Sullivan’s Corporate Masters Stab Him in the Back on Newsweek’s Cover

Why does Newsweek suck?Newsweek, a once-important news magazine now owned by a liberal blogging site, has a cover this week offering me the opportunity to let Andrew Sullivan, a once-independent blogger, explain to me why I am “dumb.”  Grateful though I am for Newsweek‘s efforts to improve the tenor of our national discourse, I’m going to pass.

I am, however, enough of a blogosphere junkie to be interested in how Sullivan’s six-person “personal” blog responds to the firestorm of criticism the cover has rightly received.  I also know from my own long-ago journalism days that authors almost never write their own headlines, and Sullivan confirms that’s true in this case.  Sullivan professes to be perplexed by the criticism:

None of these critics shows any sign of having read the actual article. Is it too much to ask that they rip me apart after thinking rather than before? It’s not a book, for Pete’s sake. It’s less than 3,000 words, and has strong criticism of the left in it. Maybe the headline, which I didn’t write, set them off.

Gee, ya think?

Sullivan, a former conservative, has a talent for outraging people with whom he once made common cause.  Nevertheless, he’s an extremely talented writer, and certainly is capable of thoughtful and nuanced argumentation.  He has to understand how offensive the cover headline is.  The headline of his own blog post announcing the cover — a headline that he did write, or at least controlled — is “Why Obama Should Be Reelected.”  The article itself, once you get past the disgraceful cover, is headlined “How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics.” I’m inclined to disagree with the premise, but if the article were positioned that way, I might actually want to read it.

Even though this is a case of an author being wronged by a headline writer, I’m not inclined to let Sullivan off the hook entirely.  Sullivan, a true pioneer of blogging as an independent medium, now appears so beholden to Tina Brown & Co. that he can’t even manage the mildest of complaints about the utterly inappropriate headline.

How do I know this?  His minions publish a “Daily Wrap” post each day cataloging the three dozen blog posts Sullivan writes or signs off on in an average day.  Here’s the overview of Sully’s posts about what the blog carefully calls “his Obama defense”:

Today on the Dish, Andrew called out Fox News for making him persona non grata – which potentially produced an on-air debate over the blockbuster Newsweek piece with Megyn Kelly – and defended his Obama defense here, here, and here.

Feel free to follow the links if you wish — Sullivan gave my humble blog an exciting traffic spike once back in the day, so I won’t begrudge him the traffic from my vast audience (hi Mom!) But I can tell you that I read all of the posts, and while he carefully avoids echoing the incendiary headline, there’s no hint of any criticism of it.

After years of snotty elite references to stupid right-wingers versus “the reality based community,” can’t Sullivan understand why conservatives might boycott an article that calls them “dumb” as an opening gambit?

But but but… the dumb people are not just conservatives!

Just browsing at a few of the right-wing blogs, I see that they have attacked it without actually, you know, reading it… Half the article is devoted to liberals and Democrats!

In a previous incarnation at the Atlantic magazine, Sullivan’s blog proudly proclaimed that it was “of no party or clique.”  But he has become so indoctrinated into the cult of Obama that he defends The One against all comers, from the right or the left.

Yes, Mr. Sullivan, I’m criticizing your article without reading it.  I’m pretty comfortable with that decision. If some ink-stained clown put a gratuitous racial slur in a headline over my criticism of presidential policies, I wouldn’t expect to win many converts with that post.

A Brief History of Presidential Betrayal, Through the Prism of Andrew Sulllivan

Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan

If Obama has lost Andrew Sullivan, has he lost the Left, the Right or the Center?

For reasons that will become clear, I’ve been watching off and on to see what might happen when Obama does something that Sullivan perceives as a betrayal. The time may have come with Obama’s shocking decision to intervene in Libya.

Sullivan, who once wrote a book called The Conservative Soul from an insider’s perspective, felt the sting of betrayal from George W. Bush in 2004 and began a well-chronicled move to the Left, slashing and burning his way through conservative friends and supporters as he went.  By the time of Barack “Hope and Change” Obama’s election and presidency, Sullivan’s incessantly repeated exhortations toknow hopecarried echoes of Dan Rather’s “courage” from an earlier era.

I described Obama’s rush to war in Libya as “astonishing” and “bizarre,” and Sullivan apparently has similar feelings.  (One difference is that I’m actually hopeful that it might work out OK, whereas Sullivan appears more pessimistic.)  Sullivan has taken to referring to his onetime idol as King Barack I, and he’s raised the specter of impeachment.  Here’s a sample post from last week, with emphasis added:

I’m still absorbing this news and don’t want to vent immediately, because there is still part of me that simply cannot believe that president Obama has already ordered covert action in Libya on one side in a civil war, and is now actively discussing whether to arm that side in another chaotic Muslim country, committing the United States to yet another war against yet another tyranny simply because we can.

It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it. I know the president is not against all wars – just dumb ones. But could any war be dumber than this – in a place with no potential for civil society, wrecked by totalitarianism, riven by tribalism, in defense of rebels we do not know and who are clearly insufficient to the task?

By all means keep the no-fly zone to protect unarmed civilians from brute military force. But that must be the total sum of the commitment.

Love him or hate him (and I’ve leaned in both directions), Andrew Sullivan is a towering figure in the development of blogging as a vital form of communication.  His pioneering “Daily Dish,” with its barely readable white and beige text on a dark-blue background, provided thoughtful commentary on a daily basis for years before the potty-mouthed Wonkette came along to become, briefly, the best-known name in blogging.

I started following Sullivan so long ago, his blog is in the “Conservatives” folder of my bookmarks.  This was back when James Taranto — one of many bloggers who now cannot stand the man — used to refer to Sullivan as his “favorite gay, Catholic Tory.”  I got the Web Goddess interested in Sullivan’s writing, and then we sprang for $20 (I think that’s what it was) to get his short-lived weekly email with the inside story behind the Daily Dish.

Sullivan, former editor of the New Republic , backed Bush in the 2000 election and was a strong supporter of the decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003.  He started to sour on Bush because of the mismanagement of the war, and in 2004 was openly flirting with the idea of endorsing the  Democratic nominee — even if it were John Kerry, whom he despised — over Bush.  That deal was sealed on February 24, 2004, when Bush, after calculating that he had more to gain among evangelicals than he had to lose among the few gay people inclined to support him, endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The FMA went well beyond declaring that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” (That’s still Obama’s official position, btw.)  The FMA also would have eviscerated civil unions and domestic partnerships, which are a squeamish society’s well-meaning effort to provide legal protection to gay couples.  Here’s the text of the amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist solely of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

(The amendment failed to advance in either the House or the Senate, falling far short of the two-thirds majorities required.)

I remember being struck that day by how anguished Sullivan was over Bush’s announcement.  I remember Jonah Goldberg, who at the time was largely sympathetic to Sullivan, describing Sullivan’s reaction as a “cri de coeur” (which I had to look up).  But I couldn’t remember what Sullivan himself had said that day, so I went back looking for it.  His actual post doesn’t seem as raw and livid as I remembered, but you can see the sense of betrayal.  Excerpts:

WAR IS DECLARED: The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land.  … Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

NO MORE PROFOUND AN ATTACK: This president wants our families denied civil protection and civil acknowledgment. He wants us stigmatized not just by a law, not just by his inability even to call us by name, not by his minions on the religious right. He wants us stigmatized in the very founding document of America. There can be no more profound attack on a minority in the United States – or on the promise of freedom that America represents. That very tactic is so shocking in its prejudice, so clear in its intent, so extreme in its implications that it leaves people of good will little lee-way. This president has now made the Republican party an emblem of exclusion and division and intolerance.

Sullivan’s blogging home has bounced from his own domain to Time to The Atlantic, and as of today he is settling in to new quarters at Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast.  He’s a gifted writer who gets carried away with his passions. Somehow I don’t think his animus toward Obama will ever quite reach the level it did with Bush.

Jonesing for My Iran Fix — Did They Strike or Not?

jonesing-2

Andrew Sullivan posted his latest update from the #iranelection Tweetstream at about midnight last night, indicating confusion about whether the national strike is planned for Tuesday or Wednesday.  Now it’s 8:15 a.m. on the US East Coast — 8.5 hours later in Iran means the normal work day must be almost over.  No sign of any strike headlines on CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo, USAToday websites.  What’s going on?

I may be getting too close to this story.

Iran Revolt Vindicates Neoconservative Ideals — and the Iraq War

iran-green-peace

(Welcome, GayPatriot readers)

Since he turned against the Iraq War that he once championed, Andrew Sullivan has taken to using the term “neocon” as a curse word.  “The neocon hope that Ahmadinejad keeps himself in power – barely disguised any more – seems to me premature,” Sullivan said a few days ago — while linking to a blog post that is more accurately summarized by its own headline: “The Bright Side of Ahmadinejad’s ‘Win’”.

So when I saw Sullivan’s headline this morning — “The Good Neocons” — I was prepared for sarcasm.  But he was praising the work of two writers, Michael J. Totten (who years ago rejected the neocon label) and Daniel Finkelstein, whose London Times article Sullivan then quoted at length.  The whole thing is worth reading, but it was a different passage that jumped out at me:

Now, there is something you need to know. I am a neocon. Given all that has happened over the past ten years, I am sure my PR consultant would advise me to drop this label. But I don’t employ a PR consultant. [KP note: please contact me if you'd like to discuss your PR needs.] So, stubbornly, I cling on to the designation. It declares my belief in two things – that in every country in the world, wherever it may be and whatever its traditions, the people yearn for liberty, for free expression and for democracy; and that the spread of liberty and democracy (not necessarily through the barrel of a gun) is the only real way to bring peace to the world. I believe that what we are seeing on the streets of Iran now is a vindication of these neoconservative ideas.

Hear hear, and I’ll take it a step further:  It is a vindication of the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and liberate Iraq.

I sniped at Sullivan in my first Iran post for saying that Obama inspired the Iranian revolt by sweeping away the Bush years.   To me it seems self-evident that exactly the opposite is true.  If the Bush Administration had not planted democracies (albeit still troubled democracies) in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s inconceivable to me that so many Iranians would risk their lives and their freedom for an idealistic vision that did not yet exist in their neighborhood.  Just as it was inconceivable that Libya would renounce its nuclear ambitions in the absence of a credible threat.

In the long run, the only hope for victory over Islamic fascism is a Reformation within Islam.  As Jews and Christians have evolved beyond the most repugnant parts of their own scriptures, so too can Islam.   If an Islamic Reformation occurs, the democracies that President Bush helped install in the heart of the ancient Caliphate will play an important role.

And yes, I’m a neocon too.

(Photo: Mousavi1388)

Iran Looms Large in Bush’s Third Term

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Risking police violence in Tehran (Photo: mousavi1388)

I’ve said that regarding foreign affairs, Obama has been serving Bush’s third term.  It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek perhaps, but there’s plenty of substance behind the label.  So I find myself wondering how the Obama Administration’s response to the turmoil in Iran will compare with what Bush might have done in a third term.

Michael J. Totten calls out Obama:

Obama Administration officials still hope they can talk Khamenei out of developing nuclear weapons and supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. This is delusion on stilts. Khamenei can’t even compromise with his own regime or his hand-picked presidential candidates. He placed them under house arrest, along with a Grand Ayatollah, and deployed thousands of violent enforcers into the streets. Not only does he confront the world, he is at war with his very own country. …

Military action against Iran should be the very last option and used only if everything short of it fails. Dialogue, though, is only the first option, one that has been failing for three decades. And there is a vast range of options between war and discussion.

I think Totten is right about the nature of the Khamenei regime, but I have two issues with his analysis.  I love the stilts metaphor, but I’m willing to give Obama some benefit of the doubt about whether he will change course in the face of changing reality.  He certainly changed course sharply in Iraq, which gives me hope that he’ll consider doing so in Iran.

And I by no means am advocating a hasty war in Iran, but I have an immediate strong reaction every time I hear words to the effect that war should be a last resort, only if all else fails.  There are always other options besides war.  There may be no good options, but passivity, appeasement and surrender, for example, are always options.  “Last resort” therefore becomes a euphemism for “never.”  Totten is on stronger ground when he says “there is a vast range of options between war and discussion,” and I hope to see Obama pursue some of those options for putting pressure on Iran.

The administration hasn’t taken a strong stand yet on the Iranian elections, although Vice President Biden has questioned the legitimacy of the results.  As Gordon Robison writes:

The Obama administration appears concerned mainly with not painting itself into any rhetorical corners. In a situation where events are fluid, and it is unclear even who all of the key players are, that seems, at least for now, like a good policy.

Bill Kristol issues a clarion call to Republicans who might be tempted to engage in Obama bashing:

Presuming ahead of time that Obama will fail to exercise leadership, and cataloguing this episode pre-emptively as another in a list of Obama failures, would be a mistake. The U.S. has a huge stake in the possible transformation, or at least reformation, of the Iranian regime. If there’s some chance of that happening, and some chance of U.S. policy contributing to that outcome, we should hope Obama does the right thing, and urge and pressure him to do so–because then the United States will be doing the right thing, and the United States, and the world, will benefit.

It’s still far too early to grade Obama’s performance on Iran.  I’m cautiously hopeful.  Hat tip for the Kristol and Robison quotes to Andrew Sullivan, who continues to be all over the developments in Iran.

Here’s Hoping Iran is the Next Domino for Democracy

Pity the mullahs who cling to power in Iran.  With budding (albeit flawed) democracies to the east and west, with tens of thousands of angry people protesting the tainted election of a figurehead, with web-savvy dissidents informing the world via Twitter, YouTube and Flickr — what’s a frightened theocrat to do?

tehran-womanHere’s my favorite image thus far — evoking the lone man facing down the Tiananmen tanks, a woman shakes her fist and waves the green flag of revolution at the advancing riot troops.  You go, sister — next thing you know, she’ll be uncovering her head.

Andrew Sullivan is proclaiming that a coup has taken place, and he’s furnishing continuous updates.  Interestingly, the other day it looked like Sullivan was giving props to the man who set the first dominos in motion:

How is what is happening in Iran not exactly what the Bush administration wanted to happen in Arab regimes? New technology, massive over-reach by the Ahmadinejad forces, emerging women’s voices: these have already precipitated a fracturing of the regime.

Set aside the quibble that Iran is Persian rather than Arab — this is indeed exactly the kind of development that President Bush sought to precipitate with the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  And it’s great that Sullivan was finally able to set aside his hatred of all things GWB to recognize that.

Or… did he?  Sullivan continues:

And what achieved this? In a strange way, the messianic radicalism of Bush sustained the messianic radicalism of Ahmadinejad. Obama’s election, as many of us hoped, broke that cycle and allowed for Iran’s opposition to re-emerge without looking like a pawn of the US.

The mind reels.  Still, Sullivan has been one of the best sources for fresh updates on Iran.  Others are Michael J. Totten, NYT’s The Lede blog  and, for photographs, TehranLive.org.

C’mon, You Know You Want to Hear About My Stats

It has come to my attention that some of you are less fascinated than I am by discussions of my blog traffic. If that describes you, I suggest scrolling down past this post.

I wrote previously about a “Sullivalanche” caused by a link to one of my posts from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, back in October. Earlier this month I finally received my first “Instalanche,” the original slang term for an avalanche of visitors from a link by Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit. The snapshot above from my Google Analytics data (click to enlarge) shows how dramatically such links change my normal traffic pattern.

Sullivan’s link, which was posted early in the morning, caused the largest single-day traffic on my site, 4,514 visits, some of which came from other sites that posted their own links after seeing me on Sullivan’s blog. But the Instapundit link actually drove more total traffic — Reynolds posted his link in the evening, which gave me a couple of thousand visits in the few hours before midnight, then more than 3,000 the following day. In the table below (again, click to enlarge), the Pajamas Media visitors overwhelmingly are from Instapundit, although a handful may be from comments I left for other Pajamas Media bloggers.

After Reynolds and Sullivan, the next largest group of my visitors came to the site directly — 2,829 visits from people who have my site bookmarked, including me, my wife, my mother, and probably a few other folks. Then there were about 1,000 visits from The Corner, where my BFF Iain Murray linked to me two times.

Rounding out the top five traffic sources is Entrecard, which sent more than 900 visitors during the period in question. Entrecard is a service that enables bloggers to feature 125 x 125 pixel ads on each other’s sites (see today’s ad on my site in the right column).

I joined Entrecard at the suggestion of my friend Lori Widmer at Words on the Page — and I immediately started finding fault with it. Members are awarded one EC (Entrecard Credit) for each site on which they “drop” (click on the Entrecard widget), up to 300 EC per day. The ECs are used to purchase ads on other sites in the Entrecard universe.

This means members have an incentive to whip through up to 300 sites as quickly as possible, finding and clicking on the widget and then moving on. Not exactly a quality visit — the traffic source table above shows that Entrecard visitors viewed the fewest pages per visit of any of the top traffic sources. (Interestingly, Instapundit visitors were not much higher.)

Skeptical though I was, I decided to give Entrecard an honest chance to prove its worth, and I’m glad I did. Once I installed the Entrecard toolbar for my Firefox browser, I had an easy way to open 10 sites at a time in separate tabs, so I could jump from tab to tab doing my drops in quick succession. It sounds mindless — and yet, from time to time something would catch my eye, and I might explore a little further. As I continued dropping day after day, I found I was having fun doing it, and eventually certain sites on my EC favorites list or inbox started to look comfortably familiar.
After I got serious about “dropping” on a daily basis, my traffic from Entrecard started to rise (see graph above), because many member make a point of reciprocal visits. On my own site, I started noticing that some of my new commenters were Entrecard members — people who found me in the course of doing their own daily drops. In other words, while the vast majority of Entrecard visitors were just dropping and running, a small percentage started coming back day after day. I think in the long run Entrecard will do more to build readership on my site than any Instalanche.

One other traffic insight, and then I’ll shut up. (Hey, you could have scrolled down.) If you click on the Visitors widget with all the little flags in the right column, you’ll find a breakdown of my traffic by country of origin. Nearly 90% of my traffic is from the U.S., and the next two biggest contributors are Canada and Great Britain, about what I’d expect. But I was surprised to notice that the Philippines is in 4th place, and other top-ten countries include Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. It turns out Entrecard has a very active following in the Philippines and the Pacific Rim.

“Catfight” Post Sparks a Sullivalanche


Further info about traffic on the Catfight post that sparked today’s Sullivalanche

The full daily stats have not been posted to my Google Analytics “dashboard” yet, but it turns out that doing a customized search for a time period pulls out data that is more current than the dashboard.

The graphic above shows my total traffic for the past week, as of about 5 p.m. today. If the text in the graphic is too small to read, here’s a summary: For the seven prior days, my total visitors ranged from a low of 6 (yesterday) to a high of 13. Not 6 thousand — just 6.

Today, thanks to my BFF Andrew Sullivan, as of 5 p.m. the system was showing 2,906 viewers. Virtually all of those visits came from Sullivan, according to my Feedjit live feed, although a few came from sites that linked to Sullivan’s post, such as 3 Quarks, Bloglines and Straight Dope. A bunch came from Google Reader, making me wonder how it could be that someone in Grenole, France could have my RSS feed in their Google Reader. After a few moments I realized that the French visitor in question undoubtedly has SULLIVAN’s RSS feed in their Google Reader, and they clicked on the link to me.

If you’re still here, welcome, French person!

Saturday Update: Sullivan’s post has continued to drive traffic because he has had it featured all day in his “Recent Keepers” list of posts. Google Analytics tells me the two-day total is 4,815 “Absolute Unique Visitors,” and that they came from 57 countries or territories. In order of number of visitors, those countries are:

United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Japan, France, Ireland, India, Netherlands, New Zealand, Finland, Brazil, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Norway, Israel, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia, Chile, Denmark, Thailand, Puerto Rico, China, Colombia, Greece, Argentina, Vietnam, Paraguay, Mozambique, Poland, Pakistan, El Salvador, Qatar, Costa Rica, Philippines, Guatemala, Portugal, U.S. Virgin Islands, Croatia, Senegal, Indonesia, Serbia, Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, Austria, Malta, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Iceland, Russia, Ghana, Italy.

Average number of page views per visit was 1.32, reflecting the fact that 80% of the visitors left the site without looking at another page. My single visitor from El Salvador, however, spent 40 minutes on the site and looked at 15 pages. Gracias, amigo!

Update 11/2: Seven more countries, for a total of 64: Singapore, South Africa, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Egypt, Kenya and Cambodia. More than 5,300 total visitors since Sullivan’s post went up. The Catfight page has gotten 6,480 page views, compared with about 2,200 combined page views for every other page for the history of the blog, including the homepage. No return visit as yet from my amigo in El Salvador (or any other Salvadoran).

OK, I’ll shut up about this now.

Gay Republicans Make Their Peace With Palin

This article is a response to gay friends who have taken issue, quite civilly, with my support of John McCain for President. (Disclaimer: there is a comment on the article from someone named “Kirk,” who is not me.)

While John McCain’s “selection of the Alaska governor has energized the GOP’s socially conservative wing,” it has also inspired a lot of gay and lesbian Republicans. It has brought together left-leaning lesbians and Hillary-supporting gay men concerned about Barack Obama’s qualifications with gay conservatives unhappy with McCain’s frequent departures from party orthodoxy.

We see in Sarah Palin John McCain’s real commitment to reform. That is why, despite her mixed record on gay issues, we are excited by her nomination.

The article is by a co-author of GayPatriot, which has been my favorite gay conservative blog ever since Andrew Sullivan let his Bush Derangement Syndrome morph into McCain Derangement Syndrome.

The reference to Sarah Palin’s “mixed record” is a euphemism at best — the only things on the positive side of the ledger are that she vetoed an anti-gay law (because she believed it was unconstitutional), and apparently she interacts respectfully with openly gay individuals. But there’s nothing really “mixed” about her stand on gay issues — she’s simply on the wrong side.

For me, and for some gay voters, national security is a more pressing issue in selecting a president. I think Palin was a bad choice on the basis of experience (although she is better qualified on that basis than Obama). But I think her reform record is admirable, and since for now at least she clearly is helping the ticket, I’ll take my chances on McCain’s continued good health.

Along the same lines, I also want to note estimates that nearly one out of every four gay voters pulled the lever for Bush in 2004 (as did I), despite Bush’s odious support for the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (As for this year’s GOP nominee: “In the Senate, McCain has been an ardent opponent of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, arguing his case on federalist grounds.”)