Words and Deeds

How the Left cants.

by Bruce S. Thornton

Private Papers

A review of Peter Schweitzer’s Do as I Say (Not as I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, (Doubleday, 2005, 272 pp.)

Do as I Say is an extended examination of this phenomenon of liberal hypocrisy, or what we can call the politics of biting the hand that feeds you. Peter Schweitzer, a Hoover Institution fellow and author of books on the Bushes and Ronald Reagan, examines the personal lives and behavior of eleven prominent, noisy leftists and liberals, revealing a profound disconnect between what they say and what they do, “a stunning record of open and shameless hypocrisy.” The result, of course, is to pose a simple question: if these privileged folks, armed with power and money, can’t live up to the ideals they preach to the rest of us, how viable or useful can those ideals really be, particularly when the free-market capitalism that these scolds denounce is responsible for that privilege and wealth in the first place?

On issue after issue, Schweitzer demonstrates the emptiness of these famous leftists’ politics. For example, the evils of capitalism are routinely condemned, yet some of the most vocal of these critics are doing quite well exploiting the system they decry. MIT professor Noam Chomsky, arguably the most prominent and looniest of the loony left, has called capitalism a “‘grotesque catastrophe’ and a doctrine ‘crafted to induce hopelessness, resignation, and despair.’” Yet Chomsky is “himself a shrew capitalist, worth millions, with money in the dreaded and evil stock market, and at least one tax haven to cut down on those pesky inheritance taxes that he says are so important.” Apostles of economic redistribution via the income tax like Chomsky are very clever at making sure that somebody else’s nickel will fund their utopian schemes. Chomsky has set up an irrevocable trust to shelter his money, with his tax attorney and his daughter as trustees.

So too with Michael Moore, who despite boasting about not owning stock has set up a private foundation to invest his money and shelter it from taxes. This foundation owns nearly $400,000 in corporate stocks and bonds, including pharmaceutical and medical companies like Pfizer, Merck, and Eli Lilly. And even as he attacks HMOs in his recent movie Sicko, Moore owns shares in two HMOs. His portfolio also contains oil company stocks, and he has even owned stock in Halliburton, the left’s corporate Darth Vader. Nor does this ample portfolio go to funding activist causes: “For a man who by 2002 had a net worth in eight figures, he gave away a modest $36,000 through the foundation, much of it to his friends in the film business or tony cultural organizations that later provided him with venues to promote his books and films.” Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Ralph Nader –– as Schweitzer documents, all these scolds of capitalist greed and champions of the down-trodden have done very well manipulating the system to increase their own power and privilege so that their money doesn’t end up in the government’s hands to finance the social justice schemes they loudly champion.

On racial issues too, these progressives may talk like angels, but they live like men. For all their professed love of “people of color” and anguish over racism, few of America’s most visible liberals actually live around or hire minorities –– even Cornel West, Princeton professor and wannabe rap star, lives in Newton, whose black population is about two percent, meaning Professor West is unlikely to be hanging out with the brothers in the backyard. When the Clintons came to Washington, they could have sent a powerful message of support for D.C. public schools by enrolling Chelsea in a neighborhood school like Jefferson or Hine. But of course, they enrolled her instead in the super-elite Sidwell Friends. Chomsky, who claims to be fond of fraternizing with the working class and “‘those considered to be riff-raff,’” as he puts it, has no intentions of actually living near any of them. About the time forced busing was imposed on the Boston area, Chomsky moved to the tony suburb of Lexington, buying a house worth nearly a million dollars. He also owns a vacation home in Wellfleet, worth $1.2. “Radical” author Howard Zinn “owns two homes in expensive lily-white Wellfleet and a third in multicultural Auburndale (minority population 3.3 percent).”

Like all rich people, rich liberals understandably want to live around and have their children associate with other rich people. But they at least can prove their commitment to diversity with their hiring choices, an opportunity on which most of them pass, including Congressional Democrats, who hire black employees at the same rate as Republicans do. Michael Moore has loudly chastised Hollywood for not hiring enough blacks. Yet Schweitzer’s survey of the 134 people who have worked on his films show a grand total of three black employees. Comedian Al Franken has criticized Republicans for being indifferent to black unemployment. But of “112 people whom Franken either hired directly or had a strong influence in determining whether they would work on a project,” only one was black. Another hectoring liberal, Barbara Streisand, has hired one black producer out of sixty-three producers and directors she’s employed since 1983. Even for a documentary she produced about gang violence in Washington, D.C., the producers and the director were white.

On issue after issue, Schweitzer unmasks the reality behind the self-righteous preaching of America’s so-called progressives. Ted Kennedy decries “corporate welfare” and “giveaways,” but he still takes depletion allowances and drilling deductions on his family’s oil holdings. Ralph Nader loves unions, but not for the staff of his publication the Multinational Monitor. Nancy Pelosi has received the Cesar Chavez award as a champion of labor, but none of the workers picking grapes on her $25 million Napa Valley vineyard are from Chavez’s U.F.W. Pelosi also owns a large share of an exclusive resort in Napa, and none of its 250 employees belong to a union. Nor do any of the 900 employees of Piatti, a restaurant chain Pelosi is a partner in. Barbara Streisand has waxed lyrical on the need to limit our wasteful energy consumption that threatens the environment. Yet Streisand, whose foundation owns stocks in several oil companies, spent $22,000 dollars a year just to water the lawn of her Malibu home. And she has an air-conditioned twelve-thousand-square foot barn just to house her show business memorabilia. That’s a lot of greenhouse gases.

Schweitzer’s fast-paced, witty book is full of such gems. Of course, hypocrisy is no respecter of political persuasion, and conservatives have their own examples, from virtuecrats with gambling problems to family-values guys with mistresses –– as liberals and their shills in the press are fond of reminding us. But as Schweitzer notes, conservatives view humans as flawed creatures whose nature it is to sin and fall short. This pessimistic view of human nature means that conservatives expect people to fail to live up to their ideals. They see this failure, and the hypocrisy that often attends it, as part of the human condition, not correctible by reason or psychological technique, which is why traditional checks on human behavior like guilt and shame are so important. To liberals, on the other hand, people are basically good and fail because of their environment, things like poverty, bad neighborhoods, bad schools, inadequate nutrition, etc., conditions that could be corrected if the state would simply intervene and spend the money. The liberals Schweitzer skewers, however, are all rich and famous, so they have no excuse for not living the virtue they preach. Their failure to live up to the ideals they want to impose on everybody else is thus a repudiation of their assumptions, whereas for conservatives such failure confirms their belief in a flawed human nature.

As Schweitzer concludes, liberal hypocrisy is the ultimate testament to the bankruptcy of most liberal ideas, for liberals “really don’t respect their own ideas and have privately concluded, whether they admit it to themselves or not, that liberalism as practiced today does not offer them a road map to happiness,” for these ideas are “ultimately self-defeating, self-destructive, and unworkable.” The sad truth, however, is that these ideas are enshrined in government programs and institutions imposed on millions of citizens, who unlike well-heeled liberals do not have the resources to escape the consequences of these utopian schemes. But at least with Schweitzer’s book, we all can have enough ammo for riddling the pretensions of our liberal hypocrites.

©2006 Victor Davis Hanson

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