I was appalled by the anti-Semitism buried within ANSWER – the left-wing equivalent of the Tea Party peeps – their paranoia and their ad Hitlerum daffiness. I railed against “the intolerant, extremist and reactionary forces behind an unhealthy amount of the anti-war movement.” I argued that they were not offering any serious proposals to address the actual problem – Saddam’s WMDs. In many ways, my critique of the far left then is identical to my critique of the far right today. And the critiques both come from a small-c conservative perspective.
I wasn’t reading Sullivan at the time, but I have no reason to doubt that he readily criticized the far-left (insofar that we even have a “far-left” in this country) for its excesses during the run-up to the Iraq War. That said, I hope Andrew doesn’t think that there’s any real equivalence between the ANSWER folks in 2003 and the tea partiers today. I mean, simply put, ANSWER was never embraced by anything more than a fringe of the American left and utterly ignored by most liberals and the entire Democratic Party. By contrast, the tea partiers are a substantive force in American politics, so much so that Republican leadership is responsive to their concerns and has willingly adopted their frenzied, paranoid rhetoric.
What’s more — and it’s always worth pointing this out — ANSWER (and their fellow-travelers) constituted a trivial portion of the anti-war movement. The vast majority of the anti-war movement fell well within the mainstream of the Democratic Party and the public at large. Indeed, anti-war sentiment was not unpopular. That the movement was treated as a “fifth column” (to use Sullivan’s words) has nothing to do with its actual composition or stance, and everything to do with the war-fever that took hold of the Beltway for the better part of Bush’s presidency, and has yet to relinquish its grip.