Friday, February 03, 2006

Andrew Sullivan, King George and Glenda Gilmore

Andrew Sullivan's recent over-the-top comparisons of President Bush to a monarch deflate his own historical ridicule of others for making similar comparisons.

Here is Sullivan in December 2002 mocking the comparison of Bush to a tyrant as "egregious anti-Americanism":
SONTAG AWARD WINNER 2002 (for egregious anti-Americanism in the war on terror): "It is not enough for Bush to be President of the United States, he must become the Emperor of the World. This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains. In the years before us, I fear there will be causes worth dying for. There will be tyrants so unstoppable that we will have to fight them to preserve our own freedom. But that is not the case now. Instead of standing up against tyranny, we are bringing it to our own doorstep. We have met the enemy, and it is us." - Glenda Gilmore, professor of history, Yale University.
By comparison, note the headline of this January 2006 piece by Sullivan in Time:
We Don't Need a New King George
How can the President interpret the law as if it didn't apply to him?
In the opening paragraph of the Time piece Sullivan writes that Bush's unfortunate king-like behavior has been going on for five years. (Note that five years encompasses Professor Gilmore's piece). And Sullivan's comparison is not just a passing thought: Sullivan has made a "King George Watch" a regular feature of his blog.

Does Sullivan owe Gilmore an apology? Perhaps. Certainly Sullivan is entitled to change his mind, but he'd do well to think about glass houses.

Both Gilmore and Sullivan are out of line in making their comparisons. To disagree with the President is fine. To take the argument to an absurd extreme only weakens the case. Bush is not Hitler, and those who claim he is are not to be taken seriously. Bush is not an emperor or King George III, either. Commentators wishing to be taken seriously should take note.

Update: Gilmore later said she had perhaps been "a bit rough" on Bush:
Okay, perhaps, as my momma suggested, I was a bit rough on Bush when I said he wanted to become the "Emperor of the World," and "This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains," a riff on "all hat and no cattle" that brought me scorn from bellicose Texans.
This was hardly a retraction, as she immediately followed it with a quote from Teddy Roosevelt on the importance of being able to criticize the President:
To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.