While I was gallivanting in Florida, news came out that Obama paid his respects to William Ayers, a leader of the infamous Weather Underground of the 1960s, which left a trail of bombings and deaths in its wake. Jonah Goldberg looks at this quickly buried news squiblet, as well as the connections prominent liberals have to other America haters and murderers, and asks the right question:
Why is it only conservative “cranks” who think it’s relevant that Obama’s campaign headquarters in Houston had a Che Guevara-emblazoned Cuban flag hanging on the wall? Indeed, why is love of Che still radically chic at all? A murderer who believed that “the U.S. is the great enemy of mankind” shouldn’t be anyone’s hero, never mind a logo for a line of baby clothes. Why are Fidel Castro’s apologists progressive and enlightened but apologists for Augusto Pinochet frightening and authoritarian? Why was Sen. Trent Lott’s kindness to former segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond a scandal but Obama’s acquaintance with an unrepentant terrorist a triviality?
I have my own answers to these questions. But I’m interested in theirs. In the weeks to come, maybe reporters can resist the temptation to repeat health care questions for the billionth time and instead ask America’s foremost liberal representatives why being a radical means never having to say you’re sorry.
I think the answer lies with the New York Philharmonic, among other things. As you know, it’s making beautiful music for the North Korean government. Shortly before the New York Philharmonic embarked on this epic journey into evil, James Taranto wrote about its director’s justification for making the trip:
The Associated Press reports that some in the Philharmonic, including Korean-American violinist Lisa Kim, have misgivings about the trip. But Lorin Maazel, the Philharmonic’s music director, waves away those concerns:
Maazel rejects such assertions, noting that he had conducted concerts in Brezhnev’s Russia, Salazar’s Portugal and Franco’s Spain. “I thought I was making music and stretching out a welcoming hand to the folks who might not have been believers of the regime under which they were living. I feel this way certainly about North Korea,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Besides, he added, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw bricks, should they? Is our standing as a country–the United States–is our reputation all that clean when it comes to prisoners and the way they are treated? Have we set an example that should be emulated all over the world? If we can answer that question honestly, I think we can then stop being judgmental about the errors made by others.”
Maazel is making two separate assertions here. The first–that going to Pyongyang is an act of “stretching out a welcoming hand” to North Koreans, as distinct from the communist regime–is a practical one. We tend to agree with [Terry] Teachout that this argument does not hold water because Pyongyang’s regime is much more repressive than the erstwhile Iberian military dictatorships to which Maazel compares it, or even than the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union. But this is a claim that ultimately can be tested against the evidence, and reasonable people may draw different conclusions.
Maazel’s second argument, however, is pernicious and perverse. “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw bricks,” he says, mangling the cliché. Because America’s “reputation” isn’t “all that clean,” because we haven’t “set an example that should be emulated around the world,” we should “stop being judgmental about the errors made by others.”
In other words, because America has waterboarded three terrorist masterminds, it’s fine to consort with a regime that has imprisoned, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens. America is sufficiently evil that her enemies can’t be all bad.
By the same logic, liberal politicians who once consorted with America’s home grown enemies, really have nothing to apologize for. America’s home grown terrorists, no matter their misguided tactics, wanted to improve America, which is as evil a country as the next one. So, as to any contacts with them, why apologize? The same holds true for the Che connection. Forget the blood-stained hands — his intentions were good.
Of course, once one wanders into that kind of moral territory, one can start excusing any dictatorship — and the Left usually does. Indeed, the only dictator who is still considered irredeemably evil is Hitler, and I’m sure that’s only because the Left mistakenly views him as having come from the Right. In other words, as a putative conservative, he wasn’t trying to improve the world, he was trying to repress it. On the Left, however, whether you’re talking Mao, or Stalin, or Castro, or Che, or Chavez, they’re all trying to make things better for the little people, so the overzealousness of their tactics has to be excused, given the purity of their motives.
As I write this, I’m wishing I’d brought home a souvenir airsickness back from my trip. That people would think this way isn’t just pathetic, it’s truly sickening.
UPDATE: This Mark Steyn video dissecting multiculturalism is another side to the reason that liberals never have to say they’re sorry for supporting the worst of the worst: