When I was at RedState, there were only three bloggers who I felt should never have been given posting privileges of any sort, for different reasons. Each was a Josh Trevino addition -- but let me be absolutely clear about something here: So was I. (Er, that doesn't make anything better.) Let me try it this way: Josh scores so many hits, you'd expect a few misses along with them. Moreover, given that his intent in his part of the creation of the site was to create a broad coalition of center-right writers, you have to give him credit for actually following through, even though the results were uneven.
One, Sebastian Holsclaw, left after the changeover from the Scoop platform to the Drupal model RedState is getting ready to abandon. Sebastian's problem, as far as I was concerned, was that he was so out of touch with the community as a whole that his posts were like dropping a snare drum solo into a performance of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Bright fella, nice guy (from what I could see), decent-but-not-great writer, but just really out of step with the other writers and commenters.
The second, Charles Bird, still writes there. Frankly, I'm leery of sharing too many of my thoughts about him given his reaction to my departure, but that reaction is illustrative of two parts of the problem: Charles is and was a plodding, dim, extraordinarily conventional thinker, and his writing reflects it; but aside from comforting me that I wasn't the least capable talent on the front page of RedState, there's not much wrong with that. Bird's issues are two-fold, but inextricably intertwined: (1) Charles's blogging belongs first and foremost to that left-wing moron factory, Obsidian Wings, and it shows not only in his I-don't-expect-intelligent-reply style (and that he can't be bothered to change the hyperlinks in his work to redirect to his work on RedState), but also in the essential thrust of the work, which tends to be explicative to, for, and from the perspective of center-lefters. (2) Charles is more naturally comfortable with the Left, partially out of reflexive ideological sympathy, and partially out of the absence of two functioning prefrontal lobes; this in turn is why Charles has spent more than his share of time on his home site (the moron factory) taking shots at RedState. (I wasn't the one to whom he gave his cherry, if you catch my drift.) That post-semicolon part was the biggest reason I wanted him gone; sadly, as with my efforts to ban the (other) below-I.Q. 100 commenters at RedState, I was as much a miserable failure as Charles's teachers from kindergarten on.
(Yes, that's "not sharing too many of my thoughts.")
But I'm not here to address Sebastian or Bird. Instead, this is about John Cole.
A good friend of mine forwarded this a while back with the notation, "Pot, Meet Kettle." There's no point in excerpting it or commenting on it -- by now, anyone familiar with how John has degenerated will be able to sing along with it by knowing that he's upset with The Dread Rises for obsessiveness -- except to say that it's what prompted me to write this.
Flash back a loooong way. H.D. Miller -- remember him, anyone? Traveling Shoes? (H.D. has taken that blog private.) -- turned me on to him back in 2002 or 2003. Professor Miller would doubtless qualify as a wingnut in Cole's current lexicography, but back then, during an email exchange, he told me I should check out Cole's work.
I got a kick out of it. It was a fun read, he clearly didn't like my political priorities, but he clearly didn't like a lot of others', and he used to turn the odd good phrase. I was tickled when I found out I'd get to write with him at RedState, about two years later.
Now, this may surprise those of you whose experience with Cole is from mid-2006 on, but at one time, John was a fairly critical thinker. He pretty much always considered me a theocrat in waiting -- which isn't fair, I'm a monarchist if I'm anything -- but he was pretty up-front that (1) if I didn't bother him about it, he wouldn't bother me about it, and (2) that notwithstanding, common ground could make common fronts possible.
So: I recognize that abortion is murder, as is dehydrating one's wife to death; he thinks people should be free to commit these kinds of murder. Fair enough. At one time -- back before he voted for, and endorsed, Alan Mollohan and Bob Byrd -- we could agree that the growth of the Federal government is, ceteris paribus, a bad thing, and that efforts should be made to stop this. Of course, at one time, he wasn't actively opposed to winning in Iraq, either.
The critical issue, though, wasn't whether he and I agreed, so much as that you could tell he'd thought things through before he wrote, at least a large percentage of the time. Here in blog-land, that's a fairly rare event.
(Dark, funny secret: One of my posts that most set off the orangutans who inhabit the American Left was actually a composite work of the then-RedState crew, including, probably most heavily but for yours truly, John as the foremost contributor. Hint: Think late-summer 2005, and "yard ape.")
What's particularly hard about all this is that John is now just one more lefty. I can read the few bright lefties out there and think, Hm, maybe I don't agree, but that is a good insight, or even, Ya know, I think I agree with that. It says something that there is now nothing interesting about Cole except his on-again, off-again fascination with RedState. Basically, he's turned his site into a group-blog, slightly-wider-ranging version of B. Fred State.
John left around the same time Sebastian did -- sadly, Charles chose to stay after the switchover, and curiously, continued to post to the front through all of the 2006 and 2007, even though he now claims his work was purely in the diaries -- which more or less dovetailed with when I was agitating for him to leave. (There was no connection between my attempts and his voluntary parting.) The common theme for the three was that all spent a fair amount of their time shooting at RedState from their home blogs, only to turn up at RedState and pretend nothing had happened. At the founding of RedState, the operating principle was that only what's done on the site matters as to fronting privileges; however, I took that to mean that political positions taken elsewhere were not taken into account. Maybe it had changed two years later, and maybe it hadn't; maybe I was right, and maybe I was wrong. Regardless, it says something about a man if he'll tell one public audience something awful about you, then pretend in front of another public audience that there's nothing amiss.
Why did John go nuts? I dunno. I sometimes think it's ObiWi disease; sometimes, I think John's meds have failed; yet other times, I suspect he's simply grown senile.
For whatever reason, there's really no intellectual or substantive difference between anything he writes and the sort of pedestrian work you can find any time Markos Moulitsas writes for his page, or what the intellectual pin-cushions at Obsidian Wings spew at theirs. He's become an indistinguishable howl in the crowd, and I don't think his broken principles, such as they were, sting him any more.
Damned shame, really.