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The ethical decline of liberal
Posted By Larry Klayman On 11/09/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
When I was six, my grandmother Yetta, a Polish immigrant dress
saleslady on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street, would sometimes take her
grandchildren downtown for a movie and dinner. Over hamburger, baked
beans and mashed potatoes at the Horn & Hardart automat, she explained
to my four-year-old sister and me how much it meant to escape
persecution, come to America, earn an honest day’s living and raise an
only daughter and grandkids.
She had lost her husband, my grandfather Louis (for whom I am named
under Jewish custom) at 40 and was on her own, living as a guest in my
mother and father’s house. She never spent lavishly, and saved almost
every penny she ever earned, fearing that she would not have enough to
remain self-sufficient when she got older. When Yetta grew old she was
abandoned by my mother, who at my stepfather’s urging also
misappropriated the life savings my grandmother had entrusted to her to
invest for a rainy day. My wife and I cared for her to her dying day on August 24, 1997.
My other grandparents, Isadore and Freda, came from the Ukraine, and
escaped the Bolsheviks, although they thought they were from Russia and
had fled the Czar. I guess word hadn’t traveled that far south yet that
the Communists had taken over, and that the Ukraine was now experiencing
a brand of tyranny that would make the Romanovs seem benevolent by
Returning from winter trips to Florida during my early years in the
1950s, they would bring my sister and me toy alligators and snakes, and
sometimes take us to the horse races.
My grandfather, Izzy, had three nervous breakdowns during World War
II, when he remained behind to tend to his meat business and take care
of the family when my father was sent overseas. My grandfather was then
a butcher, and he never enriched himself by circumventing the meat
quotas and selling on the black market, like many of his friends did –
friends who became nouveau riche. He told me that during his third
collapse — when doctors had predicted he’d be dead by morning — God
spoke to him and said, “Izzy, I want you to live so you can build a
large pork packing plant.” And so he lived, and taught me that God is in
your heart, and that all people are one to Him.
Izzy believed in hard work, honesty, and the sanctity of all
religions, and he taught me those values. “Larry,” he used to say, “you
don’t have to be Jewish to believe in God, and you don’t have to go to
Synagogue to pray.” He chose pork packing over becoming a rabbi — a
seemingly ironic choice for a man of his faith, yet my grandfather lived
his life as a devout Jew. He taught me that Jesus Christ was a Jew, and
should be respected. Indeed, he accepted Christ as the son of God,
since “God had the power to make him his son.” In fact, not knowing his
birth date on his arrival at Ellis Island, he told the INS clerk he
would choose Dec. 25 — Christmas Day.
My grandmother Freda, fiercely loyal to her family, controlled his
few excesses — such as betting on the horses and at cards — often
provoking very vocal, but loving, spats with her quick and biting sense
of humor. She secretly removed money each evening from his wallet to
save for her family. She was with him to the end. She resented him for
not living longer.
My daughter is named Isabelle Natalie; Isabelle for “Isadore,” and
Natalie for “Nanny,” the nickname of my beloved grandmothers. She is
being raised as a Catholic, the religious denomination of my wife
Stephanie. We go to church together. Izzy would have approved. My
parents were the products of a generation with different values,
remembering and teaching to us kids what their parents had taught them,
but not practicing the same ethics in their own lives. Unfortunately, a
bitter seven-year divorce proceeding left the family in shambles. My
sister and I were largely left to fend for ourselves. It is no wonder
that my much younger brother developed a more flexible approach to life,
a probable result of what he had seen during my parents’ battles.
In my late teens and early 20s, I increasingly gravitated to my
grandparents, perhaps because of my parents’ problems. I loved their
simplicity, honesty, inward confidence, humility and universal
spirituality. They are my heroes, and this is how I thought of the
Jewish culture long before I learned, belatedly, of its historical roots
– ironically while taking courses on religion at Duke, my alma mater.
Like many Jews, I had rebelled and learned nothing when I was forced
to attend Hebrew school from age 8 to 13 in preparation for the Bar
Mitzvah, the rite of passage for males. I arrived at university
thinking I was the same as everyone else, until at a fraternity rush I
was told that I was welcome only up the road at Zeta Beta Tau, the
“Jewish House.” I refused to join a fraternity after that, not wanting
to be typecast by an ethnic label. But in the process, I figured that I
better figure things out.
At a Methodist school, and after taking Old Testament Bible courses
(attended by Buddy Hackett who spent part of his winters trimming down
on Duke Hospital’s famous rice diet), I learned that Judaism is a way of
life guided by adherence to a short, yet all-encompassing and universal
code of ethics — the Ten Commandments. Oneness with God can only be
attained through living by these teachings. I then understood that this
was what my grandparents had taught me, without saying so directly.
After graduating from Duke, I went on to work for a United States
senator during Watergate, and then became a trial lawyer.
Today, after 22 years in the trenches of the legal profession, where
lying and deceit are virtues to far too many practitioners, judges and
government officials, I am now head of Judicial
Watch, a public interest group which I
founded five years ago in an effort to turn my frustration with the
legal system into something positive. My goal was to use the legal
system against itself to try to return ethics, law and morality to
society as a whole. Judicial Watch is a testament to my grandparents
and what they taught me.
Sadly, the modern-day liberal Jewish intelligentsia seems to have
abandoned those values. Many of its members have put ideology so far
ahead of ethics and morals that they have become blind to the corruption
around them. The leftist politics that they share with the Clinton
administration have been exalted over and above all else, creating a
devastating moral vacuum. This lost sense of right and wrong and the
unquestioning defense of Clinton — even in light of the most obvious
and damning evidence — represents a total surrender of ethical
responsibility. In fact, it’s the moral equivalent of ethical and
I see in this segment of the media elite the cynicism of my parents
rather than the values of my grandparents. Their response to Judicial
Watch in general, and me in particular, has been predictable — and
Judicial Watch has scored successes, such as uncovering John Huang,
sparking the Chinagate scandal and uncovering the truth behind Filegate
– generating a great deal of media coverage.
Throughout all of this, I have been the subject of many newspaper and
magazine articles. People were obviously curious about someone who rose
to prominence not because of a political appointment by the Washington
establishment, like Judge Kenneth Starr, but instead had unabashed
“chutzpah” to appoint himself a private prosecutor against government
corruption, and then ask the American people for support.
In reviewing these profiles, I have noticed a troubling trend. In
article by many in the liberal Jewish intelligentsia — such as Anthony
Lewis and Frank Rich of the New York Times, Daniel Klaidman of Newsweek,
Stephen Glass formerly of the New Republic (he was dismissed for
fabricating facts and stories, one of them about me), David Segal, Paul
Blustein and Al Kamen of The Washington Post, Harvey Berkman of The
National Law Journal, Jeffrey Rosen of the New Yorker, David Corn of The
Nation and Salon, Jacob Weisberg of Slate, Jonathan Broder and Murray
Waas of Salon (which even attacked Catholics who have been critical of
Clinton), David Goldstein of Knight-Ridder, and Bruce T. Rubenstein of
Corporate Legal Times — I have been mocked and ridiculed for my efforts
and my conservative beliefs. (Some liberal or libertarian Jewish
writers and television hosts, like Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair,
Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice, Alan Colmes of FOX News, and Charles
Grodin of MSNBC, have praised me and my work, but this is rare.)
Nary a non-Jewish journalist has written such invective, and most
laud the success of my group.
As a Jew with close ties to social as well as economic conservatives
– and as a Jew who believes in Christ — I guess they perceive me as a
threat to the liberal Jewish creed, a kosher Uncle Tom. I now know how
Alan Keyes, Ward Connerly, J.C. Watts, Armstrong Williams and Justice
Clarence Thomas must feel in fighting the reverse racism which they have
been subjected to by other African Americans because of their
conservative and religious principles.
But in viciously attacking Judicial Watch and me, these liberal
Jewish journalists have forgotten the roots of their religious past.
Judaism and its progeny, Christianity, are based on a strict adherence
to living according to certain basic principles — the Ten
Commandments. In personally attacking a fellow Hebrew whom they
perceive as a political heretic, these liberal Jews continue to support
an administration which, even by their own admission, has repeatedly
violated fundamental moral and ethical principles. They have lost sight
of their proud Judeo-Christian heritage.
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