When conservatives today talk about Andrew Sullivan, they rank him among those bitter Bush-hating bloggers who, in practically knee-jerk fashion, angrily oppose anything the president (or for that matter, his Administration and even his sometime supporters) says or does. But, there was a time when Andrew offered one of the most unique perspectives on politics in American punditry. Throughout the better part of the 1990s and into this century, Andrew brought together his diverse experiences as an Oxford- and Harvard-educated British-born gay conservative Catholic to comment intelligently on the events of the day as well as on social trends and gay culture.
In the days before blogs, it was not easy for a man with such an unusual background to find a forum for his ideas. A conservative magazine would not have brought on an openly gay man who wished to opine on gay issues. Fortunately, the New Republic, hiring him when he was still in graduate school, provided that forum. It was one of the few places where those not so easily categorized could publish their opinions.
While that magazine had a largely liberal perspective, it did take conservative ideas seriously and often took editorial positions at odd with the liberal establishment. I have long appreciated its broad-minded liberalism–and have been reading the magazine since high school. For many years, I subscribed to its print edition and now subscribe to its online edition. While I disagreed frequently with the magazine’s editorial positions, it often surprised me by offering a perspective not too different than my own. But, even when i did not share the point of view of a particular writer, I usually appreciated his (or her) points.
Perhaps because of my past affection for that magazine, I have been following pretty closely the story of the magazine’s “Baghdad Diarist,” Scott Thomas Beauchamp. Even before the story had not been debunked, it struck me as strange that the magazine which once favored a strong military would bring on board a serviceman who had shown bias against its mission in Iraq even before being deployed there.
The magazine which once offered thoughtful criticism of (and occasional support for) the policies of the last two-term Republican president, Ronald Reagan, published a piece where a columnist ranted about the current two-term GOP chief executive: I hate President George W. Bush.
What’s sad about this once-great (and from time to time, still quite good) magazine is that this visceral Bush-hatred has increasingly come to dominate its political commentary. And the hiring of Scott Beauchamp and the failure to vet his work before publication suggests the current editors of the magazine have lost sight of the thoughtful work of their forebears. No longer the responsible voice of a broad-minded liberalism, the magazine all too often seem to have become another platform for those afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome.
And given the magazine’s past, that is great, great misfortune. A true loss to the tradition of civil discourse and intelligent criticism the New Repubilc promoted for the better part of its existence.
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)