You would think that Michael Kinsley’s defense of austerity would be the most glibly know-nothing thing you’d read all week. And you might still be right, but Kinsley has decided to make it interesting. His basic argument is that we should leave Ben Carson alllonnnnnnnne! because lots of people who weren’t notably homophobic didn’t support same-sex marriage rights until recently. Well, maybe not entirely unreasonable on its face. But is it applicable to Carson? Kinsley saves us some time by taking his own argument behind the office building and firing twenty shots into it with one of those new smart rifles:
Carson is the latest Great Black Hope for the Republican Party, which is quickly running out of African American conservatives to make famous. But Carson’s appearance was not a success. He should have left bestiality out of it. And any reference to NAMBLA—the “North American Man / Boy Love Association”—is pretty good evidence that we have left the realm of rational discussion and entered radio talk-show territory.
I will concede that there are non-homophobes, especially in public life, who came too late to supporting same-sex marriage rights. It seems pretty obvious that people who are still comparing supporters of same-sex marriage to pedophiles and people who have sex with animals are not part of this group but are just homophobes, full stop. How can a defense of Carson possibly proceed from here? Very unconvincingly:
Carson may qualify as a homophobe by today’s standards. But then they don’t make homophobes like they used to. Carson denies hating gay people, while your classic homophobe revels in it.
I hate to tell you, but disavowing hatred is pretty much the first play in the respectable homophobe’s playbook. “Hate the sin, not the sinner” and all that. Tony Perkins claims not to hate gays and lesbians. It’s like saying that Richard Russell couldn’t have been a white supremacist because he didn’t use the same racial slurs Theodore Bilbo did. And comparing gays and lesbians to pedophiles is homophobic by the standards of 25 years ago.
But, anyway, this is just a garden-variety bad argument, and I wouldn’t have bothered addressing it if it wasn’t for this great moment in unwarranted self-aggrandizement:
The first known mention of gay marriage is an article (“Here Comes the Groom” by Andrew Sullivan) commissioned by me and published in this magazine in 1989.
I…wow. I don’t mean to suggest that the Sullivan article wasn’t important in its way, or to deny Kinsley his appropriate share of the credit for publishing it. But “first known mention?” I don’t know what the very first was, but I do know that there were lawsuits claiming that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional that made it to state appellate courts in Minnesota, Kentucky, and Washington between 1971 and 1974. Nor was the concept unknown in mainstream news sources during the 70s. It’s just remarkable that Kinsley wouldn’t bother to take a little time to check out this implausible, self-serving claim.
In reference to Kinsley’s austerity self-immolation, a couple of colleagues noted that Kinsley has the strengths and defects of the clever high-school debater: he writes well, and give him something — like a Wall Street Journal editorial — that’s illogical on its face and he can do an excellent job on it. But his knowledge of both history and contemporary policy is puddle-deep, and he feels no need to try to learn something before making definitive pronouncements. Claiming to be personally responsible for inventing the concept of same-sex marriage 1989, though, takes this problem to a new extreme.