Some people, as they age, grow more gracious and large-spirited. Others become embittered and increasingly lash out at the world and others. And the very worst become like Patrick J. Buchanan.
Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic drew attention to a recent column by Buchanan about John Demjanjuk, who is to stand trial in Germany for his alleged role in the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. According to Buchanan, John Demjanjuk is to “serve as the sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.” He is to be, in Buchanan’s words, “punish[ed] in expiation for Germany’s sins.” And Buchanan adds this: “The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.”
This is really all quite ugly. For Buchanan, a Catholic, to compare Demjanjuk to Jesus — who, according to Christian belief, was deity, holy and without sin — is strikingly offensive. So is his effort to revive the charge of blood libel. Rarely do you find such an obscene mix of blasphemy and bigotry, and all in less than 900 words.
William F. Buckley, Jr. did many great deeds on behalf of conservatism over the course of his life. Near the top of the list was when he said in 1991 that he found it “impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what [Buchanan] did and said during the period under examination [the first Gulf War] amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it.”
Things have only gotten worse since. Hatreds and prejudices that appear to have been bubbling underneath the surface in the past have surged forth in full public view. Such things are never pretty to see, but they are important to recognize — and condemn.