Yglesias has already said most of what needs to be said about the trashy attack on Andrew by Leon Wieseltier, but I would add a couple of things. Wieseltier takes one of Andrew’s quotes of the day (“Trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity to readers of The New Republic is not easy”), which he thinks bristles “smugly with implications.” Wieseltier extrapolates from this unremarkable quote some animus against Jews. Of course, it is very easy to read into anything whatever you want to see, especially if you are convinced that stand-alone, out-of-context quotes are full of implications that are waiting to be extracted. It ought to be sufficient to write this entire piece off as lunacy, but Wieseltier’s accusation is an insulting charge and obviously a baseless one. It would also be easier to dismiss the attack as the trash that it is if it weren’t winning applause in some quarters.
For his evidence, such as it is, Wieseltier first establishes that Andrew does not agree with and does not care for Michael Goldfarb and Charles Krauthammer. Even though Andew stipulated that these people are in no way representative of American Jewish opinion, he made clear that he loathed the ideology these individuals have embraced. Who wouldn’t? They cheered and defended all the worst aspects of the previous administration, and they routinely endorse destructive, inhumane policies. Andrew is not “hunting for motives” when he describes their appalling views; he is stating his opposition to those views. Unlike Wieseltier, he does not speculate about someone’s supposed undisclosed animus against an entire group of people on the basis of a few quotes and fragments.
As far as I know, Andrew does not subscribe to Walt and Mearsheimer’s actual arguments contained in their writings on the Israel lobby. Imagine how much less he agrees with the completely distorted, despicable misrepresentation of those views that Wieseltier presents! If he agreed with Walt and Mearsheimer’s actual arguments, that would mean that he supports Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself, and he would believe that the U.S. should guarantee its security. In fact, Andrew is arguably much more of a Zionist than this, and this comes through in numerous posts in which he, like many other Western Zionists, expresses his sorrow at what certain political forces inside Israel, especially Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, have been doing to the country and its reputation abroad. My impression is that it is his sympathy for Israel that makes him so critical of the mistakes he believes its government has been making.
Andrew will sometimes overstate things, and he has an Obama loyalist’s tendency to attack Obama’s opponents in very harsh terms. One post that Wieseltier cites is one that I criticized at the time, not because Andrew was all that wrong on the substance of the state of U.S.-Israel relations or Israel’s fraying relationship with Turkey, but because he did not set recent events against the background of the last several years. No reasonable person could conclude that Andrew’s statement was anything more than a strong criticism of another government that he correctly saw as an opponent of Obama’s policies. As for his remarks about jihadism, Andrew was commenting on a discussion begun by Marc Lynch, who made the argument with which Andrew was agreeing.
It is quite easy to see everything Wieseltier cites from Andrew’s writings as the product of a pro-Obama advocate who has been frustrated by the false start of Obama’s handling of Israel and Palestine and as nothing more than that. As denunciations go, Wieseltier’s is probably the most intellectually sloppy, shabby one I have seen since the days before the invasion of Iraq.