As he did back in 1990 and 1991, Patrick Buchanan is once again fanning the flames of anti-Semitism with his allegations that an American administration is calling the nation to arms at the urging of Jews on behalf of the Jewish state.
Buchanan, of course, is far from alone in charging that a nefarious pro-Israel cabal has implanted itself in the Bush White House and is tailoring American foreign policy to suit Israel’s needs. It is an argument that has gained considerable traction in the fever swamps of both the extreme right and the extreme left, and over the past several weeks has begun making some inroads into mainstream public opinion.
While Buchanan is nowhere near as influential as he was at the time of the Gulf War – three unsuccessful presidential runs, the most recent of which featured a disastrous alliance with the fringe Marxist Lenora Fulani, have greatly diminished his standing and appeal – it would be foolish to dismiss him as a political has-been reduced to editing a magazine with a minuscule readership.
This is not some moon-faced Klansman with an IQ barely above moron level, but rather a brilliant writer and razor-sharp polemicist who, according to those who know him, possesses a not inconsiderable amount of personal charm.
And that is precisely why it is so important to never lose sight of Buchanan’s many pro-nouncements that over the years have caused him to be viewed with such suspicion and alarm.
Back in 1998 the Monitor compiled a number of those pronouncements in a two-part column that readers were still requesting reprints of two and three years later. Now that Buchanan’s anti-Jewish paranoia is again a matter of public discussion (see the lead editorial in this week’s Jewish Press), it seems as good a time as any to revisit the Buchanan files.
Although he has described anti-Semitism as “a grave sin, a disease of the heart,” Buchanan habitually employs words and phrases that leave a Jew with a kicked-in-the-gut sensation – and he does so with what at times seems like barely concealed glee.
His strange concern for former Nazis (Alan A. Ryan, Jr., a former Justice Department prosecutor, once characterized Buchanan as “the spokesman for Nazi war criminals in America”) is coupled with a disdain for Holocaust survivors, whom he’s described as suffering from “group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.”
A constant critic of Kurt Waldheim during the latter’s tenure as UN secretary general, Buchanan suddenly became a whole lot more supportive when the true nature of Waldheim’s wartime activities was made public. The ostracism of Waldheim by the U.S. and other countries, wrote Buchanan, had to it “an aspect of moral bullying and the singular stench of selective indignation.”
In addition to weighing in on Waldheim, Buchanan actively lobbied then-Attorney General Edwin Meese on behalf of Karl Linnas, who had headed a Nazi concentration camp in Estonia (Meese ignored Buchanan’s entreaties, deporting Linnas to the Soviet Union), and made his unhappiness known when the U.S. apologized to France for having sheltered the “Butcher of Lyons,” Klaus Barbie.
“To what end,” Buchanan asked rhetorically in a column on the Barbie matter, “all this wallowing in the atrocities of a dead regime…”
He also took up the cause of Arthur Rudolph, the father of Hitler’s V-2 rocket program who after the war had become an American citizen and part of the U.S. space effort, and that of John Demjanjuk, alleged to have been the infamous Treblinka guard known as Ivan the Terrible.
The latter became something of an obsession for Buchanan, who in his zeal to prove Demjanjuk innocent came dangerously close to making common cause with Holocaust revisionists.
Claiming in a 1990 column that diesel engines “do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody” – diesel exhaust being the very substance used in the gas chambers at Treblinka – Buchanan triumphantly declared that “Demjanjuk’s weapon of mass murder cannot kill.”
(Continued Next Week)
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org