- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The big news this week is that in the Senate, the Democrats have joined with the Republicans to pass tax relief contained in an extension of the hated George W. Bush tax cuts. Certainly, by early next week, the House of Representatives will have done the same. Thus, the burden overhanging the economy of a huge tax increase is eliminated for two years. After that, it sounds as if our president, if he still is our president, threatens to raise taxes. Somehow, he came around to accepting the argument that one does not raise taxes in a recession. A few months back, it appeared that in the unlikely event that senators and House members extended the hated Bush tax cuts, our president would veto the bill. Now he has accepted it. Has he learned anything?

His behavior suggests that he has not. He calls the Republicans “hostage-takers,” whose tax cuts are their “holy grail.” He also has not a kind word for the Democratic opponents of the tax bill, though he says he agrees with them. This is not a happy compromise for President Obama. He is sticking with “Das Kapital” or the economic logic in it. Well, I shall stick with Rep. Paul Ryan’s “A Roadmap for America’s Future.” We shall see which of the two tomes is more agreeable to the electorate in 2012.

Otherwise, my eyes feasted on the news this week that the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is threatening to pull its financial support from the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian’s transgression was to bow to objections raised by two Republicans and the president of the Catholic League to its hosting a video showing ants crawling over a crucifix, titled “A Fire in My Belly.” It is now on display for the curious at the New Museum in New York. I shall not be going to the New York showing even if it were expanded to display ants crawling over the exhumed body of Andy Warhol, though doubtless there would be an audience for that. I wonder if the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts would pay for it.

The foundation’s indignation is but another manifestation of modern liberalism’s fundamental value, from which it never varies: disturbing the peace. In art, in education, in governance in general, the liberals believe it is fundamental to disturb the peace, though not the peace of a liberal. To do that is to commit some ancillary crime - a “hate crime,” or civil rights violation or some other act of conjured-up horror. If the ants were swarming all over the Koran, it clearly would be a hate crime, and out it would go without the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts having a leg to stand on.

Actually, the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, did describe “A Fire in My Belly” as “hate speech” and anti-Catholic, though it easily could have been pronounced anti-Christian or anti-art. Yet his protest does not trouble the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts at all. “For the Arts to flourish,” writes Joel Wachs, president of the Warhol foundation, “the arts must be free, and the decision to censor this important work is in stark opposition to our mission to defend freedom of expression wherever and whenever it is under attack.” Actually, this is the first I have heard of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts having a go at defending freedom. But if Mr. Wachs wants to ship off to Iran to join in the street demonstrations, I shall pay for his flight over there, or to infiltrate North Korea, for that matter, possibly armed with a depiction of ants on Kim Jong-il.

In the course of his defense of freedom, Mr. Wachs was interviewed by the New York Times, wherein he said that the Smithsonian “can’t just bow to this kind of bigoted attack.” Now that shows another liberal habit of mind, the psychological condition called denial. For the creator of “A Fire in My Belly” to portray ants on a crucifix is not hate speech. It is art. For a Christian, or simply a sensitive person, to object to having “A Fire in My Belly” displayed in the capital with taxpayers’ money supporting it is illegitimate. It is bigoted. In essence, Mr. Donohue does not exist. Nothing exists save art, as defined by a man with the name of Mr. Wachs, who thinks ants have aesthetic value.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).



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