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Wednesday, October 15, 2003 2:14:03 PM

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Good Reading. Might even qualify for the NOLIB IBOX.

Today's 'Liberals': Close-Minded, Nasty and Fringe

Bernard Goldberg

Thursday, Oct. 16, 2003

Back in March of this year, way before Rush Limbaugh and ESPN, Esquire ran an interview with a liberal journalist – an interview that, outside the Internet, made only a few ripples.
In the exchange with Esquire, Eric Alterman, who writes a column for the Nation, a far-left political magazine, charmingly told the interviewer, “I hate to say it, but I wish the guy [Rush Limbaugh] would have gone deaf.” Call me crazy, but when Alterman says, “I hate to say it,” I have the funny feeling that he really means “I love to say it.”

Anyway, it’s not just Rush Limbaugh that he’d like to see go away. It’s also all those hopelessly ordinary, not-too-smart Middle Americans who find Rush so interesting that Alterman has no use for, either. America, Alterman tells Esquire, “would be better without Rush Limbaugh and his 20 million listeners.”

The interview gives no clue as to whether Alterman wishes the 20 million Americans would also go deaf – or just drop off the face of the Earth. But we do learn that in Eric Alterman’s America there’s no place for Ann Coulter, either. “I debase myself every time I say her name,” he told Esquire.

At about the same time, he was telling the Los Angeles Times, “I don’t have to my house for dinner anyone who’s not pro-choice, pro-gun control … pro-campaign finance reform.”

If Eric Alterman (who later apologized for the shot at Limbaugh) were the only liberal who forgot how to be liberal, this would merely be amusing. But he’s not. He is part of a new kind of liberal: smart, well educated, articulate … but mostly angry – the kind that is doing far more harm to liberalism in America than Rush Limbaugh could ever do.

Once liberals were like John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey. They were upbeat and enthusiastic – and mainstream. These days they’re more like Eric Alterman and Michael Moore and Al Franken. They’re closed-minded and nasty - and fringe.

Speaking of Mr. Franken, he’s got a new book out called "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." As I understand it, I am one of the liars, along with the president of the United States, the vice president, Bill O’Reilly, the aforementioned Ms. Coulter and tons more. Joe Conason, a left-wing journalist in New York, also has a new book out, and his too is about a bunch of liars (again, of which I am one). But this one isn’t just about your run-of-the mill little lies; it’s about Big Lies.

Liberals are mad as hell these days, and they’re not going to take it anymore. A lot of them detest President Bush, whom they believe stole the election that put him in the White House. They despise Attorney General John Ashcroft, whom many are convinced is a bigger menace to America than Osama bin Laden.

They hate the fact that even though their ideological brothers and sisters control the editorial page of just about every big-city newspaper in the country, some Americans actually like to watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Janeane Garofalo, another angry voice of the new liberalism, has shed some darkness on the subject with these observations: “The Republican Party, their message and their politics of exclusion … appeals to the dumb and the mean. There is no shortage of dumb and mean people in this culture. ... The dumb and the mean find a nice home in the GOP.”

Just in case that’s not clear enough, she went on to say, “What you have now [are] people that are closet racists, misogynists, homophobes … identifying [themselves] as conservative.”

Ms. Garofalo is a tough act to follow, but I’ll give it a try: Here’s a word of caution for the Left: You’re driving a stake right through the heart of liberalism. You’re betraying everything liberals supposedly stand for.

Conservatives, basically, are about smaller government and lower taxes and individual responsibility. Liberals, on the other hand, are supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas, without the name-calling. Liberals are supposed to be the good ones, the smart ones, the sophisticated ones and mostly the better ones. I know this, of course, because my liberal friends keeping telling me how good and smart and sophisticated and better they are.

Too often we talk right past each other in our culture, and no one has clean hands on this one – not liberals or conservatives. Incivility is a two-way street. Still it seems to me that liberals – the very people who take such pride in seeing themselves as compassionate and open-minded – have, in a sad kind of way, become precisely what they have long accused conservatives of being: mean-spirited and closed-minded.

Which brings us back to Rush Limbaugh, who got into trouble with the P.C. police for suggesting the media were cheerleading for a quarterback because he’s black. Right or wrong, does that make him a member of the Klan? Well, yes it does, as far as some liberals are concerned. A cartoon in the Dayton (Ohio) News and reprinted in Newsweek shows a man in KKK regalia at the ESPN desk, the anchorman next to him saying, “That was Rush Limbaugh with his color commentary.” There were others just like it. Liberals should be embarrassed at this kind of vile, but the best I can figure, they’re not.

The fact is that liberals, more than anything else, need to remember how to be liberal - and not let the angry fringe hijack a philosophy that once, a long time ago, was something to be proud of.


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