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How Important is the Left's Influence on American Politics? By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 06, 2005


This is the first of a series of exchanges between Jacob Heilbrunn, an LA Times editorial writer and author of a forthcoming book on neoconservatism, and David Horowitz to discuss the themes of Horowitz’s book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left and DiscoverTheNetworks.org. -- The Editors.

Dear David,

 

What prominent Washington think-tank head said this? "Acquiring additional burdens by engaging in new wars of liberation is the last thing the United States needs...The principal problem is the mistaken belief that democracy is a talisman for all the world's ills, and that the United States has a responsibility to promote democratic government wherever in the world it is lacking." And what magazine editor just denounced the neoconservatives for leading the U.S. into Iraq by deploring their "bully-boy" tactics? The first quote is from Dimitri K. Simes, the head of the Nixon Center; the second, from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, in the new issue of the National Interest.

 

In your new book "Unholy Alliance," you do a fabulous job of chronicling the nonsense emanating from certain precincts on the American Left about the war on terror and the Bush administration. But you radically inflate the importance of the Left and ignore the fact that the more significant opposition to Bush administration policies may well be on the traditional Right.

 

A stranger to the U.S. would receive the impression that the Left has made substantial inroads into American society in recent decades and that it is subverting the war on terror. According to Unholy Alliance: "Why have American radicals actively obstructed the War on Terror, thereby undermining the defense of the democracies of the West?" You go on to devote a goodly amount of space to depicting and analyzing the activities of historians like Howard Zinn, Eric Hobsbawm, Gerda Lerner and Eric Foner, among others.

 

I very much doubt these names are familiar to most Americans. The reason is that they have had almost no political impact. They may enjoy high reputations in the academy, but their influence outside of it has been nil. What government policies have any of these academics conceivably shaped? Hobsbawm, as you note, still mourns the passing of the Soviet Union, which is hardly a winning political program. The only one who has had a scintilla of influence is Noam Chomsky, but only abroad in etiolated Leftist circles. By contrast, academics like Victor Davis Hanson and Bernard Lewis, who are close to vice-president Dick Cheney, clearly have. Conservatives, in many ways, take fundamental principles and ideas more seriously than liberals. Overlooked in all the denunciations of the alleged ignoramus George W. Bush is that he takes beliefs and intellectual concepts more seriously than his predecessor Bill Clinton.

 

Then there is the matter of Al Gore, who has morphed back into a '60s liberal. You quite rightly note that Gore went into paroxysms over the Iraq war, but your attempt to draw a link between the Left and the Democratic Party is strained. Yes, Howard Dean and Moveon.org managed to mobilize voters during the primary. But Gore is nowhere and Dean flamed out (in his new incarnation as DNC head, he'll do everything he can to move to the middle to curry favor with moderates for his next run). The party did not lurch to the far Left in 2004; instead, it turned to its equivocator-in-chief John F. Kerry to lead it back to the White House. Is Kerry a liberal? Absolutely. But a hardened Leftist? No way. Kerry isn't interested in ideology, but in his personal advancement.

 

Which brings us to back to the war on terror. You drub Kerry for attacking the Patriot Act, but as today's Washington Post, among other newspapers, points out, a Left-Right coalition is battling against renewal of a number of its provisions. Indeed, as you state, on the eve of the Iraq war "it took a Republican with unquestionable security credentials to break the domestic silence and launch the first serious attack on the administration's strategy"--Brent Scowcroft. Patrick J. Buchanan's "American Conservative" has been coruscating in its criticism of the Iraq war, featuring former neoconservatives like Owen Harries. Conservative splits have also shown up at the venerable National Interest, where Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington have decamped to start their own magazine that doesn't adhere as firmly to realist principles, which is to say they want a fairly activist foreign policy as opposed to remaining aloof. Indeed, no one regards Bush and his advisers with more horror than the realists in the GOP. In short, if there is an unholy alliance, it's not on the Left with radical Muslims. It's between the far Left and realist Right.

 

Best,

 

Jacob

                                    David Horowitz:                                                      

 

Dear Jacob,

 

Thank you for agreeing to participate in this dialogue and for launching it by asking the most important question that I knew conservatives would have about my book and about its thesis that America is threatened by an internal fifth column of Leftists who have formed a de facto alliance with our radical Islamic enemies, who want this country to lose the wars it is fighting with this enemy abroad, and who have exerted a profound influence on the Democratic Party and.

 

Conservatives are generally so oblivious to (or complacent in the face of) the actual threat posed by the political Left in this country that they are willing to cede to Leftists the term “liberal.” This greatly confuses the political discussion, including the one we are about to have. So-called liberals, now include everyone who calls themselves “progressive” (much the way my Communist parents habitually did) and even well known communist hacks like Angela Davis and anti-American radicals like Tom Hayden and Michael Moore. So-called liberals embrace the Old and Fellow Traveling Lefts, – a political faction which included active supporters and appeasers of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War and who with their credulous fellow travelers in the Democratic Party – including Teddy Kennedy and John Kerry -- mounted a massive nuclear freeze movement, which almost derailed the end of the Cold War. This movement produced international demonstrations, which were almost as big as the demonstrations against the war in Iraq, and were composed of the same people and their descendants.

 

The term “liberal” under any reasonable definition should be used to describe people who are tolerant and fair-minded and, who believe in free market institutions and individual as opposed to group rights, and who presumably would understand that America is not the root cause of problems in the Arab Muslim world or elsewhere. There are liberals who would fit this description in the Democratic Party leadership, Joe Lieberman obviously comes to mind, but they are few and far between, and growing weaker by the day. John Kerry is definitely an opportunist but then the anti-American Left is capable of creating political opportunities that John Kerry has been known to seize. When he returned to America after abandoning and then turning on his comrades in Vietnam he joined the campaigns of the rabidly anti-American Left and betrayed his country as surely as Jane Fonda did.

 

Even The New Republic, for years the chief intellectual promoter of Al Gore, has sounded the alarm bell about the dominance of “Wallacites” in the Democratic Party. This term refers to the Democratic Party Leftists who defected to the Progressive Party in the 1948 election with the agenda of defeating Harry Truman and his cold war policy of opposing Stalin’s conquest of Eastern Europe. The analog to the opposition to George Bush’s latter-day reincarnation of the Truman Doctrine is self-evident. The Progressive Party of Henry Wallace was created and controlled by the Communist Party. Wallace was himself no more a Communist than is John Kerry. He was an opportunist, influenced by the Leftist culture and over his intellectual head. Kerry is no different, except his moral character is a lot more defective.

 

The New Republic identifies MoveOn.org as a center of this Wallacite movement. Moveon.org is a central element in the constellation of organizations funded by George Soros, which is led by Clinton political operatives Harold Ickes and John Podesta. Its media operation during the election, which coordinated the major media of the anti-Bush campaign was headed by Bill Zimmerman and a man who ran all Tom Hayden’s electoral campaigns. The get-out-the-vote apparatus of the Democratic Party is controlled by Left-wing unions whose leaders are New Left veterans and who have received hundreds of millions of dollars deployed for the purpose. In other words, the Moveon.org/Soros/union nexus, which is staffed and operated by the political Left, has achieved a lock on the main funding sources and principal get-out-the-vote campaign of any national candidate of the Democratic Party. (An extended description of this Shadow Party, including all its organizations, funding, and personnel can be found here at www.discoverthenetwork.org.) Through his wife’s multimillion-dollar support for radical organizations (See Ben Johnson’s “57 Varieties of Radical Causes at DiscoverTheNetwork.org) John Kerry is himself embedded in this culture. But granting that his ambitions for John Kerry are his greatest political mission, his opportunism – far from causing him to move away from the magnetic field of the political Left will draw him towards it.

 

One of the most depressing moments of my own political life came when I was given a Ph.D. thesis to read whose subject was the intellectual influences on American policy makers. In 1979, when the Sandinista Marxists staged a coup against the democratic members of Nicaragua’s revolutionary “junta” and established a pro-Soviet, Marxist dictatorship in that country, Robert Pastor was the Latin American staff person to then National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski whose task it was to devise a policy towards this new threat. Pastor advised Brzezinski and Brzezinksi advised President Jimmy Carter not to intervene to save Nicaraguan democracy. The result was a series of guerrilla wars in Central America as Cuban and Nicaraguan supported Communist attempted to seize power.

 

Robert Porter told his interviewer that one of the books that influenced him to advise his government not to intervene was a book I myself had written called, The Free World Colossus. I had written this book, which was published in 1965, as a 25-year old novice with no formal historical training but with a rich background in the Communist and fellow-traveling literature of writers who would be even more obscure to Jacob Heilbrunn than Eric Hobsbawm and Gerda Lerner (e.g., Carl Marzani and D.F. Fleming). Of course, in order to persuade others, outside the Left, I also employed the writings of such well-known Left-liberals as Walter Lippmann. This gave my analysis credibility. John Gerassi, a pro-Castro Marxist who was a book editor at Newsweek, gave my anti-American tract a rave review. While my text blamed America for the Cold War, and created the litany of America’s imperialist crimes – Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam etc. – which became a standard trope in thousands of Left-wing texts that followed, I was careful to criticize the Soviet Union and thus distinguish myself from my Communist and pro-Communist sources, and disarm potential critics of what I had written. I even posed as an American patriot (of course I believed the pose) writing at the end of the book that America should live up to its ideals. It would never have occurred me that in opposing Communism America was in fact living up to its ideals.

 

I don’t flatter myself that my brilliance as foreign policy auto-didact was so great that it shaped a crucial (and costly) foreign policy decision more than a decade later. The power of my writing lay in the power of a Left-wing culture, which is vastly underestimated by conservatives, as Heilbrunn’s comments make clear (and Jacob Heilbrunn is one of the most intelligent conservatives writing today). It is true, as Heilbrunn writes, that conservatives take principles and intellectual arguments more seriously than do their counterparts on the Left. That why they can be misled into thinking that intellectual nonsense is self-evident to others and therefore destined for the political dustbin. Those who think this way should re-read Mein Kampf and consider how much trouble intellectual nonsense can cause in the political world.

 

By Left-wing culture I mean a history of false memories and ideologically scripted images and facts that can shape political perspectives. This Left-wing culture was powerful enough to influence a Roosevelt vice president, who was not a Communist to join forces with the Communist Party to oppose a Cold War against the most monstrous regime in history. It was powerful enough to shape the political thinking of Roosevelt’s chief adviser Harry Hopkins (also no Communist), to subvert his country’s security interests; his chief adviser at Yalta and in setting the up the UN, Alger Hiss, who was a Soviet spy; his deputy secretary of the Treasury (itself an important foreign policy post), Harry Dexter White; and top figures in the State Department (Lauchlin Currie, John Stewart Service) who helped the Chinese Communists to power.

 

And this was in an era when the Left’s institutional base in American society was miniscule compared to what it is today. Communists and fellow traveling Leftists on university faculties and in newspaper editorial offices were few and far between. Today, people under the spell of this culture dominate university faculties in key areas affecting national policy and in developing the nation’s editors and journalists. On American university faculties, there are tens of thousands of followers of Noam Chomsky, Gerda, Lerner, Howard Zinn, Todd Gitlin, and even Michael Moore, whose anti-American films have become college “texts,” along with many others who share their culture of adversarial distrust and hatred towards the United States and its purposes. From their positions in the political science departments, history departments, journalism departments and other faculties they are training the staffers of the Democratic Party and our national security agencies, as well as occupants of the nation’s leading editorial and media boardrooms. 

 

Why do conservatives think that Jimmy Carter chose as his National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake a New Leftist who regarded the Khmer Rouge as benign reformers in Cambodia (much as Soviet apologist and State Department adviser Owen Lattimore had once described Mao’s Communist followers on the verge of seizing power in mainland China)? Why do they think Clinton chose first Lake and then Sandy Berger, also a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War Left to be his national security advisers and another Sixties fellow traveler, Les Aspin, to be Secretary of Defense? Where do they think Clinton energy secretary Hazel O’Leary who declassified 11 million pages of documents on America’s nuclear tests with the statement that she wanted to “end the bomb culture” got her nonsensical and dangerous and politically consequential views? And where do conservatives think Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame and others like them who surfaced to sabotage the President’s war for freedom in Iraq and then became willing heroes of The Nation Left got their ideas?

 

The central section of my book Unholy Alliance, to which Heilbrunn refers, is called “The Mind of the American Left.” This was meant as an essay on a general mindset and I picked hugely influential intellectual figures to demonstrate it, not intellectual who functioned as direct advisers to political figures. It was not meant to show that Eric Hobsbawm or Gerda Lerner or Noam Chomsky were actually advisers to Democratic Party leaders. It was designed to describe the core views of the culture of the Left that condemns America in its corporate essence, and therefore counsels weakness, capitulation and retreat before America’s adversaries. It is this culture that influences the political process.

 

What I showed in Unholy Alliance was that the “critique” of America and the passions of disgust towards America, and the “analysis” of the corporate and imperial motives of America are shared across the Left-wing spectrum even by “moderates” like Todd Gitlin and are therefore reflected in the politics of, for example, Howard Dean who is now the chairman of the Democratic Party and opportunists – Left-wing opportunists I would say – like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. I did not even mention Michael Moore, for that matter, who as we all remember was honored by Jimmy Carter at the Democratic Party convention, and whose film opening of Fahrenheit 9/11, reflecting these views, was attended by Terry McAuliffe, Hillary Clinton and other leaders of the Democratic Party. Sidney Blumenthal who came out of and has never Left this culture of the “progressive” Left was in fact a close Clinton political adviser, just as veteran Leftist Rob Borosage is close political associate and ally of John Podesta and Harold Ickes.

 

In other words, while it may be true that Victor Davis Hanson’s books are read by Vice President Cheney, you can be one hundred percent sure that the Democratic Party establishment is thoroughly immersed in the culture of Left-wing blame-and-distrust towards America, and seek-to-understand-and-sympathize-with-her-enemies that Hobsbawm, Chomsky and Gitlin share. If this culture is not transmitted directly in texts by them (and it is probably not) then it is transmitted in texts by the thousands of popularizers of the ideas of the Left who write books like The Free World Colossus, as I did, and make palatable to “liberals” these corrosive and subversive ideas. The same ideas are taken to Democratic Party institutions and to Washington by students trained in those ideas and false historical memories at Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale and the many other Left-wing institutions, which are effectively think tanks of the Left.

 

Once it is understood that I am not referring to the influence of particular individuals like Eric Hobsbawm, but to a Left-wing culture of which he is representative and that dominates our university and media culture, then the answer to Heilbrunn’s question is clear. Heilbrunn asks: “What government policies have any of these academics conceivably shaped?” My reply is what policies have they not shaped? It is this very culture that is the source of the unprecedented divisions in American political life – the so-called culture war, which is a war initiative by the Left through its aggressions on the American judiciary, the American school system, and the values of traditional American communities particularly in the Bible Belt and rural America. Is there a civil rights issue, an abortion issue, a judicial issue, an environmental issue, a health, education or welfare issue that has not been shaped by the Left-wing rights, environmental and education coalitions, universally misnamed “liberal special interest” groups? Has not the entire post-Vietnam foreign policy of the United States leading up to and including the war in Iraq been dramatically (and negatively) affected by growing power of the Left euphemistically called the McGovern Democrats? McGovern of course cut his eyeteeth in the Wallace campaign and really can’t be said to have learned anything since.

 

An essay I wrote “How The Left Undermined American Security Before 9/11,” whose details have been repeated in a dozen other books, documents the assault on America’s national intelligence apparatus, and military defenses by the Democratic Party under the pressure of anti-military, anti-American radicals deeply entrenched in the Party’s Left. John Kerry, Ted Kennedy and other leaders of this faction, directly influenced by the culture I have described, played leading roles in crippling America’s ability to defend itself before the World Trade Center Attacks. The same Left, through its influence on the Howard Dean campaign led to the most disturbing event in American history when a Democratic leadership turned its back on a war it had supported and in the midst of the war conducted a scorched earth campaign against a sitting commander-in-chief.

 

Heilbrunn points out that there are also many distinguished conservatives who are critical of the war and wary of the neo-conservatives enthusiasm for promoting reform in the Arab Muslim Middle East. A few prominent conservatives have also joined the Left’s assault on the Patriot Act. Heilbrunn wonders if this isn’t a more dangerous Unholy Alliance.

 

To the first I would say the difference between the Brent Scowcroft and Dimitri Simes conservative critics and the critics on the Left is that the conservatives are self-evidently patriots who confined their dissent to the terms appropriate for a loyal opposition. Once the congressional authorization was passed by a bi-partisan majority, Scowcroft confined his comments to behind-the-scenes advice, while those conservatives who continued to express themselves in public did so in a restrained manner that respected the danger the nation was in and the fact that the President had gone through the appropriate democratic process to get his policy authorized.

 

By contrast the Left showed no such restraint. Leaders of the Democratic Party denounced the Bush as a man who deliberately lied to get American soldiers killed, who “betrayed” the American people, and who committed such impeachable crimes in behalf of a war that was “a fraud… concocted in Texas” for the economic benefit of his cronies. This is not the rhetoric of criticism. It is the rhetoric of political war, and in the midst of a shooting war it was an effort to sabotage that effort -- an act of actual betrayal unprecedented in American history. Colluding in this effort were the major metropolitan newspapers led by the New York Times, which magnified every American cost and setback and effectively conducted a psychological warfare campaign against our own troops. In the battle for freedom in Iraq, the American Left – and I include here the leadership of the Democratic Party and the principal national media – contributed nothing to its success and did more than can be easily forgiven in the hope that Operation Iraqi Liberation would fail. The questions raised by conservative critics of the President’s policies are important, but they fundamentally different from the criticisms raised by the Left. Americans concerned about the future of their country will wish The New Republic and Al From and Joe Lieberman success in trimming the sails of the Party’s anti-military Left.

 

Similar points can be made in response to Heilbrunn’s comments about the movement against the Patriot Act. One of whose founders of the anti-Patriot coalition, it should be mentioned, was Palestinian terrorist and former University of South Florida Professor, Sami al-Arian. The Left’s agenda – set by al-Arian and his Committee for the Protection of Political Freedom -- is to remove the Patriot Act’s designation of “material support for terrorism” as a crime, on the grounds that to make it a crime infringes free speech. It also wants to re-establish the wall between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency that prevented the two agencies from communicating to defend the country against terrorist threats. The actual agenda of these Left-wing legal is to protect the hundreds of radical organizations in America that are currently providing moral and material support to our terrorist enemies. (These groups are documented and detailed on www.discoverthenetwork.org)

 

A handful of conservatives have joined forces with these Leftists – Bob Barr and Grover Norquist are two – to oppose aspects of the Patriot Act, which are unrelated to these two clauses. I think the decision of these conservatives to join a coalition which includes longtime Communist and anti-American organizations like the National Lawyers Guild and the Center for Constitutional Rights, as well as terrorist front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations (whose own executives have been arrested for terrorist activities) is misguided and naïve. But the specific anti-Patriot Act objections of conservatives also represent a very different line of criticism from the agendas of the Left. I have also written extensively about this in Unholy Alliance. The anti-Patriot Act Groups of the Left are identified and described here in www.discoverthenetwork.org.

 

In sum, this coalition, which includes the willingness of some conservatives, like Paul Craig Roberts and Lew Rockwell, to voice their antiwar views in anti-American, pro-terrorist venues like Counterpunch.org and antiwar.com can certainly be viewed as an Unholy Alliance. But at present this is a marginal faction of the Right, whereas the Unholy Alliance of anti-American Leftists and radical Islamists is already a force at the center of the Democratic Party.

 

Best,

David Horowitz


David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.


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