The Current Crisis

Richard Mellon Soros

So the left-wing Democrats have found their Cosimo dé Medici!

By 11.19.03

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WASHINGTON -- So the left-wing Democrats have found their Cosimo dé Medici! The Ford Foundation was not sufficient to satisfy their political needs, nor the Rockefeller Foundation, nor the MacArthur mother lode. They needed a billionaire, and in the person of George Soros they have him.

The Clintons, Mr. McAuliffe of the Democratic National Committee, and all the other crybabies who whimpered and wrung their hands about the fate of American democracy when they found rich conservatives were funding conservative think tanks and intellectual reviews now have a rich political philanthropist of their own. At least they have found one who lives outside of Hollywood. The Norman Lears and Haim Sabans who splurge money on left-wing causes have been around for years, causing no alarums over the fate of American democratic process for the Clinton left. Yet the presence of a rich man supporting the right raised the left's fears of conspiracy, Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Here is but another example of the left's double standard. Rich philanthropists funding the left's enthusiasms are public-spirited. Rich philanthropists funding the right's ideas are shocking.

"I feared for my country," Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton writes upon beholding political opposition -- some of it for criminal behavior -- in her melodramatic memoir. The man that particularly worried her and her colleagues (and whom they victimized for exercising his First Amendment rights) was Richard Mellon Scaife, who over a lifetime has spent millions, along with many other public-spirited conservatives, to establish such think tanks as Heritage, Hudson, and the American Enterprise Institute to develop and advance ideas scorned by the bigots of American academe. Scaife's money has at times gone to politicians, but the bulk of it has gone to intellectuals engaged in the battle of ideas, a battle that the left does not like to wage in an open forum -- if at all.

Now along comes the Clintons' idea of a proper political philanthropist, their Richard Mellon Soros, and he is absolutely bellowing, spending more in a year than Scaife might spend over a decade. He is spending $15 million on operations such as MoveOn.org and America Coming Together. Are these groups that debate issues, develop scholarly ideas, turn out learned monographs and journals? Well, no, they are hard-edged political activist groups uninterested in new ideas. In fact, the American left has not had a new idea in years. All that motivates the left is anger. Richard Mellon Soros and the groups he is funding are about the only political participants in American history to boast of their anger, and they certainly are the only haters who have been honored by polite liberal opinion for their coarseness.

They are directing their anger at American conservatives, whom they call "extremists," though since the successful administration of President Ronald Reagan the ideas of these "extremists" have for the most part governed America. Now the focal point of these left liberals' anger is our suave president, George W. Bush. Says Richard Mellon Soros, Bush is "the central focus of my life." "America under Bush," he says, "is a danger to the world." Bush has a "supremacist ideology." I assume that last utterance is a reference to the President's promise to strike terrorists first, before they ambush another 3,000 civilians in American skyscrapers. Mr. Soros seems to advocate a rope-a-dope strategic defense for America. Let the terrorists hit us until they exhaust themselves. Then we shall have peace.

The double standard with which the media and the left have treated Richard Mellon Scaife and Richard Mellon Soros brightly illuminates the double standard with which the right and the left are treated. A closer look, however, at the nature of these two philanthropists' expenditures sheds light on why the right is winning and the left is losing. The right is deeply involved in ideas and developing new ideas for modern economies, education and defense, for instance, supply-side, vouchers, and preemptive strike. The left has given up on ideas and is engaged solely in politics, for instance the politics of personal destruction. The left tried it on Scaife and failed. Now it will try it on President Bush and my guess is it will fail.

Beating the President, Soros told the Washington Post, is "a matter of life and death." This hysteria is a little disconcerting. I never heard Richard Mellon Scaife make such a bizarre comment. Is this the desperation of an old political order facing oblivion?

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.