Goldberg, Ponnuru, Partisanship

Jonah Goldberg argues that I am more "partisan" than Ramesh Ponnuru because Ramesh is a partisan Republican and I belong to the "Party of Andrew". But isn't that simply a definition of being an independent writer? Sure, I have my campaigns and obsessions and themes, but that's what bloggers and columnists do. Does he mean I hold the same views always, according to my own party line? Surely not: my self-criticism over Iraq has been pretty tough. I guess he's just saying I'm self-important. My view is that I simply write what I believe, with feeling. I'm Irish, ok?

But I should address the various "inconsistency" insinuations. Jonah writes of my blog:

One day federalism is great, when federalism helps gay marriage. The next day federalism is a hindrance to liberty and justice. One day pro-life views are the height of honor, now they are proof of Christianism.

Could Jonah substantiate that? I don't know of any instances where I can be accused of opposing federalism (unless he means in rare circumstances, such as the Supreme Court's striking down of inter-racial marriage bans on equal protection grounds. But I doubt Jonah would disagree on that one). I'm also pro-life, and could never approve of any abortion, but oppose the attempt to criminalize all abortions, even in the first trimester and even for rape and incest. You see: I attach some political weight to women's liberty, and also to the genuine doubt that exists about the personhood of a first-trimester fetus. I see a distinction between religious truth for me and civil law for everyone else: you know - that old conservative idea that there might be some salient distinction between theory and practice, ideology and politics. That Oakeshottian and Aristotelian insight, which I think is the central truth of conservatism, is not very palatable to the Christianists.

Ponnuru also misrepresents my views here:

Stem-cell research that kills one-celled human embryos? Once Sullivan could think of no worse evil. The more recent Sullivan thinks it is concern about said embryos that is extreme, fanatical, etc.

Er, no. I still find embryonic stem cell research morally troubling. I merely think the attempt to deduce from such murky areas clear and absolute legal prohibitions against all abortion and all stem cell research is over-reach, and fueled by Christianist arrogance. I oppose federal funding of such research, but I would allow private entities and states to do it. Again: a distinction between the moral and civil law, that respects the freedom of those who differ from me.

I'm also well aware that same-sex marriage is not part of "mainstream Christianity," which is why I have never said such a thing and have long made a distinction between the civil law and religious doctrine in this respect, a distinction central to "Virtually Normal." And yes, I have had nuanced positions in the past. I loathed Clinton, but I came to see that the movement to impeach him was more dangerous than anything he had done or represented. I know this kind of nuance is not always emotionally satisfying, but it's not incoherent and it was the best judgment I could come to at the time.