Lyons: "Attack on Scrooge McDuck"

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 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, 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.