In his own words

PATRICK J. BUCHANAN:

Presidential hopeful's writings and comments shed light on his claims that mainstream media have distorted his views.

October 03, 1999|By Jeff Cohen

IN RECENT DAYS, Patrick J. Buchanan has vehemently denied accusations of bigotry stemming from his new book, which questions U.S. intervention in World War II. And he has accused the news media -- including CNN, which provided the national platform from which he has repeatedly catapulted into presidential politics -- of distorted reporting.

Since Buchanan sees himself as a student of history, it's appropriate to check the historical record of Buchanan's comments and writings. This refresher course in Buchananism sheds light on whether mainstream media have been unfair to him -- or too soft.

Part of the current controversy revolves around Buchanan's insensitivity to the demise of European Jews at the hands of Adolf Hitler. In a 1977 column acknowledging Hitler's anti-Semitism and genocidal bent, Buchanan argued that Hitler was "also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe. ... Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path."

Hitler, a "genius" with "great courage"? Few in the media took exception when Buchanan wrote it. When a similar characterization was offered by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan -- Hitler was a "great man" albeit "wicked" and "evil" -- mainstream journalists went ballistic.

On the issue of the Nazi extermination of Jews, Buchanan is unique as a national figure who has challenged basic facts of the Holocaust and opposed the effort to prosecute war criminals. In 1987, columnist Buchanan urged Ronald Reagan to shut down the Justice Department office pursuing Nazi war criminals -- which Buchanan ridiculed for "running down 70-year-old camp guards."

Decrying "group fantasies of martyrdom," Buchanan questioned the historical record that thousands of Jews at Treblinka had been gassed by diesel exhaust: "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody," he wrote in a 1990 column. Not only was he wrong on the science, but asked to provide a source for his claims on Treblinka, the best Buchanan could answer -- "Somebody sent it to me." It turned out that he was circulating one of the canards of those who claim the death camps were a Zionist invention.

Another current Buchanan controversy surrounds his accusations about Jewish influence over foreign policy. In 1985, as White House communications director, Buchanan pushed hard for President Reagan to visit the cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, where Nazi SS troops are buried, and reportedly wrote the controversial line in Reagan's speech that the SS soldiers were "victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps." The trip went forward despite broad protests, including complaints made at a White House meeting by American Jewish leaders, who claim Buchanan lectured them to start acting like Americans first.

In 1990, many Americans opposed the drive toward war in the Persian Gulf; Buchanan was one of the few critics who saw a Jewish plot. "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States," he asserted on television's "McLaughlin Group." While dozens of powerful pundit and policy voices advocated war with Iraq, Buchanan felt the need to single out four saber-rattlers -- A.M. Rosenthal, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and Henry Kissinger -- all Jews.

Here again Buchanan's apparent prejudices about Jews seemed to blind him to the facts. On the key January 1991 Capitol Hill vote authorizing war in the Persian Gulf, most Jewish members of Congress voted no -- on Buchanan's side, not Kissinger's.

Fears about Israeli plotting in Washington, D.C., remained evident during Buchanan's 1996 run for the presidency. On his campaign Web site, an article blamed the death of Clinton administration aide Vincent Foster on the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. The article, which alleged that Foster and Hillary Clinton were Mossad spies, was removed after a Jewish news service reported on it. Buchanan says he is neither a bigot nor an extremist.

Here's a sampling of his views:

On African-Americans

In a 1993 column attacking then-Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois for blocking a patent for a Confederate flag insignia, Buchanan accused her of "putting on an act" by linking the Confederacy with slavery: "The War Between the States was about independence, about self-determination, about the right of a people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give allegiance. ... How long is this endless groveling before every cry of 'racism' going to continue before the whole country collectively throws up?"

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