Esmay and Sullivan: A Party of Two

Dean Esmay and Andrew Sullivan want different things, but neither has the credibility to make any of the demands either makes, so they might as well get together and form their own party.

First, Sullivan, who thinks he can tell the “religious right” (but not the “religious left,” of course) what Jesus would do. Hold on, religious righties, because Sullivan’s just going to rock your world with his unassailable logic. In a post about “dirty bomb” suspect Jose Padilla:

The latest. The question seems to be whether his inability to answer questions is a function of allegedly reading an al Qaeda training manual (no evidence has been brought that connects him to one), or whether he has been so traumatized by imprisonment that he cannot speak. This may not even be evidence of torture. It may be the consequence of years in a blacked-out isolation cell with no confidence that he would ever see a day in court. This is not merely a function of the sadism at Gitmo. It is a real problem across the U.S. prison system – a system that cries out for reform. Memo to the religious right: if you want to improve your reputation and follow Jesus, campaign for prison reform. It’s what Jesus really would do.

The funny thing is, we have a record of Jesus did do. It’s called the Gospels, which form part of the New Testament, a series of books that Sullivan claims allegiance to even while he openly rejects a great deal of it. And according to the record we have, prison reform, while laudable, must have come in a distant second to, you know, reconciling mankind with God. But hey, maybe Sullivan is right. Maybe it was on the divine to-do list. Right after getting the Roman senate to adopt Kyoto.

The Party of Two’s next charter member is Dean Esmay. When he isn’t busy launching ill conceived attacks on fellow bloggers, he’s busy launching ill conceived attacks on the entire conservative movement. Of which he isn’t and has never been a member. But you’re just supposed to forget that and see him as the second coming of William F. Buckley:

Back in the 1950s William F. Buckley Jr. conducted a purge in the ranks of his young publication, The National Review. He was running a conservative publication at a time when conservative publications were not respected and were thus by nature low-circulation. In those circumstances it would be hard to stand on principal and refuse to associate with certain parties who might provide short-term gain.

Buckley refused to align his publication with elements on the right that were excessively hateful, rabidly racist, or just plain nuts. The whole thing came to a head when Buckley one day drew a line in the sand:

You could either be a John Birch Society supporter, or you could write for the National Review.

Esmay moves from there to a classic leftist tactic, the ideological purge. Only, he’s trying to purge that part of the conservative movement that sees in Islam elements that are incompatible with the Western notions of life. Like, you know, not rioting over a bunch of cartoons. And not threatening writers with execution for blasphemy. So he drafts a set of bullet points with which you must agree or…I guess, stop reading his lousy blog.

Simply put, you must agree withto all of the following assertionsassumptions:

1) Islam does not represent the forces of Satan or the Anti-Christ bent on destruction of the Christian world.

2) There is no 1,400 year old “war with the West/Christianity” being waged by Muslims or anyone else.

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women’s rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

4) Medieval, anachronistic, obscure terms like “dhimmitude” or “taqiyya” are suitable for polite intellectual discussion. They are not and never will be appropriate to slap in the face of everyday Muslims or their friends.

5) Muslims have no more need to prove that they can be good Americans, loyal citizens, decent people, or enemies of terrorism than anyone else does.

Is this a test of “ideological purity?”

Why yes. Yes it is.

Actually, it’s more a test of ideological assininity than anything else. Take point 1, for example. Name a credible conservative blog that runs around claiming anything like that. That point is made of straw. Take point 2. He really ought to ask Osama bin Laden, who pines for Andalusia in his screeds against us. Or he could study the spread of Islam across the Middle East. Or just look at what’s happening to Christians right now in the Palestinian territories, the Sudan, Pakistan, even Somalia before the Ethiopians moved in and crushed the Islamists who were running that show. Asking bloggers to swear fealty to that point without engaging the possibility that there is in fact such a war going on is just aiming at the wrong target. Point 3 is, to put it mildly, based on ignorance of the latter half of the Koran. It’s based on wishful thinking. It’s also based on the assumption that religions even want to be “compatible with modernity,” an ever-shifting standard that is in fact no standard at all. Religions seek to be compatible with their understanding of God, not Dean Esmay’s notions of what’s cool this week. To the extent that modernity influences Islam, it’s to cause friction and an Islamic reformation that looks nothing like the Protestant Reformation, because the Koran’s second half reads nothing like the New Testament, and because the jihadis have the credible threat of violence against everyone else working for them. Esmay should read up on Sayyid Qutb some time. Point 4…what? You can use those terms but you can’t use them? You can use them when Dean says it’s ok, but when he doesn’t, you’d better watch out pal or that self-described liberal will write you out of the conservative movement a second time! Or even a third! Point 5, well, when Tulsa mosques chase out a guy for speaking out against terrorism, when groups like CAIR have been connected by convictions to Hamas, and when we all remember images of everyday Muslims dancing in the streets on 9-11, well, it wouldn’t hurt for a few Muslims to go the extra mile and at least stop trying to use our courts to get captured terrorists freed from Gitmo. Doncha think?

Here’s the thing, Dean. William F. Buckley had the credibility to write the Birchers out of the conservative movement for two reasons. First, he was right and they were wrong, on the facts. Second, he was William F. Buckley, a man of letters who was a real, bona fide leader of a movement on the move. Dean, you’re just a mid-level blogger. You don’t lead anything. You’re not a conservative. And you’re wrong on the facts and blind to how wrong you are. So you won’t be reading anyone out of any movement any time soon. Though you do seem to have read a couple of writers off your blog.

Oh, back to Andrew for a moment. Jose Padilla has been found competent to stand trial. I just thought you’d want to know.

Sullivan and Esmay, party of two. Your table is ready.

More: To be clear, Esmay obviously has the right to read people off his blog if that’s what he wants to do. But comparing himself to Buckley in doing so is assinine. Buckley made an important contribution to the national discourse by reading the cranks out of conservatism. Liberalism could benefit from a Buckley today, incidentally. Dean is actually reading people off his blog (not a great political movement, just a blog) who probably have a greater understanding of the issues at hand than he does. And his bullet points are full of, well, holes. It’s just his usual Islamophobia extremism, in which he battles gigantic straw windmills and can’t back up the charges he hurls at other bloggers.