Within hours of the announcement by Republican presidential candidate John McCain that he had chosen Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the Internet was ablaze with reports that Palin was a supporter of Patrick Buchanan. The arsonists were a left-wing blogger and an attack-dog Democratic politician.
The blogger in question is Christopher Hayes, an editor at the far left Nation magazine; the politician is Florida congressman Robert Wexler, a self-described “fire-breathing liberal.” Both men are ardent supporters of Barack Obama. Hayes has been described by The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack as “an adoring fan of Rev. Jeremiah Wright”; Wexler had been named “Most Valuable Congressman” by Hayes’s magazine.
According to McCormack, when Rev. Wright, the pastor who officiated at Barack and Michelle Obama’s wedding, baptized their children, and served as the family’s spiritual adviser for two decades, spoke at the National Press Club in April in an attempt to diffuse the then-raging controversy over his anti-U.S., anti-Israel sermons (the ones Obama claimed to somehow have missed), only two reporters openly applauded Wright’s speech – Nadia Charters of Al-Arabiya TV and the aforementioned Christopher Hayes.
So it smacked of selective indignation and a colossal double standard when Hayes tried to tie Palin to Buchanan via a nine-year-old Associated Press story – without even bothering to mention that as soon as she’d read that article in her local paper, Palin dashed off a letter to the editor to correct any misperceptions the story may have fostered about her relationship with Buchanan.
Wexler, a loud and vitriolic partisan even by Washington’s low standards (a page on his website invites citizens to support his call for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney), immediately went into attack mode, releasing the following statement:
John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hitler for his “great courage.” At a time when standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense has never been more critical, John McCain has failed his first test of leadership and judgment by selecting a running mate who has aligned herself with a leading anti-Israel voice in American politics. It is frightening that John McCain would select someone one heartbeat away from the presidency who supported a man who embodies vitriolic anti-Israel sentiments.
Where to begin with such a vile brew of misstatement and innuendo? First, a few words in semi-defense of Pat Buchanan. While the Monitor has not hesitated to flay Buchanan over the years for a long parade of offensive statements, nothing that Buchanan has said or written would indicate his support or endorsement of Nazi Germany or its exterminationist policies.
(As for the Hitler quote, Wexler wrenched it out of its far less sinister context: Buchanan wrote, in a 1977 column discussing a new biography of Hitler, that while “Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage….”)
All that being said, Buchanan is hardly deserving of our sympathy, even in the face of Wexler’s over the top tantrum. Palin, though, definitely is. Even if it were true that Palin supported Buchanan’s presidential bids in 1996 and 2000 — and all the evidence available at this point points to the contrary – it would still be downright ugly if not slanderous to claim that by doing so she had “aligned herself with a leading anti-Israel voice in American politics.”
Large numbers of Americans voted for Buchanan the three times he ran for president (he was a candidate in 1992 as well), and the vast majority of them had no inkling they were somehow aligning themselves with “a leading anti-Israel voice.” Foreign policy played a relatively small role in the presidential campaigns of the post-cold war nineties, and Buchanan, like just about every other White House aspirant in those years, focused mostly on economic issues.
But Wexler knows all that, just as he knows how ludicrous it is to try to pin Buchanan’s views on Palin. As Wexler complained last February in a Jerusalem Post op-ed article, “It is unfair to attribute Pastor Wright’s views to Barack Obama.”