The former CIA director John Brennan is the classic illiberal liberal, an aging radical who openly favors in America the repressiveness he once excused in the Soviet Union. Recall that at the height of the Cold War he was rooting for the Reds. He has admitted that in 1976 he voted for Gus Hall, the American Communist Party’s presidential candidate. That radicalism never left Brennan’s system. He continues to nurse the dream of left-wing autocracy. In his recent pronouncements, he has sounded like a smug Soviet commissar. He recently enthused over the prospect of the Biden administration targeting its political opponents:
We are now looking forward that the members of the Biden team who have been nominated or have been appointed, are now moving in laser like fashion to try to uncover as much as they can about what looks very similar to insurgency movements that we’ve seen overseas, where they germinate in different parts of the country and they gain strength and it brings together an unholy alliance frequently of religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, Nativists, even libertarians.
This, of course, is the same John Brennan who overlooked the spread of Islamic insurgency during his time at the CIA. After excusing the evil empire of the Soviets, he played the same role in his avuncular treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups. Brennan famously sanitized the definition of jihad, saying that the term actually means self-improvement and harmless community organizing.
The illiberal liberal is a product of the willfulness of modern liberalism and its mania for power.
Drawn to anti-democratic systems, Brennan nevertheless portrays himself as a great custodian of democracy — a portrayal he kept up even as he called for the overthrow of a duly elected president. Future historians will no doubt marvel at the ascent of John Brennan, who after voting for Hall rose to the heights of the CIA, only to continue his service as a useful idiot by spreading Russian disinformation from Christopher Steele.
Brennan is emblematic of modern liberalism. For all of its talk of “democracy” and “rights,” it gravitates to left-wing tyrants and lionizes their misdeeds. In the social circle Brennan inhabits, liberals can gush over Chairman Mao (Anita Dunn, who now advises Biden, called him one of her “favorite” political philosophers) or extol Fidel Castro, all while denouncing Trump as a unique menace to democracy. They can pal around with a bona fide domestic terrorist (as Barack and Michelle Obama did with Bill Ayers, who tried to blow up the U.S. Capitol building) while hysterically slapping that label on their political opponents.
Liberals often rise to power on amoral dissent, saying that good ends justify bad means (Barack Obama’s hero, Saul Alinsky, premised his agitprop on that view), then seek to stay in power by demolishing the dissent of their political opponents. A Hall supporter like John Brennan sees no irony in tossing around charges of treachery casually or calling for the kind of purge of dissidents he would have once called McCarthyite.
The illiberal liberal is a product of the willfulness of modern liberalism and its mania for power. On the march through traditional institutions, the illiberal liberal pays homage to free speech pieties and universal rights, but once in control of them discards all that talk and calls for the suppression of liberty in the name of the common good. Liberals once decried the saying “error has no rights”; they now embody it. They won’t permit “misinformation” and so forth. It is uncanny how similar Silicon Valley’s decrees sound to the edicts of the old Soviet Union.
For four years, liberals called Trump a dictator, which only revealed their own ambitions. As Woody Allen said of Obama, “It would be good … if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.” In their youth, Brennan and his cohorts supported one-party states abroad, foreshadowing that in their dotage they would seek to build one in America.