Double Note: I'm moving what was the final post up to the top, as it seems to be more useful as an into to this discussion, rather than a footer. Here it is:
Final Update of Convention Week: Believe me, I'm more relieved about that than you are. A friend sends along an email with this link and the subject header "Why David Bradley Doesn't Care." I'll spare you the click: It's Sullivan informing readers that his site has gotten 2 million views over the last two days.
So perhaps I should make a little more explicit why I've been so worked up about this whole thing.
I have no particular aversion to the smearing of political figures; or rather, no aversion greater than that of the average reasonable person. I find it ugly and distasteful, but I realize that it's part of the rough and tumble of politics. It has always happened. It will continue to happen. That's why you'll note that I haven't written a single word about what sites such as Daily Kos, Democrats.com, or Democratic Underground have said about her.
And I hold no particular brief for Sarah Palin, per se. As I've written elsewhere, there are reasonable criticisms of her both as a governor and as a vice presidential candidate. I don't think anything I've written about her would count as boosterism. (Although I do make the case that she was the best strategic pick available to McCain, as an analytical matter.)
What's caught my attention here, then is The Atlantic. I am, and always have been, an enormous booster for the Old Media, and smarty-pants general-interest magazines in particular. What's so notable in this whole affair isn't the tarring of Palin but the fact that The Atlantic Monthly is the vehicle for the irresponsible spreading of smears about Palin and speculation so inane that it can't be counted, by any reasonable measure, as analysis. (Here, I'm thinking of Sullivan's claim that he thought it possible both Palin and McCain would relinquish their nominations.)
If Andrew Sullivan were to have written everything he wrote this week at his own website, I wouldn't have said a word about it. The real scandal here isn't Sullivan: It's what The Atlantic has become by publishing him.
As for Sullivan's page views, I sincerely hope that David Bradley isn't making his editorial decisions based solely on eyeballs and dollars. Were that so, you could simply give The Atlantic's pages over to Perez Hilton or Slashdot or Matt Drudge or any other number of content formats. But the point of The Atlantic, like other great journals, is to be something different--to be a stage in the world of ideas, even if it's not the most profitable thing.
I find the prospect of The Atlantic devolving into some version of Free Republic or Daily Kos to be immensely worrisome. Hopefully David Bradley will do something to put his house in order. Soon.
Now back to the original thread.
After demanding that he be allowed to inspect Trig Palin's placenta all day yesterday, Andrew Sullivan is now suggesting that he thinks John McCain might withdraw from the election.
Yes, that's right. There's some serious political analysis from one of the nation's most prestigious general interest magazines.
I wonder what the other folks on the masthead think about having their credibility linked with Sullivan's.
Update 1: National Review, another of America's venerable journals, tries to save The Atlantic from Sullivan:
Once a respectable journalist, The Atlantic’s self-declared champion of respect for privacy and of civil discourse now obsesses over Miss Palin, airing baseless and abhorrent questions about the motherhood of Trig, Gov. Palin’s infant son, born this year with Down syndrome. One wonders if David Bradley bought The Atlantic — a venerable institution that once published Mark Twain and Martin Luther King — so that he could associate it with the most despicable ravings of the left-wing blogosphere. What price in reputation is Bradley willing to pay for increased unique-visitor numbers from among the fever swamps?
Sullivan has become a media story in himself. Howard Kurtz and Jim Romenesko should be taking note. There's dissension in the ranks at The Atlantic. Surely this is worth a reporter's call to David Bradley to ask if he stands by Sullivan?
Update 2: Ross Douthat courageously breaks into open warfare against Sullivan:
I think the coverage of Sarah Palin to date - by colleagues I used to respect and publications I normally admire - at least partially vindicates this theory about the reception that would greet the kind of GOP I'd like to see.
Other Atlantic colleagues seem close to doing the same. As I said above, Sullivan's coverage of Palin is becoming a media story in itself. Someone--Jack Shafer, Howard Kurtz, E&P, the NY Observer--should start poking around The Atlantic to see if Sullivan's tenure is sustainable.
Update 3: A friend writes in to ask whether or not the Sullivan taint really does spread to the magazine, since he is, after all, just a blogger. I'd argue that having "The Atlantic" in giant letters at the top of every one of his posts is pretty damaging to the brand. But then there's also this:
Sullivan's reaction to Palin puts his gushing cover story on Obama in an entirely new light. Or perhaps it's the other way around. Neither view is good for The Atlantic.
Update 4: Sullivan continues to demand to know the "details" of Trig's birth. And now he has new justification: Because Trig was present at the convention. Here he his, mere moments into Palin's speech:
Brandishing a Down Syndrome child as a campaign statement is daring the press to ask questions about him. And if you are going to hold the baby in front of the cameras, how can you say that the details of his birth cannot even be discussed?
Yes, we're now six days after Palin's announcement and Sullivan is still insinuating that Trig Palin is not Sarah Palin's child on the web-pages of The Atlantic Monthly.
Update 5: Ace of Spades finds another bit of Trig Palin obsessing from Sullivan. He also gets that Sullivan is single-handedly destroying the reputation of The Atlantic.
Update 6: Now Sullivan responds to Ross Douthat, meaning we have an open, ongoing conflict between writers at The Atlantic.
Update 7: Reason takes note.