John Hawkins: I know it’s early, but how do you see the 2004 election shaping up and which candidate are you leaning towards right now?
Andrew Sullivan: It’s probably Dean vs. Bush, and I’m leaning towards Bush if Dean doesn’t get serious about national security. But if Bush endorses a constitutional amendment against equal marriage rights, I couldn’t support him and would urge anyone else who cares about civil rights to follow suit.
John Hawkins: In your opinion, what should George Bush do between now and the election to make his reelection as likely as possible?
Andrew Sullivan: Win the war in Iraq. The economy is going to be fine.
John Hawkins: Realistically, what do you think it’s going to take for our government to consistently keep the deficit under control?
Andrew Sullivan: A constitutional amendment. Nothing else will work. They cannot help themselves. Especially the Republicans who are spending money like LBJ Democrats.
John Hawkins: Do you think there is a special animus directed at minorities and people who are gay by the left if they don’t tow the liberal line?
Andrew Sullivan: Er, yes. The calumnies go on and on. I’ve been described by the left as an enemy of gay rights, for example. I am persona non grata at established gay events and organizations. I am the target of constant harassment from gay activists of extreme sensibilities. Go figure.
John Hawkins: I think a lot of people were shocked by the callous lack of concern shown by the Catholic church over the sexual abuse of children and minors by priests. Why do you think the church handled the situation as it did and do how much damage do you believe was done to the church?
Andrew Sullivan: Where do you begin? The bulk of the damage was done a couple of decades ago. The church reacted by protecting itself first and foremost, a function of clerical privilege that is deeply ingrained. But also the church’s own sexual teachings made honesty, debate and candor impossible. Sex is so bound up with shame, self-hatred and panic among the Catholic hierarchs that they have no real resources for dealing with it themselves. The majority of priests and cardinals have almost no sexual experience; no sexual understanding and have never had meaningful sexual relationships. No wonder they screwed up. I think they also know that large numbers of their own ranks are gay, and a subset of these people are so screwed up, so developmentally arrested in early adolescence and so pathological that they abused children and barely understood the evil they were perpetrating. I’m not excusing them. But when you have an institution so contorted over sexuality, these things can happen and it’s the blind leading the blind. It won’t change until the church reassesses its sex-phobia. Which it won’t do because the only power is held by people who are invested in sexual panic. So the cycle continues.
John Hawkins: What do you say to people who think that being gay and wanting to be a Catholic in good standing are two incompatible things?
Andrew Sullivan: I’d say they have a point. I’ve tried hard. But the real tragedy is that the hierarchy will not even discuss the issue. It’s closed. Over. The very issue that led to one of the biggest scandals in the church’s history cannot even be discussed. That’s how pathological it is. But they prefer power to honesty; and control to inclusion. It’s very distressing. As to one’s own faith, I think it’s possible to maintain a prayer life, a relationship with the Jesus of the gospels, and an attempt to live out those ideals in one’s life while remaining a proud gay man. In some ways, I think the experience of marginalization that homosexuals have can deepen their spiritual life. Jesus’ message, after all, was that faith belongs to the excluded; and that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. The exclusion of gays from the Catholic church is an opportunity to grow closer to Christ, not further away. But it might mean that to reach Jesus, one has to bypass the hierarchy of the church. History is full of examples of when that has been the case.
John Hawkins: Do you think gay marriage is an inevitability in the United States?
Andrew Sullivan: Not at all. I do think the presence of openly gay men and women is irreversible. But reaction is very strong; and underneath the surface, hostility toward gay people, especially from fundamentalists, is very powerful. We shall see. I have hope. But I also maintain a lot of caution.
Andrew Sullivan: I don’t know him, so I bear him no personal animosity. What I dislike are his blanket expressions of pure prejudice. He doesn’t merely voice arguments. He voices mere feelings. He won’t live near black people; he finds homosexuals repulsive. He has written all these things and yet he remains in good standing with principled and humane conservatives. I don’t believe bigotry should be a part of conservatism. Others sadly do.
John Hawkins: Why do you think so many people on the left have had such a hard time dealing with the war on terrorism?
Andrew Sullivan: Because it requires seeing that the West is morally superior to its enemies. And they have spent a lifetime arguing that the West is morally inferior. So they will even find a way to justify or rationalize or overlook the evil and tyranny that lies behind radical political Islamism. They’re trapped by their own past. Not all of them – but a resilient minority.
John Hawkins: How do you see the relationship between the United States and Europe shaping up over the next decade or so?
Andrew Sullivan: It all depends. If the Islamists are smart, they will leave Europe alone and hope to drive a wedge between the democracies. But if they attack a major European city, the alliance could be reborn. I harbor little hope that the political elites in France or Germany will come around to fighting Islamism without such a calamity.
John Hawkins: Seemingly since 9/11 there has been a surge in anti-Semitism across the world. Is that just because we’re paying more attention now or has there been an increase in anti-Jewish sentiment?
Andrew Sullivan: I think it’s very real. The hatred of the West among many Muslims is deeply bound up in anti-Semitism. And the evidence of its resurgence around the world is indisputable and terrifying.
John Hawkins: In your opinion, is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict realistically solvable in let’s say the next decade or so and if so, how would you go about it?
Andrew Sullivan: I don’t think it’s resolvable. I favor the wall. And occasional doomed attempts at negotiation.
John Hawkins: Just for the heck of it, let’s say you were asked to take over at theNew York Times. What changes would you make?
Andrew Sullivan: Sorry. I’ll just have to chuckle over that question. Actually, I think the post-Raines changes have all been very good. We need the nyt badly. And I’m optimistic it will improve again.
John Hawkins: Do you find it flattering or annoying that websites like “Sullywatch” and the now defunct “Smarter Andrew Sullivan” think you’re so dangerous that they need to spend time trying to refute what you say?
Andrew Sullivan: Flattering, of course. But they really should get a life.
John Hawkins: You’re the biggest standalone political blogger out there so I’m sure you’re qualified to give the rest of us some advice on how to build an audience as large as yours. How ’bout it?
Andrew Sullivan: Just keep writing as provocatively and interestingly as possible; share a bit of yourself; acknowledge your own errors; change your mind sometimes; link promiscuously; and always read and listen to your readers. The point is to develop a form of writing that is deliberately provisional, that is conversational, that is half a dialogue rather than wholly a monologue. But we all have different styles and there are many ways to find and build an audience.
John Hawkins: What do you see as the future of the blogosphere?
Andrew Sullivan: Where most people go for news and opinion – gradually supplanting the entire op-ed universe and even the shout-shows on cable TV.
John Hawkins: How about dashing off a quick sentence or so about the following individuals…
John Hawkins: George W. Bush
Andrew Sullivan: Dogged
John Hawkins: Bill Clinton
Andrew Sullivan: Flawed
John Hawkins: Ann Coulter
Andrew Sullivan: Bracing
John Hawkins: Howard Dean
Andrew Sullivan: Proud
John Hawkins: Maureen Dowd
Andrew Sullivan: Shallow
John Hawkins: Christopher Hitchens
Andrew Sullivan: Arch
John Hawkins: Paul Krugman
Andrew Sullivan: Witless
John Hawkins: Michael Moore
Andrew Sullivan: Malign
John Hawkins: Camille Paglia
Andrew Sullivan: Fabulous
John Hawkins: Howell Raines
Andrew Sullivan: Pompous
John Hawkins: Michelangelo Signorile
Andrew Sullivan: Who?
John Hawkins: Theoretically, let’s say you could get any three pieces of legislation passed that you wanted. These could either bills that are already in the pipeline in Congress or that you could write yourself. What pieces of legislation would you pass?
Andrew Sullivan: I’d means-test Social Security and Medicare; abolish agricultural subsidies, remove the HIV-ban on immigrants, repeal don’t ask, don’t tell, and repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
John Hawkins: Are there any blogs &/or websites you can recommend to our readers?
Andrew Sullivan: Dan Drezner is terrific; Right Wing News is invaluable; then there’s musclebears.com (Editor’s Note: This appears to be some sort of for pay, gay porn website. Enter at your own risk.)
John Hawkins: Can you tell us a little bit about your book “Nature” and when you expect it to be released?
Andrew Sullivan: Oy. My deadline is December 1, 2005. The blog killed much progress. It’s about the intersection of the new science of human nature and politics. I intend to hunker down on it after the election. I find evolutionary psychology and the new genetics to be the most important intellectual innovations of our time. We have only begun to absorb their effects. The book is an attempt to think deeply about them with regard to three critical areas: gender, race and sexual orientation. I’m already aware that this is a minefield.
John Hawkins: Is there anything else you’d like to say or promote before we finish up?
Andrew Sullivan: Not really.
John Hawkins: Thank you for your time.
If you enjoyed this interview with Andrew Sullivan, you can see more of his work at The Daily Dish.