Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit used to be one of my favorite blogs on the internet. He’s also one of the internet’s most successful and popular political bloggers, so he’s not exactly an undiscovered gem. But if you’ve read any of the politics posts on my site, my previous admiration for Instapundit would probably surprise you. “Isn’t Glenn just a partisan Republican flack, snarkily repeating every conservative orthodoxy?,” you might ask. Why would I put him among my favorites when my own political instincts break distinctly to the other side of the aisle?
After 9/11, Instapundit emerged as one of the so-called “war blogger” sites, providing thoughtful, patriotic commentary on geopolitics, the war on terror, and the mainstream media’s tendency to soft-pedal the threat of Islamic extremism in order to score political points against the administration of George Bush.
However, unlike many of the “war bloggers,” Glenn, a University of Tennessee law professor, was not a one trick pony. He had an active intelligence and an omnivorous appetite for pop culture. He is an excellent source of science fiction reviews, for example, and has championed many interesting authors on his blog. He likes music. He’s interested in digital photography. He covers many compelling legal issues of the day, as well as many local Knoxville or Tennessee issues. He is an astute critic of the self-righteousness of the mainstream media. He has linked to a lot of small bloggers and brought them an audience (the so-called “instalanche” of traffic). And he does it with a nice style — terse, well-edited commentary that lets the links speak for themselves, with a little editorial cherry on top.
Refreshingly, he was also politically open-minded and independent. He is a hawk on the war (broadly defined), but reasonable and able to criticize the failings of the Bush administration’s prosecution of the Iraq theatre, in particular. In fact, he has been something of a lone empiricist on the war in a sea of ideologues — vis his support of Michael Yon and others who venture outside the confines of the Green Zone to report. He had many socially liberal or libertarian impulses, which he was not afraid to foreground. Reading Glenn, at least in the past, you felt like you were interacting with a real person, with real, complicated political views.
Glenn has gotten a lot of criticism over the years from the likes of Tony Pierce and Oliver Willis for being a crypto-Republican, but I don’t think that was entirely fair, at least in the past. Yes, he supported the Republican George Bush over the likes of Gore and Kerry; I know many rational independents who thought Bush was a dangerous lightweight, but who still found Gore and Kerry unpalatable.
Over the last year, though, I feel like Glenn has come unhinged. He’s lost his independent spirit, his ability to see through the artifice of politics to the real truths, as he had often done in the past. Honestly, I see little difference in his current politics from the likes of Hugh Hewitt and Bill Kristol. He’s become a Republican tool, in the thrall of the McCain campaign.
He clearly doesn’t like Obama. That’s not the issue. The issue is his utter inability to see the American zeitgeist laid bare in front of him. In the past, he’d have cleverly barbecued McCain for the Sarah Palin selection (while acknowledging the populist, anti-intellectual impulse behind it). He’d have thrown fits over McCain’s cynical stunts. But recently he seems so deeply in bed with the right, not just on the war (which has always been his central, defining issue), but across the board, that he’s just not that fun to read any more.
I used to not agree with him all the time, but I found him intelligent, challenging, and worthy of engagement. Now, I think he’s just another predictable Republican idiot, the moral equivalent of those robotic surrogates regurgitating the party line on CNN. I find myself looking forward to election day, when he’s going to get all his monotonic pro-McCain rhetoric, his petty attempt to equivocate Obama’s “naivete” and “corruption” with McCain’s lack of fitness for the presidency, slammed back up his ass.
And I think it’s a damn shame.