The L-Word

by Jay Nordlinger

As regular readers know, I have a hobbyhorse (one of a stableful of such horses I ride): The most illiberal people around, we call liberals. In today’s Impromptus, I mention Fidel Castro’s grief for Hugo Chávez. And I say that

Castro’s sentiments are basically indistinguishable from those of Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, and other American “liberals.” Sometimes, our “liberals” protest when you say that they are not really liberal: They are part of the international Left. But their words and their actions contradict their protests.

I am reminded of something: that Pierre Trudeau asked Castro and Carter to be pallbearers at his funeral. Why the affinity of democrats for anti-democrats and tyrants? You get the feeling that, if some of our leaders in the democracies got the chance to exercise tyrannical control, they would.

“Liberal” is a funny word. In some parts of the world, Reaganites and Thatcherites are called liberals. Here in the U.S.A., we’re called conservatives, right-wingers, and worse. (If you haven’t been called a fascist, you really aren’t an American conservative, or classical liberal.) In Australia, the Reaganites and Thatcherites are in the Liberal party. In Canada, they are in the Conservative party. The Liberal party up north is something else. This is the party that Trudeau led for all those years, of course.

The other week, I came across a speech that Canada’s current prime minister, Stephen Harper, a Conservative, gave in 2006. He was introducing his Australian counterpart, John Howard, to the Canadian parliament. He cited Howard’s record of achievement — then quipped, “Not bad for someone who identifies himself as a Liberal.”

I can just see Howard’s grin — one of the great grins in public life.

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