Jewish World Review Jan. 2, 2002 / 18 Teves, 5762
Smears and slanders from the Left
"IT'S hard not to notice that political discussion over the last
decade has increasingly degenerated into name-calling," Brian Anderson
wrote in the Manhattan Institute's City Journal earlier this year. "The
insults most often come from the left: 'racist,' 'homophobe,' 'sexist.'.
. . It has become a habit of left-liberal political argument to . . .
redefine mainstream conservative arguments as extremism and bigotry.
Close-minded and uncivil, this tendency betrays what's liberal in
For each of the past eight years, I have been rounding up examples
of liberal hate speech -- the gross and vicious slanders of
conservatives that are uttered all too often by liberal politicians,
activists, and journalists. And I have reached the conclusion that as
bad as these vitriolic slurs are, even worse is the failure of
responsible voices on the left to condemn them.
Where were the responsible liberals in 2001, for example, when
Democratic partisans were comparing John Ashcroft to the KKK and his
nomination to a lynching party?
Representative William Clay of Missouri, recalling George W. Bush's
talk of outreach to black Americans, said that picking Ashcroft
resembled "the way that Ku Klux Klan members worked to improve race
relations: They, too, reached out to blacks with nooses and burning
crosses." Steve Benson, a syndicated editorial cartoonist, depicted
Ashcroft wearing white robes and enthusiastically brandishing a noose as
Bush restrains him: "Easy, John -- I said your confirmation should be a
cinch -- a cinch."
The chairman of the NAACP reached for a more contemporary smear.
Twice Julian Bond declared that Bush had dredged Ashcroft "from the
Taliban wing of American politics." That was ugly enough in July, when
the Taliban were merely the fanatics who tortured dissidents, crushed
human rights, and repressed women so savagely that thousands died from
lack of medical care. By December, when Bond repeated his libel, the
Taliban were at war with the United States, actively trying to kill
Americans. Yet Bond still saw nothing wrong with his revolting
comparison. And neither did America's liberal elite.
Actually, one liberal -- USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham -- did
call Bond's words "overblown." I would have taken that as faintly
critical, except that he began by chortling over Bond's ability "to jerk
the GOP's chain" and went on to defend his Republican-bashing. Far from
condemning liberal hate speech, Wickham himself traffics in it. In
August, he wrote about the campus uproar over conservative activist
David Horowitz's ad opposing reparations for slavery. The column opened
with a grotesque calumny, calling Horowitz "a man whose views on race
relations track closer to those of David Duke than Martin Luther King."
To falsely accuse someone of being akin to a Nazi racist is worse
than contemptible. Yet liberals say such things almost routinely -- and
other liberals don't object.
By contrast, when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson ascribed the Sept.
11 attacks to God's wrath over abortion, gay rights, feminism, and the
ACLU, fellow conservatives slammed them.
Rush Limbaugh blasted them as "indefensible" and said as a
conservative, he was "profoundly embarrassed and disappointed by their
comments." William F. Buckley disdained their "ignorant misapplication
of Christian thought." In the New York Post, John Podhoretz wrote of
his "revulsion," labeling the remarks "shameful . . . ignorant." Rod
Dreher, in a powerful column for NationalReview.com, called Falwell and
Robertson "heartless bastards" whose words had been "unspeakably
That was par for the course. When a conservative oversteps the
bounds of decency in demonizing a liberal, he typically gets scorched by
criticism, much of it from the right. But there was no scorching of:
- Chris Matthews, when he likened Republicans quoting John F.
Kennedy on tax cuts to "the Nazi Party quoting Kennedy saying, 'Ich bin
- Al Sharpton, who said during the post-election ballot fight in
Florida that conservatives wanted to "do the same thing to us" that
"Hitler in his wickedness and evil" did to the Jews.
- Michelangelo Signorile, the well-known gay writer, who wrote
that while Afghanistan "has been protecting Osama bin Laden, Italy has
been harboring another omnipotent religious zealot, one who equally
condemns us Western sinners and incites violence. . . . Meet John Paul
II, Christian fundamentalist extraordinaire and a man who inspires thugs
across the globe . . . ."
- Paul Conrad, the syndicated Los Angeles Times cartoonist, who
depicted the Republicans' tax-cut bill as a GOP elephant, wearing an Al
Qaeda headdress and holding a smoking AK-47. 20
- The several members of the Hawaii ACLU board of directors who
publicly objected to inviting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to
take part in a debate on the grounds that he is "an Antichrist," "a
Hitler" -- or "if not Hitler, he is a Goebbels" -- and an "a--hole," and
that allowing him to speak would be "like having a serial murderer
debate the value of life."
And then there was California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who
said last summer, in reference to the chairman of Enron Corp., "I would
love to personally escort [Kenneth] Lay to an 8-by-10 cell that he could
share with a tattooed dude who says, 'Hi, my name is Spike, honey.' "
That is what liberal hate speech descended to this year: A
Democratic politician openly yearning for an unpopular businessman to be
raped behind bars. How low will they go in
Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.
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