An expert on venom

Stan Lichtenstein

September 21, 1990|By Stan Lichtenstein

ENDOWED with prodigious fangs, Pat Buchanan speaks with authority when he detects "venom" and "excess" in Abe Rosenthal's column accusing him of anti-Semitism. Buchanan should know. He's an expert on venom.

"Pat, I want you to cut this bastard from rectum to belly button," his publisher at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat told him one morning in the 1960s, referring to "some liberal who had misstepped." Pat replied venomously: "I'm already working on him, sir."

Buchanan also boasts in his autobiography of accomplishments inspired by the "wise counsel Westbrook Pegler had once given a young journalist" concerning the "proper posture" to be taken in attacking political opponents: "Stand flat on your feet and swing for the belly."

The theme -- although not the metaphor -- is always the same: Butcher your victim with joyous abandon and don't worry about any Queensberry rules.

Sometimes, the mayhem is more than merely verbal or metaphorical. It is a real knee in a real groin that Buchanan celebrates ecstatically in the following passage: "[Sen. Joseph] McCarthy was cheered because for four years he was daily kicking the hell out of people most Americans concluded ought to have the living hell kicked out of them. And if he kneed Drew BTC Pearson in the groin at the Sulgrave Club, well, what was that compared with frittering half the world away to the bloodiest tyranny on the face of the Earth?"

Life for this brawling Irishman is one perpetual donnybrook -- but don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are Irish. For example, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Like millions of other Americans, I have never met the justice, but I count him as a friend nonetheless. In unrestrained celebration of Brennan's /^ retirement, Buchanan wrote:

"All in all, a lousy day to be a liberal; but the best news [in addition to the overturning of Ollie North's conviction and the splendiferous opening of the Richard Nixon Library in California] was the retirement of Justice Brennan . . . The grinning little leprechaun of a justice -- 'Call me Bill' -- leaves a nation at war over abortion and race, a culture polluted by pornographic sewage, schools hollowed out of the Christian faith that once defined their character, cities sunk in vice and crime . . . [W]hen the great friend of the friendless meets his Maker, I hope he has a good explanation for the 25 million unborn, done to death in human butcher shops in the 17 years since Roe vs. Wade . . ."

But to get back to Abe Rosenthal's anti-Semitism charge against Buchanan. I think the charge is solidly based on Buchanan tirades that translate into barely concealed Jew-baiting. Buchanan depicts Jews as the war mongers of the Middle East, eager to shed American blood to topple Saddam Hussein. Earlier Buchanan thrusts, highlighted by Rosenthal, involved "the demeaning of the Holocaust, the phony evidence to question a crime of the gas chambers, the smarmy defense of war criminals and the attacks on American prosecutors who dared chase them down, the crack that Congress was 'Israeli-occupied' territory . . ."

Rambo Buchanan, responding as if the exchange might have begun as a drunken arm-wrestling match in a barroom, threatens that one of the pair must get out of town by sundown. Rosenthal, he says, "tried to pull a revolver on me and it went off while it was still in his holster." Buchanan's prediction: "The more painful consequences are going to be his."

If the dust ever settles, I think a broader perspective on Buchanan's antics may be brought to bear. He is a professional baiter of nearly everyone -- Jews included -- who doesn't fit into his theocratic vision. Buchanan is poles removed from William Brennan, whom it would be nice to meet some day. By contrast, I'd be afraid to meet Buchanan. He might knee me in the groin. Or cut me from rectum to belly button.

Stan Lichtenstein writes from Bethesda.

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