David Horowitz: What David Corn Thinks of Him

Historians in the News

David Corn, at his blog at the Nation (2-14-05):

I try not to spend too much time--that is, any--thinking about David Horowitz, the 60s radical turned Reagnite rightwinger. I used to find him amusing, even though wrongheaded. We emailed on occasion, and I (almost) enjoyed debating him on television. But in January 2003, we were booked together on C-SPAN for an hour. For much of that time, he ranted and railed, accusing anyone opposed to the invasion of Iraq as a self-hating and treasonous American. (General Anthony Zinni? Brent Scowcroft? Who knew?) At one point, he became enraged over the fact that The Nation magazine had dared to use French words on the cover of one issue. After ignoring his madness for much of the time, I finally told him that if he was going to continuing using the time to exorcise (or exercise) his psychological demons, I would have to charge him $110 an hour. Following the show, several C-SPANers greeted me and apologized for having submitted me to Horowitz. Since then, I have kept my distance from Horowitz. Who could tell when his head might explode?

But the other night--while doing the dishes--I was listening to C-SPAN radio.
(Yes, go ahead and laugh.) And after the network aired a tape of Ward Churchill's recent defiant speech at University of Colorado, it cued up what it billed as "another speech about academic freedom." This was a tape of Horowitz addressing a sparsely attended meeting of College Republicans in July 2003. In a talk purportedly on ideological diversity on campuses, Horowitz referred to Howard Zinn, a progressive historian, as a "lunatic." And he opened by blasting the Democratic Party:

Today we do not have a two party system we can trust. The Democratic Party--the party of opposition--has showed itself to be a party of appeasement in the months that led up to this war [in Iraq]."

He went on:

Ever since our victory in Iraq, not a day has gone by when the Democratic Party has not been on the attack, sabotaging the commander-in-chief as he tries to secure a peace.

Horowitz noted that this "sniping attack" on the commander-in-chief

is unprecedented in the history of democracies....That in the middle of a war the opposition party would not join forces with the party in power and form a unity coalition in defense of the homeland

Now let's remember that Horowitz's number-one gripe is that academia is ridden with professors who push a political agenda not noble, truth-above-all scholarship. These evil academicians, in Horowitz's view, poison the young minds of America by peddling propaganda not facts.

With that in mind, let's review Horowitz's rendering of history. First, before the war in Iraq, a majority of Senate Democrats voted to grant George W.
Bush the authorization to invade Iraq. About four out of 10 House Democrats did the same. Can the entire Democratic Party thus be dubbed the "party of appeasement"?

As for Horowitz's claim that it is "unprecedented" for an opposition party not to join with a president during a war, that, too, is bunk. During the Nixon presidency, many Democrats opposed the Vietnam War. (The war had been started by one Democrat, John Kennedy, and expanded by another, Lyndon Johnson; at this time it belonged to Richard Nixon.) But there is a better example: the Republicans and FDR in 1944. During the presidential election that year, Republicans and their presidential nominee showed no reluctance to snipe at and undermine Commander-in-Chief Franklin Roosevelt. As I've previously noted,

[In 1944], when this country was engaged in World War II, a battle for freedom and security, when American troops were sacrificing their lives for the folks back home, the Republicans had no problem running a candidate against the commander-in-chief, Franklin Roosevelt, nor did the GOP nominee, Thomas Dewey, shrink from criticizing FDR.

He accused FDR of being responsible for the death of American soldiers because Roosevelt had not adequately prepared the country for the war, and he maintained that if FDR were reelected, America would be at risk of a communist takeover. (That sounds overheated now, but it's how Republicans used to campaign against Democrats.) Moreover, Dewey assailed Democrats who argued the debate over the communist threat should be suppressed because it undermined the war effort. (The United States and the Soviet Union were allies at the time.) Dewey claimed the war should not prevent discussion of vital matters.

By questioning the United States-Soviet alliance and FDR's commitment to freedom and liberty while war was raging and the final outcome uncertain, did Dewey and the Republican Party undermine FDR's management of the war? Republicans at the time were spreading gossip that FDR had sent a Navy destroyer to fetch Fala, his Scottish terrier, after the dog supposedly was left behind during a trip to Alaska. Was this attempt to weaken the national standing of a wartime president an action that could have hindered the war? In any event, FDR beat Dewey, 54 to 46 percent. The Republican Party did not believe Dewey had engaged in improper activity, for he went on to win his party's presidential nomination in 1948.

Yes, Dewey claimed--in a manner that today's Horowitz would probably applaud--that communists under Roosevelt communists were "seizing control of the New Deal...to control the Government of the United States."

So partisan opposition to a commander-in-chief during wartime is not "unprecedented." Give Horowitz an F. Moreover, with the Iraq war, there was a question as to whether it was essential for the protection of the United States. The Republicans, though, ripped into Roosevelt when he was overseeing a war that was much less controversial. After all, the Japanese--one of FDR's main targets at the time--had attacked the United States.

What a surprise. Horowitz committed the same sin that he claims to despise.
He distorted an academic matter--American history!--to score a political point and to prevent an honest and truth-based debate over a rather important issue.
Does this mean that he, too, is a "lunatic"?

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