I assume that most of you know that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, under Republican pressure, eventually made public all of the emails on her private server. All 63,452 of them. They are now available on the website of the State Department. Putting in the search tag “Hungary” yields few results and those few are of little interest, except for one that Válasz, which unlike other Simicska publications is still loyal to the Orbán government, immediately made public. It was a letter Iván Fischer, the world renowned conductor, wrote to Vernon Jordan, former adviser to President Bill Clinton and a close friend of the Clintons. The letter was written on June 28, 2011, two days before Hillary Clinton was due for a visit in Budapest. The letter reads:
I hope you are well.
This week Hillary Clinton will visit Hungary. I suggest that she should be very careful to avoid an embarrassment. The press is already full with remarks that her visit will be seen as an approval for the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
She should be aware that Mr. Orban’s government is demolishing democracy in Hungary and is introducing a harsh system with disregard of human rights and freedom of speech. For her information I attach two articles:
Please warn Mrs. Clinton before her trip to Hungary (planned for June 30). I’m always available for help or information. Unfortunately I fear that the US Ambassador in Hungary, who is very close to Mr. Orban, may not give her a full, balanced view of the dangers involved. Unless she makes a public statement about worries of dictatorial tendencies in Hungary, her visit will be seen as supporting an autocratic regime.
With warmest regards to Ann and you,
As we now know, the letter was forwarded to Hillary Clinton’s office. There Cheryl D. Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, and Huma Abedin, a long-time aide to Clinton, noted that the secretary of state, both in her speech and in her meeting with civil society and opposition leaders, will explain the American point of view on the Orbán government.
As you can imagine, the letter was music to the ears of András Bódis, who gave the following headline to his article: “Iván Fischer snitched on Orbán in America–Here is the original letter.” As for Bódis’s political views, the following sentences from the article should make them apparent to everyone: “If Uncle Pista Csurka in those days had written in Magyar Fórum that Hungarian liberals were directly denouncing the current Hungarian leadership, everybody would have labelled it a dreadful conspiracy theory. But what happens when reality and the conspiracy closely resemble one another?” Aren’t we friendly with Uncle Pista, whose ideas greatly influenced the young founders of the anti-Semitic, anti-Roma Jobbik.
Within hours all the far-right internet sites were having a heyday with this great discovery, the only difference being the choice of the verb to describe Fischer’s sin: to snitch, to dump on, to denounce, or, Magyar Idők’s: “to stab Hungary in the back.”
A few words about Iván Fischer and his familiarity with people like Vernon Jordan. Fischer spent a considerable amount of time in Washington between 2006 and 2010, during which he “captured Washington’s heart” as principal conductor and later music director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. He never had the opportunity to meet with Hillary Clinton, but he became good friends with many other important American politicians, including Vernon Jordan, the civil rights activist.
Iván Fischer’s opposition to Viktor Orbán’s political position has never been a secret. He made his worries about the future of Hungarian democracy public early on, not just in Hungary but also abroad. In January 2011 he gave an interview to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung where he called attention to Orbán’s nationalist demagoguery and his attempts to control the media. He considered the situation serious: “There is a danger that the country is sinking into a nationalist dictatorship.” This might have sounded alarmist at the time but, as we know by now, Iván Fischer was in fact prophetic in this interview.
Yesterday afternoon György Bolgár on his popular talk show “Let’s Talk It Over” had an interview with Fischer, during which Fischer reiterated his belief that “all Hungarians have the right to engage in a conversation about the future of their country.” He said he cares deeply about this country and believes that it is in the interest of every Hungarian not to allow the complete destruction of the democratic structure. Everybody should raise their voices in defense of democracy in every possible forum.
I might add here that Iván Fischer wasn’t the only one who approached Hillary Clinton before her trip to Hungary in June 2011. Attila Ara-Kovács, György Dalos, Gábor Demszky, Miklós Haraszti, Róza Hodosán, János Kenedi, György Konrád, Bálint Magyar, Imre Mécs, Sándor Radnóti, László Rajk, Sándor Szilágyi and Gáspár Miklós Tamás also sent a letter to Hillary Clinton on June 26, 2011. Here are a few passages from this letter: “In the past year, the rule of law has been seriously damaged in our country. The Prime Minister … is openly distancing himself from the ideals of Western democracies, calling them obsolete. His ruling coalition systematically demolishes the constitutional guarantees of separation of powers, removing all checks and balances that restrain the executive.” And it went on at some length to describe the political situation in Hungary. This letter also reached its destination, as some of the signatories learned later.
It is perhaps worth reflecting briefly on Magyar Idők‘s headline,”Iván Fischer stabbed Hungary in the back.” Equating a government with the country and its citizens is a common logical fallacy, one that the journalist of Magyar Idők committed in equating “snitching” on Viktor Orbán with stabbing Hungary in the back. For him, it seems, every decision that Viktor Orbán makes is in the best interest of the country, even if it is blatantly obvious that this is not the case.
Yes, Iván Fischer is right: we all have to raise our voices against the regime Viktor Orbán has introduced in Hungary. Including writing letters to foreign politicians, if necessary.