Who I Am

A rejoinder to the Tablet caricature.

Last week an article appeared in the Jewish magazine Tablet, in which I am portrayed as politically “homeless” and depressed, while the David Horowitz Freedom Center is described as long past its “heyday.” The article further alleges that I have come to a point in my life where I feel my efforts as a conservative have been “a waste.” All of these are false allegations made by a writer who is a political leftist, tone deaf and hostile to conservative ideas. As it happens, within the past year I published a book called, A Point in Time, which is a summary of my views on life and the battles I have waged and which is also the strongest possible affirmation of the philosophy that underlies my conservative worldview. Far from being abandoned by other conservatives, moreover, I have received the strongest possible endorsement from the reviewers of this book.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center is supported by 100,000 individual donors, which is more than three times the number of its supporters ten years ago. Conservatives who have spoken at events the Center has hosted include four of the contenders for this year’s Republican presidential nomination (Santorum, Gingrich, Bachmann and Cain) former president George Bush, his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, his Attorney General John Ashcroft, Senator Marco Rubio, and his colleagues, John McCain, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions and others, Speaker John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and Victor Davis Hanson. A recent pamphlet I wrote called Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution has sold half a million copies and has been distributed to another two million. Contrary to the Tablet’s description of the Center as a declining institution it has doubled its revenues in the last ten years and its influence in the conservative movement through its websites Frontpagemag.com and DiscovertheNetworks.org is greater than ever.

I obviously made a serious mistake in judgment, in agreeing to be interviewed by someone who misrepresented what I told him and ignored the evidence that contradicted his distortions. For being so unguarded, I owe an apology to my friends and supporters, several of whom expressed their dismay to me after reading the article. It is partly their concern that has prompted me to set the record straight. But, in a perverse way, I am also appreciative of the opportunity provided by the author of this tedious and hostile piece of writing because he has caused me to look at how embedded in the conservative movement I and my colleagues at the David Horowitz Freedom Center are, and how deeply we are indebted to it as well.

When I received the Tablet request for an interview, I was inclined to say yes because it came from a magazine with which I had a history, and which did occasionally published first-rate conservative writers such as Bret Stephens and Lee Smith. They even published a defense of Nonie Darwish that I submitted when she was attacked by one of their writers. I was also disarmed by the author himself who sent me an email about his intentions:

I am a leftist, though not a dogmatic one, and I usually don't write directly about politics. For The Nation, I write mostly for the Books and Arts section, which isn't nearly as ideologically-driven as the magazine's editorial page…. So, we may not find much common ground politically, but that may make for a more stimulating piece. I'm less interested in debating Islamo-fascism than exploring your work's position at the intersection of autobiography, politics, history, manners, and polemic. I think I can do so fairly.

In the past, my work has been attacked by leftists who will take a phrase from a fund-raising letter, or a heated polemic and omit its context or distort its meaning to discredit my work. The prospect of a leftist writer distinguishing the intellectual from the polemical in my work looked to me like an opportunity to break through the censorship that leftists had imposed on it.

I could not have been more mistaken. When the article “David Horowitz Is Homeless” appeared, it was apparent that none of its author’s assurances -- interested in the intersection of styles of thought, not interested in scoring political points, will do it fairly -- were sincere. Here is an illustrative example: “If what was once labeled extremism is now mainstream GOP boilerplate,” the author wrote, “then Horowitz deserves at least some of the credit.”

Not only was this a political attack, it was wildly inaccurate in both of its claims. The Republican Party today finds itself defending policies that were once the province of liberal Democrats like John F. Kennedy, specifically capital gains tax cuts, balanced budgets, strong defense budgets, color-blind racial standards and aggressive anti-totalitarian foreign policies. Only an extremist of the left could so mis-label a party that just nominated a former Massachusetts governor as its presidential candidate.

But the author isn’t done. He also wants to pin Republican “extremism” on me – the man whom conservatives have allegedly abandoned:

In a widely distributed 2000 pamphlet called The Art of Political War, praised by Karl Rove and endorsed by 35 state Republican party chairmen, Horowitz wrote: “In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy’s fighting ability. Republicans often seem to regard political combats as they would a debate with the Oxford Political Union, as though winning depended on rational arguments and carefully articulated principles. But the audience of politics is not made up of Oxford dons, and the rules are entirely different. … Politics is war. Don’t forget it.” If you can remember a time when conservative discourse sounded like an Oxford lecture hall, then you have a sense of how far Horowitz has helped to steer this ship off course.

The missing context in this presentation is that the little pamphlet I wrote twelve years ago argued that it is Democrats – not Republicans -- who have transformed the political arena into a combat zone. The pamphlet then urged Republicans to stop behaving as though it wasn’t.

The kernel of truth in the description is that I did remark to the author that Republicans haven’t really heeded my advice. It is true that 35 state party chairman endorsed the pamphlet, but none of them acted on its recommendations. Republicans have come a long way since then – thanks in the main to the emergence of the Tea Party. But they still have a long way to go.

So yes, I am not happy with the state of the Republican Party on this score, but what conservative is? In the interview, I also said that the Republican presidential debates made me ill, but what conservative was happy with the way our candidates tore into each other with ugly personal attacks, or insisted on arguing about contraceptives and theology, while America’s Nero fiddled and the country burned?

Here is the way the Tablet article describes my alleged decline and fall on the right: “In his turn-of-the-21st-century heyday, shortly after publishing Hating Whitey, an assault on affirmative action and race-based quotas—or ‘the anti-white racism of the left’—that preceded his campaign against reparations for slavery, Horowitz appeared on op-ed pages, talk radio, and television nearly every day. (He even wrote a bi-weekly column [5]for the liberal Salon.com.) But in 2012, his books are not just ignored by the New York Times, but by the Weekly Standard and National Review.”

The facts are decidedly different: Even in my “heyday,” I was never on television or talk radio nearly every day and, except for my Salon adventure, I never appeared regularly in any op-ed pages. Salon dropped me when it decided to charge their readers for access. Its editors told me that Salon’s leftwing audience wouldn’t pay for a publication that had a column by me in it. My book Hating Whitey cost me my New York publisher whose editor told me that the Free Press(!) would never publish a book with the title I asked for: “Hating White People Is A Politically Correct Idea.” It is true that the New York Times stopped reviewing my books when I became a conservative. But the Tablet’s claim that today my books are ignored by The Weekly Standard and National Review is just false. My last two books, published in 2011, received laudatory reviews in both magazines.

The half-truth behind the Tablet author’s larger fabrication is that I did tell him that a book I wrote with Ben Johnson, Party of Defeat: How Democrats and Radicals Undermined America’s War on Terror Before and After 9/11, was not reviewed by the conservative press. This was especially troubling to me because its subject was so important and because 18 sitting Republican senators and congressmen, including the ranking members of the armed services, intelligence, and foreign affairs committees recommended the book in a blurb on its cover. But in my view this was because conservatives are generally shy of holding Democrats’ feet to the fire when it comes to issues of patriotism, although their disgraceful, not to say seditious, behavior during the Iraq War certainly would merit such scrutiny.

The other issue falsely raised in the article “David Horowitz Is Homeless,” is the author’s insinuation that I look on the conservative half of my life as a “waste.” This insidious suggestion goes to the heart of the author’s failure to perform on his promise to “[explore] your work’s position at the intersection of autobiography, politics, history, manners, and polemic.” And to do so fairly.

The cause of this failure is that the author is out of his depth, as illustrated by this comment: “One need not subscribe to the lurid pamphlets sold by his Freedom Center to get the sense that Horowitz has sacrificed his intellectual capital to devote himself more fully to the movement.” The pamphlets the Center has published by me and others are indeed polemical, but they are only “lurid” to someone so far to the left that he cannot handle their intellectual content. Barack Obama’s Rules For Revolution, for example, draws on a lifetime of intellectual study of the left. Yes it is a pamphlet and also a polemic. But that is only the beginning, not the end of the story. While Marx’s famous pamphlet, to take one obvious example, is an insidious and fallacious work, it would never occur to the Tablet author -- or to anyone -- to suggest that Marx sacrificed his intellectual capital to write The Communist Manifesto just because it is polemical.

There is another kind of intellectual work that I do, which has of late become a preferred vocation of mine, and which is the source of the author’s final and most egregious misrepresentation. In a series of small volumes of which A Point in Time is one, I have attempted to summarize what I have learned about life in my seventy-three years on this earth. I have had to pursue this aspect of my work in between my political tasks – administering the Horowitz Freedom Center, traveling to public speaking engagements, and writing pamphlets and books. I have done so much of this political writing – several million words in all – that I think of these tasks now as part of my “have to do” folder. I perform them to carry on the political work I began long ago, and to which I remain firmly committed. It is the failure to appreciate the disparate nature of the two activities that led the writer to insinuate that I now regard my conservative political work as a waste. Here is the way the caricature “David Horowitz Is Homeless” concludes:

“I came out of the left through a lot of pain and a sense of enormous waste,” Horowitz said. “I was an emotional powder keg. I had gotten to age 35—and I’m a very hard worker, and had written a lot—everything that I had done was a waste.”

This is the part of the story when the apostate sees the light. Horowitz isn’t sure he still does.

“Now that I’m older, I see that it’s all a waste. I gotta live with that.”

In fact, I am sure I still do. That is, I am still sure I see the same light I did when I turned my back on the political left and its malevolent agendas thirty years ago. The waste I experienced as an advocate for a bad cause was a bitter one. I had invested my life’s work in an approach to the world that was false and in a movement that was responsible for great evil. But the philosophical conclusions I have reached in my later years are quite different. I am proud of what I have done for the conservative cause – for individual liberty and economic freedom, and for the defense of our country, which embodies the two.

My late life conclusions are not those of an “apostate” and they are not about politics. They are about life itself. They are a recognition that in the end, we are all going to disappear along with everything we have lived through. The entire world we know will vanish. That is the existential truth that is our burden, and there are two principal ways we deal with it, which is the theme of A Point In Time whose subtitle is, “The Search for Redemption in this Life and the Next.”

Since, for most of us, a life that is empty of meaning is finally unlivable, we all seek a redemption that will make our lives meaningful. And there are two ways that we do this: One way is to put our fate in the hands of a Creator, who will reveal the sense of it all when we have passed through to another side. The other is to invest our lives in a movement to redeem the world we live in through political (or religious) action by seeking to make it a just and holy place. It is this search for an earthly redemption that is what leftism and progressivism are about, and that is the source of the greatest evils of our time. That it is what I have learned in my life, and what my radical detractors are unable to comprehend.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.