The Magazine

Susan Sarandon, Smear Artist

From The Scrapbook

Oct 31, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 07 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Susan Sarandon’s left-wing “activism” is too well known to be recounted here in much detail. The actress has embraced causes as various and predictable as the 2008 presidential campaign of John Edwards and the bona fides of author-murderer Jack Henry Abbott (1944-2002), for whom she named her son. Last week, however, Sarandon hit a nerve. 

Photo of Susan Sarandon

In a question-and-answer session with actor Bob Balaban at the Bay Street Theatre on Long Island, she recounted her role as the anti-death penalty nun Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (1995). Indeed, so impressed was Sarandon by Sister Helen that she sent a copy of Prejean’s memoir, on which the movie was based, to the pope: “The last one [John Paul II],” she specified, “not this Nazi one we have now.” When Balaban gently rebuked her for this slur of Benedict XVI, Sarandon pointedly repeated it.

The Scrapbook does not expect, or require, that Susan Sarandon count herself among the pope’s admirers: People are entitled to their own opinions. However, as the late Senator Moynihan once ruled, they are not entitled to their own facts. Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger, is German, as everybody knows; but he was not a Nazi, as Sarandon should know. At the age of 14 (1941), he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, as required by law, but is reported to have skipped most meetings. Later, while a seminarian (1943), he was drafted into the German Army’s antitank corps but deserted to his family’s home (1945) when his unit ceased to exist, and was briefly incarcerated in an Allied POW camp. By November 1945, age 18, he was back in the seminary.

In the many decades during which Benedict XVI has been a senior Roman Catholic cleric there has never been any suggestion, or even hostile allegation, that he was a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer. Indeed, quite the contrary, as his subversive attitude toward the Hitler Youth would imply. The Scrapbook need hardly add that visible contempt for the Hitler Youth and reluctant conscription into the Wehr-macht during the Third Reich would have required considerably more courage—indeed, courage at the risk of death—than any of the fashionable causes embraced by Susan Sarandon. 

The real problem, however, is that “Nazi” has become an all-purpose epithet, especially as applied to conservatives, employed by progressives ranging from TV personality Keith Olbermann to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the civil rights veteran. “Only in the Hamptons,” commented Newsday, which reported the incident, “could Sarandon get a laugh with such a comment.” 

Well, the Hamptons—and a lot of other comfortable locations as well. Susan Sarandon and friends are free to find Pope Benedict objectionable, as they wish. But “Nazi” is a term with very specific meaning and horrific connotations; and its abuse is an insult to the memory of the millions killed by the Nazis or—left, right, and center—who risked their lives to rid the world of Hitler.

Decline and Fall

You can count on one hand, perhaps on two or three fingers, the presidencies that have declined as rapidly and appallingly as Barack Obama’s. Now Obama is desperate. And you can see it in the crass, corrupt, and dishonest campaign he is running for reelection.

On a three-day bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia, he poisoned the air with attacks on Republicans. Their jobs plan is “let’s have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance,” he said. Republicans “want to gut regulations. They want to let Wall Street do whatever it wants.”

That wasn’t all. Republicans are fine with taxes on the middle class going up “when all they’ve been doing is cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.” There was more. Layoffs of firefighters and police are okay with Republicans, which means “firefighters can’t always get to fires before they become major fires,” Obama said. “And that makes their job more dangerous. It means police officers can’t respond to every crime.”

This was Democratic hack talk of the Harry Reid variety that the president of the United States was mouthing. He showed no sign of embarrassment or shame. The crowd at one stop chanted “four more years” and the speeches were anything but bipartisan, yet the White House insisted it was a purely “presidential” trip, not a campaign excursion. Which means: The taxpayers foot the bill.

Obama’s chief argument for the jobs bill, that it will create nearly two million jobs and boost economic growth by 2 percent, is absurd, by the way. A survey of 34 economists found it would create or save 288,000 jobs over two years. Obama claimed a consensus of “independent economists” agreed with the two million figure. When pressed for names, the White House could cite only two.

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