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The Madness of King George By: Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 07, 2007

If putting one’s foot in one’s mouth were a lucrative enterprise, George Soros would be worth far more than his current $8.5 billion. While bashing the Iraq war for the benefit of reporters at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Hungarian-born Soros, a Holocaust survivor, unburdened himself of the view that the Nazis were once more in charge. Only now they were running the United States. “America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany,” Soros explained. “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process.”

Lest there be doubts that Soros was actually likening his adoptive country to the Third Reich and the Bush administration to the Nazi nomenklatura, a Soros spokesman, Michael Vachon, moved quickly to dispel them. “There is nothing unpatriotic about demanding accountability from the president,” he said of Soros’s appeal for de-Nazification. “Those responsible for taking America into this needless war should do us all a favor and retire from public office.” In other words: guilty as charged.


This is not, to be sure, the first time that Soros has revealed himself as a dispenser of Godwin's Law. In The Age of Fallibility -- a bluster-heavy rant against America, its “feel-good society,” and its economic “market fundamentalism” published last summer -- Soros posed the rhetorical question: “Is it valid to compare the Bush administration to the Nazi and communist regimes?” Soros ruled unhesitatingly in the affirmative. Sure, he allowed, the U.S. was a “functioning democracy” while “Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were totalitarian dictatorships.” But concerned citizens must look past this “glaring contrast,” he urged, “because then we can discern some surprising similarities.”


And which similarities might those be? First, there was the “unbridled pursuit of self-interest and self-indulgence” and a societal “revulsion” to both, a connective tissue that, in Soros’s judgment, made the United States the modern offspring of Nazi Germany’s forerunner in the Weimar Republic. In Weimar Germany, this revulsion manifested itself in the Nazi rule. In the US there was the comparably troubling “rise of religious fundamentalism.” Second, Soros wrote, “the Bush administration and the Nazi and Communist regimes all engaged in the politics of fear.” As if to underscore his historical illiteracy on this point, Soros explained that the “9/11 attacks had their counterpart in the Reichstag fire in Germany and the Kirov murder in the Soviet Union.” (In view of its inability to prevent even minor policy debates from leaking into the media, can it really be the case that the Bush administration declared a one-party state and purged political opponents by the thousands without arousing suspicion?)


There was more along these lines. Citing yet another supposed similarity, Soros wrote that “in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and present-day America, political life came to be dominated by a movement that originated outside the parliamentary system and seized state power.” Thus, according to Soros, the German Nazis and the Russian Communists find their logical match in the “conservative movement” within the Republican Party. Not least, there were “similarities in propaganda methods.” Here, however, Soros maintained that the United States was actually more pernicious than its Nazi and Soviet analogues. His reasoning was that “the Bush administration has been able to improve on the techniques used by the Nazi and Communist propaganda machines.” (At least this would explain why the Bush purges remain unknown.)


To point out the flaws of these comparisons would be to invest them with unearned seriousness. In any case, Soros made it clear that even he thought them unlikely to convince the lay reader. Conceding that his equation of the United States with Nazism and Communism won him few supporters -- outside, that is, the left-wing blogosphere, which found his Nazi analogies entirely on point -- Soros lamented: “Why does the general public not react in the same way?”


A better question might be: Where does George Soros, of all people, summon the nerve to smear his political opponents as Nazis? If anyone ought to be wary of a critical examination of the Nazi era, it is Soros. Though one finds only vague and sporadic mention of it in his books, all written with the conceit that a worldly power-broker is speaking inconvenient truths to power, the billionaire activist has his own uncomfortable ties to the Nazi genocide.


To examine these, one has to go back to 1944. In the aftermath of the German invasion of Hungary in March of that year, Soros’s father Tivadar conceived of a plan to safeguard his Jewish family from the occupiers. All were given false names with young Soros, then 14, becoming the suitably gentile sounding Sandor Kiss and posing as the godson of an official in the Hungarian ministry of agriculture. Throughout 1944, as the Nazi Final Solution to Hungarian Jewry took its murderous course -- within months half of Hungary’s prewar Jewish population had been killed or shipped to their slaughter at Auschwitz -- Soros traversed the country in the company of repossession officials, looking on as they confiscated property whose owners had been freshly deported to the death camps. At times, Soros reportedly served notices of eviction to deportees.


On one level, it’s difficult to blame Soros for doing what he needed to survive. Yet there has always been something unseemly about the unfeeling manner with which Soros has recalled that chapter of his life. As flagged by Martin Peretz in the New Republic, when asked in a 1998 interview on “60 Minutes” whether he was traumatized by the experience of dispossessing his coreligionists, Soros gave an arresting answer: “Not, not at all. Not at all. Maybe as a child you don't ... you don't see the connection. But it was--it created no--no problem at all.” In his mania for demonizing America‘s political leadership, Soros seems to have forgotten that there is at least one prominent figure implicated in the real -- as opposed to imagined -- crimes of the Nazi era. And it’s not President Bush.


Casting further suspicion on the legitimacy of Soros’s Nazi analogies are his strained ties to the Jewish state. While addressing a fund-raising conference for Israel in 2003, Soros claimed that the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe could be partially attributed to the “policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration.” The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, no stranger to overreaction, nonetheless echoed the sentiments of many in the Jewish community when he pronounced Soros’s comments “absolutely obscene.”


This would be an equally fair description of Soros’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he sees as a “vicious circle of escalating violence,” a familiar bromide that posits a false moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinian rejectionists unabashedly seeking her destruction. More recently, Soros has floated plans to fund a “progressive” alternative to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, apparently on the grounds that the lobbying organization is too supportive of Israel. Details are still vague, but early reports indicate that it will be on the model of the Israel Policy Forum, the liberal advocacy organization that has never let the lack of a credible Palestinian negotiating partner temper its enthusiasm for negotiations (read: Israeli concessions). The IPF’s director, David Elcott, is among the names linked to Soros’s project.


All this may seem of parochial interest. Why should anyone concern themselves with a blowhard financier whose politics are as extreme as his wealth? One reason is that Soros has in recent years committed much of that wealth to charting the course of the Democratic Party. In the 2004 election cycle, Soros’s spent more than $23 million on a campaign to defeat President Bush. Even as that effort foundered at the polls, the political landscape is now dotted with Soros-funded political action committees like America Coming Together, MoveOn.org, and the Center for American Progress, all vying to steer the Democrats leftward. Scratch a left-wing interest group and you’ll likely find Soros cash.


With the 2008 presidential election getting into high gear, another issue has come to the fore. Last month Soros announced that he was throwing his substantial clout behind the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic star from Illinois who has cast himself as a pragmatist unwilling to play the game of political division. Yet there are few public figures more divisive than George Soros. In the interest of his moderate image, Obama should decline Soros’s support. Better still, he might ask Soros to apologize for slandering the country that has given him every opportunity to prosper. Spurn the self-styled prophet of the Democratic Party? Admittedly, it’s a lot to ask. Call it the audacity of hope.


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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com

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