Looks like somebody made a New Year's resolution that will make us all a little sad. The deservedly legendary Billmon posted the picture above at the Whiskey Bar late last night.
Granted, he's made some cryptic/melodramatic exits before that (thankfully) turned out to be temporary, but this post last week suggests that Billmon has given the matter a lot of consideration:
I've been spending some of my spare time these past few weeks rummaging around in the Whiskey Bar archives, trying to decide what, if any of it, is worth keeping and what could just as well be consigned to the electronic garbage can.
And so he left in that post a "greatest hits" retrospective of some of his most insightful 2003 commentary on Iraq — conveniently located on the front page for future generations of passersby, a string of quotes in classic Billmon fashion, albeit for once not intended to skewer a particular target with deadly accuracy.
In his retrospective, Billmon lamented that blogs like his (and he also graciously mentioned my own) had not "served a useful purpose" by changing the course of the war. But they were useful, even if they didn't achieve that ultimate goal. In a time when, as Billmon says, "mainstream dissent had been cowed almost into silence," the liberal blogiverse served as an oasis of sanity, keeping the spark of opposition to the war alive by reminding us that we weren't really alone in our feelings, no matter what CNN and Faux News told us.
And even if bloggers didn't stop the war, Billmon's instant-classic post quoting Bushites on Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction ("What a Tangled Web We Weave…") played a genuine role in shifting the media narrative, planting the first seeds of skepticism in the press by putting the obvious facts right in their faces. That post blazed a trail for progressive blogs more generally to become the leading edge of instant rebuttals and talking points for Democratic politicians — a development that may or may not be related to Dems regaining a foothold in national politics by winning control of Congress in November.
Given such undeniable (if incomplete) success, it's understandable if Billmon saw this as a fitting time to step away from the keyboard. As Digby memorably wrote a year ago, "There is an element of the Bataan death march to daily blogging when you do it for three years running," and no one can begrudge Billmon, who has fought so long and brilliantly, his desire to rotate away from the front. I doubt he'll really be gone completely, anyway; I wouldn't be surprised to see him pop up where he began, as an eloquent commenter on Daily Kos or elsewhere.
Some people, though, might think it's unfair of Billmon to leave — that as (by acclamation) the most purely talented writer on any blog, we need his gifts more now than ever as we battle to end the war in Iraq and retake the White House in 2008. Although Billmon might consider this comparison to be sacrilegious, I'm reminded of a perhaps-apocryphal story (I can't find any reference to it via Google) I read once about John Lennon. During Lennon's five-year retirement from music in the late 1970s, a top rock critic wrote a melodramatic plea for him to return, claiming that only the brilliant John Lennon could make sense of the times and show his fans the way forward.
Lennon supposedly passed on a riposte via a mutual acquaintance: "Tell him I did my part. It's his turn now." If Billmon has indeed shuttered the Whiskey Bar for good, that's the lesson for us — it's our turn now.