Buchanan Pro & Con
To the Editor:
To make the case that Patrick J. Buchanan is anti-Semitic, it is necessary for Joshua Muravchik [“Patrick J. Buchanan and the Jews,” January] to clear away the inconvenient underbrush of Buchanan’s support for Israel during the 70’s and early 80’s. He attempts this by exploring Buchanan’s columns of that period and extracting fragments critical of Israel.
Mr. Muravchik himself concedes “that in earlier years Buchanan had produced columns friendly to Israel. . . .” That he does not attempt a qualitative and quantitative analysis of pro and con in Buchanan’s written work during that period is not worthy of Mr. Muravchik’s usual careful journalism.
In fact, Buchanan’s overall thrust then was heavily in favor of Israel. Before entering the White House in 1985, his orientation was strongly pro-Zionist both in disputing me on The McLaughlin Group and debating Tom Braden on Crossfire.
By definition, no sympathizer with the Zionist cause can be an anti-Semite. It is ludicrous to state that Buchanan suddenly started hating Jews because he changed his mind on Israeli policy. That fatally undermines the rest of Mr. Muravchik’s case.
Robert D. Novak
To the Editor:
. . . It was incredibly tiresome to read Joshua Muravchik’s article—an assembly of circumstantial tidbits, patched together with 20-20 hindsight, and meant to show that Patrick J. Buchanan is anti-Semitic in his heart of hearts.
Simply pointing out that a man in the course of two decades is often inconsistent in his opinions, that he changes his mind and his rhetoric, that he has a pugnacious style, only proves that he is like the rest of us who drift and dodge and dance, but also think and feel from the heart as best we can over the years. Buchanan, however, has a cultivated gift of rhetoric and a love for the well-turned phrase. The plain fact is that Buchanan, like most good columnists and speechwriters, has so many words on record that anyone with a little skill and time can selectively extract enough “evidence” to prove consistency or inconsistency on selective issues. . . .
Mr. Muravchik . . . even goes so far as to question Buchanan’s motives based on the riveting discovery that Buchanan’s mother was German, which is supposed to explain some of the most egregious aspects of his politically incorrect opinions. . . .
I do not believe for a moment that Buchanan is anti-Semitic, and nothing in the article convinced me. To the contrary, Buchanan is a rare personality among the journalistic stuffed shirts in Washington who take themselves so seriously. . . .
Mark R. Masterson
Kingston, New York
To the Editor:
I do not agree with all of the opinions of Patrick J. Buchanan that Joshua Muravchik describes. However, I regard them all as within the domain of reasonable debate. I was therefore quite startled by Mr. Muravchik’s last paragraph, wherein he concludes that those opinions are sufficient to establish Buchanan as an anti-Semite, specifically with “an embedded hatred of Jewish people. . . .” It seems to me that this stretches the meaning of “anti-Semite” in much the same way that “racist” and “sexist” have been expanded to apply to anyone opposed to affirmative-action quotas. Such expanded usage dilutes the meaning of the words to the extent that calling someone a “racist,” “sexist,” or “anti-Semite” has no more meaning than just calling him “nasty.” Such heavy-handed polemics should be left to other magazines. The nasty ones.
San Jose, California
To the Editor:
Who said this?
The daring Israeli raid upon Entebbe airfield in Uganda calls to mind the audacity of Otto Skorzeny’s wartime rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and the United States helicopter raid on the Son Tay prisoner-of-war camp outside Hanoi.
Unlike the latter, however, the Israeli raid was a brilliant success. Unlike the former, it was done in the noblest of causes—the rescue of unarmed civilians from cutthroats and thugs.
And who said this?
At the UN, the British and the French are supporting a resolution to have Israel pay reparations to Iraq for the June 7  strike on the Osirak reactor by Menachem Begin’s Flying Circus of F-15s and F-16s in that all-American air show over Baghdad. . . .
To accept Saddam Hussein of Iraq as an injured party, however, requires some suspension of disbelief. After all, not for nothing has Iraq been called the “North Korea of the Middle East.” Not only did that regime fall upon Iran, in violation of its treaty, but its leaders boast of being in a state of war with Israel, the final solution to which is to be liquidation of the “racist Zionist entity.” Presumably, people who declare wars against their neighbors should expect the consequences as well as the applause.
Israel remains a tough, resourceful, energetic nation, an offspring of the West . . . whose current struggle merits sympathy and support. . . .
You would never have guessed from Joshua Muravchik’s article that Patrick J. Buchanan had ever uttered such sympathetic statements about Israel. Nor would you have known that even the Anti-Defamation League in its now-famous September 1990 memo on Buchanan did not say he was anti-Israel, only that his “position on Israel has been inconsistent.” Is inconsistency now considered “anti-Semitism”? Is Buchanan to be labeled “anti-Semitic” because he now believes peace in the Middle East will not come until the Palestinian problem is resolved and that Israel must do more to resolve it?
“Should American Nazis,” Buchanan has written,
be permitted to parade, swastikas flying, through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, home of thousands of Jews and former inmates of Hitler’s death camps? The absolutist wing of the American Civil Liberties Union has answered that question in the affirmative. . . . Because it has, membership is declining and financial support is drying up. As it should.
Just two years ago, Buchanan was harshly condemning the atheist Friedrich Nietzsche for being “anti-Semitic” and one of several “beacons to Hitler.” Another atheist, Karl Marx, he noted in the same column, “was a vicious anti-Semite” who midwifed Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin.
How do such remarks fit in with Mr. Muravchik’s astonishing theory that Buchanan is guilty of his own definition of anti-Semitism, “an embedded hatred of Jewish people, manifest in writing and conduct, . . . a grave sin”?
Surely, if someone were so hostile to Jews, Mr. Muravchik could have dug up somebody to say that Buchanan is a smoldering Jew-hater, a man who reveals intense hostility to someone because he is Jewish. Yet Mr. Muravchik comes up empty-handed. And, of course, there are numerous Jewish friends of Buchanan’s—including this one—who vigorously deny the anti-Semitic charge.
Mr. Muravchik’s charges just don’t stand up. Did Buchanan shift to a dovish stance during the Iraqi invasion because he is anti-Israel? How, then, explain Buchanan’s thesis, spelled out in countless articles and publications prior to Saddam Hussein’s brutal conquest, that, if the cold war is over, we should begin disentangling ourselves from obligations around the world? . . .
If he is so “pro-German,” why has he consistently bashed the Germans for not doing more during the Persian Gulf crisis? If his defense of Karl Linnas and John Demjanjuk is somehow anti-Semitic, tell me, please, why the Washington Post—not precisely the voice of Adolf Hitler—editorially opposed Linnas’s deportation and ran Buchanan’s defense of Demjanjuk?
I am normally a fan of both Norman Podhoretz and Joshua Muravchik, but, in this case, I believe, they have made a grave error in judgment. Just as Buchanan is quick to assail anyone who challenges the Pope or the Catholic Church—too quick to my mind—so Messrs. Podhoretz and Muravchik are too ready to detect “anti-Semitism” in people because they have an honest quarrel with Israel and/or the Jewish community on substantive issues.
Unfortunately, I don’t think such articles lessen anti-Semitism, they promote it.
Allan H. Ryskind
To the Editor:
Joshua Muravchik’s article was interesting and well-researched, but I believe Patrick J. Buchanan’s positions would need further scrutiny to justify some of the accusations that have been made.
To begin with, Mr. Muravchik proclaims that Buchanan is inconsistent because he is a dove with respect to the situation in the Persian Gulf but would be the first to beat the drums of war if a Communist dictator were involved. But Buchanan is not being inconsistent here. He believes the cold war was the only justification for U.S. interventionism and with that all but behind us, it is time for “America First” neo-isolationism. . . .
As far as Israel is concerned, Buchanan still favors military aid, and maintains Israel’s right to exist. . . . And he has condemned the double standard at the UN which overlooks Marxist and Arab atrocities yet condemns Israel for far less serious infractions of human rights and international law. . . .
With respect to the Demjanjuk case, Buchanan is not defending Nazism but simply questioning some of the motives and grounds that have been used to identify Nazis. Mr. Muravchik implies that Buchanan was the only one writing that Karl Linnas should not be deported, but William F. Buckley, Jr. was also against Linnas’s deportation. . . . And Buchanan’s courage in this matter has paid off. Many now question the judgment that Demjanjuk was the infamous Ivan the Terrible, and new evidence that has now come to light may reopen the case. If Demjanjuk is eventually cleared, it is hoped that those who castigated Buchanan for defending him will have enough class to admit their mistakes. . . .
Patrick J. Buchanan is not an anti-Semite. He does shoot from the hip sometimes, but it is . . . hard for me to believe he does not like Jews when he has friends like Howard Phillips, Burt Blumert, and Murray Rothbard supporting him for President. If he is so anti-Israel, why did he work for two very pro-Israel administrations? And last but not least, if he is so opposed to Jews, why did he support and have as a hero, to this day, a man who is of Jewish ancestry—Barry Goldwater?
Andrew J. Murphy
To the Editor:
Joshua Muravchik closes with an attack upon Patrick J. Buchanan’s position on the fate of several persons accused of being Nazi war criminals. The attack is quite strong and serves as the basis for Mr. Muravchik’s conclusion that Buchanan is, in fact, an anti-Semite. For Mr. Muravchik’s conclusion to stand he must establish that Buchanan is wrong about these accused war criminals. . . .
Let us now turn to the facts in the cases cited. John Demjanjuk has been stripped of his U.S. citizenship, deported, and sentenced to death on the basis of two items of evidence. The first are 40-year-old eyewitness accounts of his alleged acts. The second are documents proffered by the USSR.
Eyewitness identification is very tricky even when it is fresh, but to believe that a sixty-year-old man looks the same way he looked when he was twenty is difficult.
As for documents from the USSR, before the advent of the Gorbachev reforms, the USSR was a criminal state which based its every action on advancing what it perceived to be its own interest. For the USSR to have turned over documents to the West, a decision had to be made at a high level that the conviction of the accused was in the interests of the USSR. . . . If actual documents existed they might be turned over, but it is more likely that forged documents would be supplied. . . . In any event, documents which came out of the USSR have no probative value in any real court of law and ought to be ignored. This leaves the entire case against John Demjanjuk based upon eyewitness testimony that is not reliable.
But there is more. Demjanjuk has never behaved like a guilty man. He came to the U.S. and openly lived under his own name. Had he really been the evil monster he is supposed to be, he would have changed his name and moved to Argentina. Similarly, he has continued to profess his innocence. Were he guilty, he would plead for mercy and claim that he had no choice as to what he did.
The trial of Demjanjuk was also a farce. The only question was whether he was the person he was accused of being. The entire trial should have been about whether the Soviet-supplied documents were enough to take a man’s life. In fact, the trial was a show trial designed to serve as a history lesson for the youth of Israel. When the USSR staged show trials men of good will protested. When Israel stages show trials those who protest are called anti-Semitic. The hatreds and emotions stirred up at the Demjanjuk trial were so extreme that they resulted in the throwing of acid in the face of one of his lawyers.
In the Linnas case much the same argument can be made. There is, admittedly, more evidence of guilt in this case than in the Demjanjuk case, [but] . . . all the “evidence” against Linnas was in the form of testimony collected in pre-Gorbachev Soviet courts by Soviet lawyers. In all these hearings Linnas was referred to as the “fascist war criminal.” It is also interesting to note that the Soviets never executed Linnas. He died of alcoholism in a Soviet prison. The Soviets also permitted his family to see him before he died. It seems that the Soviet Union of Gorbachev is more decent than the U.S. of Elizabeth Holtzman, who devoted so much effort to having Linnas deported. This, of course, is the same Elizabeth Holtzman who, in 1975, attended a Central Park rally to celebrate the fall of South Vietnam to the Communists.
Calling someone an anti-Semite is an act which for all intents and purposes ends discussion of the issues. On campus we cease talking when we are called racist, homophobic, sexist, or whatever neologism the purveyors of politically-correct thought have come up with. If it is wrong for the Left to brand us homophobic because we don’t want to pay for the treatment of AIDS, a disease brought on by volitional behavior, we ought to abstain from labeling someone an anti-Semite merely because he argues for a point of view with which we do not agree. . . .
We in the neoconservative movement have fought for years on the campuses against an intellectual creed which replaces arguments based on fact with labeling. Yet now our flagship publication is doing just that to Patrick J. Buchanan. I have followed Buchanan closely for four years now. . . . He has his agenda and I have seen no indication that anti-Semitism is part of that agenda. Arguably, he is insensitive to Jewish concerns, but he is also insensitive to the concerns of all those with whom he disagrees. He seeks to lead a nationalistic American revolution against the forces of the Left which are corrupting and destroying this country. Isn’t this exactly what COMMENTARY has been doing for a number of years? . . .
To the Editor:
After trudging through several thousand columns, books, and television appearances by Patrick J. Buchanan, Joshua Muravchik accuses him of “apparently” thinking this and “seemingly” thinking that, “flirting with” this and coming “perilously close” to that. Like the psychiatrists who declared Barry Goldwater all-but-insane (a man who, if elected, would get us into war in Vietnam!), Mr. Muravchik has performed psychoanalysis without meeting the patient. He has found anti-Semitism where Buchanan’s friends and colleagues, Gentile and Jew alike, find none.
Mr. Muravchik finds great significance in the fact that “Buchanan is often taken for Irish. He is, however, more German than anything else. . . . His mother’s lineage is German on both sides.” Oh, of course. He has German blood; that explains everything, including his (obviously anti-Semitic!) support for the reunification of Germany.
But it does not explain why Buchanan blasts the Germans repeatedly and consistently for free loading off Uncle Sam, for failing to provide adequately for their own defense and for the defense of their own oil supplies. The idea that his views on the Persian Gulf crisis are founded in anti-Semitism is flatly contradicted by his support for an “America First” defense policy—one that brings the boys home not just from Saudi Arabia, but from Germany and Japan as well.
Nor does his (tainted?) blood explain why, for many years, he defended Israel from the rhetorical attacks of the American Left. If he’s a born anti-Semite, he must be a late bloomer.
Perhaps Buchanan’s supposed anti-Semitism stems from his Catholicism. Mr. Muravchik catches him red-handed defending the grass-roots Catholic position in the matter of the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz. He nabs him in the act of stating correctly that the media get away with slurs toward Catholics and Christians of a sort that Jews would never tolerate.
But how do you explain other supposed outrages—Buchanan trying to explain the motivations of Arafat and the PLO, or calling Hitler a skilled orator and political organizer as well as a racist mass-murderer, or suggesting that American standards of justice be applied to the trial of accused Nazis? . . .
How do you explain the Buchanan view (re Bitburg) that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and the other totalitarians, not the seventeen-year-old conscripts in their armies, are the main enemies of mankind? How do you explain my favorite of Mr. Muravchik’s outrages, that Buchanan—“someone who presents himself as an ardent patriot”—questioned the motives of the British empire circa 1914? No real American would do that, right?
I think the problem is that Mr. Muravchik, like many others, fails to understand Buchanan’s style. The fact is, you could sift through his columns and commentaries and “prove” that he is anti-German, anti-Japanese, anti-African-American, anti-Southern, even anti-Catholic. (Read some of his writings about Catholic leaders.) He is none of these. He is a polemicist from the take-no-prisoners school. He fires both barrels every time he opens his mouth or takes pen in hand.
And he takes up unpopular causes; he isn’t always right, but usually he is. Usually, he is the one person we can depend on to have the courage to offend—or even, as Mr. Muravchik puts it, to tweak.
Mr. Sensitive he ain’t, and thank goodness for that! We’ve got enough editorialists who hem and haw and refuse to put their convictions on the line. If he thinks the evidence against Demjanjuk is, like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery, he says so.
To those who would impose a mindless orthodoxy on public debate, Buchanan is a dangerous man. That’s why someone kept voluminous files on him, mailed copies of selected pieces to the news media, and tried to have his column blacklisted. That’s why now, years after he was appointed communications director at the White House, years after his newspaper column and Crossfire, The McLaughlin Group, and The Capital Gang gave him the biggest soapbox in America, suddenly we see this anti-Buchanan campaign. It began the moment he became the leading critic of administration policy in the Persian Gulf.
The important test for Buchanan is in the marketplace of ideas.
A few years ago, after I wrote about Stalin’s murder of millions of Ukrainians, a nationally syndicated columnist accused me of trying to “downplay the Holocaust” with my story. I was doing no such thing, of course, and I was later proven right about Stalin’s crimes. That’s the way the marketplace works.
Buchanan is not some midnight pamphleteer working out of his garage. His every utterance is recorded and analyzed. If he were an anti-Semite, it would be obvious; that is not the sort of thing you can hide when you are on television seven days a week, any more than Dan Rather and Bryant Gumbel can hide their biases. If Buchanan were an anti-Semite, he would have been laughed out of the newspapers and off the tube long ago. The reason no one has found a smoking gun—no “Hymietown,” no “gutter religion” remark—is that there isn’t one to be found.
Mr. Muravchik charges specifically that Patrick J. Buchanan is filled with “an embedded hatred of Jewish people, manifest in writing and conduct. . . .” If that charge is true, it means that he hates Jews, but cleverly hides that hatred from his readers and viewers and friends and colleagues and everyone who knows him. How fiendish!
Richard A. Viguerie
United Conservatives of America
Falls Church, Virginia
To the Editor:
It is a shame that Joshua Muravchik, in his otherwise thorough and insightful examination of Patrick J. Buchanan in light of recent accusations of anti-Semitism, resorts to ethnic stereotyping by revealing that Buchanan is “more German” than Irish in spite of his name. It is as inappropriate to conclude that Buchanan’s ethnic lineage predicts his sympathies toward Germany as it is to insinuate that American Jews put Israel’s interests first . . .
Patrick J. McNally
Western Springs, Illinois
To the Editor:
Joshua Muravchik’s attack on Patrick J. Buchanan includes half-truths that it would take reams of paper to refute in their entirety. I shall, therefore, limit myself to only a few of his charges. . . .
Why does Mr. Muravchik take offense at Buchanan for quoting Kurt Glaser’s judgment that Germans, like Russians, were the “victims of totalitarianism”? Many Germans and Russians were precisely that, and most Germans were not responsible for Hitler’s crimes, except insofar as they failed to overthrow a murderous tyranny. Nor does Buchanan’s citation from Glaser signify agreement with everything written by the same author. Glaser is foolish to suggest that both sides were equally guilty of inflicting destruction, and Mr. Muravchik may be right in challenging Glaser’s motives for making such a statement. Even so, there were undoubtedly war atrocities (does Mr. Muravchik dispute this?) committed by the Allies as well as the Axis. Both sides during World War II engaged in fire-bombing and the indiscriminate killing of civilian populations. Moreover, millions of Germans, including social democrats like Mr. Muravchik, were expelled from their homes by Communist-guided regimes throughout Eastern Europe from 1945 on. The same regimes confiscated their victims’ properties and did so on a massive scale in annexing former German territories. To Mr. Muravchik’s horror, Buchanan noted that Helmut Kohl would have been justified in raising such issues in his negotiations with the Poles and the Czechs. . . . It seems churlish to scold Buchanan for alluding to atrocities that do not interest Mr. Muravchik because they happened to Germans.
I am also troubled by Mr. Muravchik’s almost prurient fascination with Buchanan’s German antecedents. Does this trace of German blood help confirm the charge of anti-Semitism? Supposedly it does, as evidenced by the fact that the Buchanan family did not like Woodrow Wilson. My own family, which fled from the Nazis, despised Wilson for making war on the Austro-Hungarian empire. Mr. Muravchik is . . . entitled to think differently about the anti-Semitic Negrophobe who schemed with Robert Lansing to push America into World War I, but I am not sure that disliking Wilson tells anything about one’s feeling toward Jews. In any case, Buchanan takes a position on World War I that Mr. Muravchik should endorse. In a column in 1973 he praised German Americans who “killed their own cousins” in fighting the Kaiser’s Germany.
Regarding the comparison of a former Nazi scientist to the Sakharovs, Mr. Muravchik and Buchanan are both half-wrong. Arthur Rudolph was more gravely implicated in Nazi crimes than Buchanan leads us to believe. But the Sakharovs were far more reprehensible than cold-war liberals have admitted. Sakharov, who remained a Marxist, had employed slave labor as a Soviet atomic physicist. His wife, Elena Bonner, had been a long-time Stalinist with close KGB connections. While this couple may have come to regret their youthful indiscretions, the same may be said about one-time Nazis. I suspect that Mr. Muravchik himself would be making this point, had he not set out to write a screed exclusively against Buchanan.
It should be conceded that Buchanan has written rashly about suspected Nazi war criminals, albeit usually out of a misguided sense of justice. His remarks about the gas used in extermination camps were both tasteless and intended to rile. He has also changed his opinions about the Middle East too quickly and too totally for us to consider him an entirely disinterested observer. He is, in fact, no more of one than his present accusers. Still, many of Buchanan’s peeves are justified. He is correct to observe that those who rush to excuse African terrorists and American underclass killers are less indulgent toward octogenarians with Slavic or German names accused of Nazi atrocities. He has also noticed that A. M. Rosenthal, who calls for stamping out the PLO, supports South African black terrorists. Buchanan rightly complains that almost every discussion of the Holocaust begins or ends by trashing Christians. He wonders how Christianity could be the critical factor for a form of anti-Semitism that was also explicitly anti-Christian. As a historian I have often wondered about the same thing, in view of the absence of evidence linking Christian faith to Nazi membership and the stated repugnance of Nazi leaders for the Bible.
I mention Buchanan’s responses to the attitudes of Jewish liberal journalists, for these may help explain why he is not as sympathetic to Jewish concerns as he once was. All the same, Buchanan continues to defend America’s role in destroying Nazism and ending the Holocaust. One might have inferred something different from reading Mr. Muravchik’s tirade.
To the Editor:
As an industrial toxicologist with 35 years’ experience, which included many studies of exposures to the exhausts of internal-combustion engines, I would be inclined to question the use of diesel-engine exhaust for mass executions, as Patrick J. Buchanan did in his defense of John Demjanjuk.
If the lethal effect of such exhaust is primarily to diminish the oxygen content of the air, at least 500 cubic feet of exhaust would be needed in a 1,000-cubic-foot chamber, to be fatal within an hour. In that case, the temperature inside the chamber would be horrendous.
On the other hand, if gasoline-engine exhaust were used, with a carbon-monoxide content of 5 percent, only 40 cubic feet would be required and the effects would be much quicker and less cruel. The average person, not a mechanic or engineer, would not know whether a given vehicle was powered by a diesel or gasoline engine. How definite and authoritative is the evidence that diesel rather than gasoline engines were used?
I also fail to see that this particular question has any major bearing on the matter of Patrick J. Buchanan’s anti-Semitism.
Hervey B. Elkins
To the Editor:
Joshua Muravchik’s article, “Patrick J. Buchanan and the Jews,” is well argued, informative, and powerful. It does, however, contain an error about my writing on Buchanan. While I did write in the New York Post a column lamenting a “dark and medieval . . . rage” behind Buchanan’s words, I did so some sixteen months ago, in response to a Buchanan column on the Carmelite convent at Auschwitz, not, as Mr. Muravchik suggests, in the wake of the Buchanan-A. M. Rosenthal controversy, a full year later.
I emphasize the point not only for the sake of accuracy, but because I would probably not have used that phrasing in that context, and because I felt no need to add more when my own views were amply represented by the Post editorial on Buchanan discussed in Mr. Muravchik’s article.
New York Post
New York City
To the Editor:
. . . Patrick J. Buchanan, if he chooses to respond to Joshua Muravchik, might note a number of points in Mr. Muravchik’s accusation that fall short of presenting undeniable proof, even while strongly indicating recognizable traces of lamentable bigotry. . . .
After Mr. Muravchik’s revealing article, Buchanan is under serious obligation to answer the carefully catalogued charges and to indicate whether or not they were “taken out of context.” Silence on Buchanan’s part in this case is not golden. It is rather more like dross—heavy.
Albert L. Weeks
New York University
New York City
To the Editor:
While Joshua Muravchik has not convinced me that Patrick J. Buchanan is an anti-Semite, he has given conservatives much food for thought. What concerns me is Mr. Muravchik’s equation of Buchanan’s defense of his Catholic faith with anti-Semitism.
Publicly, at least, Jews have been seen exclusively by America’s elite as a persecuted minority with progressive, if not radical, tendencies. Orthodox Jews have been treated like a curious tourist attraction for Historyland, invented by a Disney executive. On the other hand, Catholics (the orthodox ones, at least) have always been portrayed as a pernicious and reactionary, if not un-American, force. Too numerous to claim minority status, Catholics are labeled “paranoid” when we complain about discrimination.
By his ambivalence toward the desecration of Holy Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the name of free speech, Mr. Muravchik does a disservice to both Catholics and Jews who take their belief in the Creator seriously.
Lawrence P. Biacchi
To the Editor:
. . . It is worth noting the silence of the Catholic Church and some of its apologists about Patrick J. Buchanan’s ravings. From so acute and interesting a mind as William F. Buckley, Jr.’s one might have expected better than vapid remarks about Buchanan’s “insensitivity” and A. M. Rosenthal’s “oversensitivity.” . . . Will the Catholic Conference of Bishops take time out from making pronouncements on birth control and the Middle East to express episcopal displeasure with Buchanan’s anti-Semitism? I doubt it.
But it is not only some Catholics who have granted themselves dispensation from the sin of silence about anti-Semitism in their midst. The majority of journalists have been just as lenient with Buchanan, which is to say with themselves. . . .
While many of his co-religionists and fellow journalists chose to avert their eyes from Buchanan’s antics, other deep thinkers were eager to congratulate and support him. On October 15, 1990, the New York Times carried a large ad by “Jews and Christians Against a Mideast War.” It praised Buchanan because, unlike his critics, “he puts America first.” The America-firsters who signed this crude endorsement represented a remarkable variety of political persuasions: the “conservative” ideologue Paul Gottfried; the Hayek-von Mises epigone Murray Rothbard; the Cato Institute’s truculent Israel-basher Leon Hadar; the feminist-socialist (and former left-wing Knesset member) Marsha Friedman; and so on. Truly, the state of Israel is a wonderful thing: it can now do for those in intellectual disarray what it has long done for the Arab nations—unite otherwise warring parties against a common enemy. . . .
To the Editor:
I am puzzled as to why Joshua Muravchik, in his otherwise sensible article on Patrick J. Buchanan, fails to draw the comparison between him and Father Coughlin.
To the Editor:
. . . There is obviously more than enough evidence of Patrick J. Buchanan’s anti-Semitism. But it seems to me that there are different levels of anti-Semitism and that all of the sufferers from this ancient disease should not be included within this all-encompassing term. There are some Jews who are themselves infected, because of personal embarrassment or the need to prove they are American, first and foremost . . .
In any case, my concern is over why it is necessary to pussyfoot around with detailed proof of anti-Semitism. Why must chapter and verse be cited about such despicable people? Why do we even use such a gentle term as anti-Semite? . . .
San Ramon, California
To the Editor:
For years, I have been reading and listening to Patrick J. Buchanan’s interminable rantings and I long ago concluded that he was an anti-Semite. . . . I watched the TV programs and read many of the articles referred to by Joshua Muravchik and was surprised (and nauseated) by the contortions undertaken by Buchanan’s television colleagues . . . to exonerate him of the charges of anti-Semitism. . . .
Sheldon F. Gottlieb
To the Editor:
Hats off to Joshua Muravchik. While Patrick J. Buchanan may stay within the technical bounds of reason each time he confronts an issue regarding Israel or the Jews, his apparent obsession and consistent criticism are cause for concern. . . .
Evan J. Winer
To the Editor:
. . . The last time the fascist, Jew-hating Right and the Communist, Jew-hating Left slept in the same bed was following the Hitler-Stalin marriage of convenience, just prior to World War II. Patrick J. Buchanan’s resurrection of the fascist-Left alliance is well described in Joshua Muravchik’s fine article and should be a warning to those of us who still consider ourselves civilized and to those of us who remember why the lights went out from 1939 to 1945.
George I. Bernstein
To the Editor:
Congratulations to Joshua Muravchik for his excellent analysis of the controversy over Patrick J. Buchanan’s anti-Semitism.
The most disturbing element in the row over Buchanan’s attacks on American Jews and Israel has been the reluctance of most commentators to deal honestly with the question of anti-Semitism. As in the recent cases of Gore Vidal and Jesse Jackson, the restraints on openly expressing the kind of Jew-hatred that had once been confined to the margins of American society have been seriously eroded. The real news about the Buchanan incident is the overwhelming lack of interest of the American public and the complete absence of a sense of outrage over his Jew-baiting outside of the Jewish community. . . . Whatever else he has accomplished, Buchanan has proved conclusively that anti-Semitism is no longer beyond the pale of respectable discourse in American politics. . . .
Jonathan S. Tobin
Brooklyn, New York
Joshua Muravchik writes:
I thank Evan J. Winer, George I. Bernstein, and Jonathan S. Tobin for their compliments. I thank Robert D. Novak for his, too, but I’m afraid that the difference he discerns between my analysis of Patrick J. Buchanan and that of other public figures whom I have criticized lies only in Mr. Novak’s affinity for the former. I read through a great many but not all of Buchanan’s columns and therefore kept no scoreboard, but I saw no “thrust . . . in favor of Israel”; at best it was a mixed bag. From Mr. Novak’s unique vantage point as Israel’s most vociferous and relentless critic in the mainstream American press, this may make Buchanan seem a “sympathizer with the Zionist cause,” but measured against other, more relevant, standards it gives a different impression.
The first of these standards is the justice of the case. The underlying issue of the Arab-Israel conflict has always been the unwillingness of most Arab states to accept the existence of Israel. This is compounded by the vast disparity in the degree to which the two sides adhere to humane norms of civic behavior cherished by Americans. In consequence, most Americans are pro-Israel, not ambivalent like Buchanan.
The second standard is the nature of the PLO, the enemy on the cutting edge of the crusade against Israel and the one for which Buchanan has exhibited growing sympathy. The PLO has identified and collaborated with the African National Congress, the Salvadoran guerrillas, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, and other such “liberation movements,” which have been allied with the Soviet Union. Buchanan has been nothing short of ferocious toward all these groups except the PLO. And his ferocity has not been tempered by the shortcomings of their respective adversaries—the governments of South Africa and El Salvador and the contras—all of them, to put it mildly, scarcely less flawed than Israel. That Buchanan should be ambivalent as between Israel and the PLO, rather than uniformly anti-Israel, does not prove, as Mr. Novak would have it, that he is innocent of anti-Semitism. Rather, it suggests that his usual ideological proclivities are counterbalanced by something else—and what can that be but hostility toward Israel?
Were Buchanan’s record on Israel more sympathetic, that would still not erase his taunting of Jews, his suggestion that Jews were trying to drag America into war for Israel’s sake, his outlandish charges of a Jewish conspiracy against him, his exhortations to Catholic-Jewish conflict, his championing of Nazi war criminals, and his dabbling in Holocaust revisionism. In the event, his mixed views about Israel and its pro-Communist adversaries only reinforce the impression made by these other stands.
Mark R. Masterson finds all of this an “incredibly tiresome . . . assembly of circumstantial tidbits,” and Phil Shaw finds it no more evidence of anti-Semitism than opposition to quotas is evidence of racism. To impeach my case, however, they would have to offer an alternative, benign interpretation of the items I cited from Buchanan’s record, which they have not done for a single one.
Nor will it suffice to cite occasional columns, as does my friend Allan Ryskind, in which Buchanan supported Israel or criticized someone for anti-Semitism. Buchanan’s stock-in-trade is disputation and his targets are legion. In the course of a salvo against Karl Marx or the ACLU or Idi Amin he may well come down on the “pro-Jewish” side, but this does not diminish the import of the numerous occasions and contexts in which he has made the Jews his target.
Mr. Ryskind also makes much of the fact that Buchanan has Jewish friends, a point echoed by Andrew J. Murphy with the bizarre fillip about Barry Goldwater. They do not understand that anti-Semitism comes in a variety of forms. One variant, what we might call country-club prejudice, consists in an aversion to associating with Jews, but may entail no particular political content. On the other side, political anti-Semitism holds “the Jews” culpable of miscreancy, but may entail no dislike for this or that individual Jew. The latter type is infinitely more dangerous.
Messrs. Ryskind and Murphy both argue that Buchanan’s opposition to America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf is explained by his isolationism, not by an animus toward Israel. Perhaps, although I wonder if he would counsel neutrality in the event of, say, an attack on Taiwan by the People’s Republic of China. My main point, however, concerned Buchanan’s accusation that men like Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer advocated resistance to Iraq only out of loyalty to Israel; this, I said, made him guilty of Jew-baiting because in fact their stance on Iraq was entirely consistent with their views on other issues.
Messrs. Ryskind and Murphy both also minimize Buchanan’s role as an advocate for Nazi war criminals. They note that others have opposed deporting Karl Linnas and have questioned the evidence against John Demjanjuk. But Buchanan has not merely questioned the evidence against Demjanjuk, he has flatly declared its inauthenticity, in contradiction of U.S. government experts, and he has brazenly impugned the motives of American and Israeli officials who worked on the case. He has gone on to deny that “Ivan the Terrible” ever really existed, and that diesel-engine exhaust with which the Nazis killed many Jews is lethal. He has also taken up the case of Arthur Rudolph, and has flat-out lied by claiming that German prosecutors rejected the Justice Department’s case against Rudolph. As his championing of these war criminals has grown more feverish, Buchanan has begun to regurgitate whole chunks of “information” supplied to him by kooks who claim that the Holocaust never happened.
Susan Jordan takes Buchanan’s side on the particulars of the Demjanjuk and Linnas cases, but she is all wrong on the facts. The eyewitnesses who identified Demjanjuk did so on the basis of photographs taken soon after the war, not on his appearance today. How trustworthy are 40-year-old recollections? As any trial lawyer will tell you, that depends. You might not remember the face of someone who, say, snatched your purse, but you might have a pretty indelible memory of someone who tortured you and murdered your loved ones, day in and day out, for months or years.
As for the documentary evidence of Demjanjuk’s guilt, it is of course true that the KGB perpetrates forgeries. But American, Israeli, and German experts have said that they are aware of no case of Soviet forgery in a Nazi war-crimes trial, which is not so surprising given the lack of political saliency in any of these cases. Moreover, in the Demjanjuk case, the critical documents were examined and scientifically tested by U.S. and Israeli government experts who pronounced them authentic. Nor, contrary to Susan Jordan, were the documents and witnesses the only evidence on which Demjanjuk was convicted: there was also his own testimony. His alibi was that he was being held as a POW by the Germans at Chelm until October 1944, after Treblinka had been closed down, but as the American court noted in its decision against him, Chelm had been retaken by the Red Army in January 1944, and so his alibi was a lie.
Susan Jordan errs even more grievously with regard to Linnas. Most of the testimony against Linnas was gathered in the Soviet Union, but not by Soviet courts: rather, by U.S. Justice Department officials in videotaped depositions. It is true that Soviet officials were present, but far from there being indications that the witnesses were coached or lying, there were suggestions to the contrary. To the consternation of the Soviet officials present, one key witness insisted on identifying himself as a citizen of Estonia rather than of the Soviet Union. There were also concentration-camp documents, authenticated by FBI experts, implicating Linnas, and a member of Linnas’s Long Island car-pool testified that in a conversation the morning after the sensational charges against him broke in the American press, Linnas admitted his presence at the Tartu concentration camp.
Richard Viguerie seems incapable of writing an honest sentence. I did not criticize Buchanan for his views on the location of the Carmelite convent but for his appeal for intercommunal warfare over it; not for explaining the motivations of the PLO but for sympathizing with it; not for calling Hitler a skilled orator but for stringing together a litany of Hitler’s alleged virtues including such debatable ones as bravery and scholarship; not over the seventeen-year-old soldiers buried at Bitburg but over the SS men buried there; and for blackening not Britain’s motives in World War I, but America’s.
Moreover, Mr. Viguerie’s gratuitous reference to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion echoes Buchanan’s penchant for needling Jews. The documentary evidence against Demjanjuk has withstood expert scrutiny. The other evidence consists of the testimony of his victims; even if they erred—and there is no reason to believe they did—this bears no resemblance to the Protocols, a transparent fraud and the instrument of a vicious conspiracy which has cost many Jewish lives.
To top it off, Mr. Viguerie seems to hold the bizarre belief that he is the discoverer of Stalin’s crimes against Ukrainians and, further, that this shows something about the “marketplace.” If it does, it shows that there is a market for buffoonery.
Patrick J. McNally is right to object to assuming that Buchanan’s lineage predicts his philo-Germanism. I did not, however, assume it; I inferred it from Buchanan’s autobiography, in which he lays great stress on his loyalty—not only to his family, country, and Church, but even to his class and generation, and in which he dwells with great affection on his lineage.
Of course, as Paul Gottfried suggests, many Germans were victims of Hitler’s crimes, but a goodly number were perpetrators, too. Nothing I wrote indicated a lack of sympathy for those victims or for the innocent German victims of Allied excesses; nor did I tax Buchanan for his German blood. I did, however, tax him for flagrantly impugning America’s motives in World War I, for denigrating America’s behavior in World War II, and for embracing the Nazi apologist Kurt Glaser. I found it ironic that Buchanan was so eager to exonerate Germany that he would calumniate America even while accusing American Jews of putting Israel’s interests first.
It was disgusting of Buchanan to liken Arthur Rudolph to Sakharov, but Mr. Gottfried is even more disgusting in slandering the Sakharovs. Sakharov did not “remain” a Marxist, if he had ever been one, nor did he “employ” slave labor. Although slave labor was used, as Sakharov reports, in the nuclear-weapons program in which he worked as a physicist, he, unlike Rudolph, had no part in running the program. Moreover, Sakharov devoted much of his life—indeed, he gave his life—to defending slave laborers, political prisoners, and other victims of the Soviet regime. His wife Elena Bonner was once a Communist-party member, but never a “Stalinist,” nor, according to any known evidence, was she associated with the KGB except as a victim. This charge, which, as best I can tell, originates with Mr. Gottfried, and is offered without a scintilla of evidence, is so vile that unless he can back it up he has written himself out of the circle of respectable discourse. I suppose I shouldn’t expect much better from a man who says that “almost every discussion of the Holocaust begins or ends by trashing Christians.”
As to Hervey B. Elkins’s calculations (which seem to take no account of the number of human beings inside the killing chamber), numerous reports concur that diesel engines were used, and he is right that the effect was slow—which is why the Nazis switched where they could to Zyklon-B. The relevance of the issue is Buchanan’s implication that Jews were not gassed at Treblinka, a thesis which in fact is argued by the “Holocaust revisionists” from whom Buchanan seems to have borrowed some of the “information” he has used in defense of Nazi war criminals.
I apologize to Scott McConnell for my error, although I plead extenuation in that the photocopy of his column I received from his newspaper had the year obscured, so I assumed it was from 1990 instead of 1989. Had I gotten the year right, it would only have strengthened my case by driving home the import of Buchanan’s intervention in the Carmelite convent controversy. I am sorry that my error obscured the credit Mr. McConnell deserves for having pointed to a pathology in Buchanan’s attitude toward Jews a year before the “amen corner” remark.
I find Albert L. Weeks’s comment interesting, but perhaps it comes one round too late. The indictment against Buchanan was first brought by A.M. Rosenthal (having been adumbrated in part by Scott McConnell). If Buchanan sincerely believed himself innocent and misunderstood, he might have said so in his reply to Rosenthal, notwithstanding the fact that Rosenthal’s tone scarcely invited reconciliation. Instead, he accused Rosenthal of being the instrument of an Anti-Defamation League conspiracy against him, and, curiously, he avoided directly denying the charge.
Finally, I am pained that Lawrence P. Biacchi thinks I am ambivalent about the desecration at St. Patrick’s, an act which I found outrageous. I did not mean to minimize it by saying that it was up to the police to determine whether it warranted classification as a “hate crime” under the law, or by pointing out that it was sinister of Buchanan to imply that “hate crime” laws are intended to favor Jews over Catholics. Further, I agree with Mr. Biacchi that Catholics, particularly orthodox ones, have been maligned and ridiculed. I decry this, no less so when the perpetrators are Jewish, and no less than I decry Patrick J. Buchanan’s venom toward the Jews.