I recently received a chain email with the subject line “George Soros — This Is an Evil Man.”
Once printed, the electronic epistle goes on for no less than nine pages, detailing the claim that the billionaire investor is one of the most sinister men on the planet who “controls President Obama’s every move” as well as the moves of the entire Democratic Party, not to mention the U.S. stock market and perhaps the global economy.
“He’s anti-God, anti-family, anti-American and anti-good,” the anonymous writer claims, rattling off a litany of claims against Soros, some true, some false, some bizarre.
I seriously doubt, for instance, that President Obama takes orders from Soros. Sometimes I wonder if the president listens to anyone these days.
For many conservatives, Soros is viewed as a major political opponent. But in dealing with such an opponent it’s necessary to fully grasp who this opponent is and what he is really about.
After observing Soros for some years now, I have concluded he’s neither evil nor completely liberal. He is, in my mind, a liberal partisan whose own political views don’t fit neatly into any box.
Rightfully, he has raised the ire of conservatives here in the U.S., not so much for his ideas but for his die-hard support of Democratic candidates and liberal causes.
Soros emerged as a star in the political firmament during the 2004 election when he spent an estimated $24 million in an effort to defeat President George W. Bush, saying removing him from office was the “central focus of my life” and a “matter of life and death.”
Soros was also an early supporter of Barack Obama, though he held back significant financial support for Obama’s presidential bid in 2008. In the 2010 congressional elections, Soros, wisely, largely sat out the race, saying the Republican “avalanche” couldn’t be stopped.
Newsmax was early in identifying Soros as a political force, featuring him on the cover of our May 2004 magazine with the headline “George Soros’ Coup.” Our cover story detailed Soros’ influence in Eastern Europe, supporting emerging democracies after the fall of the Iron Curtain through his Open Society Foundations.
On the whole our feature gave a negative view of his activities there. But my own views about Soros’ involvement were tempered after our magazine was published and I visited Eastern Europe in 2006.
In May 2006 I attended the “Vilnius Conference 2006: Common Vision for Common Neighborhood,” held in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a guest of the Lithuanian government. Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the conference, and the meetings were attended by many heads of state from such Eastern European countries as Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, and Latvia.
These nations have been quite fearful of Russian involvement in their nations. Then-President Vladimir Putin was using Russia’s energy resources to demand adherence to his country’s wishes. Putin acted as if the Warsaw bloc and Moscow’s dominance had not ended.
During my interactions with many of those struggling for freedom, both government leaders and pro-democracy activists, I was surprised to learn firsthand how little the U.S. government was doing to support pro-American, pro-Western movements and parties in these nations.
Instead, Soros and his Open Society were constantly mentioned by those I spoke with as the main driver for supporting democracy movements. It is no secret that Soros has backed any number of “good guys” in the region, including Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, who has been a target of Russian imperialism — in August 2008, Russia briefly invaded Georgia.
My own perception of Soros’ positive role in the region has been shared by others. Melik Kaylan, a conservative contributor to The Wall Street Journal, noted Soros’ significant role as the region disintegrated after the fall of the Soviet Union: “Throughout the 1990s, as one Eastern Bloc economy after another crumbled, the intelligentsia, the educated and idealistic, professors, doctors, physicists, writers, journalists, lost all sources of income.
“State and street mafias took over entire economies. Dissidents who had gained so much prestige for standing up to the Communist monolith, when the monolith collapsed, suddenly lost their function. Very soon, in the chaos, nostalgia for the old order — any order — began to set in among the populace.
“George Soros' foundations stepped in across Eastern Europe to fund pro-Western intellectuals and former dissidents who had ushered in the chaotic changes with their ideas. Soros' foundations accorded them a measure of affluence and respect, allowed them to continue cheerleading for the West. It made all the difference.
"As I said, some countries lapsed back, but others stayed the course. This didn't go unnoticed in Moscow, where George Soros was considered an out-and-out spy. In Russia his Open Society Foundations eventually met stiff opposition from the Putin state. Many got forcibly closed down. As the Russian economy picked up, the state simply set up its own rival foundations and hired many of the same intellectuals to become cheerleaders for the Kremlin.”
Why, if Soros has been promoting pro-American good guys in former satellite nations, is he viewed as an anti-American bad guy at home?
It’s a good question and I am not sure I have the answer.
A thoughtful review of Soros’ politics does not suggest he ascribes to either socialism or Marxism.
A refugee from communist Hungary, who also lived through his nation’s Nazi occupation, Soros opposes authoritarianism and played a crucial role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.
As a student at the London School of Economics, Soros came under the spell of professor Karl Popper, a brilliant philosopher and economist who had fled Austria shortly before it fell under the control of Nazi Germany in 1938. Popper was part of the Austrian School of Economics, which voiced strong opposition to the fascism (national socialism) that became the popular rage through Europe in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Popper’s school also brought forth such free market luminaries as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, economists widely praised by conservatives. Popper did not believe in the total efficacy of absolute free markets and called for an “open society.” Popper defined it as a liberal democracy in which individuals are free to make personal decisions, as opposed to a “magical or tribal or collectivist society.”
Soros apparently shares these views, and believes that individual decision-makers often make emotional or biased decisions in their market transactions, distorting real value. Such distortions create investment opportunities for clever investors like Soros.
Though I too attended the LSE, I never studied under professor Popper. Still, he has remained an iconic figure at the school and was embraced more by conservatives than liberals. One of Britain’s eminent conservatives, Lord Rees-Mogg, a longtime contributor and the former chairman of Newsmax Media, has long been a fan of much of Popper’s thoughts.
Soros has been Popper’s greatest disciple and evangelist, but at times he seems far afield of Popper’s thinking.
Reading some of Soros’ writings and speeches, it is clear he too believes in free markets and sensible, reasonable government regulations. He has argued that much of the current economic crisis could have been avoided had the housing market never overheated, if U.S. banking regulatory agencies had simply acted to cool the bubble early on, as they might have in past decades. I have argued the same thing.
For sure, his social views are left of center — he favors abortion rights, gay marriage, and legalized marijuana, among other things. But these views are not by their nature socialist. Many libertarians share them.
Scratching the surface I find that much of Soros’ angst with the American right stems from President Bush’s Iraq war. Soros called it “a quagmire that is in some ways reminiscent of Vietnam” and the “reckless pursuit of American supremacy.”
In 2005 Soros made a surprise visit to Grover Norquist’s famous Wednesday meeting in Washington, the most important conservative gathering in the nation’s capital. According to those who attended, Soros expressed views on many issues he shared with conservatives, but on the war he said he believed it would harm America’s moral standing in the world.
For some reason, most conservatives don’t feel that they have much to agree with Soros. Last October, Soros donated $1 million to the liberal group Media Matters, saying the money is designed to “hold Fox News accountable for the false and misleading information they so often broadcast.”
Despite the fact Soros has billions — an estimated fortune of $14.5 billion — he cannot determine elections at will, as 2004 and 2008 proved.
I have found that when billionaires like Soros attempt to influence matters, they often create an “equal and opposite“ reaction from others in the political system.
We saw that effect in 2010 when wealthy Republicans contributed hundreds of millions to help the GOP take back the House.
So, Mr. Soros isn’t the secret wizard who controls world governments. He is, in fact, a billionaire partisan who wants to shape the world in his own image. Fortunately, as Popper might postulate, in an open society a man like Soros may become a player, but never a determinant.
Christopher Ruddy is CEO and editor of Newsmax Media Inc.
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