In Praise of Andrew Sullivan. (duck and cover!)

I get flack from the Andrew Sullivan haters all the time. Gay people and liberals have a long history of grievance with Sullivan, centering around, as far as I know, three things:

1) In the mid-nineties, he wrote an essay, published in The New York Times Magazine, called "When Plagues End", which was about how the new HIV drugs were radically changing the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Lots of people thought it was irresponsible to be so upbeat.

2) He supported Bush's invasion of Iraq. Big time. When the war turned into a huge disaster, he changed his mind, very publicly.

3) I can't remember exactly when it happened, maybe 5-7 years ago?, but his profile on a gay sex cruising web site, on which he was soliciting unprotected anal sex, was made public. Sullivan is HIV positive.

I read his blog, The Daily Dish, every morning. I don't know of another journalist who blogs daily who is as consistently interesting, wide-ranging, and smart as Sullivan. His blog is a conversation; people who disagree with him get lots of airtime. I disagree with him as often as I agree with him, in fact probably more, but I learn a whole lot more reading him than I ever get by reading Huffington Post (which I stopped reading because, even though the general bias of the blog is maybe closer to my own politics, the writing there is just a lot of knee-jerk shouting by people who usually have a pretty shallow understanding of the issues). Sullivan is a thinker. He can be strident, but he listens and he enjoys the debate. That's why I like him.

I get really exasperated when I read most liberal blogs because they usually assume the correctness of their point of view on issues; they assume that if you call yourself a liberal or progressive, then of course you must believe this, this, and this. (For instance, if you don't support gay marriage, you must be a Nazi.) Sullivan gives me different things to be exasperated about. For instance, I disagree with him about gay marriage, but I agree with him about hate-crimes laws.

Anyway, all that to say that I really enjoyed this little clip this morning. It made me ponder how bizarre the world has become when thoughtful, informed commentary on the issues of our day more often than not is found on comedy shows. Of course, that's not a novel observation.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Andrew Sullivan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

If anyone is curious as to my opinions on 1, 2, and 3 above:

1) I think the essay is great and I think it holds up all these years later. I find Sullivan's writing about the experience of being a homosexual man in these times moving and deeply perceptive.

2) Hard to forgive. But I think his support of the war and his embarrassment and shame about it is part of what motivates his vigilance now about Bush and Cheney, war crimes, torture, etc. Also mitigating was his relentless support of Obama's campaign, which I would guess was a factor in convincing lots of conservatives to vote for him.

3) I have a hard time judging anyone's behavior when they're looking for sex.