[Marxism] George Soros versus George W. Bush

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 30 07:20:55 MDT 2006

 From the Los Angeles Times
A wealth of criticism
Philanthropist Soros writes that the Bush camp reminds him of the Nazi regime.
By Anne-Marie O'Connor
Times Staff Writer

July 29, 2006

GEORGE SOROS, the Hungarian Holocaust survivor whose fortune is matched 
only by his philanthropy, pioneered a kind of self-styled approach to 
global reform that made him, in the words of the Carnegie Endowment's 
Morton Abramowitz, "the only private citizen who had his own foreign policy."

With no sluggish bureaucracy to answer to, he rose to prominence with 
stunningly practical bequests delivered in a timely manner. There was his 
$50-million donation to the besieged citizens of Sarajevo in 1993 that 
financed a water plant so that women did not need to rely on the public 
wells where Serbian snipers picked them off with ease. There was his 
pro-democracy support in the Soviet Bloc, for Poland's Solidarity movement 
and for Czech dissident Vaclav Havel, who would become that country's 
post-Communist president.

Soros has given away about $5 billion since he embarked on this 
citizen-policymaker approach in the 1970s, a sum that approaches the 
$7.2-billion estimate of his net wealth by Forbes in 2004. That put him in 
the league of a Rockefeller or a Carnegie and has made him a perennial 
Nobel nominee.

Today, Soros, 75, has company. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has 
put that couple at the forefront of global health issues — they just 
contributed $287 million for the development of an AIDS vaccine with the 
help of a recent $31-billion bequest from Warren Buffett. And in 1997, Ted 
Turner made a $1-billion pledge to the United Nations to help bail it out.

But Soros still distinguishes himself with the staggering multiplicity of 
his projects: He spent $125 million on after-school programs in New York 
City. He has helped distribute Xerox machines to facilitate the exchange of 
information in former Soviet satellites and supported efforts to curb 
violence against women.

Now, Soros has raised eyebrows with his most recent sally into American 
political culture by drawing comparisons in his new book between the Bush 
administration and communist and Nazi governments.

In "The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror," Soros 
recalls that when he "heard President Bush say, 'Either you are with us or 
you are with the terrorists,' " in the wake of 9/11, "I was reminded of 
Nazi propaganda.

"Indeed, the Bush Administration has been able to improve on the techniques 
used by the Nazi and the Communist propaganda machines by drawing on the 
innovations of the advertising and marketing industries."

On a recent day, Soros was not quite backing down.

"You don't have a Karl Marx, you only have a Karl Rove who has been 
successful in creating a coalition of fundamentalists," he began, sitting 
in a conference room high above Manhattan, framed by a view of New York's 
Central Park, in a striped blue cotton shirt and khakis, his manner affable 
and relaxed.

However, he added, "we are an established democracy.... The policies and 
tactics employed by the Bush administration do not pose a threat to open 
society." Heavy-handed government in America today, he said, manifests 
itself in the undue extension of executive powers and the dismissal of 
critics as unpatriotic. That, in his view, "is the most significant 
similarity with the Nazi and communist regimes."

But he acknowledged that — even at a time when the government has engaged 
in secret wiretapping, hustled prisoners off to secret jails around the 
world and is holding terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely 
without trial — more than a few people might consider such comparisons a 

"It's very dicey, because people consider it somewhat shocking," Soros 
said. "It's really questionable whether I'm doing the right thing in being 
outspoken.... It may be that I pushed it too far."

It's not that Soros can't take the heat. Chris Blackhurst wrote in the 
Evening Standard of London this year that Soros is "reviled by the right as 
a 'left-wing radical' (it really is a term of abuse over there)." Rep. Tom 
Davis (R-Va.) called Soros "pro-marijuana" because of Soros' advocacy of 
decriminalizing the drug (Soros also favors clean needle programs). A 
Republican spokesman, Jim Dyke, called him the "Daddy Warbucks" of the 
Democratic Party when he spent $27.5 million to try to beat Bush in 2004. 
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert once falsely speculated to Fox TV that 
Soros might get his money from "drug groups." Fox's Bill O'Reilly 
reportedly ranted, nonsensically, that Soros "wants abortion even out of 
the womb." Vicious anti-Semitic smears blink out from the Internet.

At the moment, Soros said, "I'm not all that comfortable" serving as a 
lightning rod. "I accept it. I'm in a position where I can take it. But I 
don't enjoy it. I have too many enemies. And that becomes 
counterproductive.... Taking on too many causes, I create a kind of echo 
chamber, and it works against me."

Soros views the attacks on him partly as an inevitable consequence of the 
issues he has tackled — a dizzying array that makes a perusal of his 
website, , seem like a trip around the world.

He thinks some of his projects have been misunderstood. His drug policy 
initiatives, he said, began as an attempt to eliminate the kind of racial 
disparities in drug sentencing that put more black Americans in jail for 
crack cocaine than white Americans who use the powdered form. But those 
efforts — which included $1 million for the 1996 ballot initiatives in 
Arizona and California that won voter approval for medical marijuana use — 
"made me seem like some kind of extremist," he said. "And that's the 
opposite of who I am."

His new book is likely to egg on his critics, as America heads toward the 
fall midterm elections that the Democrats hope will provide something of a 
referendum on Bush's second term.

The Nazi-Bush comparison is not new.

In 2004, MoveOn.org, a group Soros supported, ran a video that began with a 
Hitler speech that segued into a picture of Bush. Another video used 
imagery of Bush and the Nazis, with the message: "What were war crimes in 
1945 is foreign policy in 2003."

In a National Review Online column in March 2005, Victor Davis Hanson wrote 
that a Google search of Hitler + Bush yielded 1,350,000 matches. (Bush + 
Nazi now yields 17.1 million hits.)

Hanson wrote that Soros and other proponents of "this crazy analogy" share 
"the same thing that unites Fidel Castro, the European street, the 
Iranians, and North Koreans: an evocation of some aspects of Adolf Hitler's 
Nazi Germany to deprecate President Bush in connection with the wars in 
Iraq and Afghanistan."

Soros himself drew the comparison back in 2003, in an interview in the 
Washington Post. In a 2004 New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer, he is quoted as 
saying that some of the statements of then U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft 
"reminded me of Germany, under the Nazis. It was the kind of talk that 
Goebbels used to use to line the Germans up.... It was the same kind of 
propaganda about how 'We are endangered' and 'We have to be united.' "

Soros said his concern over Bush's executive-heavy government stems from 
firsthand experience under Nazism and communism in Hungary. Born Gyorgy 
Schwartz in Budapest in 1930, he was the son of an Esperanto enthusiast who 
changed the family name as anti-Semitism spread, according to his 
biography, "Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire," by 
Michael T. Kaufman. When Nazi Germany took over Hungary in 1944, Soros was 
13. He survived by posing as a non-Jewish Hungarian, avoiding the fate of 
440,000 other Hungarian Jews murdered in the Holocaust. He escaped the 
Soviet occupation in 1946 by attending an Esperanto youth conference and 
immigrating to Britain. After graduating from the London School of 
Economics, he worked as a waiter, porter and salesman for years before 
getting a job as a London investment banker.

That led to the financial world in the United States and eventually his 
establishment in the late 1960s of what became the Quantum Endowment Fund, 
one of the first private hedge funds that made money by betting on the rise 
and fall of currency values. Under his stewardship, the fund has earned 
billions of dollars.

Today he chairs Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute, which 
has spent more than $400 million annually in recent years on such things as 
support for pro-democratic groups during the 2003 "Rose Revolution" in 
Georgia that peacefully ended the presidency of Eduard Shevardnadze.

On the personal front, he recently divorced for the second time, from 
decorative arts expert Susan Weber, with whom he had two of his five children.

Not all of Soros' critics come from the right.

Soros was once tagged the man who "broke the Bank of England" when he bet 
against the pound in 1992, and he has been accused of undermining other 
economies with his trades — though he says he has simply ridden the rise 
and fall of currency valuations. He has been criticized for lavish recent 
political contributions after spending $18 million on campaign finance 
reform in the 1990s.

A few weeks ago, in a British review of Soros' book, the Independent's Boyd 
Tonkin took a swipe at what he views as a sense of entitlement among the 
rising über-philanthropists — and not just Soros.

"Now, the super-class of the seriously loaded expect more than just the 
lion's share of assets and honour. They insist on monopolising virtue and 
wisdom as well," he wrote. "Bill Gates offloads the multi-billions earned 
from Microsoft to Third World causes, while wizard investor Warren Buffett 
swiftly plays catch-up with his giant giveaways. Along with the cash comes 
the credibility, as ruthless players in software or stock markets make 
themselves over into experts on human welfare."

Soros notes that he has also been the target of criticism from the Jewish 
community, which he attributes partly to his support for projects that 
benefit Palestinians.

"One of the negative consequences of taking on too many causes is I've 
taken on too many enemies," he said. "They kind of feed off each other. 
Perhaps I should have been more judicious in the causes I take on. But I 
keep taking on new causes. So I can't say I would do it differently."

"Emotionally, it kind of eggs me on," he said. "And that's why I keep doing it."

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