Jewish World Review Jan. 24, 2003 / 22 Shevat, 5763

Mona Charen

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Snapshot of American liberalism |
From marchers in Washington, D.C., chanting, "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld -- the Real Axis of Evil," to Teddy Kennedy offering his warmed-over appeasement to the National Press Club, the past couple of weeks have offered a telling snapshot of American liberalism.

A group called ANSWER --Act Now to Stop War and End Racism -- organized the antiwar march, as columnist Michael Kelly pointed out. Few reports on the event traced the group's origins, so the curious may want to refer to Byron York's piece in The National Review ("Reds Still"), which supplies the missing details.

ANSWER is an outgrowth of the International Action Center, a San Francisco group showcasing the work of former attorney general and all-around America-loather Ramsey Clark. As York tells it: "Both Answer and the International Action Center are closely allied with a small but energetic Marxist-Leninist organization known as the Workers World Party, which ... supported the Soviet interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Chinese government's crackdown in Tienanmen Square. Today, the WWP devotes much of its energy to supporting the regimes in Iraq and North Korea."

The march was shrill, incoherent (what does war with Iraq have to do with racism?) and extreme, as one might expect from a rally organized by die-hard communists. The denunciations of America were broad-ranging and vulgar. But liberal organs like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" were not honest about the demonstration's message. The Lehrer program featured a discussion about whether antiwar protests do much good and offered a number of college professors the opportunity to reminisce and rhapsodize about their youthful anti-Vietnam War protests. The New York Times was struck by "the obvious mainstream roots of the marchers," who, the editorialists were certain, "represented ... a large segment of the American public."

Nothing has changed. Sept. 11, 2001, did not represent a Pearl Harbor moment for the United States. Dec. 7, 1941, completely obliterated the antiwar America First movement. No one who had been associated with it was willing to be antiwar on Dec. 8, and even its most vociferous spokesmen promptly lined up at induction offices.

But the terror attacks on the United States have not killed the anti-American fervor that animates the left today. And liberals continue, as they did throughout the Cold War, to look benevolently on enemies of the United States and particularly upon anyone who styles himself a left-wing "activist." Columnist Mary McGrory wrote an elegy to the Washington marchers, calling them a "river of peaceful people." She proudly recounts the story of a 19-year-old student whose hero is Paul Robeson. How nice, except that Robeson was a Stalinist who urged black Americans not to fight for this country. When prize fighter Sugar Ray Robinson learned of Robeson's comment, he said, "I don't know the man, but if I ever see him on the street, I will punch him in the nose."

McGrory dismisses talk of radicalism by pointing to the participation of the Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Churches. More blasts from the past. Those two groups -- along with many other religious organizations -- were highly visible in the anti-Vietnam War rallies of the late '60s and early '70s, as well. And then, just as now, they were willing to ally themselves with people whose hatred for America was their defining motive. Recall that the last public outing for the NCC was to support sending Elian Gonzalez back to Castro's loving arms. Neither group speaks for the people it purports to represent.

Kennedy speaks for many, of course. That icon of American liberalism declared that taking on Iraq is the "wrong war at the wrong time. The threat from Iraq is not imminent and it would distract American from the two more immediate threats to our security ... terrorism and the crisis with North Korea." He can dress it up as strategic caution, but anyone who has watched the American left for the past several decades can be sure that Kennedy would always find reasons not to fight. Besides, the war against Saddam is part of the war on terror.

We know that anti-Americanism is spreading like a virus throughout the world. What the protest march in Washington should remind us is that it started right here.

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