John Leo
Everywhere you turn these days, someone on the left is denouncing President Bush as Hitler, Satan, a terrorist or a tyrannical emperor. A Yale law professor said Bush is "the most dangerous man on Earth." A famous editor referred to Bush as "a lawn jockey" and "Pinocchio."

Some of the angry rhetoric flirts with the fringe idea that the United States planned the terrorist attacks. A Purdue professor said "there is no ground to be certain" that America and Israel aren't behind the 9/11 attacks. A Columbia law professor compared 9/11 to the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany -- Bush is not responsible for 9/11, he said, but he exploited a national disaster to suspend civil liberties, just like Hitler. A Berkeley professor helpfully pointed out that some Indonesian groups think the U.S. planned the Bali bombing.

The rhetoric accurately reflects the current condition of much of the left -- bitter, stymied, alienated, politically impotent, full of loathing for America and the West, and totally unable to address the crisis wrought by 9/11, except to imply (or say) that the U.S. deserved to be attacked.

The left has lost its bearings, Michael Walzer, the political philosopher, wrote in the spring issue of Dissent, the leftist magazine he edits. His article, "Can There Be a Decent Left?" deplored "the barely concealed glee" of the left's reaction to 9/11, and the lack of "any visible concern" about how to prevent terrorism in the future.

"Many left intellectuals live in America like internal aliens," he wrote, "refusing to identify with their fellow citizens, regarding any hint of patriotic feeling as politically incorrect. That's why they had such difficulty responding emotionally to the attacks of Sept. 11 or joining in the expressions of solidarity that followed."

The favorite posture of many American leftists, Walzer said, is "standing as a righteous minority, brave and determined, amid the timid, the corrupt and the wicked. A posture like that ensures at once the moral superiority of the left and its political failure." He said the left needs to discard its "ragtag Marxism" and its belief that America is corrupt beyond remedy.

Solidarity with people in trouble is the most profound commitment that leftists make, he wrote, but even the oppressed have obligations, and one is to avoid murdering innocent people. "Leftists who cannot insist on this point, even to people poorer and weaker than themselves, have abandoned both politics and morality for something else."

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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