Steve Sachs Duke


Sunday, September 28, 2003


Sullivan Obsessed: Ross Douthat wonders: "What the heck is Andrew Sullivan's deal?" In other words, why does Sullivan's coverage of Gen. Wesley Clark show an unhealthy obsession with Rhodes Scholars? As in:

"If I were to imagine a parody of what a Rhodes Scholar would come up with in such a moment, I'd be hard pressed to come up with something more perfect. His insistence throughout the piece is on process, process, process." ("Clark on the War," Sept. 19)

"To my mind, the most important thing about Clark is that he was a Rhodes Scholar. Almost to a man and woman, they are mega-losers, curriculum-vitae fetishists, with huge ambition and no concept of what to do with it." ("Clark Again," Sept. 20)

"Look, [Clark] was a Rhodes Scholar. They suck upwards and kick downwards." ("Clark's Joke," Sept. 24)

"If [Clark]'s genuine - and you have to remember he's a Rhodes Scholar and they tend to say anything to suck up to whomever they're talking to, in this case, Republicans..." ("Second Thoughts on Clark," Sept. 26, 2:01 a.m.)

[From a reader's letter, excerpted on the main page:] "As for Clark's debate appearance, and saying the right things on the deficit, etc., that's what Rhodes Scholars, like Bill C., do the best! It's part of the suck up technique that got them to the top." ("Third Thoughts on Clark," Sept. 26, 1:24 p.m.)

"So how to explain Clark's exuberant praise so soon? The Rhodes Scholar key: he wanted a job. He still does. And maybe he'll say anything to get one." ("Correction," Sept. 26, 1:41 p.m.)

At first, I thought Sullivan was just using the Rhodes label as a club for beating Clark over the head. But then I read what he wrote on Dec. 9, 2002, well before Clark made moves toward the race:

"[Chesa] Boudin deserves praise for winning a Rhodes (although Rhodes scholars are among the most irritating mediocrities on earth)..."

Strangely, as OxBlogger Josh Chafetz points out, Sullivan has strongly praised other Rhodes Scholars in the past (check out David Adesnik's take too). Even more strangely, Sullivan's bio notes that he "came to the United States on a Harkness Fellowship, the British equivalent of the Rhodes Scholarship." (One wonders why he would compare himself to a bunch of "irritating mediocrities.")

Personally, I think that Americans' stereotypes of Rhodes Scholars have become intertwined with their perceptions of Bill Clinton; either silver-tongued and destined for high office, or slippery brown-nosers with a talent for resume-polishing. But given that Sullivan doesn't exactly fit the stereotype of a Republican, either, he ought to do better than to deal in cariacatures.

Alternatively, maybe Sullivan is just taking his cues from Mel Gibson, as per this 1995 interview in Playboy Magazine:

GIBSON: ... [Bill Clinton] was meant to be the president 30 years ago, if you ask me.

PLAYBOY: He was just 18 then.

GIBSON: Somebody knew then that he would be president now.

PLAYBOY: You really believe that?

GIBSON: I really believe that. He was a Rhodes scholar, right? Just like Bob Hawke. Do you know what a Rhodes scholar is? Cecil Rhodes established the Rhodes scholarship for those young men and women who want to strive for a new world order. Have you heard that before? George Bush? CIA? Really, it's Marxism, but it just doesn't want to call itself that. Karl had the right idea, but he was too forward about saying what it was. Get power but don't admit to it. Do it by stealth. There's a whole trend of Rhodes scholars who will be politicians around the world.

I call dibs on a black helicopter.




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