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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: December 2011

There’s still time to buy a 2011 book, and my vote for Book of the Year is: David Horowitz’s A Point in Time: The Search for Redemption In This Life and the Next.  Many of you know Horowitz as a fearless fighter for conservatism, a polemicist and organizer second to none. But this time, you will find a very different and sober David Horowitz. Here you will come across a reflective, searching and eloquent treatise on the essential philosophical and moral issues all of us face: the very meaning of our life on Earth, how we make sense of it, what meaning we give to our short sojourn on it, and the big question of what our stay really means, especially if like Horowitz, we are not religious.

Herein, David paints a wide brush, moving from subjects like the death of his daughter, his remembrances of growing up under the tutelage of his Communist father, and discourses on the lessons to be learned from the great figures of history and literature, such as Marcus Aurelius of Ancient Rome, and the greatest novelist of old Russia, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

On one level, Horowitz’s book is highly pessimistic. My wife warned me not to read it, fearing it would leave me depressed. Horowitz writes a great deal about what he has learned from his dogs, seeing their responses to all around them and their aging over the years to what our own future portends. Having very recently lost our beloved Maltese dog Sam, I certainly understand when Horowitz writes that once having lived with dogs, “they have come to seem indispensable,” since they teach us so much and brighten our lives each day. But rather than make me sad, I felt a great peace and calm reading Horowitz’s beautiful prose. Far more than other authors, he has been able to touch my feelings on a deep level, and cause me to reflect on whether or not I have been able to make a difference while I am among the living.

Of course, David Horowitz writes a book that has political implications. His father, as we know, was a man who substituted the chimera of the revolutionary transformation of humanity through communism as the road to salvation, rather than the religious faith shared by most earthly dwellers. For him history “was a forward march,” he writes, a man whose ideology meant that there was no use for Dostoevsky, a writer who left the path of revolution for that of God, and was therefore seen as “reactionary.” Unlike his father, Horowitz picked up the great novelist’s works, and learned “insights that helped to wake me from the dreams that had stifled my father’s life.”

His pages are Dostoevsky are a tour d ’force, a guide through what we can learn from his novels, and from Distoevsky’s own experience. As a man of religion, Horowitz explains, he had a “conservative view of our human lot, the very opposite of the radical faith that we can become gods, and create a new world.” One is struck by Dostoevsky’s understandings, made so long ago, that still have the greatest relevance to our own times. Horowitz quotes the Russian novelist on his judgment of those who seek early redemption through revolutionary change.  He offers us the following words from Dostoevsky:

“Socialism is a modern incarnation of godlessness, the tower of Babel built without God, not to raise earth to haven but to bring down heaven to earth.” Of those who believe in this path, he wrote: “They hope to make a just order for themselves, but having rejected Christ they will end by drenching the earth with blood.”

Perhaps because David Horowitz cannot bring himself to accept formal religion, and remains a skeptic deeply admiring of those who are believers, his book has a pessimistic streak to it which his writing itself disputes. Since he cannot bring himself to accept religion, Horowitz writes that “I am left to ponder the pointlessness of our strivings on this earth and to ask impossible questions, and receive no answers.”

For a moral soul who is not religious, the question raised is then whether life can have any meaning. He talks about what his daughter called “the rolling of the souls,” and writes that even though she is not here, her thoughts follow him, and as he puts it, “my future takes on a memory and a face.” But David’s prose proves that our strivings are anything put pointless. As he learns from Dostoyevsky, the collectivist passion has no worthy end. Horowitz writes: “Even as they seek desperately for a common object to love, so they yearn for a common enemy to hate, which is why the quest for an earthly redemption has led to the greatest crimes.”

That does not mean, as Horowitz thinks, that we will all forget the heroes of the past we now honor, and “history itself,” which is only “a cycle of rises and falls,” means life progresses on its own rhythyms. Eventually, he writes his family name itself will disappear, and that too meant little, since the name was most likely made upon his grandfather’s arrival in America from Europe. Indeed, Horowitz even thinks this book means little itself, although he writes that “I still return to the security of my stories,” since those of his own life make existence bearable. He writes because that is what he does. Looking forward to the publication of this very book, Horowitz writes, “few people will read it, and then there will be none.”

He is not sure that his work “is important to anyone,” although he acknowledges that he has acquired an audience “to whom it may seem so,” and thinks perhaps his words have caused some good. But he writes primarily for himself, because “it is important to me.” Yet, he has told us when he visited his late daughter’s apartment, he found scores of writings, known to no one but herself, which she, like her father, was compelled to write. After her death, David saw to it that her own book culled from these papers would be published. Why did he do this, if as he really thinks, it matters not if anyone but the writer saw the results?

This unwarranted pessimism, as I suggested, is a deep flaw, and reflects Horowitz’s deep feelings about how without belief in God, meaning cannot exist in life. We all know that the writings of David Horowitz have in fact mattered a great deal, as does this special book. So my advice to readers of this column is simple: Prove David Horowitz wrong. Buy A Point in Time. It will be a gift to yourself, and one that you will cherish forever.

 

 

Yesterday’s Arts section of the New York Times contained an interesting report about the status of Woody Guthrie, the Dust Bowl balladeer, in his native Oklahoma. Reporter Patricia Cohen writes that “Oklahoma has always had a troubled relationship with her native son Woody Guthrie. The communist sympathies of America’s balladeer infuriated local detractors.” Note those words, “communist sympathies”; evidently, Guthrie had some kind of innocuous sympathies, perhaps those of a naïve fellow traveler, but not those of a self-proclaimed hard-nosed Red. As one resident of Guthrie’s hometown Okema who loved Guthrie told Cohen, Guthrie had been “kind of taboo because some influential people thought Woody Guthrie had communist leanings.” The implication, as you can see, is that those attitudes were the ill-informed opinions of old school Red-baiters from the ’30s.

Now, after years of denial, Oklahoma is ready to welcome Woody home. The story reports on how The George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa has bought Guthrie’s archives from his children, and are “building an exhibition and study center to honor his legacy.” It will include his notebooks and diaries, art work, letters, scrapbooks, and the like, including the lyrics of 3000 songs to which he never had the chance to write music. It cost George Kaiser some $3 million to undertake the project. We also learn that Kaiser is, as Cohen reports, “one of the richest men in Oklahoma,” a man who made his millions from the Kaiser-Francis Oil Company.

Kaiser, in other words, is just the kind of capitalist the Communists always yell about — an exploiter of both the workers and our country’s natural resources. If you read the Wikipedia entry about him, you will find that his net worth in 2008 was some $12 billion, although his current net worth has dropped to a paltry $9 billion in today’s downward economy. He is still the richest man in Oklahoma (who also lives half time in San Francisco) but no longer one of the 20 richest in America, having slipped only to a tie for the 43rd richest person in the world!

Yes, Kaiser does good things with his wealth. He gives his money to causes like childhood education and the Oklahoma Jewish community. But he is also evidently part of the left wing of the Democratic Party, a man who argued before Oklahoma’s legislature that tax incentives for the oil and gas industry should be eliminated or reduced, and the money be used instead for health care, education, and tax cuts for regular people. (He did not, as you might expect, make that argument as he was accumulating his riches.) As you might expect, Mr. Kaiser was also one of Barack Obama’s “bundlers” in the 2008 election campaign, as well as a major investor in — you guessed it — Solyndra! (A bundler, as the Wikipedia entry explains, is “an individual who collects contributions to a candidate from others that are then simultaneously given to the candidate.”)

The entry also shows how carefully Mr. Kaiser gamed the market:

An article by the nonpartisan and open government organization Sunlight Foundation‘s Bill Allison has analyzed Kaiser’s business activities and his use of legal tax avoidance strategies, including how during the 1980s bust in the oil industry in Oklahoma and Texas. Kaiser bought up struggling energy companies whose losses provided him with tax deductions that effectively offset his own income and left him with little or no tax liability.

The report says Kaiser paid no taxes to the federal government for years and that when he did pay taxes, just once in a six-year period, it was just under $11,700, meaning he paid taxes on a taxable wage of $5.62 per hour. The report comes from the Sunlight Foundation’s Bill Allison. Allison’s post indicates many experts, including the IRS, believe Kaiser’s tax strategies were illegal.

To put it a bit differently, were Woody Guthrie still alive, I could imagine the expletives that would appear as he took pen to paper to blast away at how a capitalist in Oklahoma named Kaiser made a killing while regular people took the brunt. His response would have been a bit different than that of his daughter Nora, who told Cohen: “I cried for an hour after meeting George Kaiser,” since he had put “together what I’ve always dreamed of.” Absolutely Nora — on the backs of the working class. He, according to Marx whom Woody believed in, made his money from the surplus value generated by the labor power of the Oklahoma proletariat.

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As the polls still show Ron Paul possibly winning the Iowa caucus, more and more people are beginning to take a closer look at what the congressman really believes. The results are not favorable to his image. Paul has his cadre of fanatical defenders, and an on-the-ground organization dedicated to producing a win for him in Iowa. But as we all should realize, the winner of the Iowa caucus is not likely to become the Republican Party nominee — except if it is Mitt Romney.

Ask Mike Huckabee, who won the 2008 caucus and went on to a resounding collapse elsewhere. Indeed, the Iowa caucus itself is hardly representative of primary contests in other states, where depending on state rules, a Republican Party primary can find all eligible Republican voters and eligible registered independents also voting. To participate in a caucus, you have to show up, spend a few hours deciding where to stand when it is time to cast your preference, and let your neighbors and friends know precisely whom you voted for. As Huckabee predicted the other day, if the weather is very bad, Paul will win. If it is good weather and easy to get about, Romney will become the winner.

As for what Paul represents, everyone should carefully read the single most incisive dissection of what drives Paul’s supporters and Paul himself. It appears on the website of “The Sultan Knish,” a.k.a. Daniel Greenfield. For some time, I have commented on the dangers of the supporters of a Left-Right antiwar coalition, one that some call the Red-Green coalition or the joining together of the supporters of Pat Buchanan and the last Stalinist in America, Alexander Cockburn. During the Clinton years of the intervention in Bosnia, Cockburn and Buchanan shared the speaker’s podium at anti-war rallies. Today, the equivalent is the similar positions taken by Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, who have indistinguishable policies.

On this issue, Greenfield makes the following observation:

When Ted Rall was recently dreaming of a left-right revolution against the government, the Paul Pot have been openly talking about it. Rand Paul discussed a left-right coalition for rolling back the “American Empire”. That sort of crossover is what makes Ron Paul valuable. The media championed him as an Anti-War Republican because he offered a left-right coalition against the War on Terror.

For all that the wonks insist on viewing America as a red and blue state lineup, there are a lot of other colors in the mix. More than the libertarians, most of whom have a limited comfort level with Paul, there are various flavors of anarchists, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and people who are even further off the map. They are a politically underserved demographic and while they won’t win elections, they have the obsessive nature and the time to make a difference.

Ron Paul’s broad appeal is that he promises to reduce the power of government and American power in general, and that’s something everyone from Communists to Nazis, anarchists to monarchists can get behind. Revolutions begin with a broad front assault on the system and Ron Paul has ended up as the symbol of a broad front of those who see some political, financial or other benefit from taking down the system.

That’s why Ron Paul’s generic policy positions, which aside from drabs of paranoia are not all that distinguishable from many of his opponents, are not really the issue. His pet obsessions even less so except that they allow him to speak the language of his supporters and they make him completely irrelevant on most other issues.

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PJ Media readers know why we mourn the passing of Vaclav Havel. On this site, Michael Ledeen beautifully laid out the reasons why the world knows it has lost one of its greatest leaders. Ledeen put it in these words: “he was one of a handful of people who changed the world by fighting totalitarian Communism and then, having defeated it, inspired his people to rejoin the Western world, embrace capitalism, and support democratic dissidents everywhere.”

But now that almost a week has passed since Havel’s death, some on the Western Left have decided to let their true feelings about Havel out. Despite having to give some lip service to Havel’s integrity and what he accomplished, these men of the Left quickly get to what they really think: Havel helped destroy the great ideal of Communism as a worthy goal, and for that, he cannot be forgiven.

The most egregious is the blog in the British paper The Guardian. The headline to Neil Clark’s article reads, “Another Side of the Story.” Clark immediately ties Havel up with another individual who has just passed way, Christopher Hitchens, whose “consecration” he strongly objects to. For Hitchens was, he writes, “ another ‘progressive’ opponent of the communist regimes of eastern Europe who found favour with Washington’s neocons.”

Clark does not question that Havel was “a brave man” who stood up for his views. That he cannot deny. It is Havel’s views, and his anti-Communism, that he detests. For Havel, he writes, did not help make his country “and the world, a better place.” In particular, denying everything we know about the nature of Stalinism in Eastern Europe — the repression, the bureaucracy, the lack of necessary consumer goods to lead a decent life, the ever pervasive secret police — he faults Havel for the following:

Havel’s anti-communist critique contained little if any acknowledgement of the positive achievements of the regimes of eastern Europe in the fields of employment, welfare provision, education and women’s rights. Or the fact that communism, for all its faults, was still a system which put the economic needs of the majority first.

Surely Mr. Clark must be kidding. Has he not read any of the scores of books revealing the nature of life under what his comrades then called “really existing socialism”? Does he not realize that all these so-called “positive achievements” were there mainly in the minds of the state and Party propaganda apparatus, and that the only people to have them were the Party’s apparatchiks?  Does he really believe that communism put the needs of “the majority first”? What accounts, then, for the scores of brave crowds who swept Havel into office, and who openly taunted the regime’s spokesmen as liars and no different than the Nazis who ruled before them?

Clark does not stop with the above. In true Communistpeak, he attacks Havel as “the son of a wealthy entrepreneur,” in other words used by the Maoists of the day, a “capitalist roader.”  How dare the son of a bourgeois merchant becomes a national hero? Havel, to Clark, as to the comrades who ruled for decades, had no right to power, since he came from the hated capitalist class.

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The danger in Iowa is not that if Ron Paul does come in first in the Iowa caucus, he will get the Republican nomination. He won’t. Recall Mike Huckabee’s win four years ago! It means little. But it will give Paul momentum, and his deluded followers will double down in their efforts, and when Mitt Romney becomes the nominee, they won’t take their defeat lying down. The danger, then, is that Paul will do what his followers want and what he originally promised he would not do: run on a third-party ticket for the presidency.

If Ron Paul follows that course, it means that he will take away just enough votes from the eventual nominee to assure Barack Obama’s re-election as president of the United States. Since Paul obviously believes that the positions of the Republican Party are no different than those of the Democrats, it makes sense for him to become the spoiler, thus asserting his own power in politics. For the rest of us, it will mean we have lost our only chance to stop the destruction of the America we have come to know and love by presenting Barack Obama with four more years to achieve his domestic agenda of transforming the United States into a European-style social democracy.

So let us look vividly at everything Ron Paul stands for. Thanks to the research of journalist James Kirchick, that reminder is available for us in the new issue of The Weekly Standard. Building upon his well-known 2008 article on Ron Paul’s now famous newsletters issued by him in the 1980s and 90s, Kirchick updates his earlier findings, revealing “Paul’s lucrative and decades-long promotion of bigotry and conspiracy theories, for which he has yet to account fully, and his continuing espousal of extremist views, that should make him unwelcome at any respectable forum, not only those hosted by Jewish organizations.”

Kirchick’s findings are so important that even the New York Times reported on them in its main news section. Given Paul’s position that Iran is nowhere near to obtaining a nuclear weapon and is not a threat, his views about Israel and the United States are especially relevant.

Kirchick writes:

What the congressman had to say about Jews and Israel would probably be a deal-breaker. No foreign country was mentioned in the newsletters more often than Israel. A 1987 newsletter termed it “an aggressive, national socialist state,” and another missive, on the subject of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, concluded, ‘Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.’  In 1990, the newsletter cast aspersions on the “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.”

As Kirchick points out, Paul’s explanation for the outrageous comments that regularly appeared in his various newsletters borders on parody. Paul expects people to believe that he had nothing to do with what appeared under his own name, and which readers at the time thought he had written. Whether actually penned by Paul or by one of his associates, the fact is that Paul made a nice fortune selling them to subscribers, and readers believed they were reading Paul’s own views.

Moreover, Kirchick goes on to point out that Ed Crane, “the president of the Cato Institute, said Paul told him that ‘his best source of congressional campaign donations was the mailing list for the Spotlight, the conspiracy-mongering, anti-Semitic tabloid run by the Holocaust denier Willis Carto.’”  To this reader, that sentence is the most important one in Kirchick’s article.  It reveals, for the first time, that a great deal of Paul’s funding for his successful congressional campaigns comes from one of the most notorious anti-Semitic papers in America.

Finally, Kirchick reveals that Paul is a regular guest on the single most extremist far-right radio program hosted by a man named Alex Jones. I first heard of Jones while on a speaking engagement in California, where a man who drove me around insisted I hear tapes of Jones that he had amassed. Jones is so crazed in his support of conspiracy theories about everything that he makes Lyndon LaRouche and Michael Savage appear apostles of sanity. Kirchick quotes Paul as telling Jones in a March 2009 broadcast that “we need to take out the CIA.” Just last week, Paul told Jones that the report of an attempted Iranian assassination in the U.S. of the Saudi ambassador was nothing but a “propaganda stunt.”

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My friend Christopher Hitchens passed away yesterday of pneumonia, a complication of the esophageal cancer he had been valiantly fighting for the past few years. The thorough obituary in today’s New York Times gives one a good overview of his life and his passions.

Of course Christopher did this himself in his own memoir, Hitch-22, a dazzling combination of remembrance, literary excursions, and reportage, all written in his own incomparable style. My own review of it can be found here.

I first met Christopher soon after he came to the United States, in the offices of The Nation magazine, for which he had a regular column. A firm man of the political Left at the time, he had been hired by Victor Navasky soon after coming to the U.S. from London. Soon after, I had lunch with him in Washington, D.C., where I was writing something for The New Republic, to which he had paid a visit while I was at their office. We walked into a nearby small French bistro, where the other solitary diner, an attractive woman in her 20s, was reading The Nation. “Did you set this up?” I asked Hitch. He looked over, thoroughly amused, and rushed over to the woman: “Hello, I’m Christopher Hitchens,” he told her. “I write  a regular column for this magazine.”  It could have been a scene from a movie.

When David Horowitz and Peter Collier first turned away from the Left, they held a major conference in Washington, D.C., “the Second Thoughts Conference,” which attracted a huge audience. Hitchens was there for The Nation, where he sat alongside his then friend Sidney Blumenthal, sneering and ridiculing the various speakers who accounted for what led them to change their old views of the 1960s. Approaching me later after my own talk, he accused me of “crossing the line” and of being guilty of McCarthyism. As readers familiar with Hitchens’ own trajectory know, during the Clinton years, Blumenthal would become his own most bitter enemy, and the two never reconciled.

As I moved away from the Left, Christopher remained firmly planted in its milieu. I had not seen him for years since Second Thoughts, only to become embroiled in a major fight with him after I wrote an article for the conservative  New Criterion on the intellectuals and the Spanish Civil War. The article created a storm on the Left. The literary critic Alfred Kazin was furious, phoning me in order to castigate me personally. In the pages of his column, Hitch wrote (this is from memory, because I cannot find the column easily in their archives) that I was a “neo-fascist bucket carrier for Pat Buchanan,” and he attacked me at greater length in the journal Granta.

A week after Hitch’s scathing comment about me, I received a call from Peter Robinson, whose television program (now digitally on National Review Online) was then broadcast nationally on PBS. Peter asked whether I would appear with Hitchens to discuss the Spanish Civil War. I flew out to Palo Alto, where the taping was scheduled for early morning. I spent a sleepless night, nervous about seeing him in person after he had written such a nasty and vituperative comment about me.

The reception I received from Christopher revealed something about his personality. He greeted me warmly, totally oblivious about what he had just said about me in print a short week or so earlier. We had a civil and wonderful discussion, finding that in fact — although he had implied I was an apologist for Franco in his large article — we essentially agreed on all points.

When the taping was over, he came over and invited me for dinner that very evening at his in-law’s home where he and his wife Carol Blue were staying. The other guests — a typical dinner party as I came to learn — included the great scholar of the Soviet Union, Robert Conquest, and the British political writer then at the Hoover Institute, Timothy Garton-Ash, who later would become one of Hitchens’ severe critics when Hitch became a supporter of the Iraq War. It was a scintillating evening of good food, wine, and wonderful conversation — at which, of course, Christopher commanded the evening.

Political disagreement was one thing — friendship was another. As long as it was not a rupture of a deep personal  nature — such as his own with Blumenthal — Hitchens did not hold serious political disagreement with him as a cause for breaking with someone he considered a friend. Indeed, whenever we met, he would embrace me warmly and greet me with the fraternal salute of the old Left to which we once both belonged. With a twinkle in his eye, he would rush over, hug me and say: “Comrade. So good to see you.”

After years on the Left, Hitchens himself became fed up with the self-righteousness, myopia, and blindness to reality of his own side. He left the Left and abandoned his long-standing weekly column in The Nation. One of the last straws, he told me, was the magazine’s yearly cruise to which he had agreed to go on and speak at. He was so fed up, he told me, that at the first port of call, he left the ship and the cruise, and flew home abandoning the magazine’s guests as quickly as he could.

Always considering himself an anti-fascist, he simply could not understand how the Left saw nothing wrong with what he saw as the fascist quality of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the Ba’ath party he led, a combination of both Stalinism and Nazism in which Saddam clearly had admiration for both the qualities of Hitler and Stalin which he emulated. In his eyes, the anti-fascist intervention was carried out admirably by the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush, and not caring what his old comrades thought, he supported the war and the cause strongly, using his pen to tear apart the apologists of the Left and the lies they told about the Bush administration and its policies.

As David Frum has written in his own beautifully crafted tribute, Hitch’s move from the Left did not cause him to adopt the politics of the Right. One of his last columns for Slate was an attack on the Mormon faith of Mitt Romney. Accusing the religion of being more of a cult than a faith, Christopher did not seem to realize that if, as he believes, all religions were a cult and obscurantist, Mormonism is not any more dangerous than traditional Christianity or Judaism. Indeed, among his lifelong enemies were the likes of Princess Di, Mother Teresa, and of course, both Bill Clinton, whom he called a serial rapist, and Henry Kissinger, whom he thought of as a war criminal. Conservatives rallied to his blasts at Clinton during the impeachment circus, and liberals rallied to his lifelong contempt for Kissinger. Christopher called them as he saw them, oblivious to who supported or criticized him.

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For good reason, the alarm bells have been rung about Thomas Friedman’s rather vile and anti-Semitic column in the New York Times. By now, the most objectionable paragraph has been cited in many places. For those who have not as yet read it, here it is:

I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused.

With that screed, Friedman reveals himself to be part of the Walt-Mearsheimer pack, arguing that the pro-Israeli bipartisan sentiment comes not from the American people’s support of Israel, but from the power of the mythical Israeli lobby to buy off all of Congress.

The best critique has been offered at Commentary’s Contentions blog by Jonathan S. Tobin, who points out that:

Rather, they were the result of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans–Jew and non-Jew alike–think of Israel as a friend and ally. They, and their representatives in Congress, believe the Jewish state’s security is, contrary to Friedman’s formulation, a vital U.S. interest in the Middle East. It is true, as Friedman says, the applause may not have been a personal endorsement for Netanyahu, but that’s because it was also a stiff rebuke to President Obama’s attempt to ambush the Israeli prior to his visit with his speech about the 1967 lines, whose purpose was to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians.

Tobin also takes up the other parts of Friedman’s egregious argument, and points out how it is in essence an anti-Semitic argument. He writes:

The notion that the only reason politicians support Israel is because of Jewish money is a central myth of a new form of anti-Semitism which masquerades as a defense of American foreign policy against the depredations of a venal Israel lobby. This canard not only feeds off of the traditional themes of Jew-hatred, it also requires Friedman to ignore the deep roots of American backing for Zionism in our history and culture.

Friedman’s vicious column reflects something new in liberal political culture in America, and that is a growing animosity towards and calumny of those who are still liberals and are firm supporters of Israel. A case in point is the eruption of false canards in the past few weeks made against Josh Block, the former communications director of AIPAC, who now heads his own shop in D.C. with Lanny Davis.

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As the campaign heats up, a strange dichotomy is taking place. Many Republicans — including tested conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn — are publicly attacking Newt Gingrich. Here’s a list of what many of them say.  In her latest Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan captured the argument of anti-Newt conservatives and wrote that, although he can be inspiring, “those who know him fear — or hope — that he will be true to form in one respect: He will continue to lose to his No. 1 longtime foe, Newt Gingrich. He is a human hand grenade who walks around with his hand on the pin, saying, ‘Watch this!’”

In yesterday’s New York Times, its house conservative, David Brooks, wrote that in many ways, Gingrich could be described as a big government conservative who over the years has favored cap-and-trade legislation to curb global warming, supported universal health care coverage, favored liberal immigration reform, and whose common theme “is that government should intervene in crucial ways to create a dynamic, decentralized, low-tax society.”

Indeed, Brooks thinks that “Gringrich loves government more than I do,” and has “no Hayekian modesty to restrain his faith in statist endeavor.” Some would say, should they discover this, that Gingrich is no Tea Party right-winger. Even a “national greatness” conservative like Brooks thinks that Newt’s program “is a little too great.” So Brooks joins others in faulting Gingrich for his work with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He also endorses the widely read blog post by Yuval Levin, who at NRO noted that the programs of Newt and Romney are not that different. But what is different, Levin observes, is their very different temperaments. Romney has a temperament of an executive, is disciplined, and shows “calm and restraint.” As for Newt, Brooks writes, he “seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s. He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with ’60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form.”

Hence Brooks concludes that Gingrich “would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated.”  Writing in even harsher terms, Levin puts it this way: “he has no discipline whatsoever, can be almost unbelievably erratic and unfocused, and is unironically conceited.”

The analytical Republicans who oppose Gingrich are not what some call RINOS (a term I disdain, for it is a put-down to real debate and consideration of issues); they are conservatives who have served with Gingrich, know his volatile character and lack of discipline, and worry about his un-electability and — if elected — what kind of a president he would be.

As for the Left, they favor a Gingrich nomination for their own reasons, and in fact, they are more than similar to the very reasons many Republicans hope Romney gets the nomination. Case 1 is the example of the recent article by historian Michael Kazin in The New Republic. Like many Newt supporters, Kazin relishes a presidential debate between Gingrich and Obama. He thinks, as he puts it, that it would “bring a healthy candor to our politics and end up boosting the fortunes of liberalism as well.”

In other words, voters would see a great difference between the conservative and liberal approach to the world, and Kazin’s side, that of the liberal-left, would easily win. Kazin thinks a debate between the two would be “refreshing,” and that we would see “a serious debate between articulate exponents of liberalism and conservatism — the ideological conflict that has shaped American politics since the emergence of a mass movement on the right in the 1950s.”

Kazin also likes Newt’s stridency. As he writes, he is “an articulate, if savage, exponent of a conservative world-view, and his nomination…would represent the triumph of rhetorical boldness over Romney’s cautious artifice.” Moreover, he thinks that would allow Obama “with an opportunity to advocate the progressive principles that inspired him to run for office in the first place.”

So Kazin is confident that in a two way serious debate, “Obama would win,” since Gingrich to a wide audience “comes off as an arrogant pedant unable to convince those who are not already on his side.” As he says, “preeners don’t get elected president.” Finally, with an Obama victory in hand, Kazin sees Nirvana finally arriving: “It would expose the moral and logical defects of the conservative ideology that has been mostly dominant in the U.S. since 1980.”

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The faux populist Obama is at it again. Yesterday, trying to echo Theodore Roosevelt’s famous talk in Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1910 — when the former president laid out his call for a “New Nationalism.” Barack Obama said yesterday: “This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules.” Assuming the stance of an anti-Wall Street crusader, the president, who made a deal with Big Pharma on the drug issue and the Big Insurance Firms to gain their support for ObamaCare, pandered to the OWS crowd and tried to echo their cries about the injustice to the 99 percent of the people oppressed by Wall Street.

As A.G. Sulzberger put it in the New York Times:

Infusing his speech with the moralistic language that has emerged in the Occupy protests around the nation, Mr. Obama warned that growing income inequality meant that the United States was undermining its middle class and, “gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America:  that this is the place where you can make it if you try.”

Channeling TR, President Obama, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “cited health-insurance companies, mortgage lenders and financial firms. For too many Americans, he said, hard work no longer pays off, while those ‘at the very top’ have grown wealthier than ever before. The president has periodically bashed Wall Street before, but Tuesday’s speech was more sweeping and went beyond any one industry to say that the middle class as a whole was being left behind in part due to corporate greed and wrongdoing.” As most people know, the president has been the best friend of the insurance companies, financial firms, and the mortgage lenders, who, following liberal policies, proceeded to engage in sub-prime loans to those who could not afford them.

We understand why Obama is taking this stance. Having stood by the wayside after bailing out the banks and the auto companies, and letting the economy worsen, the president found his base wavering in their enthusiasm for him, and he desperately needs their support and their legwork for his 2012 campaign. Talking Left while cooperating with the very titans he attacks is the only move he has left. So he now attacks “breathtaking greed” and uses the OWS slogans as his own; much as LBJ did with the civil rights movement when he talked to Congress and ended his speech with the words “we shall overcome.”

But LBJ did introduce a civil rights bill, while Obama is all hat and no cattle. Of course, Obama said his concern was with “the nation’s welfare,” and that he was not engaging in “class warfare.” The TR 1910 speech, to which he referred many times, according to the Times reporter, “touched on many of the same themes — often in similar language — like concentration of wealth and the need for government to ensure a level playing field. Central to progress, Mr. Roosevelt said, was the conflict between ‘the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess.’” Leaving it with these quotes, it certainly sounds to those not so familiar with TR that Obama was indeed carrying on TR’s old cause.

But a more substantive look at what Roosevelt really argued belies his argument. As Ben Soskis correctly notes at TNR.com, “there was another stratum of meaning in TR’s speech at Osawatomie — a more conservative one that has received less attention.” Roosevelt, he points out, “did not mean for his speech … to be a statement of radical beliefs. He had initially hoped that by championing progressive principles, he could take control of the potentially irresponsible insurgent forces within the GOP and orchestrate a reconciliation with the party’s more conservative wing. In fact, in the address itself, he did not merely define himself as a crusader against special interests; he also signaled his resistance to the excesses of radicalism as well.”

Indeed, he continues: “A few days later, Roosevelt published another version of the speech, more conciliatory toward the forces of concentrated wealth, that he wrote himself.” Condemning the violence engaged in by John Brown [the speech was a memorial to Brown and a park named for him in honor of an 1856 battle Brown waged in Osawatomie) and making it clear that Brown’s contemporary successors were the socialists, Roosevelt wrote that Brown’s “notion that the evils of slavery could be cured by a slave insurrection was a delusion analogous to the delusions of those who expect to cure the evils of plutocracy by arousing the baser passions of workingmen against the rich in an endeavor at violent industrial revolution.”

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If only George Orwell was still with us. Even the author of 1984 would be hard pressed to have one of his characters speak to the people with the words used at today’s State Department briefing by Mark C. Toner, the Department’s Deputy Spokesperson.

Although the mainstream media has failed as yet to report on the shock felt throughout America’s Jewish communities by the words of the U.S.Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman last week, at a conference in Europe on anti-Semitism, the reporters present at the Department’s Daily Briefing did ask Toner about the meaning of Gutman’s words.

What Toner came up with reads like a Woody Allen routine in one of his early comedies.  Here are some of the juiciest excerpts:

QUESTION: Let’s start with Ambassador Gutman’s speech from last week. Does the – did the Administration sign off on this, or was it vetted by anyone in EUR or NEA? And does the Administration agree with the sentiments that he expressed in his speech?

MR. TONER: I think you saw – actually, let me start again. I’m not aware that his remarks were cleared back here in Washington. He made very clear in a subsequent statement that they were his thoughts or his remarks. He did condemn and was very vocal about condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms, and I believe he expressed regret that his words might have been taken out of context.

Note the “I believe” and the inaccurate claim that Gutman “did condemn” anti-Semitism in all its forms.  And note this as well:

Pretending not to understand the issue, Toner continues to argue that “the Administration and the State Department says that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.”  Toner couldn’t be that dumb not to comprehend that the issue at hand was whether Ambassador Gutman was rationalizing Muslim anti-Semitism as something different and acceptable.

The unnamed reporter was not satisfied. Hence the following amazing exchange:

 

That’s great, Mark. I’m glad that you do, and I’m sure everyone is glad that you do, but do you agree with the content of Ambassador Gutman’s speech?

MR. TONER: We –

QUESTION: I don’t know; it’s a pretty easy question. Yes or no?

MR. TONER: It is – it was his remarks. It was his opinion. He was not speaking on behalf –

QUESTION: So he wasn’t speaking – the Ambassador to Belgium, he was not speaking –

MR. TONER: I think he said as much. He said it was his remarks and he was speaking on his own.

QUESTION: No, he didn’t. He did not say that. He – but he was not speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government?

MR. TONER: I don’t believe so.

So the Ambassador to Belgium speaks publicly using his title and yet is not speaking officially, or so we are led to believe. According to Toner, he was “just expressing his views on an issue.”

Then Toner raises Gutman’s own “family history” as a reason as to why his remarks have to be considered anything but anti-Semitic, since they were victims of the Holocaust. As we know from Norman Finkelstein that does not necessarily prove anything of the sort.

Next the other defense, echoing Obama’s remarks last week:

QUESTION: Mark, I understand that you condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. I understand that, okay? I’m asking you if you agree with the content of his speech, which he gave as the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium.

MR. TONER: And I would just say that he was sharing his views on an issue. Our commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States – or Israel has no greater friend or ally than the United States, and we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms.

Our intrepid reporter does not give up, and we get this:

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine, but I don’t – I’m not hearing in there – unless you’re going to tell me right out he was speaking as a private citizen and not as the Ambassador. Is that – that’s what you’re saying?

MR. TONER: What’s that? I’m sorry. Give me your question again.

QUESTION: That his comments were delivered as a private citizen, not as the representative of the U.S. Government.

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve been very clear that we condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms –

Reading the above, it’s hard not to think this was, as I wrote earlier, part of a Woody Allen script that was never filmed.

Finally, exasperated, Toner says “I think I’ll just  stop there.” When the reporter brings up the issue of whether the administration thinks all  criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, Toner answers “I’d just say that this Administration has consistently stood up against anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel, and will continue to do so.”

And here is the conclusion:

QUESTION: Okay. So in his speech, Ambassador Gutman draws a distinction between classic anti-Semitism and some kind of new form of hatred toward Jews which is based – what he said, based on the policies of the Government of Israel. Do you – it sounds as though you accept that there is a distinction between the two.

MR. TONER: What Ambassador Gutman was – I believe what he was trying to convey is that there are different forms of anti-Semitism. We condemn them in all their forms.

QUESTION: All right. I’ve got another on Israel, but it’s not on this subject.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up briefly on that, some Republicans have called for the Administration to fire Ambassador Gutman. Is there – does the Administration have a response to that, have a position on –

MR. TONER: We have full confidence in him.

The last is the important admission. There will not be any condemnation of Ambassador Gutman, neither from Secretary Clinton, nor President Obama. They have “full confidence” in a man who has sought to explain and justify Muslim anti-Semitism by claiming it is the result of the failure to reach peace with the Palestinians, which by implication, is Israel’s fault.

Of course not, because—Ambassador Gutman’s remarks obviously are the established policy of the Obama administration, and reflects its outreach to the Arabs and his disdain for Israel.

No wonder you won’t find this story in The New York Times.