Springtime for Hitler
Jude Wanniski
October 26, 1999


Sorry to say this, Pat, but it doesn't matter what you or anyone else says about you in your defense: You are an anti-Semitic "Hitler lover," now that Donald Trump says so, an indictment on Meet the Press immediately followed by Norman Podhoretz declaring "case closed," in Monday's WSJournal, "Buchanan and Anti-Semitism." Anyone seen reading your book, A Republic, Not an Empire, will now go on a "list," and God (Allah) only knows what will happen to them once Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League gets finished sharpening his ax. Norman Podhoretz will be safe, though, as it is clear from his condemnation of your book that he did not read it. I understand that Norman, who was a grouchy old man when he was in his teens, is really something else now that he is pushing 80. He recently wrote several thousand words condemning Edmund Morris's biography of the Gipper, without ever seeing a copy. I guess it wouldn't matter anyway. John Judis of the New Republic, normally a good guy, reviewed your book for the Sunday NYTimes Book Review earlier this month, and he saw in it what he wanted to see in it. I was happy to see the Times run a letter defending Pat last Sunday, especially since the fellow doing the defending was Benjamin Schwarz of Santa Monica (who now surely goes on the "list").

October 24, 1999
New York Times Book Review
To the Editor:

In his review of Patrick J. Buchanan's book ''A Republic, Not an Empire'' (Oct. 3), John B. Judis implies that ''isolationism'' was a doctrine of the far right and suggests that an isolationist position during World War II and anti-Semitism were necessarily linked. But surely Judis wouldn't argue that such progressives as Norman Thomas, John L. Lewis, Oswald Garrison Villard, Charles Beard, Frank Lloyd Wright and Dwight Macdonald were ''right-wing cranks'' and anti-Semites because they were isolationists.

Judis criticizes Buchanan for praising the America First committee ''without acknowledging the anti-Semitism of its most famous spokesman, Charles Lindbergh.'' True, Lindbergh was a prominent member of America First -- as were the liberals Robert La Follette Jr., Robert Hutchins, Chester Bowles, Sinclair Lewis, E. E. Cummings, John T. Flynn and Sidney Hertzberg. And yes, Lindbergh did write some comments in his unpublished diaries that we would now consider anti-Semitic. But Lindbergh's ''genteel'' anti-Semitism was unrelated to his isolationism.

No less products of their era and class than was Lindbergh, a great many pro-interventionists -- among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, George Kennan and even Walter Lippmann -- also wrote anti-Semitic statements (which, by the way, were far less genteel than Lindbergh's). Would Judis argue that in praising the pro-interventionist position, an author must also acknowledge the anti-Semitism of some of its major proponents?

Benjamin Schwarz
Santa Monica, Calif.

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I also send along an exchange with a fellow named Lewis Fein, who comes into my website TalkShop now and then, to take potshots at me and generally livens up the discussion. He complains about my defense of your book, on this site, October 19 and headlined his memo: "Springtime for Hitler.."

Jude Wanniski's defense of Pat Buchanan's new book is both regrettably predictable and predictably regrettable, for Buchanan perpetuates a brand of revisionist history that, although technically correct, is almost always stylistically wrong. Unlike many others, I have taken the time to read Buchanan's book, and my opinion of his work has neither changed nor improved. Buchanan still remains a relatively minor political figure, with a proclivity toward romanticizing his past - especially the presumably structured environment of 1950s segregationist Washington (see his memoir "Right from the Beginning").

Buchanan's attack on hyphenated Americans, for example, is a well argued statement that, like other populist claims, loses its appeal when juxtaposed against the more ridiculous claims of its adherents. This is similar to Louis Farrakhan's reasoned arguments against welfare and dependency, whereupon Mr. Farrakhan or his surrogates suddenly - and deliberately - begins attacks against Jewish citizens.

Buchanan eschews the marriage between morality and foreign policy, but he makes certain demands - like Israel's removal from the Golan Heights and West Bank - that can only be construed as selective moral judgments. Thus, Israel does not deserve American assistance for two reasons: first, it upsets the normal balance of power between the United States and its potential allies in the Middle East; and second, Israel mistreats its Palestinian occupants. In effect, Mr. Buchanan says, "It's not that Israel, or any other democratic ally, does not need American foreign aid, it simply doesn't deserve it." How else to explain Buchanan's passionate defense of accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk, while other wrongfully imprisoned convicts do not enjoy the power of Buchanan's pen?

As for Buchanan's condemnation of Winston Churchill, I cannot think of a more ridiculously argued chapter. Winston Churchill is the Man of the Century for obvious reasons: he did not accept Adolf Hitler's word. Hitler was a rapacious tyrant; he was not Bismark redux. Bismark consolidated German power, whereas the Kaiser (and thereafter Hitler) led Germany into two world wars. That Buchanan cannot understand the logic of Churchill's pleas for action is disturbing.

Jule Herbert: I don't particularly want to carry a brief for Buchanan, but I too have read the book and in the page and a half he devotes to Israel he does not make the points Lewis says he does, and he does not come off as anti-Israel. If one is going to advocate a noninterventionist foreign policy, one must present a plan to disengage from our commitments to others. Having done so, Buchanan arguments should be countered by pro-interventionist arguments not name-calling. There is even less excuse for the name of this string, "Springtime for Hitler."

Peter Signorelli: Oh for goodness sake, Lewis, the views regarding Israel you say Buchanan espouses in his book happen to be views that are openly expressed WITHIN Israel by sections of the Israeli population: Israeli withdrawal from the Golan and West Bank. Are those self-hating Jews, Lewis, who advocate that move? And how silly to attack Buchanan for "his passionate defense of accused Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk...instead of other wrongfully imprisoned convicts." The fact that ONLY Buchanan came to that man's defense, despite all the venom and slander spewed against Pat, speaks to a strength in him that is lacking in so many other champions of those who suffer injustice. To be so upset by this, Lewis, suggests that the biases lie with you, not Buchanan.

Lewis Fein: Buchanan's defense of Demjanjuk is peculiar for a number of reasons. First, Buchanan is admittedly tough on crime (who isn't?), and he enthusiastically supports the death penalty. These are not controversial positions; indeed, they are logical positions. Thus, it is fair to judge Buchanan by his own moral calculus. By way of brief example, a mass murderer - no, any murderer - would not necessarily elicit skepticism from Buchanan. Buchanan would condemn the crime, to be sure, but he would most likely simultaneously ignore the suspect's alibi. Buchanan is a columnist, not a criminal defense attorney. He would do one of two things: a) demur any impulses to write about the story, or b) he would vehemently condemn the criminal act, thereby penning 750 words of condemnation. Instead, Buchanan rushed to Demjanjuk's defense. (Full disclosure: I do not contest Demjanjuk's guilt, only Buchanan's conscience.) This is especially strange, because Demjanjuk was a villain direct from central casting. There was something inherently disturbing about his very person. This is fundamentally different from arbitrarily removing African-American citizens from select walks of life, as some law enforcement officers are wont to do. The Israeli government methodically researched their suspect; they did not construct a racist profile.

But Buchanan has always seemed less concerned about the crime than the accused criminal. This is similar to disbelieving the word of rape victims, because they "wanted it," or preventing the counter-factual testimony of black citizens during Jim Crow. It is truly sad how far Buchanan has fallen.

Jude Wanniski: Pat Buchanan and I almost never defend people who are being defended by others. It would be superfluous. We always wind up defending people who nobody else will defend. Often it is because they will be accused of being anti-Semitic. When you get on the blacklist of Abe Foxman, head of the Jewish Inquisition at the Anti-Defamation League, anyone who defends you goes on the same list. And Pat shows that it doesn't even matter if you defend a man against charges of being a Nazi war criminal and the supreme court of Israel agrees with you. Lewis Fein says that it is sufficient to defend such a man in order to be anti-Semitic.

Norman Podhoretz, former editor of Commentary, in [Monday's] WSJournal is given almost the entire page to "prove" Buchanan is anti-Semitic. He ridicules Buchanan's defense of Demjanjuk, even though Israel judged him innocent and it was a case of mistaken identity, on the grounds that Demjanjuk certainly must have worked at some other prison camp where he committed war crimes!! The hatred of Podhoretz of anyone suspected of being German has its only parallel in Hitler's hatred of Jews. It is very hard for a man in a lynch mob, infused with hatred for the suspected villain, to realize he has become evil. It is especially horrifying to see Podhoretz engulfed with hatred for Buchanan, when he even admits they marched shoulder to should as friends and allies during the Cold War -- and that Pat was a friend of Israel. It is not enough, says Podhoretz, that Pat insists he is not anti-Semitic, or for his friends, including Jewish friends, to insist he is not anti-Semitic. Podhoretz can TELL that a demon has possessed Buchanan! The demon, I'm afraid, has possessed Podhoretz... and Lewis Fein.

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P.S. In beating you up, Podhoretz quoted a fraction of a quote from your days writing editorials for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Here is more of the quote: "Those of us in childhood during the war years were introduced to Hitler only as a caricature…Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier's soldier in the Great War, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him. But 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."
Aug. 25, 1977

P.P.S. I thought your speech announcing your departure from the GOP to run for the Reform Party nomination was not very good. You won't get any further with the politics of resentment in the Reform Party than you did in the GOP. But as they say in Austin, Vaya con Dios, amigo.