NO ONE is in more dire need of learning how to disagree without being disagreeable than liberals. In the Left's ongoing war against conservatives and conservative ideas, slander and libel have become routine. A contemporary liberal would much rather damn conservatives with a toxic label -- "racist," "homophobe," "fascist" -- than actually debate their ideas on the merits.
One reason leftists resort so readily to character-assassination is that it's a lot easier than resorting to logic, facts, and persuasion. But another is that they're never called on it. Let Newt Gingrich mock Bill and Hillary Clinton as "counterculture McGoverniks," and torrents of denunciation pour forth. But there isn't even a ripple of objection when Vice President Al Gore characterizes Republicans as wanting "to create as much . . . discord and hatefulness as they possibly can and follow a scorched-earth political strategy: burn down the house in hopes that you'll inherit the ashes."
Senator Jesse Helms was lacerated for his sarcastic "bodyguard" quip about Clinton. Who condemned NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski when he broadcast a story on Helms using the epithets "Prince of Darkness," "rabid attack dog," "bigot," "sexist," and "homophobe"?
1994 was replete with such anti-conservative smears. As long as they go unchallenged, they will continue. So let's blow the whistle on some of the ugliest personal fouls liberals committed in the year gone by.
The Left's whipping-boy of the year, hands down, was Gingrich. Herblock, the famed Washington Post cartoonist, depicted him sailing a garbage can out of a sewer. Sunni Khalid of NPR declared that Gingrich is seeking "a more scientific, a more civil way of lynching people." A quick NEXIS search turns up more than seven dozen stories linking Gingrich to Joseph McCarthy.
As always, the race card was popular. Harlem's left-wing congressman, Democrat Charles Rangel, blasted Republicans' tax-cut pledge not by calling it bad economics, but by calling it -- racism.
"It's not 'spic' or 'nigger' anymore," he commented poisonously. "They say, 'Let's cut taxes.' "
In a cataract of abuse titled "Newt Gingrich, Authoritarian," the New York Times indicted Gingrich's "race-based" politics. "A proxy for race-baiting," chimed in New York Magazine's Jacob Weisberg, adding: "George Wallace was big in rural Georgia, too." And Sam Donaldson of ABC accused Gingrich of bigotry to his face: "A lot of people are afraid of you. . . . Worse, you're an intolerant bigot."
'If this were Germany, we would call it fascism. . . . Here we call it conservatism.'
"The most hideous schemes are being put forth now in the name of conservatism," railed Jesse Jackson, the man who added "Hymietown" to our lexicon. "If this were Germany, we would call it fascism. If this were South Africa, we would call it racism. Here we call it conservatism."
Religious conservatives, he said, are really latter-day SS troops, straight out of Nuremberg:
"The Christian Coalition was a strong force in Germany. It laid down a suitable, scientific, theological rationale for the tragedy in Germany. The Christian Coalition was very much in evidence there . . ."
Minnesota's liberal Republican Governor Arne Carlson used the same calumny against his conservative GOP challenger, a devout Christian. History, he said, shows how "a narrow sliver has the ability to take over any entire system. That clearly is how Hitler started out."
When the new Republican majority in the US House voted to stop funding special-interest caucuses, Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, analogized the decision to the torture and murder of Muslims in Bosnia: "an attempt to disempower communities through congressional ethnic cleansing."
This rhetorical brutality was not limited to politics. Christina Hoff Sommers's book *Who Stole Feminism?* meticulously documented the fraudulent statistics in which many modern feminists traffic. Her critics responded with ad hominem bile.
In a review, feminist historian Nina Auerbach described the book and its author with such terms as "wallflower . . . revenge . . . obsessively . . . spewed . . . overwrought." And that was just the first paragraph. Another leftist, Linda Hirshman of the Women's Legal Studies Institute, chose other phrases: "twist statistics . . . wild misrepresentations . . . skewed information . . . Big Lie technique . . . curtain of lies."
So much defamation, so little room. One last example will have to suffice. Here is Julianne Malveaux, Pacifica Radio talk show host, on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: "I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early like many black men do of heart disease.. . . He's an absolutely reprehensible person."
In 1994, too many liberals relied on invective instead of reason, imagining, perhaps, that calling conservatives nasty names would somehow defeat conservative arguments. Maybe in 1995 they'll cut it out. But I wouldn't bet on it.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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