Here’s Gene Lyons’ column for the week!
Attack on Scrooge McDuck
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004
According to the seers and soothsayers of the right, a terrible new
threat confronts America and its inspired leader George W. Bush. Like
Shakespeare’s Calpurnia, they warn their mighty Caesar of lionesses
whelping in the streets, strange omens and portents in the night sky,
and they do fear them. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has waxed
apoplectic; James K. Glassman of the American Enterprise Institute
forsees “a great threat not just to the re-election of George Bush, but
to our truly open society.” Even the Washington Post has expressed
alarm. And what’s the cause of all this hubbub? Simple: the Democrats
have found a Scrooge McDuck of their own. International financier George
Soros, among the richest men in the world, plans to devote a small
fraction of his estimated $7 billion to defeating President Bush. The
Hungarian-born tycoon, who emigrated from England to the U.S. in 1956,
has pledged a reported $18 million to three liberal organizations: $5
million to internet advocacy group MoveOn. org, $3 million to former
Clinton aide John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, and another
$10 million toward a Democratic voter registration drive.
Sounds ominous, right? By taking advantage of an obscure constitutional
loophole permitting even billionaires to oppose Bush, Soros bids to
overturn the natural order. As if that weren’t enough, he’s taken to
writing books and articles and granting interviews explaining why he
believes that Bush’s re-election would have terrible consequences for
America and the world.
Writers in the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times have expressed
consternation that a foreign-born citizen would be so cheeky. A website
called GOPUSA.com has described the Jewish financier as a “descendant of
Shylock.” The Postasks Democrats to compare the consequences of
“conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife opening his bank account
on behalf of Mr. Bush.”
It’s worth wondering what’s in Washington Post water coolers these days.
The reclusive Mr. Scaife, who unlike Soros inherited his pile, has
bankrolled right-wing causes for decades. Had editors read their own
newspaper’s fine reporting back in 1999, they might realize that without
Scaife’s largesse, we might not have such ornaments to democracy as the
Federalist Society, the American Enterprise Institute, News-Max.com or
the American Spectator magazine.
Scaife’s funding of the Spectator’s secretive, $2.6 million “Arkansas
Project” during the Clinton years contributed to the care and feeding of
Whitewater witness David Hale, a convicted felon making absurd
allegations against the president. It also financed articles describing
the president of the United States as a drug smuggler and murderer.
Operatives hired by the Spectator even probed the private lives of
journalists deemed unfriendly to Kenneth Starr. Unlike Clinton’s sexual
antics, Starr placed his office’s investigation of the “Arkansas
Project” under seal. Grand Jury secrets, you see.
The estimable Mr. Soros, in contrast, works in broad daylight. He even
writes his own books. His latest, entitled “The Bubble of American
Supremacy” argues that the Bush administration has responded to the 9/11
terror attacks exactly as Osama bin Laden wanted it to: by implementing
“a radical foreign policy agenda” in which might makes right. An excerpt
appeared in the December 2003 Atlantic Monthly. “The Bush doctrine,”
Soros wrote “… is built on two pillars: the United States will do
everything in its power to maintain its unquestioned military supremacy;
and the United States arrogates the right to pre-emptive action. In
effect, the doctrine establishes two classes of sovereignty: the
sovereignty of the United States, which takes precedence over
international treaties and obligations; and the sovereignty of all other
states, which is subject to the will of the United States. This is
reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘ Animal Farm’: all animals are equal,
but some animals are more equal than others.”
The Bush doctrine, Soros recently told Josh Marshall, “is unacceptable
cannot possibly be accepted—by the rest of the world.” By invading Iraq
under false pretenses, he thinks, the U.S. rid the world of a despicable
tyrant at the expense of its fundamental credibility. When President
Bush uses farcically Orwellian doublespeak like “weapons of mass
destruction-related program activities” to describe Saddam’s
non-existent military threat, he doesn’t even expect to be believed by
any but the dullest voters. And when Bush boasts, as he did in his State
of the Union speech, that “no one can now doubt the word of America,”
and that he “will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of
our country,” he doesn’t mean that Iraq’s imaginary links to 9/11 have
been proven. He means that any nation he threatens had better back down.
Having lived under Nazi and communist occupation, Soros insists that
people who call Bush a “fascist” are both wrong and counter-productive.
He also insists, however, that an ideology of pure power is profoundly
un-American and doomed to fail. How that makes the man a danger to
democracy, I cannot imagine.
• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.