Rag . . . er, Mag arrived on my doorstep unrequested, and I was less than pleased to see the magazine serve as an advertisement for someone whose personal biases, spite and dishonesty don’t deserve that kind of platform; and

(c) It was Kornbluth who tried to play clever little word games by pretending that Sullivan’s myriad hysterical and untrue posts about Trig’s parentage or the Tucson shooting can and should be discounted entirely because Sullivan never said certain magic words.  We are not playing “mother may I” here.  The perfectly formulated sentence (i.e., “Trig is not Sarah’s son.”  “The Tea Partiers and Sarah are responsible for the Tucson shooting”) is not the only one that will work.  Sullivan has been dishonest, and Kornbluth has put Harvard’s imprimatur on that dishonesty — and that’s just wrong.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Harvard Magazine and the Left’s Andrew Sullivan love affair

Speaking of Harvard, I just got a gander at Harvard Magazine, which has a smugly grinning Andrew Sullivan on the cover, as the exemplar of “The New Media.”  I thought the article would be about bloggers generally, but the table of contents tells me I’m wrong:  “World’s Best Blogger?” it asks.  It then explains that the article is about “Andrew Sullivan, fiscal conservative [huh?] and social liberal, navigates the changing media landscape.”  Turn to the article itself, and the caption says:  “World’s Best Blogger?  Andrew Sullivan’s views are predictable in only one way:  always stimulating.”

To give you an inkling of the level of research that goes into this type of sycophancy — sycophancy that’s mailed on a regular basis to all Harvard grads — get a load of this exchange between one reader of the article (which is on the internet) and the article’s author, Jesse Kornbluth.  First, the reader comment:

Andrew Sullivan didn’t engage in partisan speculation (or, for that matter, ascribe partisan blame) after the Tuscon shootings?? Really??

What world are you living in??

Perhaps it is the same one Sullivan is living in, there one where he still believes that Sarah Palin faked her pregnancy.

The guy is one step short of wearing tin foil on his head. If that’s your criteria for world’s best blogger, then you’ve made a very good choice. Just ask yourself this question: If Andrew Sullivan were as “relentless” in asking Barack Obama for HIS birth certificate, would you still consider him the blogger of the year?

Yeah, didn’t think so. (nor should you; but I guess it’s OK, because his utter lunacy is directed at someone you both mutually hate).

Second, Jesse Kornbluth’s polite, but utterly clueless, reply:

As the author of the piece, I could respond better to these charges if you’d cite some specifics. Namely: could you provide a link to Sullivan’s Tuscon coverage in which he points a finger at a group or person who directed the shooter? And, in regard to Governor Palin, could you provide a link to a passage in the Dish where Sullivan makes the claim that she’s not Trig’s mother? Many thanks. JK

In about one second, any doofus can summon up myriad posts Sullivan did about Palin and Trig, or can find conservative comments castigating him for his lunatic monomania.  Here are a bazillion such links.  The same holds true for Sullivan’s hysterical screeds about Tucson.  But someone who wrote an entire article about Sullivan for the glossy Harvard Magazine was not only unable to find evidence of his quixotic little obsessions in the first place, but also was either unable to do so (or couldn’t be bothered to do so) in the second instance, when someone brought those facts to his attention.  You’d think that a Harvard grad (Class of ’68) could do better than that.

Andrew Sullivan is a bright guy.  He’s also one of the people I credit with helping me cross the Rubicon from political Left to political Right.  I was a New Republic subscriber for years.  When he took over as editor, his editorials were so ludicrous and hysterical, I started getting jaundiced with the magazine and ended up being open to new influences.  (Same holds true for Paul Krugman, whose anti-Bush hysteria leeched out any credibility from his writings, again sending me looking for more intelligence in political and economic commentary.)  I have reason, therefore, to be grateful to Sullivan.  But to laud the guy as a great thinker — he’s simply not.  And for someone to write a whole laudatory article about the man without being aware of one of his overriding political passions (that his, his obsession with the identity of Trig’s birth mother) or of his ill-informed, partisan, post-Tucson rants, reveals lazy thinking, lazy research and lazy writing — which, sadly, is about all I expect from a lot of Harvard’s brand nowadays.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land,
available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon or Smashwords.

Jeffrey Goldberg exposes Andrew Sullivan’s egregious misstatements about Israel

Jeffrey Goldberg catches Andrew Sullivan making egregiously erroneous statements about Israel’s history, this time by publishing at his site a series of maps that purport to show that Israel has no claim to most land she now holds:

The first map in the series of four is most egregious. It suggests that, in 1946, nearly all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean was “Palestinian.” Land designated as “Jewish” in this map constitutes maybe five percent of the total. This map is ridiculous, not only because the term “Palestinian” in 1946 referred, generally speaking, to the Jews who lived in Palestine, not the Arabs, but because there was no Palestine in 1946 (nor was there an Israel.) There was only the British Mandate. Jews lived throughout the territory then occupied by the British, including, by the way, on land that today constitutes the West Bank (though in 1946 Jews did not live in Hebron; they were expelled in 1929, after an Arab massacre of Jewish religious scholars). The intent of this propaganda map is to suggest that an Arab country called “Palestine” existed in 1946 and was driven from existence by Jewish imperialists. Not only was there no such country as “Palestine” in 1946, there has never been a country called Palestine. Before the British conquered Jerusalem, Palestine was a sub-province of the Ottoman Empire. (And after the British left, of course, Jordan and Egypt moved in to occupy Gaza and the West Bank.)

You can read the rest here.

Goldberg wraps up his post by commenting about Sullivan’s shifting Middle Eastern politics:

I dont know why Andrew refuses to admit that Middle East history is complicated. Once, he was rabidly pro-Israel, and refused to acknowledge legitimate Palestinian Arab claims and grievances. Now, he is rabidly pro-Palestinian and refuses to acknowledge Israel’s legitimate claims and grievances. Perhaps it is malevolence that motivates his campaign to demonize the world’s only Jewish country. On the other hand, as our colleague Clive Crook noted earlier this week, “Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them,” that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.

My own sense isn’t that Sullivan isn’t just a “rabidly” pro-Israeli person who is now “rabidly” pro-Palestinian.  Instead, after watching Sullivan in action for the past couple of years, I think he is, simply, globally rabid.  Something made Andrew very, very angry (“mad dog!”) and he hasn’t come down from that yet.  He is therefore allying himself, at home and abroad, with the angriest organizations and ideologies that he can find.  And that’s where he lives.  I only wish that The Atlantic didn’t give him such a prominent bully pulpt for all that venom.