Right Wing Avoids Accountability By Attacking Soros

The hypocrisy of the right wing is amazing. Hyperbole is virtually the norm in their writings. We regularly see attacks on those who oppose the war as being unpatriotic and traitors. Liberal supporters of the free market are called socialists while they ignore the corporate welfare policies of the right. Support for free choice in one’s life is equated with immorality, and support for a woman’s right to control her body is called baby killing. However, if a liberal makes a reference to Nazis with regards to the right they go ballistic. The latest example of this is in the New York Post and The New Republic with an attack on George Soros which is being echoed through the right wing blogosphere (such as here and here).

The problem with using references to Nazi Germany is that it is too often done with hyperbole comparable to the right wing examples noted above. To simply call George Bush a Nazi is certainly a gross exaggeration which diminishes the horrors of the Nazi years. The context of any comparison is important. The Post reports:

After asserting that the United States is recognizing the error it made in Iraq, Soros said, “To what extent it recognizes the mistake will determine its future.” He went on to say that Turkey and Japan are still hurt by a reluctance to admit to dark parts of their history, and contrasted that reluctance to Germany’s rejection of its Nazi-era past. “America needs to follow the policies it has introduced in Germany,” Soros said. “We have to go through a certain de-Nazification process.” Soros spokesman Michael Vachon told Page Six: “There is nothing unpatriotic about demanding accountability from the president. Those responsible for taking America into this needless war should do us all a favor and retire from public office.”

For George Soros to draw on comparisons to the Nazi-era is not surprising as this is part of his personal past. It is notable that Soros is not making a general statement comparing America to Nazi Germany but is referring to a specific example that American leaders need to admit the grievous mistakes made during the Bush years. Naturally those who supported this unjustified and disastrous war, including both publications attacking Soros, are going to take offense and they try to avoid taking responsibility for their mistakes. This is the typical right wing strategy of demonizing those who criticize them while avoiding discussion of the true issues, in this case of the American mistakes in Iraq which they supported.

Steve Clemons has also written on this at The Washington Note:

Soros properly and appropriately referred to de-Nazification because that was a process that assured that there was accountability for the deadly, barbarous, and horrible actions taken by the government of Germany. Like in Japan, political and military leaders — and some social, educational, and business leaders — were purged from their offices in order for those of different political ilk to come into positions of power.

Soros is referring to political accountability and political change after what many conservatives are calling a series of the worst political and military strategic mistakes in modern American history. He is referring to those in the White House and in American politics who turned a blind eye after Abu Ghraib, who did nothing when people were shut up — some mistakenly — without legal counsel in Guantanamo. He is referring to those who sat on information related to the Haditha horror until it was exposed.

Peretz is lambasting Soros because of the temerity of comparing anything that the United States might do in the world with the horrors of what Nazi Germany did — and these were horrors. Peretz and others seem to think that they have some kind of monopoly in drawing on metaphors that related to German war crimes in the mid-part of last century, particularly when it comes to the Holocaust and to Jewish issues. (though he might not realize how utterly offensive and inappropriate the comparison of “King George” is to someone who has done more than anyone in history to finance the cultivation of systems of checks and balances around the world.)

Soros might have used Japan’s case to make his point — but he knows Japanese history less well and intimately than that of Europe and Germany’s role. Soros is talking about those who place ideology over empirical rationality, those who have positions of power and did awful, terrible things in our own government — and now need to be “purged” from our system.

I agree with Soros and understand the metaphor he was using. I have the sense of context and I think the maturity to know that Soros was not implying that America is on the same moral plain of a German state that exterminated six million Jews. Of course Soros is not saying that — and Peretz and the other critics that have tried to ride this wave know it too.

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  1. 1
    G. Weightman says:

    Read this excerpt from the Wikipedia article on American efforts to denazify Germany after WWII. Which of these actions are Mr. Soros and his defenders advocating that we pursue in the US?

    “The United States initially pursued denazification in a committed though bureaucratic fashion. For this process five categories of responsibility for anyone over the age of 18 residing in the US zone of occupation were identified: major offenders, offenders, lesser offenders, followers, and exonerated persons. Ultimately, the intention was the “re-education” of the German people.

    In early 1947 90,000 Nazis were being held in concentration camps, another 1,900,000 were forbidden to work as anything but manual labourers.[1]

    A report of the Institute on re-education of the Axis Countries in June 1945 recommended: “Only an inflexible longterm occupation authority will be able to lead the Germans to a fundamental revision of their recent political philosophy.” On 15 January 1946, however, a report of the Military Government (classified as restricted) stated: “The present procedure fails in practice to reach a substantial number of persons who supported or assisted the Nazis.” On 1 April a special law therefore transferred the responsibility for the denazification process to the German administration which established 545 civilian courts (German Spruchkammern) to oversee 900,000 cases.

    The denazification was now supervised by special German ministers like the Social Democrat Gottlob Kamm in Württemberg-Baden. By 1948, however, with the Cold War now clearly in progress, American attentions were directed increasingly to the threat of the Eastern Bloc; the remaining cases were tried through summary proceedings that left insufficient time to thoroughly investigate the accused, so that many of the judgments of this period have questionable judicial value. For example, by 1952 members of the SS like Otto Skorzeny could be declared formally “entnazifiziert” (denazified) in absentia by a German government arbitration board and without any proof that this was true.

    In December 1945 U.S. President Harry S. Truman justified his refusal to alleviate the induced famine of the German population: “though all Germans might not be guilty for the war, it would be too difficult to try to single out for better treatment those who had nothing to do with the Nazi regime and its crimes.” [2]

    The Information Control Division of the U.S. army had by July 1946 taken control of 37 German newspapers, 6 radio stations, 314 theatres, 642 movies, 101 magazines, 237 book publishers, 7,384 book dealers and printers.[1] It’s main mission was democratisation but part of the agenda was also the prohibition on any criticism of the Allied forces of occupation.[2].

    In addition, on May 13, 1946 the Allied Control council issued a directive for the confiscation on all media that could contribute to Nazism or militarism. As a consequence a list was drawn up of over 30,000 book titles, ranging from school textbooks to poetry, which were now banned. All copies of books on the list were confiscated and destroyed, the possession of a book on the list was made a punishable offence.”

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Soros is speaking more in general principles about admitting error and holding government officials accountable.

    If the hysteria in the conservative blogs was related to these type of actions we’d have a different situation. However the attacks on Soros aren’t based upon these actions but upon the comparison to Nazi Germany itself as well as to the idea of holding people responsible.

  3. 3
    G. Weightman says:

    The constitutional reprimand for any high cries and misdemeanors is impeachment and conviction. And, of course, everyone has always been free to assign or accept responsibility for Iraq as he or she sees fit.

    I ask again, what specific actions (other than those in the two preceding sentences) is Mr. Soros advocating when he recommends “a certain de-Nazification?”

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Specifically I believe the answer is none of the above.

    I don’t believe the point Soros is trying to make refers to such internal punishment. Afterall, while there is an outside chance of impeachment, conviction in politically extremely unlikely unless a real smoking gun is found. The point is repairing the country’s reputation in the world by repudiating the unsavory actions committed during the Bush years. With his background of living thru the Nazi years, de-Nazification is the obvious analogy that would come to his mind, while to others referring to Nazis would have a different connotation. Of course Soros would have to answer this for himself but this is what I believe he is thinking after having read several of his writings.

    Don’t take my replies to mean I am dismissing your point. You do make a good point that de-Nazification is not the best way to refer to this. If the publications attacking Soros had basically said 1) the actions under Bush were not as bad as under the Nazis, and 2) these specific de-Nazification efforts would be too extreme, then I would agree and there would be no reason for this post. However, this is not the grounds upon which conservatives are attacking Soros.

  5. 5
    G. Weightman says:

    Thank you for the interpretation. It may very well be that it’s only empty bombast on his part. Mr. Soros is under no obligation to clarify the quote. But if he bankrolls the Obama campaign to the tune of several million dollars, Senator Obama will be forced to confront it.

    Politicians aren’t normally accountable for the statements of their supporters. Yet the possibility of some quid pro quo for these several millions (along with incendiary rhetoric of the statement), may make this too tender a morsel for opposition research to ignore.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    I suspect that conservatives will use this in their echo chamber to excite their base but I doubt it will mean much beyond that. The approximately 30% who still like Bush and would never vote for a Democrat might scream about it. For the rest, I think people are finally catching on to and getting fed up with the usual GOP tactic of cherry picking a few quotes to mischaracterize the opposition. Since the statement isn’t from Obama, and is far less incendiary when Soros’ background is taken into consideration, I doubt many people will care. Besides, there is plenty of incendiary rhetoric coming from the right which could similarly hurt Republicans, especially in an atmosphere when most people have had enough and have some indindiary thoughts of their own about the Republican misgovernment of the last several years.

  7. 7
    G. Weightman says:

    Actually, I meant that Senator Obama needs to worry about the opposition research of someone a little closer to his right, i.e., Senator Clinton. Even in the primaries, you won’t find too many Democratic voters believing that they’re living in anything remotely resembling Nazi Germany.

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    Perhaps, but it might also backfire against her if Hillary were to use something like this. Voters in Democratic primaries aren’t going to care what Soros said when deciding upon Obama, and would be less likely to object to a comparison between Bush and Nazi Germany (especially if it didn’t actually come from Obama).

  9. 9
    G. Weightman says:

    Senator Clinton’s fingerprints wouldn’t be on it (she wants Mr. Soros’ contributions after Senator Obama has been rolled). Instead, a reporter friendly to the Clinton camp could raise the issue to cast doubt on Senator Obama’s ability to win the center in a general election.

    Perhaps you’re right about the Democratic voters’ insouciance to Nazi references. The party has changed so much in my lifetime that I hardly recognize it anymore. Well, we’ll see what we’ll see. I enjoyed the conversation; good luck with your website.

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s true that she conceivably could try to use it without her fingerprints on it.

    It’s not so much that Democratic voters don’t care about Nazi referenes but that they are less likely to care about such smears that have nothing to do with the actual candidate.

    “The party has changed so much in my lifetime that I hardly recognize it anymore.”
    Funny, that’s exactly how I feel about the Republicans with their move to the far right.

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