‘DRAGON SLAYER’ NO SAINT GEORGE?
Palo Alto, Calif.
While I respect Mark Hertsgaard and revere The Nation, I certainly take exception to the fulsome praise heaped on Pete McCloskey in “A Dragon Slayer Returns” [March 27]. There are perfectly good Democrats running against Richard Pombo, including a true progressive, Jerry McNerney, running on a platform of renewable energy (he’s a nationally recognized expert), universal healthcare and a phased withdrawal from Iraq. McCloskey also has some baggage from his past, such as his support of the CIA coup against Salvador Allende.
Melrose Park, Pa.
Pete McCloskey was one of the featured speakers at the May 2000 convention of the Institute for Historical Review, the most prominent Holocaust-denial organization in the United States. McCloskey said in his address, “I don’t know if you are right or wrong about the Holocaust” and spoke of the “courage” of Holocaust deniers in Europe.
McCloskey’s challenge in no way detracts from any Democrat’s campaign against Richard Pombo. McCloskey meets Pombo in the Republican primary. If he beats Pombo, voters can decide in November between him and Jerry McNerney or whoever wins the Democratic primary. If McCloskey loses the primary, he will still have made Pombo’s re-election less likely by forcing him to spend money and answer criticisms he doubtless would rather avoid.
McCloskey did speak at the 2000 IHR convention, but he appears not to have said what Rafael Medoff and others allege, apparently basing their charge on an IHR newsletter report. But when I viewed a videotape of McCloskey’s speech, I found no such wording. He told the delegates, “I may not agree with you about everything I’ve heard today,” before he reiterated a core point of his speech–that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. “I may not agree with you” is very different from “I don’t know if you’re right or wrong.” McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.
The IHR’s misquotation of McCloskey may well have been the honest mistake of a volunteer note taker who heard what he wanted to hear and didn’t go back and check the tape. McCloskey told me he certainly didn’t question the existence of the Holocaust or that 6 million Jews were killed. He did and does criticize some of the actions of the state of Israel, but that is not the same–and it’s sad this point must still be made in 2006–as being anti-Semitic. Pombo’s spokesman, when informed of McCloskey’s actual remarks, replied that even appearing at the IHR showed “not very good judgment” on McCloskey’s part.
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A PIECE OF PRINCETON PIE
New York City
“Princeton Tilts Right,” Max Blumenthal’s March 13 article on Robby George, reads like the work of a man possessed. The thought of a lone conservative teaching at Princeton is enough to scare the daylights out of Blumenthal, especially given the alleged “funding from a shadowy, cultlike Catholic group” contributing to George’s effort. As it turns out, the Catholic conspiracy amounts to some small foundations that supposedly get money from Opus Dei and that, in turn, give money to the Madison Program, which houses George. Holy smokes. Sounds like the work of an armed albino monk. Lighten up, Max. We Catholics just want a piece of the pie.
President, Catholic League
Great universities thrive on the contest between deeply opposed positions, so I welcome the presence of conservatives like Robert George on the Princeton campus. For Princeton’s undergraduates, a debate between someone like myself and George on whether human life is sacrosanct would be a stimulating educational experience. What a pity it is, therefore, that it has never happened. On several occasions over the past six years, student organizations have tried to set up a debate between George and me. I have always accepted. George has always refused. Which of course makes me wonder: If George thinks it is so important to challenge the liberal hegemony at universities, why won’t he do it in the time-honored arena of a public exchange of ideas before the university community?
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Max Blumenthal’s article on Robert George quotes me accurately, but it may not be clear that I responded to a hypothetical he posed. I was not commenting on the book review of George written by Christopher Wolfe, with which I am unfamiliar. In my personal experiences with both George and Wolfe, they have always acted with integrity.
ROGERS M. SMITH
As a visiting fellow and professor at Princeton, brought here under the auspices of the James Madison Program, I assume I am one of the “academic neophytes and unknowns” to whom Max Blumenthal refers. I thank Mr. Blumenthal for having outed me as a member of the neophyte and unknown community. For the first time in my life I can recognize and accept who I am. I once was blind, but now I see that my regular appointment is indeed at an unknown liberal arts institution (Saint Vincent College), located in an unknown part of flyover country (western Pennsylvania), where I hold an endowed chair in an area (American and Western political thought) that is indeed unknown to the elites at The Nation, who, I tremble to contemplate, might actually turn their eyes from the summit to read this missive from a man of such low and mean estate as myself.
There are many people better qualified than I to comment on the plethora of bold and splendidly entertaining assertions and insinuations contained in Blumenthal’s piece. But I think it is fair to say, of all the articles ever written on the James Madison Program, Blumenthal’s is without peer in the degree of its precision and fair-mindedness. I dare make but one small correction. The visiting fellows’ “academic credentials” are not “left to [Professor] George to determine.” Fellows are selected by a committee of Princeton faculty members who, strangely unenlightened, still believe there is room for intellectual diversity at this institution.
BRADLEY C. S. WATSON
Max Blumenthal’s odious hit piece on Robert George contains an error that borders on libel. Blumenthal quotes a single sentence from George’s contribution to a symposium on the killing of abortionists that makes it sound as if George supported such killings. But George’s full comments were clearly satirical and were meant to condemn both abortion and the killing of abortionists. Blumenthal is either too vulgar a reader to identify very obvious satire (unlikely) or (more probably) has publicly defamed Robert George.
Max Blumenthal does great injustice to our colleague James Kurth, a mentor of Robby George. Kurth has been a prolific and vocal critic of the war in Iraq, of neoconservative foreign policy and of the Bush Administration. It is also extremely unfair for Blumenthal to cast Kurth as an anti-Semite. Those of us who know him and have worked with him know how far this is from the truth. Here at Swarthmore, Kurth has made concerted efforts to hire women, minorities and faculty with perspectives with which he disagrees.
Re your March 13 cover for “Princeton Tilts Right”: The tower is actually tilting left, which augurs well for that venerable institution.
Robert George’s “satirical” tone while speaking at the “Killing Abortionists” symposium does not explain the context and undercurrent of his remarks. George not only rejected the chance to condemn unequivocally the assassination of abortion providers like Dr. David Gunn and Dr. Barnett Slepian; he also made light of political murder. Indeed, the conference at which George spoke was convened in the wake of Gunn’s killing by antiabortion terrorist Paul Hill, later executed for his crime.
Readers can judge George’s words for themselves: “I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity–not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice.”
LOST IN (OUR OWN) TRANSLATION
The introduction to the April 10 “Letters” flagged “an ambiguity of translation” in “A Letter to the American Left” by Bernard-Henri Lévy. The ambiguity was created in the editorial process and not by Lévy’s translator.