Where as once he was a full-throated supporter of the Bush Administration and supported the Iraq War, he has become a critic of both.
Now, on some level, I should be happy. Like Sully, I am frustated with the current state of conservatism. I've been crtical of the Bushies long before Sully was. I am glad that he is speaking out against the support of homophobia by conservatives, it's paens to religious fundamentalism and its willingness to support torture.
But when I read him lately, he tends to bug me. Why?
Let me count the ways.
First, his criticism of torture. It is welcome, but one can remember a time that he didn't really seem to care:
NO P.O.W.S, PLEASE: The debate over whether to treat the al Qaeda terrorists and murderers at Camp X-Ray as prisoners of war seems to me a no-brainer. To be a prisoner of war requires that you observe the rules of war. A critical part of those rules is that you wear insignia clearly identifying you as a member of a particular army. Al Qaeda did no such thing. Another critical component is that you obey the laws of war. Among those rules, in Yale professor Ruth Wedgwood’s words, are also: “never deliberately attack civilians, and never seek disproportionate damage to civilians in pursuit of another objective.” Al Qaeda, of course, massacred thousands of civilians as a deliberate act. These terrorists are not soldiers. They are beneath such an honorific. They are not even criminals. In that respect, Dick Cheney’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s contempt for the whines of those complaining about poor treatment is fully justified. And vast majorities of Britons and Americans agree with them.
So, back then he didn’t seem to care if these people were humanely treated, even though groups like Human Rights Watch and Colin Powell were raising alarms. Yeah, I know I could say that he and many of us were very angry in the days after 9/11 and we were all tempted to treat the members of Al Queda as cruelly as they treated the victims of that dark September day. But actions do have consequences. Supporting such policies even then meant that all of us, Sullivan included, were basically opening the door for torture. If you agree with the Bushies that these people were less than human, you really shouldn't be that surprised when they do what you ask.
And this leads to another thing that is bothering me. Because he is more sensitive to torture and civil liberties than he used to be, he is less attracted to GOP candidates for president, even though we don't really know what they would do once in office. Look at this piece on Rudy Giuliani:
I think Giuliani will run as the Jack Bauer candidate. It's in his DNA. There isn't a civil liberty he wouldn't suspend if he felt it was necessary for "security." And there isn't a dissenter he wouldn't bully or silence in the interests of national security. There is a constituency for this - a big one. It has been primed by pop-culture to embrace torture and the suspension of habeas corpus. It is a constituency with scant respect for any civil liberties when a war on terror is being waged. If that's the path Giuliani wants us to take, we have to be very clear about what it means. We have to ask ourselves: after the next terror attack, what powers would a president Giuliani assume? And what would be left of the constitution after four years of the same? Give Rudy the office that Cheney has created - and America, already deeply altered, will become a new political entity altogether.
So, Giuliani is basically Dick Cheney (whom Sully now doesn't like)in drag. Now, I do have some misgivings about his views, but I am willing to bear these views out before I make a decision. Remember that Governor Bush talked about having a more humble foreign policy as a candidate, but we see that he changed his tune once in office. We really have no idea what Giuliani would do in office. I have no idea if he continue the Bush policy on torture, civil liberties and foreign policy.
I can't say I know what Rudy is thinking, but I do know that as a Republican running for President, you do have to run on the "tough on terrorists" the same way that people like Nixon and Reagan had to run on the "tough on the Communists" platform back in the day. The GOP tends to run on a national security platform, and to paint oneself as different from the Dems, you have to talk tough. But we don't know what this means if we had a President Giuliani. Nixon opened relations with Red China, and Reagan achived a new era of peace with the Soviets. Both were tough talkers, but knew how to achieve peace as well.
I do wonder if Sullivan's apparent willingness to label all the GOP candidates as faulty comes from his near reverence of the Bush Administration from 2001-03. He viewed them as gods that could do no wrong until he found out they had clay feet.
Maybe the other thing that bothers me is that he thinks one can reform conservatism apart from reforming the GOP. I find that complete nonsense. Since the GOP is the party that tends to house conservatives, it's where one has to work. Otherwise, what you will have is a group of independent conservatives with no real power and a theocratic GOP that still has the reigns of power.
Maybe there is a lesson here, one that is quite conservative: don't trust authority. I'm not saying that you have respect for it, but don't put any leader on a pedastal. Our leaders are human beings, not gods, which is why we can vote them out when they mess up. Maybe if Sully were more skeptical and willing to see the President and his gang as fallible humans instead of larger than life heroes, he wouldn't be so disillusioned as he is now.
Okay, my little rant is done.