Through the looking glass

I try not to venture through the mirror into Andy-land too often, but via Atrios, I see that Andrew Sullivan has run up against the with-us-or-against-us crowd:

OKAY, OKAY: Like Glenn Reynolds, I’m besieged by people who think I’m wrong about the tone of Bush’s campaign speech last night. Fair enough. It’s a subjective judgment call, and I certainly respect those who took it otherwise. But what amazes me is the vituperative tone, and how many then accuse me of being anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-American. Me? Are politics so polarized that you have to either engage in hagiography or hatred of our leaders? Is there nothing permissible in between?

The irony, of course, is that Sullivan has been doing his damndest for the past several years to polarize politics, to blot out all grey tones until nothing is left but nice, clear black and white divisions. Sontag Award, Raines Award, Other Despicable Liberal Writer Award, blah blah blah. No nuance allowed. You’re either with Andy or you’re part of the Degenerate Left.

And now he’s shocked that the audience he has attracted with such rhetoric has little use for nuance. That distant, lonesome wail you hear, Andy? It’s the Clue Train, and it pulled out of the station long before you ever got through the turnstile.

* * *

As long as we’re visiting Andy-land, here he is defending Bill Bennett:

This invasion of his privacy and attempted smearing of his character have been perpetrated for transparently political reasons and are yet another sign of how our culture is making it increasingly difficult for any actual living, breathing, fallible human being to function in public life, without profound personal costs.

Oh, god, it just makes your head hurt. Is it even worth pointing out that Bill Bennett is one of the primary architects of the strategy of demonizing human fallibility for political gain?

And then there’s this:

Is it relevant that Bennett is a “moralizer”? Not in the slightest. He hasn’t moralized against the alleged “vice” he has engaged in; in fact, the record shows the opposite.

Well, yes, clearly the record now shows the opposite. But leaving that aside — it’s okay for Bennett to scold others for behavior in which he does not engage (as far as we know), as long as he does not specifically scold them for the vice in which he himself indulges to excess? (And remember, this is a man who accrued an estimated eight million dollars in gambling losses over the course of a decade.) If it turned out Bennett had fifteen mistresses in twelve states, would that be okay, if in his sermonizing he had never specifically mentioned adultery?

(Update) Josh Marshall weighs in:

I cannot think of a public figure who has been exposed over some private embarrassment in recent years — save a few political allies, perhaps — for whom a self-satisfied Bennett has not happily hopped on to Larry King or Tim Russert or Chris Matthews and droned on with shallow, grandstanding moralism, eagerly wrenching this or that person’s private embarrassment into some cheap political point.

This isn’t a matter of payback or two wrongs making a right, just treating Bennett to the standard he’s made a living off setting for everyone else.

— snip —

The other point made in Bennett’s defense is that he may have been an offensive sermonizer on all sorts of vices, but this is the one vice he left alone. So you can hardly charge him with hypocrisy. To me it’s seems just the opposite. Bennett goes off on every ‘vice’ there is, save the one he seems to indulge. That seems very much like cutting himself the break he cuts no one else. I’m sure everyone would like to have their own weakness excepted from the list. But which of Bennett’s other targets gets that chance?