An Interview with David Horowitz, GOP Advisor

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Posted by Esperanza from ( on Tuesday, February 18, 2003 at 1:12AM :

I truly enjoyed Radical Son, the memoir of former 60's Marxist David Horowitz and how he made a political about face to become a Reaganite Republican. Horowitz also wrote a book called the Art of Political War that was praised by the Bush's top brain Karl Rove and used as a political manual by large numbers of Republican party leaders. Horowitz was in part responsible for the Rove/Bush "compassionate conservative" strategy. However, in our interview Horowitz was vitriolic, exasperated and jumpy. This interview took place May 28, 2001, in the evening, on the phone. It lasted about an hour. This is a full transcript from the tape, minus some unnecessary digressions. It gets really good at the end, when Horowitz can't name any Bush qualities or accomplishments off hand, and he panicks and runs.

[I began to tape with:]

HICKS: I think this should be on the record. You've been to the White House. You're one of the leading intellectuals that the White House looks up to, both Rove and Bush.

HOROWITZ: I don't know. That's not "ideas."

HICKS: OK, then let's try and talk more generally about "ideas."

HOROWITZ:Ask me about Compassionate Conservatism and that kind of shit. ...I am a Republican because I believe I have abandoned the agendas of the Left, because they are incredibly destructive. The idea that of helping people that have fallen behind, should be given maximum opportunity to get ahead, that we should have a democratic society where the government treats people equally, all those agendas remain with me. The reason I'm a Republican is because I believe Republican policies serve those agendas better than any others. And I'm trying to push the Republican Party more in that direction.

HICKS: How does that affect the Party's position on social programs?

HOROWITZ: Well, let's make it more "Conservative." The conservative analysis of poverty is right. To me the Democratic Party is a left-wing party.

HICKS: You'll have to clarify that for me later.

HOROWITZ: Have you read the Politics of Bad Faith?


HOROWITZ: OK, there's a chapter on the meaning of right and left. HICKS: It goes back to Hegel, the historical origin.

HOROWITZ: No, no, the "Left" goes back to the French Revolution. The Jacobins sat on the left, the Chavres and their parties sat to the right.

HICKS: Oh really I heard the same thing about the Hegelians in the German Parliament.

HOROWITZ: No, no, it comes from the French Revolution. ...I think the Left is intellectually incoherent, and Marx was a crackpot. A very brilliant one, but very crackpot stuff. You may find that extreme but if you think hard and long enough you'll come to that conclusion. So, when you look at poverty, I just stumbled off the Thermstrom's book, America in Black and White. I came off a little statistic, let's see, "Poverty today is entirely caused by failure to work." It used to be jobs were too low-paying. You couldn't rise below the poverty line because there were just jobs that kept you below, then. Today, only 2.5% of black males who are fully employed are poor. That's an outstanding statistic. If you have a job, any job, and it's full-time, you will not be poor in America.

HICKS: How does that compare with other data I've seen about how more and more families have to work two jobs to make ends meet?

HOROWITZ: It all depends on the definition of ends. This is the legal definition of the poverty line...this comes from U.S. government statistics....

HICKS: Which is an income of something like mid-twenties for a family of four?

HOROWITZ: Exact-well whatever it doesn't really matter because as you and I know, not only if you fall below the poverty line do you get a lot of subsidies, but people in the inner city do not pay the same for televisions or anything else that other people pay for.

HICKS: Wait what do you mean by that?

HOROWITZ: well there's a whole hidden economy. If you know ANYBODY who lives in the inner city you know that....

HICKS: Well I live in the inner city.

HOROWITZ: costs 25 bucks or a hundred bucks or whatever. It doesn't really matter. The point is just that we take an arbitrary thing. We're not talking about in the eyes of God-Just, if we could rearrange society, what would be a just order, we're talking about the real world, and in the real world, you're not poor if you work. In fact, if you work and marry, and stay married, the family's aren't poor either. Poverty is really a product of dysfunction.

HICKS: How would you respond to the data that real wages have actually diminished in the last 20 or 30 years.

HOROWITZ: I don't know how these statistics are arrived at and I don't even think that's relevant. We're talking about what's the opportunity out there, is there mobility? Who's responsible for an individual's poverty? And you have to say, it's that individual.You can't say that the social order is set up, the ruling class arranges it so it can have these reserve army of the unemployed around and on and on.

HICKS: Well actually, a question naturally popping up is that there is a capitalist economic model that says for growth you need a certain percentage of unemployment so that you can create a new enterprise, and always know there's a labor pool out there to hire from. So that's why you have the Federal Reserve to adjusting interest rates to keep growth controlled and keep unemployment at a certain level.

HOROWITZ: No, I think that's ridiculous. I think that there's a reality that we've had over full employment....

HICKS: When?

HOROWITZ: For the last 5 or 6 years, it's been down to under 4%...3%....

HICKS: But why don't we have full employment?

HOROWITZ: First of all, people are fuck-ups. They are lazy. I mean c'mon. You've been in organizations. There are always three people that run an organization. Right?

HICKS: Well...

HOROWITZ: Maybe there's ten.

HICKS: answer that, no. There's all these new models, in the experiences I've had, I have some coworkers here that are in my company that are in more of a direct-action, consensus model. Do you know what the consensus model is?

HOROWITZ: I was doing this in 1957.

HICKS: OK, so you know. Everyone has to agree.

HOROWITZ: You can't run anything that way.

HICKS: Yeah, I tend to be kind of skeptical of it myself.

HOROWITZ: I tried. Anyway look...your normal organizations, the PTA...there are always some people who have the extra energy, the drive, they end up controlling the organization. That's why people like the ISO, the Communist Party, can go into big organizations and take them over. Because not everybody is participating. And they're never gonna. I don't know how we got onto this. We got onto this by talking about unemployment. Trust me. Nobody's plotting. Nobody's in control of the system....

HICKS: I've been reading Paul Krugman lately.

HOROWITZ: He's a big Johnny one-note. He's a leftist who just can't stand tax cuts.

HICKS: Well I don't know if he's really a leftist, he's more of a Keynesian.

HOROWITZ: Well you have to read, again....

HICKS: Hayek?

HOROWITZ: What Hayek did for me, is you need a model that's alternate to the one you have, the whole idea of classes. Hayek, who was a Socialist himself, he...[in the] Constitution of Liberty, the Fatal Conceit, it's a whole different way of looking at the world. One is based on the individual, most things that go on are not ordered, he calls it the spontaneous. order. It's why Socialism doesn't work you can never plan an economy...the decisions that go into anything, the information that goes into supply.

HICKS: About prices, yeah I remember this now

HOROWITZ: Yes, prices, you know how Marxists we always rail against the reification of the economy? That's the beauty of the economy. The beauty is that it's an impersonal set of rules. People are naturally...they're greedy, they don't know when to stop, you know that about yourself and about everybody else. If you can get away with it you will, it's just so human...and the economy is an imposed order that nobody controls, the market, it's just perfect, it's like the dotcomthing, people are throwing money they can look and see I mean fucking Amazon isn't making any money but it's worth, 50 billion or something. And they keep buying it until the bubble bursts.

HICKS: Right.

HOROWITZ: OK. Having the impersonal order is very good. The healthiest thing is the thing Marx attacked: that things are in the saddle and ride mankind. You don't want people in control. It's just what the founders said. You know we all get frustrated because of the...we don't have one man-one vote, we have a Senate that's undemocratic, one Senator can hold up legislation, we've got a Supreme Court they've got lifetime jobs they can fuck with anything, every Leftist wants a parliament, they want the general will to decide-that's the most dangerous thing you can have.

HICKS: Now wait a minute. You're saying the Founders deliberately didn't want the people to rule? Then what was....

HOROWITZ: You've got to read this leftist liberal whatever you want to call him, Richard Hofsteader, wrote a book called the American Political essay on the founders. They were very conservative. But almost anything you read on the Founders will tell you, they were very conservative. Their view was democracy is what Churchill said, the true conservative theme, "democracy is the worst possible system except for all the rest.

HICKS: Yeah I've heard that....

HOROWITZ: A healthy distrust of public passion. Hitler was fucking elected.

HICKS: Now actually wait a minute.

HOROWITZ: ...[or] When Josef Stalin died! Now think of Stalin, every family in Russia had somebody that disappeared at some point, and when he died, a thousand people were trampled to death at his funeral, that's how loved he was. People have their heads up their assholes. I'm sorry, but this is what the Conservative view is. OK, you have a healthy disrespect for the popular will.

HICKS: Then who rules? Is it just an aristocracy? Wasn't this country founded on a breaking with the aristocracy and this radical idea that we did not need to be dominated by a Catholic Church that controlled knowledge?

HOROWITZ: No no no, it's not an aristocracy. It's a brilliant idea, that the people are sovereign, but their sovereignty is mediated through institutions that restrain or delay things that make it harder to make radical changes, so that they have time for their passions to cool and their reason to take over. They have these terms, the passions and the interests, in the 18th Century. ...The point is this. When I look at poverty today, I personally think that the Left has done an unbelievable damage to poor people. I hold Frances Fox Piven responsible for the destruction of the black family. Before this stupid welfare system was put into place, 75% of black kids had two parents, now in the inner city, it's 20%. 80% of kids are born out of wedlock. If you have a child that's brought up by a single parent, female-headed household, it is 6 times more likely to be poor, regardless of race. So, that's why I'm a Republican, when the Republicans said the system isn't working, because that's the way they talk, "it's not working" and they're idiots because that's the way they talk instead of it's a fucking racism that's destroying poor people, instead of talking that way they said, "it's inefficient, it doesn't work,"...they were called Nazis for doing it. That's the political battle in America today, you have the Democratic Party which has set up incredible destructive programs

HICKS: Hold on a second, how can you say the Democratic Party is this leftist party when Bill Clinton did the most extreme welfare reform?

HOROWITZ: Well he didn't. Bill Clinton has confused a lot of people. That's exactly right. He was faced with Dick Morris saying sign this bill or you're going to lose the election. I learned this on the left. There were people like you and me who really believed what they were saying. And there were people who didn't believe it or they considered themselves so elevated that they didn't pay attention to it. I mean we were very anti-elitist, so there should be no leaders. But people like Tom Hayden made themselves leaders even while people were preaching, "no leaders."

HICKS: But actually that wasn't what you were preaching, because you guys were Marxist-Lenists, and Lenin believed in the vanguard party, so....

HOROWITZ: No no I wasn't really into...I never joined any of the Marxist sects for that reason.

HICKS: But hell, you met with the KGB.

HOROWITZ: I did, though I didn't know it.

HICKS: Well hold on a second. If someone could deconstruct that moment, and say, you got an envelope. You knew it was full of cash.

HOROWITZ: Yes sir.

HICKS: You took it home, opened it and

HOROWITZ: I was terrified!

HICKS: and counted it and...

HOROWITZ: I didn't count it and...if it was fifteen THOUSAND dollars I would have been terrified!

HICKS: So your point was....

HOROWITZ: I believed Leninism caused a lot of damage, I believe...analytically. I wrote a book called Empire and Revolution, I thought that the Bolsheviks understood the world. I thought the Marxism they had was the correct interpretation, but in terms of actual political parties, I was not a Leninist. I had a lot of people trying to recruit me into Leninist parties, including the Fourth International. And it's because of the...I had read so deeply in Deutscher and Trotskyist me that was Trotsky's big failing, that he was a Leninist. But um, anyway, that's very sectarian but sure...I felt... Mao's ideas I felt...well it doesn't really matter. There's always people in organizations who are opportunists, who are socio...personally I think he's a sociopath.


HOROWITZ: Clinton.

HICKS: You might be right.

HOROWITZ: And he took advantage of the moment. The point is the Party, the Democratic Party, still is, to this day, they consider a terrible sellout what he did. But it doesn't matter, it really doesn't matter when the Democratic Party speaks, it's always about redistribution, of course from your point of view, from the point of view of someone who is a vanguard leftist, they're a bunch of hypocrites. I understand that. But their model is still that. "If we give poor people money, they'll be better off." In FACT, we gave people money, we made them worse off.

HICKS: I'm definitely going to look at your data, the things you said earlier about single parent families, I want to look into that some more.

HOROWITZ: You need to take time out. You need to familiarize yourself with what real conservative arguments are. The leadership of the anti-affirmative action movement, that leadership all comes from the Left. When you read Thernstrom's book, America Black and White, it will show you that the Thernstroms are very much New Leftists, who, like myself, still believe in what we were saying in 1963, who feel that the movement has betrayed itself. But they are also social scientists, their book is full of the kind of data which gets people like me looking at this from another vantage. Really their book is about affirmative action, and it shows that Blacks were moving up much faster before affirmative action, which is counter-intuitive.

HICKS: What do you think about The Bell Curve?

HOROWITZ: Well, I've never been a big fan of IQ. I am not a social scientist. In my view, one, IQ can not explain a lot of things that people in that field think it can, and #2, I'm not persuaded, I think that IQ does change over time, subject to environmental, cultural factors.

HICKS: What do you think about Bush's IQ?

HOROWITZ: I think that Bush is, I'm not entirely unhappy about this, drastically underestimated by liberals and leftists. Not even in a small part. I think he has a, I think he has some kind of dyslexia or something....the way he talks in public is not the way he talks. I have no idea why. Why his TV presentations are really not up to where he is. I didn't have any...he talks very slowly, and he makes these mistakes all the time. I spent two hours with him, I spent more than that actually, but the two hours I spent I interviewed him also, I spent having a discussion with him with all these issues....This work that you're doing, you won't even begin to understand, the people that you're writing about, Rove and what he comes out of....

HICKS: Well if you really want to know the truth about how I got into this I'll give you a little anecdote. Do you want to hear it?

HOROWITZ: Go ahead.

HICKS: I got into republishing Fortunate Son mainly because of the acrimony, we're an independent publisher, fiercely independent, we define yourselves as a negation to big business, big media, we find them to be sterile and cowardly. This is a great opportunity both politically, in a general American way, and as a business move, it seemed to be a good move all around. Plus, there's a level of risk and adventure, so it worked for about five different reasons. It's been a huge roller coaster. We've been sued....So anyway, It's taken me about a year or so to understand exactly how it was that our author, J.H.Hatfield got this information on Bush's cocaine arrest in 1972.

HOROWITZ: Mmm hmm.

HICKS: And there were these three confidential sources, and a lot of reporters wanted to know the sources when the book was killed in October 1999.


HICKS: In fact, I'd like to refer you to my piece published on our website, the new Publisher's Preface that's at press right now in the new edition. We've revealed these sources now, and one of them is Rove. hatfield was in contact with Rove throughout his research process, during Fortunate Son originally. In August of '99, Salon were the first people to break this news. They got this tip and reported it: Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, and that's why he did volunteer community service at Project P.U.L.L. in Houston. So Hatfield called Rove back up and he called Clay Johnson and got the full story from them. The reason they actually GAVE him the full story, albeit with some flaws that were deliberate so they could later discredit him, was that I think they already knew Hatfield was a felon. They could discredit the entire story, they could manipulate the media. They could use Hatfield, and release Hatfield's record, release it to the Dallas Morning News that Hatfield himself was a felon. They could completely sweep the media, wipe the slate clean, and take the media's focus on Bush and Bush's wild years, and cast the spotlight right back on Hatfield. Destroy the news of Bush's drug history by destroying the messenger. Which is genius, in some ways....

HOROWITZ: Yeah. I thank Karl Rove if he did that, and the country thanks him and the world thanks him.

HICKS: The question is don't the American People deserve to know what the background of their President is?

HOROWITZ: Ha Ha Ha! [pause] NO. He told them. He told them, "25 years," and they accepted that. And that was that.

HICKS: He obfuscated.

HOROWITZ: He said 25 years.

HICKS: Right, he said he could pass a Federal test.

HOROWITZ: I certainly don't think they have a right to know it, and I don't think that it's at all relevant. What's relevant is what the man has done with his life.

HICKS: Well what has he done with his life? As a businessman, he lost $380 million of other people's money.

HOROWITZ: You're making me very nervous about talking to you. I appreciate your candor, but it doesn't make any sense for me to be on this line.

HICKS: What are Bush's accomplishments in your eyes?

HOROWITZ: Well, what did Camille Paglia say of Gore? That he's a weightless schizophrenic? I believe that Gore and Clinton committed treason. Why the fuck should....I mean I think that Bush is saving the country....You're talking to the wrong guy. If you want to pursue this're talking to the wrong guy. I can't talk to you. I mean, I don't want to talk to you. I'm interested in your Leftist, I mean your intellectual issues.

HICKS: Let's back up.

HOROWITZ: You need to read what I've written about China. I mean these guys have sold your future and your children's to the fucking Chinese.

HICKS: You're talking about Gore.

HOROWITZ: I'm talking about Clinton and Gore. They dealt with the agents of the....

HICKS: Unfortunately I'm not writing a book on Gore and Clinton, I'm writing a book on Rove.

HOROWITZ: My view is the election of Bush is saving this country.

HICKS: As a negation of the....Democrats.

HOROWITZ: Exactly.

HICKS: Well it's like Bertrand Russell said, Christianity isn't a real philosophy because it's just a negation.

HOROWITZ: Well I don't believe that at all...I believe that Bush...yeah...with the Democrats in power, poor people are fucked, this country is fucked, and the world is fucked. That's what I think of the Democrats. Bush is a decent human being...probably as good a President as we had since Reagan, I mean certainly.

HICKS: But the question again is...OK I'm going to do a quick clarification and then move on here and wrap up. I don't want you to like, not be able to like, answer to the question of what are Bush's actual accomplishments of his life.

HOROWITZ: I'll tell you something. As a guy who was obviously disordered, obviously an alcoholic, he turned his life around. There's not a lot of people, there are people you can point to, but there are not a lot. If you have ever been through a mid life crisis, or had to deal with that level of disorder, you don't know how hard it is. Try losing an inch off your waistline.

HICKS: Yeeeaaahh, but we're talking, sir, about the President of the United States.

HOROWITZ: Yeah and what he did in Texas is raise the African American kids grade scores to the highest in the country. That to me, alone, is a qualification of being President. The guy really cares. With the Republican Party in Texas he got 30% of the black vote....

HICKS: Sir, those are actually proven to be falsified numbers.

HOROWITZ: 27%! What do you want?

HICKS: Those numbers are actually false. I hate to tell you but....There's been studies at the University of Texas.... I'll email you the data...both the Black and Latino votes were fabricated, they jumped on this data, and then they reported the data mainly because they wanted to bury Gary Mauro [at the polls] and they wanted to show that Bush was ready for the Presidency. They wanted to do a landslide against this already weak Democratic challenger. So that they could show that Bush was ready for the White House.

HOROWITZ: The entire press corps missed this?

HICKS: It happens, yeah. Karl Rove refused to comment to the one reporter....

HOROWITZ: I really don't have time for all this, if you don't like Bush, you don't like Bush.

HICKS: Well you know what it is, I'm just asking the right questions, that's all.

HOROWITZ: I don't think we have much to talk about. I will send you the books. And if you ever want to talk about....

HICKS: No it's been a good conversation David, I appreciate you taking the time.

HOROWITZ: Not for me it hasn't.

HICKS: Oh, come on. The first 45 minutes were great....

HOROWITZ: You just wasted my time.

And now the moment we've all been waiting for Click here for my post-game wrap up.

Compassionate CommunistS & Cussing Conservatives:

How Karl Rove Won Bush the White House with David Horowitz and "Compassionate Conservatism"

Divergent Views on the '60s: Bush Versus His Braintrust

During his days in Austin, Governor Bush would often find respite from the grind of the government by visiting the home of Karl Rove. In Rove he found a compatriot, someone he could talk to in the common language of his West Texas birthplace. Rove hadn't finished college, and Bush found his own anti-intellectual streak reinforced by the man who some call "the thinking man's anti-intellectual" [Minutaglio, Bill. First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. New York: Times Books, 1999 p. 167.]

Rove gave Bush suggestions about conservative books to pick up and authors to study. David Horowitz's writings formed one third of a triumvirate of New Right thinkers Rove used to create a curriculum for the nascent presidential contender. Horowitz's Radical Son is a memoir of his tumultuous and violent transition from a late '60s Marxist radical to a born-again Reagan Revolution neo-conservative. Using Horowitz, Marvin Olasky, and the Manhattan Institute's Myron Magnet, Rove created a way to combat the liberal humanist legacy of the 1960s. The emerging right-wing solution would blame the '60s for all present social ills. Magnet, in his book The Dream and the Nightmare, states that the counterculture was a huge social disaster because it set a bad example for the underclass. The Boomer generation encouraged indulgence and laziness instead of hard work and competition. In a similar book, The Destructive Generation, David Horowitz wrote, "We saw Pandora's Box being opened in the '60s." Fellow ex-Marxist Marvin Olasky wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion, and in the context of his colleagues' analysis of the '60s and the underclass, suggests that normal state social services be severely downsized and replaced by faith-based organizations.

The lessons Bush takes from the 1960s however are neither harsh nor negative. On Newshour with Jim Lehrer on April, 27, 2000, Bush deviated from Magnet's thesis. He instead spoke about his pride in the "responsible" nature of his generation. He claimed the legacy and the political consciousness of the '60s as his own: "I'm a strong candidate because I come from the Baby Boomer generation recognizing that we've got to usher in an era of responsible behavior."
As Mark Crispin Miller points out in his excellent The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, one can chalk this up to Bush's dyslexia. Miller writes "that inversion of the Myron Magnet thesis was the opposite of what Bush had meant to say-and what he did say all the time." [Miller, Mark Crispin, The Bush Dyslexicon. New York: Norton 2001, p. Tk] Perhaps. Even David Horowitz admits Bush, "has some kind of dyslexia or something....the way he talks in public is not the way he talks. I have no idea why. Why his TV presentations are really not up to where he is...he talks very slowly, and he makes these mistakes all the time." [Horowitz, Author Interview. ]

The Dallas Morning News' Bill Minutaglio stated that Horowitz's writings "confirmed Bush's hunch that the '60s were the 'root of all societal ills of the '80s and '90s.'" [Minutaglio, p. 290.] But George W. Bush and Karl Rove have different talents and divergent levels of intellectual ability: Rove is a self-educated historian who reads seven hundred page biographies of Disraeli. Bush on the other hand can't carry around a Dean Acheson book without Maureen Dowd in the New York Times mocking him ruthlessly for failing to effectively pretend that he was actually reading it. A case can be made that Bush doesn't actually share Rove's agreement with the Horowitz/Magnet thesis on the '60s. A close reading of Bush's public statements on the '60s corroborates his conservative attitude, but inconsistencies remain. Bush's memories of the '60s are not as negative as advertised. Perhaps his memory is dominated by fuzzy recollections of his own wild times.Bush doesn't even seem to have a single strong personal opinion or memory of the those politically charged times. When asked about his college-era views on Viet Nam, and what he made of campus discussions on the Yale campus, Bush responded dryly, "I don't remember any kind of heaviness ruining my time at Yale." [Hatfield, J.H. Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President. New York. Soft Skull Press, 1999. p. tk]

Bush's chief asset as a politician is his charisma, his easy-going manner, an informality that borders on likeable goofiness. This common-touch everyday friendliness can be traced back to the values of the Baby Boomer generation: honesty, transparency, directness. George W. Bush does have charisma and talent. In his first term, the Governor became known for a casual, friendly style, spontaneously visiting his fellow lawmakers at their offices in Austin. Of course, Bush's Baby-Boomer informality threatens to overshadow the results of his record in Texas: the political ideology of his party opposes the environmental and social justice concerns that gained mainstream support in the 1960s. Bush understands but probably doesn't fully believe the emerging anti-'60s ideas of his party platform. Perhaps because in the case of David Horowitz, those beliefs are less the products of logic and more the result of his pain and personal disintegration.

The Legacy of Lee Atwater

Clinton's triumph over the Reagan/Bush legacy in '92 taught the Republicans a hard lesson: the American people were disenchanted with the traditional Republican image of the preppie, landed, white man of hereditary wealth. President George H. W. Bush had made the tragic mistake of giving interviews from the back of his golf cart. [Brady, John. Bad Boy: The Life and Politics of Lee Atwater. Reading: Addison Wellesey, 1997. p. Tk.] His re-election chances slid fast after he appeared to fail to recognize a bar code scanner in a supermarket trade show. [Miller, p. Tk] Bush was alienated from the objects and processes of regular life. His speech and thinking were alienated from the issues and cares of normal people. When the media picked up on the price scanner embarrassment, Bush's distance from the people made headlines. Chaos reigned. Clinton, and even Perot, dominated Bush in polls.

In 1988, a dream team of Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and eldest son George W. Bush helped papa Bush swamp Dukakis. They used negative television ads and media spin. Perhaps more importantly, the flamboyant, charismatic, and utterly driven Lee Atwater knew how to translate poll data into a reading of subtle shifts in the thinking of the nation. In a way, Atwater's ghost haunted the 1992 campaign. Atwater (and later Horowitz) understood the importance of the social activism of the Baby Boomer generation. Clinton represented "all those hip, New Politics things Atwater had seen coming." [Minutaglio, ibid ]

Atwater understood that the upheavals of the '60s had created a seismic shift: people demanded more humanity from their leaders. The good old boy model in the Republican Party was dead and ninety percent of the country was not mourning it. In fact, Atwater's unfinished PhD dissertation drafted a thesis having to do with the political use of music, a lesson obviously learned from the antiwar movement that seamlessly blended culture and politics. (Conservative social critic David Brook's recent Bobos in Paradise further elucidates the shifting zeitgeist, in his analysis of the bohemian, anti-establishment buying habits of the "new Ruling Class.")

By 1992, Atwater was dead of brain cancer, Rove was working for Philip Morris, and first son George W. was working as the financial face man for the management of the Texas Rangers. Junior was not asked to work on the campaign until the last minute. Too little, too late, young Bush approached his father and discussed whether Vice President Dan Quayle should de dropped from the ticket. He begged that his dad replace the incompetent campaign manager Bob Tweeter with someone like Sam Skinner, the former White House Chief of Staff. Both suggestions were ignored.

On Election Day, the voters were attentive and expressive, with the biggest turnout since 1972 (55.1% of all eligible voters). Perot walked away with 19% of the popular vote, a decisive wedge that would have been Bush's if he hadn't alienated it. In addition to his image problem, Bush had made several tactical mistakes. He relied on his Gulf War exploits to maintain his popularity, but the heat of the 91% wartime approval rating cooled by November. Bush alienated moderates and female GOP members by allowing Buchanan to spew forth hate speech at the Republican National Convention in Houston. [Morrow, p. tk] Meanwhile, the stagnant economy wore on. The American people lost confidence in the Republicans and along came Clinton, who represented the hope, drive and optimism of a new generation.

Republicans Mount A Counter-Attack on Bill "Slick Willie" Clinton

After eight years of Bill Clinton, the Republicans were eager for blood. Many called for a change in tactics.
Clinton was a chimera. In 1992, he came from out of nowhere and won a race most Democrats chose to sit out assuming the incumbent was unbeatable. [Morrow, Lance. "William J. Clinton: The Torch is Passed." TIME Magazine January 4, 1993, pp. Tk]

The Republicans never could quite figure out how he beat Bush. Bush's high public approval during the Gulf War sank in a stagnant economy, and the glories of war were uncertain, with Sadaam still in power. The Bush White House was vulnerable to James Carville, the chief strategist in Clinton's camp. In contrast to Clinton's "vision-thing," the Bush camp was rudderless. The Republicans were beaten by a fresh face from the Boomer generation partly because the fresh face had superior political intelligence.

To David Horowitz, and other leading American conservatives, Clinton is variably seen as a crimeboss, a bumbling bureaucrat, and, more often, the traditional target of the Right: a liberal who gives minorities unfair advantages.

"To me the Democratic Party is a left-wing party" Horowitz said in a phone interview. (Perhaps this confusing assertion points out how ambivalent the word "left-wing" has become.) How does Horowitz explain Clinton's policy on welfare reform? Horowitz said, "Bill Clinton has confused a lot of people. He was faced with Dick Morris saying 'Sign this bill or you're going to lose the election.'...I learned this on the Left: there were people...who really believed what they were saying. And there were people who didn't believe it or they considered themselves so elevated that they didn't pay attention to it." To Horowitz, Clinton is a blind "sociopath" guided only by ambition, not values. Utterly amoral, wouldn't that make Clinton's politics not "left-wing" but rather ruthless and Machiavellian?

Conservatives agree, without actually saying, that Clinton and Carville understood modern power. They thrived on the intrigue; they were good at controlling information, covering up mistakes, manipulating public opinion and handling the press.

The Republicans needed strong tactics to respond to Clinton. This Centrist had robbed them of their agenda. In his campaign year motivational manual, The Art of Political War, David Horowitz lamented, "the Clinton Democrat Party is now the party of economic vibrancy, anti-crime laws, welfare reform laws, budget surpluses and free trade. That's what the American people want." Rove used the central ideas of The Art of Political War in his full frontal assault on the Clinton/Gore fortress. Horowitz claimed that the Left (i.e. Carville's Clinton) had a monopoly on strategy, aggression, and tactics, and that the Republican Party would not reclaim the White House until they crushed their opponent with the mercilessness of total war. Karl Rove praised Political War as the "perfect pocket guide to winning on the political battlefield."

Borrowing liberally from The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and stereotypes from pop culture, The Art of Political War calls on Republicans to create a politics that appeals to the masses: the working families, minorities, gays, unions, etc. Horowitz demanded the Republicans abandon the traditional G.O.P. image: stiff, moralistic, intolerant. It's all about image to Horowitz, the G.O.P. politics and ideas are perfect as is.

"Republicans lose a lot of political battles because they come off as hard-edged, scolding, scowling, and sanctimonious. A good rule of thumb is to be just the opposite. You must convince people you care about them before they will care about what you have to say. When you speak, don't forget that a soundbite is all you have...keep it short-a slogan is always better. Repeat it often. Put it on television....In politics, television is reality."

By embracing the art of the soundbite and the rules of modern televised politics, Horowitz unwittingly exposes one of the themes of his politics: contempt for democracy. He does not want to have an informed electorate. He understands that television has truncated the information voters get, and this is fine with him.

Horowitz calls on Republicans to emulate his former hero Lenin, and "not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth." Horowitz's politics have remained the same from left to right: politics is war by other means. In the American arena, the battlefield is television and soundbites. You've got to instantly summarize, and sloganeer. You must be as ruthless as a young communist.

In a rare, astute observation, Horowitz points out that the American tradition is to root for the underdog. This is, after all, a country descended from immigrants, slaves, religious outcasts, native peoples, and any variation of dreamers. The idea of the frontier has left its restless impression on us. Recent surveys report only ten percent of the country identifies themselves as "Hard Republicans." The right-wing agenda isn't palatable to the majority. Horowitz realized it needs to be wrapped in a different package. Horowitz used what he knew-he drew on the messianic, liberating vision of Socialism and grafted it onto the party of big business, the military, and supply-side economics. A case could be made that the traumatic experiences of his life have actually produced a kind of intellectual disintegration and a deep need for revenge, not a consistent political ethos. A close look at his writings and interviews suggests David Horowitz hasn't weathered the turbulent century with all his faculties intact.

Superhuman strategist Karl Rove was called upon to do the impossible: defeat the Clinton/Gore legacy with Bush, an inexperienced, unaccomplished candidate who had little more to him than a name. Rove found Horowitz's writing at the right time. Rove recommended Horowitz's books to Bush, hoping he would read them despite the fact that leading Republicans readily admit Bush is "dyslexic." Rove wanted Bush to somehow understand that Horowitz could be part of the cornerstone of the agenda that could capture the White House. But without a visionary leader at the helm directing policy, Rove's plan seems less like the creation of an agenda, and more the creation of a shiny new marketing campaign.
In The Art of Political War, David Horowitz coined the term "Compassionate Conservatism," a new brand identity for the essential messages of the Right. Karl Rove became the salesman, Bush the warm, smiling mascot. The Republican Party has followed Rove's lead: Political War is today used nation-wide by the Republican Party Chairs in thirty-two states.

After a life of frustration and threats on the Left, David Horowitz has found the recognition he has always sought. However, he had to flip ideologies to get there, and endure immense psychological suffering. His mental faculties paid a heavy price.

Inside the Mind of David Horowitz

The biography of Lee Atwater starts with a childhood trauma at age six. In a bizarre modern kitchen accident, Atwater witnessed his three-year-old brother scorched to death in their kitchen by a falling deep fat fryer of boiling oil. The Atwaters repressed their suffering and never spoke about the experience. From that point on, Atwater developed an intense drive that made group acceptance and dominance his #1 priority, at the expense of relationships with his wife and friends.

Similarly, David Horowitz traces his own political transformation from personal trauma. Horowitz felt intense guilt after his friend Betty Van Patter disappeared from a job with the Black Panthers he had helped her get in Berkeley in 1974. Horowitz felt strongly that the Panthers were responsible for Van Patter's disappearance, and although no court ever named a culprit, some sources support his assertion. Simultaneous with his personal crisis and uncertainty, the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge and NVA exposed the corruption of the liberation struggles that Horowitz had supported in the antiwar movement. As his personal experience with the Black Panthers made him question his Leftist politics, his politics themselves seemed to fail the grueling test of time. He realized that the Socialist Revolution, the riskiest experiment in human history, had imploded into cults of personality, hubris, and totalitarianism. The promise of the revolution and the dream of an ordered, planned economy were ruined. His personal life fell apart. He left his wife and three children following an affair with Abby Rockefeller, the main source of his dynastic biography of the Rockefeller family.

"Without question, David Horowitz was extremely traumatized by what happened with Betty Van Patter, as I think anyone would be....As a result, David just totally went berserk with regard to the left-liberal community," said Huey Newton biographer Hugh Pearson, to the Nation on July 3, 2000, [Sherman, p. Tk.]

Horowitz did not become politically active again until he voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984. His memoir Radical Son takes a partisan turn and becomes intellectually suspect when Horowitz leaves the margins of dissent and enters modern party politics. Fearing that the Sandinistas would become a new Khmer Rouge, Horowitz voted for the Gipper. He wished to support the Contras, and even journeyed to Managua on behalf of the State Department to help this "band of peasant guerrillas whose land had been expropriated by the Sandinista regime." [Horowitz, Radical Son, p. 351]

In an interview, Gary Webb, (author of the suppressed Contra/CIA/cocaine expos? Dark Alliance) found Horowitz's description of the Contras highly suspect: "Some of the Contras fit that description-the cannon fodder-but the men who ran the organization and made the decisions were Somoza's old cronies from the National Guard, and the CIA. To describe them as peasant warriors is pure bullshit."

Similarly, Horowitz's description of the Black Panthers seems clouded by personal bias and his eventual political disenchantment. While attempting to put the Panthers into the context of history, he makes scant mention of COINTELPRO, the FBI's counter-intelligence program that sped their decline. Other civil libertarians from all ends of the political spectrum have railed against government infiltration and subversion of private political activities. Horowitz's neglect shows that he is regularly subjective in his selections from the historical record. He is willing to do anything to advance his point of view.

"David Horowitz is a conscious liar of the slimiest sort," states professor Ward Churchill. (Churchill is author of Agents of Repression the leading study of the relationship between the FBI, the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement) "In his book Hating Whitey, Horowitz has an essay lamenting the release of former LA Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) after 27 years imprisonment for a murder he in all likelihood did not commit....Pratt's conviction was overturned because it was finally demonstrated beyond all doubt that the key 'witness' against him, an FBI infiltrator named Julius C. Butler, had perjured himself repeatedly during the trial (another hallmark of COINTELPRO). Instead, Horowitz focuses upon trying to create the impression that Pratt was a sexual pervert who, it is implied, should have been kept behind bars regardless of his innocence of the charge on which he was actually convicted. He repeats a rumor-he attributes it to Huey Newton-that Pratt could not achieve an erection unless engaged in violence. I challenged David on this fable in a public forum at the University of Colorado during the fall of 2000. Leaving aside the question of whether the late Huey Newton was ever actually as close to Horowitz as Horowitz now maintains-and might therefore have been inclined to share such confidences with (rather dubious, when you think about it)-the fact is that Newton himself met Pratt exactly once. Hence, Huey himself was in no position to know what Horowitz claims he knew about Pratt."

"Horowitz slithered out of that one rather neatly, saying he agreed with me that this was a matter of concern, which is why he'd corroborated the story via a second source, to wit, testimony entered to the same effect by a witness in a trial. When I followed up by asking which trial, he finally began to look a bit trapped, blurting out, 'The Ollie Taylor torture case,' and quickly taking another question."

"There was never a trial concerning the Ollie Taylor torture allegations. The only trial record in which the matter appears is Geronimo Pratt's murder trial. There, it was discussed by precisely one 'witness': the perjurer, Julius C. Butler. Horowitz obviously knew this. Equally obviously, he was deliberately deceiving his audience into believing he had solid evidence where he had worse than none at all. It was a performance worthy of a Holocaust denier like David Irving-or the Feds who framed Pratt in the first place."

In an interview, Horowitz was the opposite of the conservative stereotype: the meticulous, pious, intransigent, and somber gray-haired thinker. Horowitz is still an extremist, and his personal tragedy with the Panthers seems to have simply inverted his political standing, not his style. Conversation with him is peppered with sarcasm, four-letter words, and lively jumps from idea to idea. "People are fuck-ups. They are lazy," shouted Horowitz into the phone. "With the Democrats in power, poor people are fucked, this country is fucked, and the world is fucked. That's what I think of the Democrats."

His Radical Son is full of ironies. As recently as this memoir's writing in the mid-'90s, Horowitz fondly recalls his use of marijuana in the late '60s while working at Ramparts, "I had tried marijuana with some of the office staff. The drug seemed fairly harmless, and the experience was seductive-but I remained skittish and did not pursue it." This is strangely accepting considering Horowitz's contribution to an Bush administration that practices "Zero Tolerance."

The Supreme Court's decision (Bush vs. Gore case no. 00-949) was what ultimately placed Bush in the White House, not a popular majority vote, or a recount of disputed swing state ballots. The dissenting Supreme Court opinion argued against granting a stay to the Florida Supreme Court's decision to halt the manual recount. Citing National Socialist Party of America v. Skokie, 434 U. S. 1327, 1328 (1977) the dissenting opinion stated "there is a danger that a stay may cause irreparable harm to the respondents-and, more importantly, the public at large-because of the risk that 'the entry of the stay would be tantamount to a decision on the merits in favor of the applicants.'" The majority opinion written by Bush family friend Antonin Scalia stated that a manual recount would risk "casting a cloud upon" what Bush "claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Allowing a manual recount would cloud "the public acceptance democratic stability requires."

Scalia should be reassured that this is not a strong concern for Bush's people in the first place. By David Horowitz's definition, the conservative agenda doesn't think too highly of democracy in the first place. "The healthiest thing is the thing Marx attacked: that things are in the saddle and ride mankind. You don't want people in control. It's just what the Founders said. You know we all get frustrated because...we don't have one man-one vote, we have a Senate that's undemocratic, one Senator can hold up legislation, we've got a Supreme Court they've got lifetime jobs they can fuck with anything, every Leftist wants a parliament, they want the general will to decide-that's the most dangerous thing you can have."

Asked for further clarification, he explained the need for, "a healthy distrust of public passion. Hitler was fucking elected."
Again, this shows that Horowitz's world since 1974 is painfully upside down. Hitler was not elected, he was handed the Chancellorship by von Papen, who asked Hitler to be chancellor of a coalition cabinet amid German political chaos in 1933. Horowitz will fabricate pseudo-historical facts to advance his argument.

But Horowitz had already jumped onto a new topic, "When Josef Stalin died! Now think of Stalin, every family in Russia had somebody that disappeared at some point, and when he died, a thousand people were trampled to death at his funeral, that's how loved he was. People have their heads up their assholes. I'm sorry, but this is what the Conservative view is. OK, you have a healthy disrespect for the popular w [snip - maximum size exceeded]

-- Esperanza
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