Politics & Policy

Comeuppance For Jesse

It's about time.

If I point out that you have toilet paper on your shoe, does it matter that I am a Fabian Socialist? If Che Guevara is the only guy in the room to have the gumption to tell you about the thing hanging from your nose, does that mean it’s not there? Or, if the weirdo who tells you that your fly is open also believes that he was gang-probed on a space ship, does that mean your fly isn’t actually unzipped? Of course not (even though we all know that we have reached the limits of what rectal probing can teach us).

#ad#So the fact that a bunch of conservative groups are pointing out some glaring irregularities on Jesse Jackson’s tax returns doesn’t mean the irregularities don’t exist.

And yet, Jesse’s playing the same old game the Left has been playing for a century: Dispute facts by attacking motives. Yesterday, Jackson railed several times against his accusers, saying that “political groups ideologically opposed to what we do are against us just as they were against the Voting Rights Act and a free South Africa.”

All of this is a bit tendentious considering, for example, that many of the people “against” Jesse Jackson weren’t politically active or even alive when the Voting Rights Act passed.

But so what?

First of all, it shouldn’t be surprising that a guy who regularly calls conservatives Nazis, racists, and Fascists — and whose economic and political views would be uncontroversial at the University of Havana faculty club — might not be all that popular in right-wing circles. Second, even if all of his critics were Nazis, racists, and Fascists — which of course they’re not — that doesn’t mean Jackson did nothing wrong.

But the most salient point is that this is the media’s fault. It is precisely because the press has treated Jackson as if he were an apostle that the American Conservative Union and other groups felt the need to step into the breach and commit journalism on their own.

I’m not a huge fan of the burgeoning conservative-lawsuit industry, but what other options were available? It’s not that people in the mainstream media didn’t suspect or know that Jackson runs a shady outfit, it’s just that they didn’t think there was anything wrong with it as long as he kept telling inner-city kids they were somebodies.

Incredibly, Jackson gets quoted respectfully when he says Holocaust victims were targeted in Florida, and he’s given a forum whenever he wants to hype a mythical lynching. But it wasn’t until this alleged “right-wing conspiracy” came along that he had to answer questions about how his sons managed to buy the biggest Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Chicago — only after dad had picketed the operation (see today’s Chicago Tribune.)

It wasn’t until these right-wing conspirators made a fuss that Jackson was forced to explain why his subsidized mistress was missing from his tax returns.

In fact, the whole idea of a “conspiracy” is nuts. Conspiracies are by definition secretive and sinister. Here, the secretive part is hard to understand since these groups have used public courts and press conferences to level their charges. That’s a bit of stretch from a smoke-filled Star Chamber. Calling this a conspiracy is like saying David Letterman has been secretly telling Bill Clinton jokes behind the ex-president’s back.

As for the sinister part, well that’s a bit more subjective. But, remember: Jackson has more elasticity in his definition of “sinister” than I have in my pants’ waistband. In 1999, when NY Governor George Pataki, the dean of squishy East Coast Republicans, proposed an increase in school spending of “only” $154 million, Jackson testified before the State Senate that “Pataki is trying what Wallace tried, what Faubus tried, what Wilson tried…”.

“We see Pataki in that tradition,” Jackson declared. “And, whether you’re blocking school doors in Alabama and Arkansas or simply locking kids out of closed school doors in New York is not the wave of the American future,” he said.

While this is actually a slander against segregationists, if such a thing is possible, the point is that, in Jackson’s eyes, if you are white and disagree with Jackson even fractionally, you are a racist (See “Springtime For Slanderers“).

So the fact that he sees the current effort to get to the bottom of his finances as sinister is not the least bit shocking.

The fact that Jackson places himself alongside the movement to free South Africa and to pass the Voting Rights Act is simply an example of the shakedown artist’s colossal ego. But none of this equals a conspiracy and none of it exempts Jackson from explaining himself or the media from asking him to.

Announcements

I had planned on doing a corrections column today, but I decided to put it off because of the recent unpleasantness with the libertarians (I’m even sick of typing the word). But, after Wednesday’s “Gaiam Somebody!” piece, I promised a bunch of readers that I’d explain my assertion that organic food is bad for endangered animals. So, I decided to write my syndicated column on exactly that topic. If you must know you can read that here. Also, for those who missed it, my final response to Harry Browne and those whose names rhyme with shmibertarians can be found here.

Also, if there are any die-hard NRO fans left out there after this last week, you might want to check out the latest National Review Online “Flying Monkey” merchandise at our ever-expanding store.

And, hey, if you’re interested, I will be on Fox News tonight around 5:30 EST. No promises about whether I will keep the nudity tasteful.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

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