In my political career as a conservative, I have had to get used to the unscrupulousness of my leftwing critics, and accept it as a fact of life. Whenever one of them puts a finger to the keyboard to write a story about me I know I’m going to be misrepresented and caricatured, my ideas will be shredded, my values turned upside down and the emerging picture will be an object of easy derision and scorn. Leftists long ago apparently lost the ability to argue a reasonable case.
On February 14th of this year, the Nation’s Washington Bureau Chief David Corn wrote a column about me with the charming title “Is David Horowitz a ‘Lunatic’?” It was actually the second time a frustrated leftist had so referred to me. The first time instance was Paul Berman’s charge that I was actually “demented lunatic” – I’m still intrigued by the thought of what an undemented lunatic might be.
Berman was upset because I had taken a complimentary statement he made about my influence as a New Left writer in the Sixties and used it in an ad for my autobiography Radical Son. The point of using the quote was to establish my credibility as a critic of the New Left. But Berman was beside himself at having said anything positive about a member of the devil’s party, and blocked the publication of the ad in venues like Dissent and The New Republic (it did appear once in the latter).
I had actually befriended Berman in my conservative days (I didn’t really know him when I was a radical). It was a minor gesture – an invitation to sit at my table when he was looking very lost and isolated at a meeting of the Committee for the Free World. I also praised his work even though he had denounced mine. Obviously my gestures counted as nothing to him, since I had failed to make the human grade.
I bring this up because I also have been cordial to David Corn despite our political differences, attending his book party at Arianna Huffington’s mansion and inviting him to my Restoration Weekend on my tab. This also has counted for nothing when it comes to reciprocating common human decencies.
The subject of Corn’s attack was a “Washington Journal” program we did together on C-Span in January 2003, right after the State of the Union Address, which was the main subject of our on air discussion (though you would not know this from Corn’s attack):
February 14, 2005
Is David Horowitz a “Lunatic”?
By David Corn
I try not to spend too much time--that is, any--thinking about David Horowitz, the 60s radical turned Reaganite rightwinger. I used to find him amusing, even though wrongheaded. We emailed on occasion, and I (almost) enjoyed debating him on television. But in January 2003, we were booked together on C-SPAN for an hour. For much of that time, he ranted and railed, accusing anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq of being a self-hating and treasonous American. (General Anthony Zinni? Brent Scowcroft? Who knew?) At one point, he became enraged over the fact that The Nation magazine had dared to use French words on the cover of one issue. After ignoring his madness for much of the time, I finally told him that if he was going to continuing using the time to exorcise (or exercise) his psychological demons, I would have to charge him $110 an hour. Following the show, several C-SPANers greeted me and apologized for having submitted me to Horowitz. Since then, I have kept my distance from Horowitz. Who could tell when his head might explode?
It took me two months to get around to responding to this because I had to secure the actual transcripts from the C-Span broadcast to restore a little reality to the free floating fantasy that Corn had come up with to make this attack. Of course some of these accusations can gain credibility if the audio-visual reproduction of body language and tone is missing. For example, Corn’s claim that I “became enraged” over The Nation’s use of French words on its cover can only be truly appreciated by viewers of the videotape who will see that I was smiling and that this was a joke, however lame. The cover of the Nation, which can be seen here was an article about Europe’s view of America on the eve of the Iraq war. The headline was “America Oui/Bush Non!” I didn’t actually catch the rest of the title or the fact that it was about European views, but I did think it interesting that of all the European languages available, The Nation had selected that one.
Here is the actual passage from the transcript, which shows first, that the term “rage” is Corn’s, and it is not even a description of any reaction I actually had to the cover, but is a projection by Corn of the reaction I might have to the cover (and actually did have to the conversation that followed).
Moderator: This is the February 10 issue of the Nation, the cover of it. And in the previous issue of the Nation, you have George Bush riding on a horse. Inside, there is an article by David Corn, “Bush's Terrible Twos.” What was the purpose of this article? And it's illustrated by representing the Bush administration, the key players, as members of the Sopranos, or the Bush Sopranos, I guess they're trying to call it.
David Corn: Well, I’m sure David will be outraged at our lack of respect for the Bush administration here in comparing them with a TV crime family. I should say I had nothing to do with the article -- with the drawing, which I think is brilliant….
Just as a passing comment, let me note the irony in Corn’s comment that it is “brilliant” to portray the leaders of one’s own country -- currently under attack from terrorist forces and headed for war with a dictator who had already used poison gas on his own minorities -- as the mafia. Our leaders, pretending to be liberators of Iraq, are actually a crime family. How brilliant. This sordid farce itself suggests a certain blind (and misdirected) rage, wouldn’t you say?
Now for the “French” comment:
Moderator: In the American University college newspaper, you will find -- this is yesterday’s edition -- an ad placed by Mr. Horowitz, “The peace movement isn’t about peace.” Tell us what this is about.
David Horowitz: The so-called peace movement that you saw -- in Washington and San Francisco -- was organized by the Workers World Party, which is a self-styled Communist party, which is aligned with North Korea. Every speaker was allowed on the platform only with the permission of the Workers World Party. This is a Fifth Column in America in support of our enemies. And you know, while I’m doing this, this Nation cover -- I notice they use French.
So the infamous “French” episode turns out to be an afterthought – and hardly an articulated thought even. It was inspired no doubt by the fact that the French that week had stepped into the open as Saddam Hussein’s chief defender and potential savior.
But the conversation didn’t end there. No sooner were the words out of my mouth that Corn seized on the comment to bait me (and this is where the rage part actually does come in):
David Corn: Oh, my god, they use French!
This slap did in fact set me off.
David Horowitz: Well, this [cover “America Qui”] is their [The Nation’s] [hypocrisy and] cowardice. The Nation has opposed every single American war since I was born. They supported the Communists. They have opposed every … [U.S. military action against the Communist adversary from the time of] Truman [and] Eisenhower. This is a magazine of the so-called revolutionary left, which does not like America as it is, does not like its institutional structures, does not like its freedoms. And you know, I just have nothing but contempt for this magazine, that I [once] actually wrote for….when I was younger, and --
David Corn: And more foolish, obviously.
David Horowitz: And more foolish. But, you know, to be a patriot of -- to be patriotic, and of course, the Nation people would cringe at the idea of [this kind of patriotism]. [They would call it] phony patriotism. But patriotism is when the rubber hits the road, when our men and women are in harm's way already, [and] we have been at war since 1991 with Saddam Hussein, when every American man, woman, and child is threatened. To [conduct] a full-scale internal war against the administration [as the Nation left is doing], to weigh in with libels [e.g., that the Bush Administration is equivalent to the Sopranos], that this is a lying administration, that we can’t trust it, to go to Baghdad as some Democrats have [done] and say we should trust Saddam Hussein -- this is betraying this country.
Moderator: And I'll let you have the last word, Mr. Corn.
David Corn: David, I’m going to charge you $100 an hour for the therapy you're getting here from venting all this rage you’ve contained.
David Horowitz: My country is at war. Why shouldn't I be upset?
This passage is evidently also the pretext for Corn’s malicious and baseless claim that I conflate all critics of the war with traitors: “For much of that time, he ranted and railed, accusing anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq of being a self-hating and treasonous American.” In fact, I have posted on my website under the headline “View From The Patriotic Left” articles on the peace movement by Michael Berube, Todd Gitlin and other anti-war activists just to make the point that not all critics of the war – not even all leftwing critics of the war – are “self-hating and treasonous.”
This entire episode by the way occupied about three minutes of the hour long show. But consider how revealing Corn’s own attitudes as expressed in these exchanges and in his latest attack on me are. In the midst of America’s war with al-Qaeda, Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein, Corn’s view is that the real criminal is Bush and patriotic concern for the safety of the nation on the eve of a war is a form of psychosis. This is a good example of a physician who needs to heal himself.
There is more to David Corn’s reckless and truthless attack on me, including a history lesson based on his false reporting of what I am alleged to have said in a C-Span speech on the war in Iraq. According to Corn I am supposed to have said that the Democrats’ attack on the commander-in-chief “is unprecedented in the history of democracies …That in the middle of a war the opposition party would not join forces with the partying power and form a unity coalition in the defense of the homeland.” Corn responds by recalling that Tom Dewey criticized Roosevelt for stifling discussion of the threat from domestic Communism during the war.
This example merely shows how obtuse David Corn can be when he is not even trying. What I actually said was that “Never before has a major opposition party taken half the country out of a war in the midst of a war that we were winning and that we had to win.” I know this, because I have given this speech and made this comment many times. The point I was making – in every variation of this verbiage – is that Democratic leaders and leftwing ideologues like David Corn – have opposed a good war that overthrew a dictatorship and liberated millions of people -- not just the policies of the war. And this is what is unprecedented.
The toppling of Saddam Hussein, the liberation of 25 million Iraqis, the beginnings of democracy in Iraq, the election to the presidency of a member of an Iraqi minority that had been subjected to poison gas attacks – all this was made possible by a war that most Democrats not only opposed but – far worse – that was denounced by Ted Kennedy as a “fraud,” by John Kerry as “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” and by Al Gore as a “betrayal” of the American people.
My full views of the war in Iraq are available in Unholy Alliance (which David Corn has been invited to discuss on this site and refused, and evidently not read) and the booklet Why We Are In Iraq. The only bright side of this discussion for me is that if one has to be called a lunatic and a liar by someone, better it should be someone as transparently unreliable, untrustworthy and unable to understand what his opposition is saying as David Corn.