How Fun to Watch Andrew Sullivan Freak out and Melt Down

How Fun to Watch Andrew Sullivan Freak out and Melt Down October 9, 2012

Obama’s Number One Fan flips out, as is his custom.

Hopelessly devoted because of Obama’s fealty to the pole star of Sullivan’s journalism, life and being, Sullivan has long turned a blind eye to Obama’s egregious faults (helpfully chronicled by honest progressives like Glenn Greenwald), including his massive arrogance. Since the debate, he has been having hysterics and is only now discovering that this most narcissistic of Presidents is, you know, a narcissist:

Seriously: has that kind of swing ever happened this late in a campaign? Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever? And we are told that when Obama left the stage that night, he was feeling good. That’s terrifying.

Dude. Feeling good about himself is what Obama *does*. And it nicely serves to insulate him from realizing his capacity for failure, sin or error. In the case of the debates, he seems to have figured it out a little bit. But only time will tell whether he learns from his blunder or simply blames somebody else (Bush maybe?) and continues keeping on keeping on. Judging from your article, Obama mostly seems to be not learning.

The campaign is not over and Obama may take Samuel L. Jackson’s advice and wake up. He certainly has some opportunities to land some punches since Romney, you know, lied on multiple occasions and only Obama’s torpor let him get away with it. (I am struck by how little “winning” a debate has to do with actually speaking the truth and how much it apparently has to do with dazzling with empty rhetoric. But then, Obama is also a skilled liar, as are the rest of our Ruling Class, who rule not by engaging reality but by denying it.)

And speaking of denying reality, Obama’s behavior is a microcosm of what happens when you make that a habit. Sullivan freaks:

Everyone imaginable did what they could for him. And his response? Well, let’s look back a bit:

With President Obama holed up in a Nevada resort for debate practice, things can get pretty boring on the White House beat right now. Pretty boring for Obama too, apparently. “Basically they’re keeping me indoors all the time,” Obama told a supporter on the phone during a visit to a Las Vegas area field office. “It’s a drag,” he added. “They’re making me do my homework.”

Too arrogant to take a core campaign responsibility seriously. Too arrogant to give his supporters what they deserve.

Obama is where he is because he chose to live in unreality. Romney supporters: take note because Romney is just as much addicted to lies and unreality as Obama. He’s lucked out for the moment. But a nation whose leaders are as addicted to unreality as ours are will someday experience collectively what Obama (and his followers) are currently experiencing. I’m glad to see our Narcissist in Chief have to face the consequences of his narcissism. But I still wish they could both lose, because they are both massive liars–and they teach us to honor lies told “in a good cause” and not repudiate them. Sin makes you stupid, whether you are GOP or Dem.

By the way: Not just Sullivan is freaking out. You stay classy, Dems.

Oh, and shut off the spin machine. It’s threatening to tear itself apart like an unbalanced washing machine.

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  • Nonymous

    Jonah Goldberg’s piece, “The Undoing of Storybook Man” is also a good examination — but only of Obama because, as we all know, Romney’s a hard-nosed, pragmatic realist who doesn’t indulge in narcissism or magical thinking.

    • Blog Goliard

      Well, yes. Romney is pragmatic, and is much more acquainted with reality and less narcissistic than his opponent. His faults (grave, serious faults, to be sure) lie elsewhere.

      Even if you’re determined to prove that both candidates are equally bad, you don’t have to go on to make the silly argument that they’re bad in exactly the same way. They’re very different men, each with differing strengths, weaknesses, and world-views.

      But it seems that asking people to see both good and bad points, to perceive a man in full, and to exercise even a small amount of charity is just too much to ask of some folks.

    • Oh Goldberg has complained about Romney too. In fact, I think this piece was almost chilling in its understatedness.

      And yet, we should keep in mind that most of his effective moments came when he distanced himself from the base of his party and struck a decidedly moderate, centrist, position. … But, once again, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

  • Blog Goliard

    The definition of “lies” has been expanded well beyond all reason. Say something that somebody doesn’t like, and they’ll howl that you’re lying. See the world differently than they do, and they’ll howl that you’re lying. Make different projections of the future, and they’ll howl that you’re lying.

    One thing I’ve learned about modern politics is that the side that screams the loudest about lies is the side that is either: a) losing the argument, b) is itself the more dishonest, or c) both.

    The number of pants-on-fire lies told in last week’s debate was quite small, and less than the average for such exercises…oh, and inconveniently for the “pox on both houses!” crowd, the ones that were told came overwhelmingly from the incumbent.

    • Mark Shea

      Vote GOP! We lie less!


      • Well that’s going to be true of any party running broken, imperfect humans steeped in original sin, isn’t it?

        Yeah, not inspiring, but as long as we’re dealing with humanity, we have to accept that we’ll always be voting for sinners.

        All the more reason to vote for FLUTTERSHY! 2012!

        • beccolina

          Totally need a “like” button around here, even though I’m more of an Applejack girl myself.

      • Blog Goliard

        My main point was (or ought to have been) that if you think that “ROMNEY LIED!!!” was one of the main storylines of the debate, you’ve either got an exaggerated and uncharitable definition of “lie”, or you’re straining to keep the “both sides are terrible” narrative moving forward, or you’ve simply been spun.

        • Faith

          Yes! I agree with you, Blog Goliard, completely! Thanks for stating, much better than I could, what I was thinking!

      • Andy S

        Linking to Google articles that have the words lie, liar, lying…proves what exactly? What are you, Mark Shea, claiming that Romney lied about? I will listen to, and research, your specific claims, but why should I accept the claims of a media totally bereft of any inkling of journalistic integrity?

    • Josh

      I’ve noticed the same about the word “lies” or “lying” or “liar”. These had a very fixed meaning when I was a kid but seemed to have evolved into a meaning that I can’t entirely grasp. This really came home to me when I had a co-worker in my office decrying all of the lies that a certain politician had made in a speech. This time I really pushed him to really identify when this politician had truly made a claim that objectively differed from actual measurable reality. And in example after example it was clear that what he was referring to as lies were more likely differences in emphasis on a point he considered more or less important or an interpretation of events that was less generous to his candidate than he would have liked them to be. I guess its the invasion of a postmodern epistemology where the crafting of narratives is the determiner of reality and not a strict inference from facts on the ground. A deviation from my accepted narrative is a “lie” an element of my preferred narrative is a “fact”. I think this was kind of what Benedict XVI had in mind when he warned us about the dictatorship of relativism. Even our words have lost their meaning or are subject to the interpretive authority of the narrative held by our community. Fun times ahead.

    • Blog, I agree with your first paragraph entirely. But as this thread shows, none of us are immune to prevarication, spin and distortion in the service of Lord knows what.

  • I think the one thing that the Obama team did wrong was believe all of its attacks on Romney. Think what you will, consider him a liar, baby killer, corporate robber baron, assume that because he is a Republican he is a moron, a dolt, a loon, figure he doesn’t care about the poor, the worker, the widow or the orphan – he is still a corporate millionaire who made his millions by getting in and mixing it up with other corporate millionaires and boardrooms filled with equally ruthless and bare-knuckle types. Not saying he is or isn’t a lying crook, or that his performance was or wasn’t a pack of lies. I’ve not done the serious, deep research in the economics to know the details (and probably wouldn’t understand much of it if I did). But he’s still been in the brutal world of corporate leadership. I think Obama, like many, had written him off as the proverbial empty suit sans brains, and was stunned that Romney was actually on the ball, numbers in hand, ready to mix it up. My son said it best when he said it was like Mr. T. vs. Rocky in the first half of Rocky III.

    • It seems true that Romney is very smart and capable, and certainly accomplished, and that politics usually doesn’t attract that sort of person. Usually when a politician thinks his opponent is a moronic idealogue he is correct (though of course he doesn’t see that the same is true of himself). Romney is actually a very intelligent manager and administrator, and as far as I can tell completely lacks any solid commitment to any particular political ideas outside the realm of business. The latter isn’t a compliment; but he couldn’t be more different from Obama, who is a ruthless political idealogue and a financial moron helicoptered by a societal affirmativeactiongasm into a job well outside his competence.

      • Blog Goliard


        I’ve been trying to figure which 20th century presidency would be the closest model for/analogue to a prospective Romney Administration, and have narrowed it down to either Eisenhower or Hoover. Either one is equally believable to me right now.

  • Romney is still in a lot of trouble. Expectations are set much higher for the next debate. If Obama improves even a little he is likely to get a bounce from it. People forget that Mondale killed Reagan in the first debate. He won the second debate but less impressively and Reagan ended up winning 49 states. Kerry beat Bush in their debates. He got a bounce but it disappeared before election day. One day does not change that much. Not 5 weeks before the vote. He has to build on that good day. Turn it into a good month. No guarantees he can do it.

  • Scott

    We are being told by the drive by media that the “real Romney” was not the one we saw up there taking their guy to the woodshed. No, in fact, Obama was so caught off guard by this “fake” Romney, that it affected his performance during the debate. That is their story and they are sticking to it. My opinion? This creepy little narcissist and chief has been so coddled by his adoring media and teleprompter responses that he folded like a cheap lawn chair the minute Romney put a little heat on him.

  • At risk of hijacking your ‘blog (again!), it sounds like Sullivan finally listened to the song I wrote over FOUR YEARS AGO:

  • Andy S,

    Isnt it your responsibility to be duly diligent in your ballot?

  • I hate to say it Mark, but I agree this post is less than stellar. Lets talk specifics if we are going to call someone a liar.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      First, he’s a politician. Did he move his lips during the debate? Now that the fun part’s over, let’s move on…

      “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.”

      “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.”

      “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or [who have] stopped looking for work in this country.”

      “Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.”

      Obamacare “puts in place an unelected board that’s going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have.”

      “… on Medicare for current retirees, (Obama) is cutting $716 billion from the program.”

      “I think about half of … the [green firms Obama invested in] have … gone out of business.”

      “What we do have right now is a setting where I’d like to bring money from overseas back to this country.”

      Boy, that took less than 2 minutes of Google Fu.

      But Mark, next time you assert water is wet, I’m gonna need specifics, buddy!

      • Josh

        “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.”

        Romney proposes a cut in tax rate which he would offset with a reduction in deductions people could take. The “lie” here is on the other side who claims not to know the second part of his proposal.

        “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.”

        See above. Romney intends that the wealthy pay relatively the same amount of taxes only he will accomplish it by offsetting a lower tax rate with a reduction in available deductions.

        “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or [who have] stopped looking for work in this country.”

        I guess you could call this a “lie” as Romney gets lazy and includes people who have taken part-time jobs and the “underemployed” in the same figure. You can say “lie” but seems more like a quibble since that 23 million is largely not working at its potential.

        “Pre-existing conditions are covered under my plan.”

        They are. And have been for years. Romney wants to extend the protections available in health plans you have through your work that disallow insurance companies from denying pre-existing conditions to individual plans as well. If you previously had coverage and were dropped your new insurance couldn’t refuse to cover your pre-existing conditions.

        • The deductions proposed are gonna hit lower incomes far heavier than higher incomes. The first two are lies, and only mental gymnastics can begin to salvage them. Using your technique, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t support murder in the womb. jeeze.

          As for the third, it’s a statement of fact. “Yeah, but I think people who aren’t working up to their potential may as well be…” You’ll prevaricate to defend a liar, full stop.

          On pre-existing conditions, your beef is with Eric Fernstrom, Romney’s adviser. If you’re right, why has Romney’s camp already admitted that pre-existing conditions will only be covered under very limited circumstances?

          But thanks for playing.

          • Josh

            Did you notice that I conceded that one of them could legitimately be considered a lie? The one you pounced on so gleefully to prove that my failure to recognize it as a lie meant that I had shown I didn’t know the meaning of the word. Does this register with you?

            • I am sorry I have offended you. I did not mean to, and I am working hard on that. I am sorry and beg your forgiveness. If that isn’t sufficient, I can only beg you click the link that is my name, go to the blog I set up just to make a single entry so everyone on the blogosphere I have ever hurt or offended can go on record about it. I will only apologise and beg forgiveness there too though. But you can express your opinion of me completely freely there.

              But I didn’t say anything about you not knowing the meaning of any word. I did say you will prevaricate in defense of a liar. The underemployed are not unemployed. To claim so is prevarication. It was done in defense of Willard “Mitt’ Romney, a national politician in America. We can disagree if that is all it takes to demonstrate he is a liar if you want. My position is that it suffices.

              Since I have been given the ability, I will try to also get my apology to you by other means.

              • Josh

                Well here’s what you said:

                “You’ve lost the meaning of lies,Josh,not me or Mark. And you proved it most glaringly when you started playing “working to their full potential” word games.”

                Although I appreciate your apology, qualified though it was.

                • My apologies, again. I was responding to your post, where you put it. Had it been placed further down, I would have never have denied what I plainly said. It did not occur to me to scroll down and see if you were referring to something else.

                  So, with no qualifications whatsoever. I am sorry. You did prevaricate, but that doesnt mean you don’t know what lies are. I overstated my case to the extreme, to the detriment of your reputation. I calumniated you.

                  I am sorry. Period.

      • Josh

        Sorry. I actually responded to all of these but have lost them in the ether of my smartphone’s internet. My point isn’t that Romney’s policy preferences are better than Obama’s, but we have lost the meaning of the word “lies”. I find it depressing that Mark Shea is taking part in the reinvention of language.

        • You’ve lost the meaning of lies, Josh, not me or Mark. And you proved it most glaringly when you started playing “working to their full potential” word games.

          • Josh

            Excellent response! Take me to task for the only one I said you could legitimately make the case was a lie. I am mortally wounded.

        • Mark Shea

          How Orwellian. Romney is on record multiple times boasting his commitment to abortion while governor, forcing Catholic hospitals to dispense the morning after pill, holding fundraisers and the home of the manufacturer of that pill and brazenly lying through his teeth that he governed Mass. as a prolifer–and *I* am taking part in the reinvention of language when I say that the man is a proven liar. Wow. There really are no rules for the Thing that Used to be Conservatism.

          • Josh

            No. You said he lied multiple times in the debate and Obama failed to call him on it. Now you are trying to save your case by straying from your original statement. I never said Mitt Romney wasn’t a liar. He seems to be just that in the cases you mentioned. I said that referring to different interpretations of things he said in a single debate as “lies” when they demonstrably aren’t so is not good for defenders of truth.

          • Josh

            I guess you get to win by default. You assert that he lied a bunch, but cleverly decline to assert what the lies were. It is just out hanging out there. Of course Romney lied, he’s a liar. It is his nature. Guess there’s not much responding to that.

            • Mark Shea

              Sounds like Romney lying to me:—o-bama–where-art-thou–pt–1

              I sort of assumed the reader would look at the link on the quick Google thing and find the relevant examples. And yes, Romney is, quite obviously, a liar. That’s why everybody laughs at his flip flops and Etch a Sketch rhetoric. Heck, the American Catholic blog has traditionally called him the Weathervane If you want to quibble that not everything his enemies call a “lie” in the debate was really a lie, I have no quarrel. But that is majoring in minors I think. The main point is that this guy will, as we all knew and dreaded during the primaries, say anything to pander. So I’m still kind of mystified that I am somehow complicit in the debasement of language for noting that here.

              • Josh

                I did click the link. Saw that it was a google search for Romney Debate Lies. Followed some of the links and saw a lot of posts with “lies” like Hezekiah Garrett listed. But as I indicated, with the exception of the unemployment number they aren’t really “lies” at all. They are failures of nuance. Or they are true in fact but invite the viewer to draw a conclusion that is less than charitable to Barack Obama. I couldn’t really care less about Mitt Romney. Wasn’t my choice in the primaries in 2008 or 2012. He will say anything to get elected depending on the audience in front of him. But the meme that Mitt won by lying depends on abandoning the traditional understanding of the word. Lying is a sin, might be helpful if we can keep the term clear if only for the sake of our pastors and confessors.

                • Mark Shea

                  As I say, the lies in the Stewart video sure sound like lies to me.

      • HG, i’m not a Romney supporter but your list of ‘lies’ is an apt illustration of what Josh was talking about above. We know Romney is a liar (particularly when it comes to life issues) but the statements you mentioned cannot be easily classified that way.

        “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut.”

        What he does have is an economic plan that involves some cuts, removes some deductions and generally tries to make the tax code better balanced. The $5 trillion number requires some mathematical gymnastics to justify as well as ignoring the other aspects of his plan. Add in the debate about whether tax cuts/increases actually result in greater government revenue (tax cuts, by encouraging economic investment, grow the economy and tax base resulting in higher actual government revenue even if the percentage is lower) and you can’t call that statement a lie. YOu can disagree with it, you can say that his plan includes tax cuts that “could” over 10 years add up to $5 trillion based on very specific baseline estimates but to call it a lie is to make the word meaningless.

        I could go on but I don’t have the time or inclination – suffice it to say, disagreement with someone’s position does not mean they are lying – it may mean that they are using different assumptions which may or may not better reflect reality (and that is a worthwhile debate to have) but to say they are lying is to say that they know their assumptions are false and are still using them to support their position. I don’t see that here.

        • heh, Josh beat me to it. My first sentence refers to his original comment further up the thread.

        • IOW, we hope, based on past indicators, that all these cuts will increase revenue? But in the situation as it actually exists, his numbers don’t begin to add up.

          You have to posit a possible future that may or may not happen to keep him honest, and you say i am unfamiliar with what a lie is?

          Next please!!!

          • You have to posit a possible future that may or may not happen to keep him honest, and you say i am unfamiliar with what a lie is?

            Yes. If someone plans to do X in the hope that Y will result, he isn’t lying when he tells you that he plans to do X in the hope that Y will result.

  • No electrons expended by me in this discussion are intended to be interpreted as a defense of the Won, or a claim that the lying so-and-so is honest. He’s a white man raised by white grandparents from the whitest place I know outside Lichtenstien, who’s entire career has been built on the lie that he is a Black man, sometimes born in Kenya, sometimes in Hawaii depending on what will advance his career(s).

    • Josh

      He is also a child of God and in a difficult job. He could use your prayers.

  • I think that the reason that Sullivan has such a hard time coming to grips with Romney’s comeback is that he has swallowed the media narrative that paints the left and right parties as diametrically opposed forces with one as savior and the other as brainless idiots who will doom us all. In fact, once you depart from the rhetoric, Obama and Romney are nearly identical.

    The sheer amount of cognitive dissonance that Sullivan must have had to suffer through in the writing of that article must be staggering.