By David Horowitz
October 10, 2013
Below is a speech given by David Horowitz at the Kohler conference of the Bradley Foundation. It has been revised and edited for publication as an article.
I was born at the beginning of the Second World War into a family of high school teachers who were members of the Communist Party, and therefore were actually part of a vast conspiracy dedicated to the destruction of this country, although they would never have looked at it that way, and so-called liberals would be the first to deny it.
In those days, the schools were old fashioned enough that my parents did not use their classrooms to indoctrinate students as tens of thousands of university professors and even more K-12 teachers regularly do today. It is also an unhappy but hugely important fact that the conspiracy to which my parents belonged has steadily migrated into the heart of the Democratic Party until it now occupies the Oval Office in the person of our president, Barack Obama, and his closest advisors.
The president, his chief operative Valerie Jarrett and his chief political strategist David Axelrod all came out of the same Communist left and the same radical new left as I did, and all have remained heart and soul a part of it. As someone who turned his back on that destructive movement, I can say with confidence that they have not. If a person belongs to an organization or is the supporter of an idea that they come to see as destructive or evil, the first thing they will want to do when they leave is to warn others against it, to warn them of the dangers it represents. If a person does not do this – that tells me that he or she hasn’t left the destructive movement or abandoned the pernicious idea but has just put another face on them. Instead of calling themselves communists or socialists they call themselves liberals and progressives. This camouflage is very old. I never once heard my parents and their party friends refer to themselves as Communists. They were progressives – and registered Democrats.
This is why – to take one disturbing example, I know that Hillary Clinton’s right hand, Huma Abedin, the former deputy secretary of state, and chief foreign policy adviser on Muslim Affairs is a Muslim Brotherhood operative. Huma Abedin’s late father was a Muslim Brotherhood leader, and her mother and brother still are. For 12 years until the moment she was hired by Hillary, Huma Abedin worked for Abdullah Omar Naseef, one of the top three funders of Osama Bin Laden who is still wanted by our government for his role in the 9/11 attacks.
Huma Abedin has never to my knowledge uttered a word of disapproval about the Muslim Brotherhood’s desire to rid the world of Christians and Jews or to bring all infidels under the heel of totalitarian Islamic law. Her spiritual adviser Yusef al-Qaradawi is the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood. Qaradawi has publicly said that the Holocaust of the Jews was God’s punishment for their corruption, and that it would come again, and when it did, “Allah willing it will be at the hands of the believers.” Huma Abedin has not broken her relations with this evil man or dissociated herself from his genocidal remarks. Nor has she opposed the policies enacted by Obama and Hillary, which have supported the Muslim Brotherhood at home and in the Middle East.
On the contrary. when the Obama administration supported the Brotherhood’s rise to power in Egypt, Huma Abedin was our government’s key adviser on Muslim affairs. She was at Hillary’s side when security was not provided to our diplomatic complex in Benghazi and when al-Qaeda fanatics murdered our Ambassador. The murder of Ambassador Stevens led to the most shameful presidential act in our history when the President turned his back on the cries for help of three American heroes who served him and who were in a desperate fight for their lives. It is a time honored American code never to abandon our warriors on the field of battle. But America’s commander-in-chief turned his back on these brave fighting men and left them to die; and then lied to the American people to cover up his crime.
Ever since Barack Obama was elected and began his radical course, American conservatives have been in a state of shock, as though they couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Until then there had been a general collusion in the practiced deceptions of the left as commentators on all sides would refer to unrepentant radicals, and dedicated socialists as “liberals,” and turn half blind eyes to their anti-American agendas. What is “liberal” about the mean-spirited intolerant people of the left, except their attitude to hard drugs, sex, and criminal behavior? Oh yes, and spending other people’s money?
Today the Obama juggernaut is systematically bankrupting our country, and undoing our constitutional arrangements. Its contempt for consultative and representative government is relentlessly on display. This week Senate Majority leader Harry Reid defended his refusal to negotiate with Republicans over Obamacare and the debt in these words: “We are here to support the federal government. That’s our job.” End quote. Forget about representing the people whom our Founders made sovereign. Forget what America is about.
The fact that I had a radical past allowed me to see much of this coming. But even I never thought we would be looking so soon at the prospect of a one-party state. Those words may sound hyperbolic, but take a moment to think about it. If you have transformed the taxing agency of the state into a political weapon – and Obama has; if you are setting up a massive government program to gather the financial and health information of every citizen, and control their access to care; and if you have a spy agency that can read the mail and listen to the communications of every individual in the country, you don’t really need a secret police to destroy your political opponents. Once you have silenced them, you can proceed with your plans to remake the world in your image.
The good news is that the bad five years we have just been through have aroused a sleeping giant among Americans who didn’t see it coming and couldn’t imagine that it would. For the first time since the Cold War, people with a public voice are calling socialists by their right name; conservatives are finally organizing at the grassroots to defend their freedom; and at last we have leaders who are willing to stand up to the thuggery of the left and who have the spine not to back down.
As a sometime Jonah freed from the whale let me offer some intelligence about the political forces arrayed against us. Do not make the mistake of thinking that progressives and conservatives are people who merely differ about practical agendas. There are four defining features of the left, which distinguish it as a movement of individuals who approach politics quite differently from pragmatically-minded conservatives.
The first of these features is their alienation from country: If you ask progressives about their patriotic feeling, they will tell you that they don’t think of themselves first as Americans but as “citizens of the world.” That even has a Harvard imprimatur. They are, in fact, so profoundly alienated from their country as to be in some sense foreigners to it. They are hostile to its history and to its core values, which they see as reflections of a society that has been guilty of racism and oppression on an epic scale. And they are fundamentally opposed to its constitutional arrangements which the framers specifically designed to thwart what they deemed “wicked projects” to redistribute income and share individual wealth.
This is perhaps the hardest feature of their progressive adversaries for conservatives to comprehend. It is difficult to imagine that people as privileged by America’s generosity as Barack Obama and his entourage of despoilers should be so alienated from their country as to feel themselves in it but not of it. And there is no more shocking example of this than Benghazi. No matter what your politics, or what solutions you propose to the problems that confront this nation, ask yourself this: Could you have done what Barack Obama did that night? Could you as commander-in-chief abandon three Americans fighting for their lives under your command? These men had served their country for more than a decade. For seven hours they cried out for help from their government, but you refused to give it.
How, as a fellow American, could Obama have just left these men to die? No one with an ounce of patriotic feeling could. But he did. Even Alexei Kosygin, the Soviet premier of a Communist dictatorship, maintained contact with his astronaut as he burned up in space. But not our president. When the attack on our embassy in Benghazi began, he hung up the phone and went to bed, and then on to a fundraiser with Beyonce and Jay-Z in Las Vegas in the morning. This, with four Americans including our ambassador dead.
As a nation we are now confronted by mortal enemies in Iran and Syria, in Hizbollah and Hamas – enemies who have openly declared that we are the devil’s party and should be erased from the face of the earth. How could an American president deliberately set out to appease such enemies? How in the face of such threats could he reduce our country to an international laughing stock, no longer respected by our friends, no longer feared by our foes? How could he be so cavalier about having failed so miserably to have defended his country’s security and uphold its honor? How could an American commander-in-chief then put himself in a position to be snubbed by the Iranian Hitlerites, which is what they are, and which is what Obama did? How could he snub our Israeli allies and at the same time grovel before our Islamic enemies? But he did. How could he create a vacuum in the Middle East allowing Russia to become the new regional power? How could he make himself an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which slaughters Christians, and promises the extermination of the Jews and spawns terrorist armies like al-Qaeda and Hamas?
The answer to all these questions is that Obama doesn’t identify with our country. He sees himself as a “citizen of the world,” and a redresser of grievances for the suffering he imagines America has inflicted on our adversaries, including Hitlerite Iran.
The second feature of the progressive left that is key to understanding it is its instinctive, practiced, and indispensable dishonesty. As I previously noted, the Communists in the circles I frequented in my youth never identified themselves as Communists but always as “progressives” and “Jeffersonian democrats” (which is the last thing they were). When I was a young man and Stalin was alive, the goal of the Communist Party U.S.A. was a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and a “Soviet America.” But under Stalin’s inspiration the official slogan of the Communist Party was “Peace, Jobs, and Democracy.”
The lesson? People on the left may be delusional but they are not stupid. They know what they can say and get away with, and what they can’t. Barack Obama is a born and bred member of the left and not coincidentally is the most brazen and compulsive liar ever to occupy the American White House. What other politician could have successfully explained away the fact that two of his closest political confidantes over a twenty-year period were an anti-American racist, Jeremiah Wright and an anti-American terrorist William Ayers?
There is a marked difference between the radicals of the Sixties and the radical movement Obama is part of. In the Sixties, as radicals we said what we thought and blurted out what we wanted. We wanted a revolution, and we wanted it now. It was actually very decent of us to warn others as to what we intended. But because we blurted out our goal, we didn’t get very far. Americans were onto us. Those who remained on the left when the Sixties were over, learned from their experience. They learned to lie. The strategy of the lie is progressives’ new gospel. It is what the progressive bible — Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals — is all about. Alinsky is the acknowledged political mentor to Obama and Hillary, to the service and teacher unions, and to the progressive rank and file. Alinsky understood the mistake Sixties’ radicals had made. His message to this generation is easily summed up: Don’t telegraph your goals; infiltrate their institutions and subvert them; moral principles are disposable fictions; the end justifies the means; and never forget that your political goal is always power.
An SDS radical wrote in the Sixties: “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” The Alinsky version is this: The issue is never the issue; the issue is always power: How to wring power out of the democratic process, how turn the process into an instrument of progressive control. How to use it to fundamentally transform the United States of America — which is exactly what Barack Obama warned he would do on the eve of his election.
The chosen legislative instrument to begin this transformation was Obamacare. It was presented as an act of charity, a plan to cover the uninsured. That was the “issue” as they presented it. But the actual goal of Obamacare’s socialist sponsors was a “single payer system” – government healthcare — which would put the state in control of the lives of every American, man, woman and child. That is the reason that none of the promises made about Obamacare was true, beginning with his campaign lie that Obamacare government health care was not a program he would support. Obamacare will not cover 30 million uninsured Americans, as Obama and the Democrats said it would; Obamacare will not lower costs, as they promised it would; Obamacare will deprive many Americans of their doctors and healthcare plans, as they assured everyone it would not; Obamacare is a new tax, as they swore it wouldn’t be. All these promises Obama and the Democrats made were false because they were only a camouflage for their real goal actual goal, which was universal control.
A third feature of progressives that defines their politics is that they regard the past, which is real, with contempt, and are focused exclusively on a future, which is imaginary.
To understand why this is important, think of progressives as a species of religious fundamentalists planning a redemption. Like fundamentalists they look at the world as fallen – a place corrupted by racism, sexism and class division. But the truly religious understand that we are the source of corruption and that redemption is only possible through the work of a Divinity. In contrast, progressives see themselves as the redeemers, which is why they are so dangerous. Because they regard those who oppose them as the eternally damned. Progressives are on a mission to create the kingdom of heaven on earth by redistributing income and using the state to enforce politically correct attitudes and practices in everyone’s life. They want to control what you do, and who you are, and even what you eat. For your own good, of course.
The fact that they see themselves as saving the world – or “saving the planet” as they would prefer — results in a fourth key characteristic of their politics, which is that they regard politics as a religious war. This explains why they are so rude and nasty when you disagree with them or resist their panaceas (and of course if they had the power, the punishments would be more severe); that is why the politics of personal destruction is their favorite variety, why they are verbal assassins and go directly for the jugular, and why they think nothing of destroying the reputations of their opponents and burying them permanently. And that is why they can perform their character assassinations without regrets – or did I miss Obama’s apology to Romney for accusing him of killing a woman with cancer during the campaign? Why apologize when you did it for the good of a world transforming cause?
To sum this up: Progressives see themselves as an army of the saints, and their opponents as the party of Satan; and that will justify almost anything you can get away with.
An appalling episode of their Machiavellian politics has shaped the international conflict in which we find ourselves currently impotent in the Middle East. The root of that impotence lies in the way Democrats turned the issue of the Iraq war against the Republican president George Bush. The Democrats’ case against Bush was that he acted unilaterally, deceptively and in haste.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The policy to remove Iraq’s government by force was put in place by a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, when he signed the Iraqi Liberation Act and fired 450 cruise missiles into that sovereign country. He did it, by the way, not only unilaterally but without consulting anyone.
That was in 1998, which is five years before Bush sent American troops into Iraq. Ten months before Bush did that he warned Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, to obey the Gulf War truce he had signed in 1991 and then repeatedly violated over the next ten years. Seven months before sending our troops into Iraq Bush went personally to the UN and got a unanimous Security Council ultimatum to Saddam. UN Resolution 1447 said: Obey the terms of the Gulf War truce by December 7, 2002 – or else.
Two months before that deadline Bush went to Congress and requested an authorization to use force in the event that Saddam did not voluntarily observe the terms of the UN Resolution, and the Gulf War truce he had signed and then violated. Both houses of Congress including a majority of the Democrats in the Senate voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq. He also got an authorization from NATO and he also formed a coalition of 40 nations, including America’s oldest allies, the Brits, to enforce the UN Security Council ultimatum.
Not only was the decision not made in haste, and not made without consultation, as the Democrats claimed. The truth was just the opposite. The process of making the decision to go to war took 10 months and every significant authority was consulted. But once U.S. troops entered Iraq on March 19, 2003, it took only three months for the Democrats to betray them and their president, to turn their backs on the war they had authorized and supported, and claim it was – to use the words of former Vice President Al Gore, “unnecessary, immoral and illegal.” Or in the words of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, “the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Why did the Democrats betray the war they had supported? It was not because of any fact on the ground in Iraq, or any principles Bush had allegedly violated. They betrayed our troops and turned on their commander-in-chief for one reason and one reason alone: to gain political power at home.
At the very moment of their treachery a Democratic primary was in progress. An anti-war Democrat – a Sixties leftist named Howard Dean — was on the verge of winning their presidential nomination, burying other candidates like John Kerry and John Edwards in the polls. Until then, Kerry and Edwards were full-throated supporters of the war. Kerry made a speech on the floor of the Senate in support of the bill authorizing the use of force. He explained why the forcible removal of Saddam was necessary to defend the country and secure the peace.
But that was before the anti-war candidate Howard Dean had surged ahead in the polls. When that happened, and Kerry saw that he was going to lose the party nomination, he decided to switch sides. He turned his back on everything he had said in defense of the war, and the necessity of using force, and he turned his back on our troops in the field, and attacked their commander-in-chief. He did it for one reason, and one reason only. He did it because he saw it as the only way to win the Democratic nomination and have a chance of winning the presidency in 2004.
Kerry and the Democrats betrayed the war they had authorized; they betrayed the young Americans they sent into harms way; they betrayed the country they had sworn to serve. They did it to win the political power they were going to use to change the world. No conservative in his right mind would behave like this. No conservative would regard a political administration in Washington as a stepping stone on the way to a brave new world, and therefore something to justify opposing a war they had authorized and supported.
What were the issues the Democrats used to make their case against the president and the war in Iraq? It didn’t really matter, because the issues were never the issue. The Democrats opposed Bush and the war because both stood in the way of their quest for power.
The Democrats attacked Bush for acting in haste and acting unilaterally. Both charges were false. Worse, the Democrats claimed that the war was about weapons of mass destruction, ignoring the fact that Saddam had violated the Gulf War truce and had failed to comply with sixteen Security Council resolutions attempting to bring him into line, including the ultimatum of December 7. To make their case they claimed that Bush falsified the intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction and lied in order to fool them into supporting the war. This was the biggest lie of the entire war. CIA chief George Tenet was a Clinton appointee. John Kerry sat on the intelligence committees with other Democrats like Feinstein and Rockefeller. The Democrats had access to all the intelligence information that Bush did. Bush could not have persuaded them to support the war by lying about the data, even if he had wanted to.
Why did they accuse him of lying? Because they could not admit the actual reason they had betrayed the war and the young men and women they sent to battle. They did it for partisan political gain. Unfortunately neither the White House nor any Republican had the political courage to hold them to account, and we are all paying the price for that.
For five years the Democrats conducted a scorched earth campaign against their country and its commander in the midst of a war. The harm they did is irreparable. Their sabotage of the war crippled our efforts to prosecute it – for example to follow Saddam’s weapons and generals into Syria, where they had fled; to take the war to Iran which supplied the IEDs which killed most of our troops; to close the border with Syria across which jihadists entered Iraq to fight our troops. The Democrats’ sabotage of the war created the power vacuum in the Middle East, which the terrorists and the Russians have now filled. And it most certainly inflicted casualties on our troops, though no one has had the political courage to say so.
The Democrats sabotaged the war in Iraq for the worst of reasons. They claimed it was for principle, but it was really – and only — to save their political skins.
Once the Democrats recaptured the presidency, it took no time at all for events to expose this destructive farce. Unlike the majority of his Democratic colleagues, Senator Barack Obama had always opposed the war in Iraq. He was against American interventions in sovereign countries, and he was against presidents who acted unilaterally, and in haste. Or so he said.
But when Obama became president and had the power to do so, he invaded Libya: unilaterally, and without authorization, and with no national security interest at stake. And he lied about the cause. There was no prospect of massacres as he claimed, and it was not a human rights intervention. If it were, Libya would not now be in chaos with al-Qaeda resurgent, and in a worse state than before.
Obama’s invasion of Libya was not merely unilateral. It was egomaniacal. Obama consulted no one outside his White House inner circle, not his own party, not the Congress, not the United Nations. Unlike Bush, he acted without constitutional authority and he acted alone. Yet there was not one Democratic leader who stood up for the principles they had all invoked to cripple America’s war against the jihadists in Iraq. Not one Democratic leader opposed the Democratic president, or criticized his aggression. They abandoned the principles of multilaterialism, consultation with Congress, and support from the U.N. because it would have been bad for their leader if they didn’t; it would have jeopardized their power.
The political consequences of the differences between conservatives and progressives is not only not small, it affects the way both sides conduct their political battles. Progressives focus on an impossible future, a utopia of promises, and this justifies for them their unscrupulous means. Issues for them are merely instruments for accumulating political power. Conservatives look to the past as a guide to what is possible and humanly practical, and what is not. Issues for them are problems that need to be fixed, and they take seriously the policies they devise to address them. This puts conservatives at a huge political disadvantage. It causes them to argue policy as though they were debating a party with whom they shared goals and only differed on the means to get there. But that is far from the case.
Take the present debate about a government shutdown. A statement from Boehner’s office explains, “The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under ObamaCare.” This is a proposal for compromise and is designed to portray Republicans as reasonable. We’re all part of the same social contract, and we need to give on both sides to resolve the impasse. We’re all interested in fairness, when all is said and done. If individuals were to be given a year’s extension under Obamacare, as corporations already have been, that would be fair. But since when is Obamacare about fairness? That’s a Democratic façade and talking point, courtesy of the Republican Speaker. By way of contrast, this is how the Democrats make their argument: “Republicans are trying to shut down the government so they can prevent us from providing all Americans with affordable healthcare.” In other words, Democrats are standing up for fairness and ordinary Americans, against the selfish Republicans who want deny them affordable care and shut down their government. This is three lies in one sentence. But who do you think wins that vote?
If you want to fight the left you have to fight fire with fire. That means first and foremost you have to hold them to account for hurting the people they are pretending to help. Whose opportunities are going to be wrecked by Obamacare? Health care taxes will go up for those who pay taxes – the middle class — while their incomes will go down. Already Obamacare is cutting the workweek to 30 hours. Whose pocket books do you think that is hitting?
They claim conservatives are conducting a war against minorities; we need to throw the truth back in their faces. We need to tell the people that progressives are the principal oppressors and exploiters of minorities and the poor in this country. Progressives control the inner cities, which are teeming with the nation’s minorities and poor; and they run the broken public school systems that have become dumping grounds for those who cannot afford a private education.
The city of Milwaukee has been run by liberals and progressives without interruption for more than 100 years. What is the consequence of this progressive rule? Milwaukee’s median household income is forty percent below the rest of the country. The black unemployment rate is 27%, three times the national average for everyone. Milwaukee’s population is majority black and Hispanic, and 30% of it lives below the poverty line. A third of Milwaukee’s public school children drop out before they graduate; those who do are barely literate. That’s what progressive policies achieve. Don’t let them forget it.
Conservatives need to put the human disasters of progressive policies in front of people every chance they get. We need to confront progressives with the misery they have created in America’s bankrupt cities, Detroit and Chicago, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, St. Louis, and the nation’s capital, and every city they have controlled for 25, 50 and 100 years, without interruption.
Conservatives need to talk less to the voters’ heads and more to their hearts. Government debt is not just an accountant’s nightmare. Debt is a form of economic slavery. If you add up all the taxes Americans pay — federal, state, local, income, sales — Americans already work half the year for government rather than for themselves. Like Obamacare and the political use of the I.R.S., debt is a threat to individual freedom.
Freedom is what our cause is about not just fiscal responsibility. Fiscal responsibility has no emotional appeal except to people who already understand what it means. Fiscal responsibility is a means to an end. The end is freedom, and that is what inspires commitment and sacrifice and the passion necessary to win. Because it speaks to the heart.
Conservatives need to speak up as champions of the little guys, the underdogs, whose lives are being steadily constricted – made less free — by the ongoing destruction of a system that once afforded more opportunity for more people than any other in the history of the world. Conservatives need to speak up for the young whose future horizons are being rapidly diminished as the trillion dollar Obama deficits pile higher and higher. Conservatives need to speak for all Americans whose security under Obama has been degraded to the most dangerous levels since the end of the Cold War.
This is the threat we face, and the sooner we grapple with it the greater our chances to survive it. The most important battle in the world today is not being waged in the Middle East but here at home in the United States. If we lose this battle, everything is lost. But if we will take the measure of the enemies of freedom and prepare ourselves to fight them, we have a better than even chance to win.
About David Horowitz
David Horowitz was one of the founders of the New Left in the 1960s and an editor of its largest magazine,Ramparts. He is the author, with Peter Collier, of three best selling dynastic biographies: The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (1976); The Kennedys: An American Dream (1984); and The Fords: An American Epic (1987). Looking back in anger at their days in the New Left, he and Collier wrote Destructive Generation (1989), a chronicle of their second thoughts about the 60s that has been compared to Whittaker Chambers’ Witness and other classic works documenting a break from totalitarianism. Horowitz examined this subject more closely in Radical Son (1996), a memoir tracing his odyssey from “red-diaper baby” to conservative activist that George Gilder described as “the first great autobiography of his generation.”