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Where was Frank Foer?

I don't have much to say about Leon Wieseltier's decision to imply that Andrew Sullivan is an anti-Semite. Frankly, I find Wieseltier's prose so self-admiringly opaque that it's nearly impossible to figure out what he's saying about anyone at anytime. It's like being insulted in Sanskrit. It's possible he's writing something terrible, but who's to say, really?

That said, the Auden quote that Sullivan published as one of his 45 daily posts, and the quote that Wieseltier based his 4,300-word article on, appears to be one that Frank Foer -- the editor of the New Republic -- and Andrew Sullivan had a hearty chuckle over in a series of private e-mails. "That’s just perfect," Foer laughed to Sullivan. "And before we entered our High Shul phase even!"

Now, I know that Wieseltier has control over his section of the magazine, but surely Foer reads the thing before it goes to press. He didn't think to mention the e-mails to Wieseltier? Because now Sullivan has published them, and the added context makes Wieseltier, and The New Republic, look awful. Why didn't Foer stop this?

By Ezra Klein  |  February 11, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
 
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Comments

Ezra, we won't know if it is anti-Semitic unless Marty Peretz says it is.

Posted by: rdklingus | February 11, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra,

If I'm one of those 'crude polytheists' does that make me an anti-Semite too?

Posted by: waboyle | February 11, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

..like being insulted in Sanskrit... one of the best turns of phrase you have produced. There's a clever writer in there, under the shameless shill for the regime in power.

Posted by: truck1 | February 11, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Why do these people matter enough to write a blog post about them? This has nothing to do with any sort of actual policy debate. It's just middle school, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: dal20402 | February 11, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Read the whole Wieseltier piece. While the beginning few paragraphs on Auden and whatever else was there merit your description, the rest is reasonably clear. "Sullivan's refusal to give the whole picture.." sums up well how the harshest critics of Israel writing today--at the top of which heap is Klein -- operate.

Posted by: truck1 | February 11, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Actually, truck, "Sullivan's refusal to give the whole picture" is a laughably false accusation that sums up well how the harshest enforcers of Likudnik conformity on American discourse operate.

Of course, Sullivan doesn't present the "whole picture" in every 200 word post, but after even a cursory survey of his work the accusation refutes itself.

And as Sullivan pointed out yesterday, it's easy to imagine Wieseltier's reaction if some Muslim or Christian writer aimed the equivalent of his dismissal of central tenets of traditional Christianity as crude and regressive polytheism at Judiasm. A mask slipped there, and it wasn't being worn by Sullivan.

Posted by: zimbar | February 11, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

The question isn't "why isn't Frank Foer reading the New Republic" but "why are you?"

Posted by: adamiani | February 11, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

For Truck, the range of opinion - not acceptable opinion, existing opinion - stretches all the way from AIPAC to J Street, and the latter are rabid haters of Israel.

He is, of course, incorrect.

Posted by: WarrenTerra | February 11, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Sullivan has his flaws but sporadic reading of his blog turns up no anti-Semitism. If Andrew Sullivan believed that "the Jews control Washington" he would not be in the thrall of Obama worship or believe he could change things. And he would be in full cry against Rahm and Axelrod because that is respectable among people who have no anti-Semitic beliefs either.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | February 11, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

If Andrew Sullivan was to write anything clearly anti-Semitic he would never work as a mainstream pundit again. Given this, it is also the Jewish thing to do to question someone's judgment instead of their motives.

Posted by: 4jkb4ia | February 11, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Saw that Jonathan Chait talked about this too. Seems to agree that Sullivan isn't an anti-semite - but that he has gone off the deep end.

Posted by: MikeR4 | February 11, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Why didn't Foer stop this?"

Because Wieseltier has the final say over what goes into the back of the book, and Foer doesn't.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | February 11, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I thought Chait's take was basically correct--there was neither justification nor need to imply anti-Semitism, but there are problems with the way Sullivan has been writing about these things. Can one have a problematic, condescending attitude toward Jewish people and toward Israel without being an anti-Semite? If so, I think there's lots of evidence adduced by Wieseltier to suggest that's where Sullivan is right now. But the Auden quote with which he opens was not a persuasive or helpful example, even before Sullivan published the email exchange with Foer.

Posted by: FrBill1 | February 11, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

As they watch their progressive dreams die for another generation with the failure of the new messiah they rode into office, let the circular firing squad within the liberal media begin. Time to clean the Augean Stables.

Posted by: jcp370 | February 12, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not impressed that you "don't have much to say" about this controversy. Wieselteir's accusation of anti-Semitism against a thoughtful commentator like Sullivan has a chilling effect on open and serious debate. It's the duty of influential bloggers like you to call people out on this crap and stand-up for discourse that is free of baseless, ad hominem attacks.

Posted by: green101 | February 16, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

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