On Friday while working away on the step-master at my gym, I glanced up to see Arianna Huffington puffing away on CNN (or was it MSNBC?), calling into question John McCain’s national security credentials. This former McCain supporter claimed her one-time candidate has made repeated public statements showing he doesn’t understand the difference between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam.
Posturing for the netroots, Arianna is merely repeating a notion propagated on the left (most notably by the New York Times) about the presumptive Republican nominee’s confusion of the two leading Muslim sects. A number of conservative bloggers have exposed this MSM interpretation for that fraud that it is. Simply put, it twists McCain’s statements out context (See e.g. these two Powerline posts: here and here).
What struck me about Mrs. Huffington was how far she had come since 2000 when she enthusiastically backed the Arizona Senator for the Republican nomination. While supporting that good man, she frequently badmouthed his GOP rival that year, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush. Her anti-Bush barbs helped her get the attention of Hollywood left-wingers who were already unfavorably disposed to the man, but who had only previously known her as a Republican pundit.
Once she began bashing a Republican, they started taking notice of her political comments, praising her where once they had ignored her. That praise become like an aphrodisiac to this Angelena.
Realizing she could find a greater welcome among the Angeleno political set as critic of Republicans rather than as an advocate for a revitalized conservatism (which she had been throughout the 1990s), she shifted her focus in order to better appeal to her neighbors. Her new-found anti-Republican identity has afforded her a degree of prominence she had not previously enjoyed. Her books now get more mainstream attention. Her web-site, the Huffington Post has become a leading source of left-wing opinion.
So eager has she become to retain her position of leadership in the netroots commentariat that she is now spurning the man whom she once so eagerly supported, merely because he is the Republican nominee. What a delicious irony. Had she not supported John McCain in 2000, she would likely not have gained the media platform from which she now denounces him.
As she blabbered on, repeating a notion (of his confusion about Sunni and Shi’a) which anybody who has spent any time seriously studying John McCain’s record would know to be a misrepresentation, she appeared increasingly insincere. It doesn’t matter to her that she was twisting things out of context. She’s no longer trying to be an objective partisan. Today, she’s just looking to reassure her supporters on the left that she really is one of them. She’es found that the best way to do that is to repeat their accepted notions of Republican malfeasance, maliciousness, ignorance and/or incompetence even when the facts are at odds with their theory.
Watching Arianna, I realized it wasn’t her politics per se which bothered me, but instead her constant posturing for and pandering to her left-wing base. She doesn’t see political discourse as a means to contribute to the conversation on the issues of the day, but as path to her own celebrity.
That’s why I’ve used her name as the eponym for Huffingtonitis, a condition describing those who define their “political views and make . . . public statements in order to win social approval and/or acceptance.”
There are also conservative pundits who also pander to their base as does Arianna. When such figures gain national prominence, political talk shows become media outlets for insecure partisans eager to curry favor with their admirers and not fora for serious discussion of the campaign and issues, as they should be.
Arianna’s transformation is particularly sad because she once offered sensible criticism of conservative ideas. A very intelligent woman, she once made genuine contributions to the conservative conversation.
But, I guess contributing to a conversation on conservative reform just didn’t give her the celebrity she now enjoys. Perhaps, she’s just torn a page from Jerry Springer’s biography, albeit succeeding in a different medium from that of the once-promising Ohio politician.
UPDATE: McCain aide Mark Salter calls Mrs. Huffington a “a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva.” (Via Mickey Kaus.)