Friday, September 3, 2004

Man in the mirror...

Andrew Sullivan has a series of posts (scroll down) criticizing Zell Miller’s convention speech, which he says is “jammed with bald lies, straw men, and hateful rhetoric.” Sullivan may be correct in some of his criticisms, but I think he’s mistaken anger for hate, and engaged in a good bit of hateful rhetoric himself. Rather than restricting himself to the speech itself, Sullivan attacks the man:
Then you see Zell Miller, his face rigid with anger, his eyes blazing with years of frustration as his Dixiecrat vision became slowly eclipsed among the Democrats. Remember who this man is: once a proud supporter of racial segregation, a man who lambasted LBJ for selling his soul to the negroes. His speech tonight was in this vein, a classic Dixiecrat speech… The man's speech was not merely crude; it added whole universes to the word crude.
Instapundit thinks the Dixiecrat epithet is misplaced considering Miller was only 16 in 1948, when the movement took place. That aside, I guess Sullivan doesn’t consider it hateful to call someone a racist if you don’t like his message. It’s ironic that Sullivan chastises Miller for drawing on “ancient rhetoric” to smear Kerry, while Sullivan relies on a half-century old affair to fuel his own smears.

Sullivan concludes by saying that he could never be a Republican because they wheeled out a lying angry old man as their keynote. Maybe I missed it, but I’ve never read where he could never be a Democrat because they wheeled out Al Gore or Al Sharpton.

Update: The American Thinker examines the charges of racism, and analyzes Miller’s attack on Kerry.

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan admits that Miller has since renounced his “ancient” racist past, but continues to attack Miller anyway.

The unvarnished truth is that Miller was once a proud bigot toward blacks and, now that that is no longer acceptable, he is a proud bigot toward gays.
And suddenly things become clearer. Gay rights, and particularly the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, trump all other issues for Sullivan. As he writes:

Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy.
In reading Sullivan over time, my impression is that his passion on this single issue is so intense that he has lost ballast and authority on other issues. I wonder if he might come close to agreeing with me on this, while feeling content that he’d made a principled trade-off.

While I admire Sullivan’s passion, I’m troubled by where it sometimes leads him. He equates opposition to same-sex marriage with bigotry, unwilling to allow that any position but his own could be arrived at honorably. (I’d like to post examples of this, but I can’t figure out how to search his site.)

That’s why I am highly skeptical of Sullivan’s assertion that Miller is a “proud bigot toward gays.” My suspicion is that Miller’s sin amounts to disagreement with Sullivan.

And there‘s the rub. I have enjoyed reading Sullivan, for his integrity and precision. But the doubt cast by the expression of his passion on this single issue trumps all else for me.

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