Furor follows Buchanan Primary battle: The GOP candidate rejects what he calls a campaign of smears and guilt- by-association tactics. Critics say his choices of associates speak volumes.

February 24, 1996|By Carl M. Cannon and Ann LoLordo | Carl M. Cannon and Ann LoLordo,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The last time Patrick J. Buchanan jolted the Republican Party, it was 1992, and a cold rain descended on his parade. Mr. Buchanan blamed his enemies, but the harshest criticism cameonclude that Mr. Buchanan had trafficked in loaded stereotypes about gender and sexual orientation, race and religion.

After his victory in the New Hampshire primary this week, Mr. Buchanan's attitudes on those sensitive matters are receiving fresh scrutiny.

He appears in the ensuing four years to have tempered his tone without altering the in-your-face substance of his brand of conservatism. This time, alarm bells are being set off not by Mr. Buchanan's own words and actions but by those of people who have gravitated toward him.

A Florida campaign organizer resigned after it was revealed that she was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, founded by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

Mr. Buchanan accepted the resignation of a campaign co-chairman, Larry Pratt, after it was revealed he had spoken at meetings of white supremacists and right-wing "militia" groups.

Mr. Buchanan ran into more questions yesterday about his campaign team, firing a South Carolina worker who once worked for Mr. Duke and fending off queries about three Louisiana delegates with reported ties to Mr. Duke.

To Mr. Buchanan's defenders, the criticism is unfair because it assigns guilt by asso-ciation. Indeed, when the issue rose to the surface recently, Mr. Buchanan stated unambiguously that he did not tolerate bigotry.

"There is no room in the Buchanan campaign for people who are anti-Semitic or anti-Catholic or anti-black or any other of these aversions," he said this week, "because our campaign is about bringing this country together and making us one people and one nation under God again."

But the candidate also defiantly defended Mr. Pratt, who he said was attacked because "he's a Christian."

It is a pattern Mr. Buchanan has repeated when associates have come under fire. Friends say it's because he's loyal -- to a fault -- to those who have long stood beside him.

Even Mr. Buchanan's critics acknowledge this. But presidential candidates are often held to higher standards.

"People are known by their associates," said Skipp Porteous, who works for the Institute for First Amendment Studies in Massachusetts. "And these are the kind of people Buchanan attracts."

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, acknowledged that a candidate can hardly be expected to check everyone's credentials to make sure no one is "an extremist, a bigot or a racist." But, he says of Mr. Buchanan:

"He was anti-Israel. He was anti-Jewish. He was defending Holocaust deniers. These are views that he has never repudiated, never apologized for and never recanted."

The Demjanjuk case

This is a reference to Mr. Buchanan's defense of John Demjanjuk, extradited to Israel after the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting team accused him of being "Ivan the Terrible," an infamous guard at a Nazi death camp.

Mr. Buchanan makes no apologies. He notes that a federal appeals court later ruled that federal authorities had withheld exculpatory evidence that another person may have been the real "Ivan."

Israel's Supreme Court overturned Mr. Demjanjuk's conviction.

But Jewish groups counter that the courts in the United States and Israel also said the evidence showed that Mr. Demjanjuk was indeed an SS guard who had been posted to other Nazi concentration camps.

And they wonder why Mr. Buchanan has called for the abolition of the Justice Department's Nazi-hunting unit.

'War on nature'

But Mr. Buchanan has sometimes offended other groups, too.

"The poor homosexual," he wrote mockingly in a 1983 column at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. "They have declared war on nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution."

Women, he wrote in a column, are "simply not endowed by nature" with the competitive zeal to succeed in the workplace.

"The mamma bird builds the nest," he said. "So it was, so it shall ever be."

Weeks before the 1992 New Hampshire primary, Mr. Buchanan offended black groups during a discussion on a talk show:

"I think God made all people good, but if we had to take a million immigrants, say Zulus, next year, or Englishmen, and put them in Virginia, what group would be easier to assimilate and would cause less problems?"

Writing on multiethnic communities in a 1991 column, Mr. Buchanan said of Native Americans:

"Our European ancestors who founded America believed that not only was their civilization superior to what they found here but that the opinions of native Americans were not even worth listening to. Were they wrong?"

And, discussing recent immigrants in a 1991 newsletter called "From the Right":

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