DATE: 10/06/2004 10:43:00 AM
Debate Cheers and Jeers - Debates are interesting in and of themselves most of the time, but what's just as interesting is watching how people handle themselves during and after the event.
First, praise must be given to Gwen Ifill, whose performance last night showed just how wretched and partisan a job Jim Lehrer did last week. Ifill was fair, deferential and asked tough questions of both sides. She was also unexpectedly funny at times, and her general demeanor made the debate a heated but civil affair. Major kudos.
A big loser of last night's debate was Andrew Sullivan. He thought Edwards won big, and is now straining to support his position using polls and emails from fans. Sullivan, as we know, was a fan of George W. Bush before Bush decided to come out in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Since that time, Sullivan has become an unpleasantly screedy writer, with his constant derision of religious conservatives (which he calls "theocons") and his growing hatred of the Bush administration. Sullivan has denied that it was the FMA that turned him against Bush, but for longtime readers and past supporters of his blog (which I was) , the change became apparent in the spring. Until that announcement by Bush, Sullivan was critical of the administration but optimistic and supportive.
After the FMA announcement, Sullivan took on some of the worst characteristics of the left, at times linking to juvenile humor sites that made fun of Bush. His rhetoric on the war went from mildly supportive of Bush to completely critical of everything the administration is doing in Iraq. His crowing today about Paul Bremer's comments on troop numbers is a good example of that.
I have been extremely critical of Sullivan on this blog. Other blogs, such as Allah and Ace of Spades have also chronicled out Sullivan's downfall. The writers at National Review seem to be tiring of Sullivan's rhetoric, but have not yet devoted an article or a piece of writing to answering many of the ridiculous charges Sullivan has been throwing at the administration and his "fellow conservatives." It's probably time they did. Sullivan's reaction to this debate suggests he's lost the ability to think independently when it comes to this administration. His personal feelings color everything.
Contrast his reaction to the debates (declaring the Democrats the winner in both) to National Review's. The writers at NR admitted Bush was unimpressive in the first debate, and gave the second to Cheney. Declaring Kerry the winner of the first debate could not have come easy to those who support the president, but some of them did it anyway. That is what I mean by thinking independently. Sullivan once had the ability to do it. That he's lost or set aside that ability means we've lost a once valuable voice. I didn't always agree with Sullivan's writing in the past, but I always respected the point he was trying to make. That is no longer true.
I truly hope he finds that voice again.