Pat Buchanan and the Menace of Anti- Anti-Semitism
A free and diverse society requires candor and vigorous debate, which is what we had in the United States until left-Puritanism did its work.
In August 1990, Pat Buchanan voiced opposition to potential war in Iraq, arguing that any sort of military conflict went against the interests of American citizens. "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East," said Buchanan, "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States."
In response, Buchanan was harshly scolded in the majority of major American media outlets. Writing in the New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal repeatedly accused Buchanan of "anti-Semitism," and denounced "his venom about Jews." Evoking the specter of the Holocaust, Rosenthal went on to say "I apologize for not confronting the ugliness sooner. The man reaches millions." The result of Rosenthal’s article was a coordinated campaign to have Buchanan’s newspaper column dropped around the country.
The following article by Murray Rothbard, published in December 1990, looks at the history of the ADL - aka, “the Smear Bund” - of attacking opponents of American military adventurism in the Middle East and the threat posed of censoring debate.
As Murray notes, “A free and diverse society requires candor and vigorous debate, which is what we had in the United States until left-Puritanism did its work.”
I have it on good authority that Barbara Branden is spending a good portion of her time lately brooding about the rising menace of anti-Semitism.” Poor Barbara; like all Randians, she is perpetually out of sync. There is indeed a menace in this area, Barbara, but it is precisely the opposite: the cruel despotism of Organized Anti-Anti-Semitism. Wielding the fearsome brand of “Anti-Semite” as a powerful weapon, the professional Anti-Anti-Semite is able, in this day and age, to wound and destroy anyone he disagrees with by implanting this label indelibly in the public mind. How can one argue against this claim, always made with hysteria and insufferable self-righteousness? To reply “I am not an anti-Semite” is as feeble and unconvincing as Richard Nixon’s famous declaration that “I am not a crook.”
So far, Organized Anti-Anti-Semitism has been able to destroy, to drive out of public life, anyone who receives the “anti-Semite” treatment. True, “anti-Semitic” expression is not yet illegal (though it is banned in many Western ”democracies,” as well as increasingly – as with other “hate speech” – serving as grounds for expulsion, or at the very least compulsory “reeducation,” on college campuses). But the receiver of the brand is generally deprived of access to organs of influential opinion, and is marginalized out of the centers of public life. At best, the victim of the brand may be driven to abase himself before his persecutors, and, by suitable groveling, apologies, and – most important – the changing of positions of crucial interest to his enemies, he may work his way back into public life – at the expense of course, of self-emasculation. Or, if, by chance, the victim manages to survive the onslaught, he may be induced to exercise due caution and shut up about such issues in the future, which amounts to the same thing. In that way, Organized Anti-Anti-Semitism (OAAS) creates, for itself, a win-win situation.
The real menace is organized Anti-Anti-Semitism
The major fount of OAAS is the venerable Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), the head of what the grand Old Rightist John T. Flynn referred to during World War II as the “Smear Bund.” (Flynn was forced to publish himself his expose of the orchestrated smear of isolationists in his pamphlet, The Smear Terror.) Since the end of World War II, the key strategy of the ADL has been to broaden its definition of anti-Semitism to include any robust criticisms of the State of Israel. Indeed, the ADL and the rest of the OAAS has formed itself into a mighty praetorian guard focusing on Israeli interests and Israeli security.
Ever since August 2, Israel and what Pat Buchanan has brilliantly called its extensive “amen corner” in the United States, has been beating the drums for the immediate and total destruction of Iraq, for the toppling of Saddam Hussein, for the destruction of Iraqi military capacity, and even for a “MacArthur Regency” to occupy Iraq quasi-permanently. Pat Buchanan has distinguished himself, from the beginning, as the most prominent and persistent critic of the war on Iraq, and as the spokesman for a return to Old Right isolationism now that the Cold War against the Soviet Union and international communism has ended. Hence, it is no accident that the ADL picked the occasion of Buchanan’s hard-hitting critiques of the war hawks to unleash its dossier, to issue and widely circulate a press release smearing Buchanan as anti-Semitic, which was then used as fodder for an extraordinarily extensive press campaign against Buchanan.
The campaign was kicked off by one of OAAS’s big guns, the powerful and well-connected editor of the New York Times, who now writes a regular column of such tedium and downright terrible writing that it usually serves as a far better soporific than Sominex. If you can classify Rosenthal ideologically at all, it would probably be “left neoconservative,” one of my least favorite ideological groupings. Rosenthal rose from his usual torpor in his column of September 14 to deliver a hate-filled, hysterical, and vituperative assault on Buchanan, likening him to Auschwitz, no less, the Warsaw ghetto, and “blood libel.” Rosenthal winds up with a blasphemous and fascinatingly self-revelatory twist on Jesus’s words on the Cross: “Forgive them not, Father, for they know what they did.” Compare the contrasting ethics offered to the world by Jesus Christ and A.M. Rosenthal, and shudder.
Albert Hunt, defending Pat Buchanan on The Capital Gang, sternly declared that Abe Rosenthal has “forgotten how to be a reporter.” This is all the more true when we consider the curious point that what touched off Rosenthal’s ire was a statement by Pat on the McLaughlin Group, which Rosenthal oddly referred to as The McLaughlin Report. (Whaddat?) The mystery clears when we note that the ADL’s press release on Buchanan, issued shortly before the Rosenthal column, makes the self-same error, twice referring to Pat’s appearance on The McLaughlin Report [sic]. Pat’s instincts were absolutely sound when, in the marvelous rebuttal in his syndicated column, he referred to Rosenthal’s blast as a “contract hit” orchestrated by the ADL.
In a just society, Rosenthal’s rabid tirade would have been laughed out of existence. Instead, it touched off a spate of editorials and columns throughout the country, almost all backing Rosenthal, accompanied by calls from the ADL, and the official Israeli lobby, AIPAC, to newspapers carrying Buchanan’s column, urging them to cancel. (Probably the best single compendium of the anti-Buchanan smears and their various nuances is Howard Kurtz’s front-page article in the Style Section of the Washington Post, Sept. 20, “Pat Buchanan and the Jewish Question.”) Clearly, what we are seeing is neither a friendly nor even vigorous debate over issues crucial to the American Republic. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a venomous attempt to suppress dissent, to eliminate Buchanan’s fearless and independent voice on the social and political scene.
Examining the attacks on Buchanan by Rosenthal and the others, we find a variant of the old shell game. On the one hand, even Rosenthal feebly concedes that it is theoretically possible to criticize Israel and not be an anti-Semite. Oh? And how does one tell the difference? For Rosenthal it is simple: “Every American…should be alert to smell the difference.” So now we have to rely on Rosenthal’s ineffable schnozzola! How are we supposed to distinguish one man’s sense of smell from another? Some criterion! Interestingly enough, Rosenthal and the rest of the jackal pack carefully omit from their screeds the concession made even by the ADL: that Pat has often been a strong supporter of Israel! No facts, I suppose, can be allowed to get in the way of a successful smear. As a matter of fact, Pat explains the point in his rebuttal column: he confesses to having been an “uncritical apologist” of Israel until 1985; but an accumulation of facts since then, including the Pollard espionage case and the brutality against the Palestinians of the intifada, have led him to change his mind. Changing one’s mind, if it is in the wrong direction, can obviously not be tolerated.
The shell game, then, is to say, first, that Pat is not necessarily anti-Semitic because he is critical of Israel, but that Rosenthal’s proboscis tells him that Pat is an anti-Semite. Before writing his hate-Buchanan column, Rosenthal says that he consulted none other than Elie Wiesel, the professional Holocaust survivor, who pronounced the magic words: “Although I very rarely use the word antisemite'” (Hah! That’ll be the day!), opined Wiesel, “I feel there is something in him that is opposed to my people.” Well, that’s it: Who can quarrel with Wiesel’s ineffable “feelings”? Between Wiesel’s inner oracle and Rosenthal’s nose, no one has much of a chance.
But can Elie Wiesel’s mystical insight really be relied upon? After all, this is the selfsame Wiesel who, in the early 1980s, pronounced his feelings to be favorable to none other than the monster Ceausescu. Why? Because of Ceausescu’s pro-Israel foreign policy, naturally. Any man who confers his blessings upon one of the most savage butchers in the past half century, is scarcely qualified to hurl anathemas at anyone, much less at Pat Buchanan.
It is significant that all of the hostiles who know Buchanan personally concede that he is a great guy. Thus, take Mona Charen, who worked under Buchanan at the Reagan White House, and who provided the neat Et tu, Brute? touch by launching the anti-Semitic canard even before Rosenthal. Charen concedes that “Pat is the sweetest human being on a one-to-one level that you’d ever meet, an incredibly gentle, warm, sweet man.” And yet, by launching the assault, the good deed that Pat performed by saving Mona Charen’s job at the White House was not allowed to go unpunished.
The shell game on Buchanan is unwittingly illuminated by the neocon Fred Barnes, of the New Republic, and a colleague of Buchanan’s on The McLaughlin Group. Asked by Howard Kurtz whether Pat is anti-Semitic, Barnes replies, with seeming judiciousness, that it all depends on one’s definition. (Yes, and cabbages can become kings by definition.) “If your definition is someone who is personally bigoted against Jews,” says Barnes (but what else is anti-Semitism, Fred?), who “doesn’t want them in the country club” (Note the way Barnes trivializes genuine anti-Semitism), “then I don’t think Pat is that.” By this time we are trained to look for the explicit or implicit “but.” But, adds Barnes, “If your definition is someone who thinks Israel and its supporters are playing a bad role in the world, Pat may qualify.” Aha! So Pat is not anti-Semitic personally, is not a “country club anti-Semite,” but he is critical of Israel, so he qualifies under that particular shell. In short, criticism of Israel, despite one’s personally not being anti-Semitic, at last puts one into the dread category. The Zionist definition maximized! If you can’t hook a guy as an anti-Semite under one shell, you get him under the other, as the definitions shift endlessly.
To paraphrase a wonderful comment that Joseph Schumpeter once wrote about left-wing intellectuals and their hatred of capitalism; the verdict of this loaded jury – that Pat is anti-Semitic – is a given, it has already been written in advance. The only thing a successful defense of the charge can accomplish is to change the nature of the indictment.
Putting his two-cents worth into this witches’ brew is a pseudo-scholarly article by philosophy professor John K. Roth, apparently an expert on semantics and hate (John K. Roth, “Sticks, Stones, and Words,” L.A. Times, Sept. 20). Amidst the usual invocations of Hitler and Auschwitz, the professor defines anti-Semitism as “the hostility aroused in irrational thinking about Jews,” and says it is part of the “same hate-filled family” as “racism” and “sexism” and of “irrational thinking” about “blacks or Asians or women.” Interesting categories; but why does the professor say not a word about “irrational thinking” and generalizations, and consequent hostility, toward whites, Christians, or men? Are the omissions an accident? Or does he think no such phenomenon exists? If the latter, he is invited to pick up the latest issue of his daily paper, or of the latest scholarly journal.
The only new element added by Professor Roth is ominous indeed. “One need not consciously intend anti-Semitism, racism or sexism to do or say things outside legitimate criticism.” Roth then has the gall to quote the New Testament about “You shall know them by their fruits,” in defense. Then comes the material about Hitler and Auschwitz. But whether he knows it or not, Professor Roth is really raising the spectre, not of the New Testament, but of the notorious Stalinist concept of “objective” crimes. When Trotsky and other Old Bolsheviks were accused of being “fascist agents,” the Stalinists had a fascinating rebuttal to those who complained about the patent absurdity of the charge: that Trotsky and the others were “objectively pro-fascist” because they were undermining Stalin’s rule. So – even though by any rational criterion Buchanan may not be anti-Semitic, he can be called “objectively anti-Semitic.” Why? Obviously, because he opposes many Israeli policies, and we’re back again to the shell game.
There runs through the anti-Buchanan pack a black thread of hatred of Christianity.
There also runs through many of the criticisms of the anti-Buchanan pack a black thread of hatred of Christianity – a hatred, we have seen, that Professor Roth managed to omit from his litany. In Rosenthal’s infamous article, one of the pieces of “evidence” for Buchanan’s anti-Semitism was his frequent attacks on the “de-Christianization” of America, which Rosenthal apparently interprets as a code word for anti-Semitism.
Well, I have news for Mr. Rosenthal. Unlike Rosenthal, most Christians don’t walk around thinking only about Jews. “De-Christianization” is not a code word for anything: it means what it says: the growing secularization of our society, our culture, and our school systems. Christians who oppose this are anti-secular, not anti-Jewish, and, in fact, most orthodox Jews join in much of this anti-secular and pro-religion position. Why is this a world where such elementary propositions have to be patiently pointed out?
Then there is Leon (“The Weasel”) Wieseltier, the favorite theoretician of the New Republic. Pat Buchanan was upset when, two years ago, international Jewish groups led a campaign against the convent of Carmelite nuns at the site of Auschwitz. Apparently, they held it to be a desecration for Carmelites to pray for all those murdered at Auschwitz, Catholics as well as Jews. Wieseltier wrote a particularly odious article on the subject, denouncing Catholic defenders of the Carmelites as anti-Semitic, and Buchanan fired back, correctly pointing out that “anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectual. Let’s hope the nuns at Auschwitz are praying for him (Wieseltier). He needs it.”
The Kurtz smear article now gives The Weasel the chance to get in the last word. “A hater’s rhetoric,” he opines. Wieseltier goes on to assert that there “can be in a religious Catholic a theological basis for anti-semitic emotion…The roots of some of this man’s feelings about the Jews may be theological.” Although Wieseltier covers his rear by hastening to add: Although I emphasize that not all religious Catholics are anti-semites.” How gracious of The Weasel! I am sure that Catholics everywhere are grateful for his nihil obstat.
Meanwhile, the New Republic has, predictably, made itself the GHQ of the anti-Buchanan movement among the periodicals. An editorial accused Buchanan of anti-Semitism, because, in the few seconds he could originally deal with the problem on The McLaughlin Group, he mentioned only Jewish names among the pro-war leaders. The New Republic editorial then continues with what it thinks is the clincher: referring to the much smeared Charles Lindbergh, who, in his famous Des Moines speech in August 1941, was “anti-Semitic” because he mentioned Jews as one of three groups that were agitating for the U.S. to enter World War II: the other two being the British and the Roosevelt Administration. In other words, Lindbergh was “anti-Semitic” because, in identifying the forces for war, he identified Jews as only one of several groups. In short, you can’t win.
The culminating smears – so far – came in the next issue of the New Republic, in which Jacob Weisberg ties all the threads together, and adds a vile Freudo psycho-babble twist of his own. (Weisberg, “The Heresies of Pat Buchanan,” New Republic, Oct. 22, pp. 22-27) After dragging in 1930s irrelevancies such as Lindbergh and Father Coughlin (the Catholic motif!), Weisberg discusses Buchanan’s personal history, as gleaned from his autobiography, Right From the Beginning, and concludes that Buchanan is a brute and a proto-fascist because he liked to get into fistfights as a kid. (So much for a large chunk of the male population!) The clincher on Buchanan as brute and proto-Nazi comes with Buchanan’s suggested slogan for his abortive Presidential campaign in 1988: “Let the bloodbath begin.”
Let us contemplate smear-artist Weisberg for a moment. Is he really that much of a boob that he thought that Buchanan’s phrase was serious? Does he really not realize that Pat was delivering a jocular and satiric thrust, aimed precisely at such serioso dunderheads as Weisberg? It is hard to know which is a sadder commentary on current American culture: whether Weisberg was cynically trying to use any smear tactic that came to hand; or whether he is really that much of a humorless left-Puritan blockhead.
Meanwhile, on the left (or should I say, the lefter), there is John B. Judis, the resident conservatologist for the Marxist weekly, In These Times, who has written a surprisingly favorable biography of Bill Buckley (or come to think of it, as we shall see, maybe not so surprising). Judis, too, admits that Buchanan is not personally anti-Semitic: “Indeed, from the few encounters I’ve had with Buchanan, he has always struck me as loyal, generous, personable without a trace of snobbery and willing to say what he believes – whatever the consequences.” (John B. Judis, “Semitic Divisions Engulf Conservatives,” In These Times, Oct. 3-9) Sounds admirable. But…then comes the knife-job, with vague references to the Old Right, and “Rothschild conspiracy” views with which Judis, in the venerable smear tradition, tars every isolationist of the 1930s. (Sorry, John, Buchanan was not even alive in those days, much less sentient.) To Judis, Buchanan’s position “represents a kind of Freudian return of the repressed.” (Again!) So now we have an unholy combo of Marx and Freud on the attack! In his peroration, Judis commits a real whopper, somehow linking Buchanan to the “pre-Civil War anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant Know-Nothings.” Since Judis has some pretensions to scholarship, one might guess he would stop and think before linking up this ardent Catholic with historic anti-Catholicism; but, I suppose that time’s a-fleetin’, and one reaches for whatever smear brush may be around.
(Parenthetically, while the Know-Nothings were indeed one of the most odious groups in American history, I would be very surprised to find any anti-Semitic expressions by them. As Protestant pietists, the Know-Nothings were fanatically anti-Catholic, believing that the Pope was the Antichrist and every Catholic his conscious, dedicated agent. The only “immigrants” they were concerned about, furthermore, were Catholic immigrants.)
Speaking of Bill Buckley, where does he stand on this? He is back at his old stand, a kindly but firm monarch doling out positive and negative brownie points, and trying to keep his conservative subjects from squabbling. Revealingly, Buckley is an old and close friend of Rosenthal while scarcely knowing Buchanan. Rosenthal he treats with affection, like a kid with a temper tantrum: always ready for “footloose emotional gyrations” with resulting explosions “that know no conventional limits.” Buckley concludes: “I deem his attack on Pat Buchanan to be an example of Rosenthal gone ballistic.” By focusing on Rosenthal’s hopped-up personality, Buckley manages to avoid the main issues: the orchestrated and concerted attack upon Buchanan.
If Rosenthal is excessively emotional, Buchanan is not anti-Semitic, but of course – let’s hear the chorus ” I-N-S-E-N-S-I-T-V-E.” (The Buckley article is entitled, “Insensitive Maybe; Genocidal, No,” L.A. Times, Sept. 20) The stern admonition: “The Buchanans [Who are the other Buchanan’s?] need to understand the nature of sensibilities in an age that coexisted with Auschwitz.” And Mona Charen, in her second time at bat, and trying, perhaps guiltily, to call off the war she launched, still maintains that even if our current culture “slides into priggishness: on ethnic comments, our ethnically diverse society requires “a fastidious sensitivity.” (Mona Charen, “Accusations,” Washington Times, Sept. 27)
But not long ago, America’s diverse society was glorious precisely because people were unafraid to be candid, to speak their mind, to engage in ethnic humor. Besides, what happened to Harry Truman’s well-known dictum that he who can’t stand the political heat should get out of the kitchen? A free and diverse society requires candor and vigorous debate, which is what we had in the United States until left-Puritanism did its work, and we are all required to be silent and mouth the Party Line. Interestingly enough, former National Review publisher and long-time Buckley colleague Bill Rusher has a different, and far healthier, view. Although Rusher, like Buckley, takes the ultra war-hawk position on Iraq, Rusher, in his column, gently reproves Buckley’s comment on Buchanan and sensitivity, and reminds us that “American politics is a robust game, and it is fair to ask how long commentators on it must continue to tiptoe past the Israeli Embassy.” (William Rusher, “and sensitivity,” Washington Times, Sept. 27) How long, indeed?
In contrast to the standard bromides, what this country is suffering from is not “insensitivity” but hyper-sensitivity, what the shrinks in the Neanderthal days used to call “neurasthenia.” It strikes me that the most effective cure for hyper-sensitivity, as for phobias in general, is the one proposed by the behavioral-shrinks: desensitization. Repeated exposure to the neurotic stimulus will gradually desensitize the patient so he no longer goes ballistic at the sight of a cat or…at reading articles by the likes of Pat Buchanan.
A free and diverse society requires candor and vigorous debate.
Organized anti-anti-Semites will get away with their odious calumnies until they are finally forced to define their terms, to set up some rational criteria for this serious charge. It is high time that they be called on this loathsome tactic. So all right, just what is anti-Semitism: if we can get beyond vague and ephemeral “feelings?”
It seems to me that there are only two supportable and defensible definitions of anti-Semitism: one, focusing on the subjective mental state of the person, and the other “objectively,” on the actions he undertakes or the policies he advocates.
For the first, the best definition of anti-Semitism is simple and conclusive: a person who hates all Jews. But here Buchanan is clearly vindicated by everyone who has ever met him, since all agree he is not “personally” anti-Semitic, has many Jewish friends, saved the job of Mona Charen, etc. Here I also want to embellish a point: All my life, I have heard anti-anti-Semites sneer at Gentiles who, defending themselves against the charge of anti-Semitism, protest that “some of my best friends are Jews.” This phrase is always sneered at, as if easy ridicule is a refutation of the argument. But it seems to me that ridicule is habitually used here, precisely because the argument is conclusive. If some of Mr. X’s best friends are indeed Jews, it is absurd and self-contradictory to claim that he is anti-Semitic. And that should be that.
But perhaps it might be contended that X is at heart, down deep, anti-Semitic, and that he duplicitously acquires Jewish friends to cover his tracks. And how, unless we are someone’s close friend, or shrink, can we know what lies in a person’s heart? Perhaps then the focus should be, not on the subject’s state of heart or mind, but on a proposition that can be checked by observers who don’t know the man personally. In that case, we should focus on the objective rather than the subjective, that is the person’s actions or advocacies. Well, in that case, the only rational definition of an anti-Semite is one who advocates political, legal, economic, or social disabilities to be levied against Jews (or, of course, has participated in imposing them).
Let us then consider Pat Buchanan. Never – and the smear articles themselves are effective testimony to this fact – never has Pat Buchanan advocated any such policies, whether they be barring Jews from his country club or placing maximum quotas on Jews in various occupations (both of which have happened in the U.S. in our lifetime), let alone legal measures against Jews. So once again, it is absurd and a vicious calumny to call Pat anti-Semitic. If Pat passes any rational subjective or objective “litmus test” with flying colors, what else is there? It is high time and past time that the anti-anti-Semitic Smear Bund shut up about Buchanan and, while they’re at it, reconsider their other vilifications as well.
But am I not redefining anti-Semitism out of existence? Certainly not. On the subjective definition, by the very nature of the situation, I don’t know any such people, and I doubt whether the Smear Bund does either. On the objective definition, where outsiders can have greater knowledge, and setting aside clear-cut anti-Semites of the past, there are in modern America authentic anti-Semites: groups such as the Christian Identity movement, or the Aryan Resistance, or the author of the novel Turner’s Diaries. But these are marginal groups, you say, of no account and not worth worrying about? Yes, fella, and that is precisely the point.