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Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 1999 /19 Tishrei, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Buchanan's peculiar
history lesson --
WHY WOULD PAT BUCHANAN, long-time conservative commentator, even consider a move that could elect Al Gore or Bill Bradley president?

To answer that question, it is necessary to understand one thing: Buchanan is no longer a conservative. As Ramesh Ponnuru summarizes in the current issue of National Review, Buchanan no longer believes in the things that characterize 1990s conservatism: free-market economics, free trade, smaller government, opposition to quotas and a forceful international role for the United States.

Close observers have noted that, over the past four or five years, Buchanan has downplayed abortion and other social issues in favor of trade and foreign policy. Those are the subjects he has written books about, and those are what get his blood going these days. How much does he care about abortion and other social issues if he is willing to increase the odds that a Democrat will be appointing judges for the next four years?

Trade and foreign policy are also the issues Buchanan cites to explain his interest in the Reform Party. A few years ago, I heard him threatening to bolt the Republican Party if it were ever to drop its pro-life plank. He is today ready to embrace a party that is neutral on the subject and leave a party that is pro-life. With visions of the presidential debates dancing in his head, he is willing to say nice things about Communist Lenora Fulani, and to consider for his running-mate Jimmy Hoffa Jr., the man who sponsored TV ads against most of the Republican candidates for whom Buchanan's pitch-fork wielders voted. This is not principled, and it isn't conservatism. It's egotism.

Buchanan complains bitterly when his motives are questioned, yet smearing the motives of his opponents is one of his favorite tactics. Even the choice of the America First label, with its noisome implication that others are putting some other nation first, is offensive. Plenty of patriots fear Buchanan's trade demagoguery, knowing that if implemented as policy it would, at the very least, lead to higher prices and higher unemployment (which would result from fewer exports), and at the worst to global depression.

Now regarding his "scholarly" exercise, "A Republic, Not an Empire," it is not what some critics have charged: a brief against our involvement in World War II. He acknowledges that once the Japanese attacked, we had no choice but to crush the Japanese Empire.

But Buchanan does say that absent the attack on Pearl Harbor, we ought never to have gone to war. He is at pains to rehabilitate the reputation of the America First movement -- which sank into disfavor after Pearl Harbor. In the process, he merely adds more evidence of his own moral corruption.

He is bitterly contemptuous, in this book, of those who misread Stalin's intentions. Yet he is willing to bet that Hitler had no aggressive intentions toward us. Really? Why did Hitler declare war on us a week after Pearl Harbor? He didn't have to. Buchanan cites polls from 1941 showing that most Americans opposed intervention in the war. Yes, but we have the advantage of hindsight. In 1941, few knew about the horrors Hitler would visit on every country he conquered.

Buchanan is hotly indignant about so called "smears" leveled at America Firsters. Among those unfairly tarred as fascists he includes Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. Now Lindbergh did eventually fly 40 missions in World War II, but in the 1930s he accepted a medal from Hitler.As for Henry Ford, Buchanan surely knows -- but does not say -- that he was the vicious disseminator of the famous fraud "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and a Hitler admirer. The Fuhrer returned the favor, displaying Ford's portrait in a prominent place. That Buchanan attempts to whitewash him is revealing.

The United States had no proper quarrel with Hitler, Buchanan believes. But he endorses the Cold War. Why? If the Monroe Doctrine is your guiding star, then there is no justification for resisting communism and not fascism.

But as this book makes abundantly clear, Buchanan is not guided by principle, but rather by tribe, and frankly, by malice -- and he should be opposed by all men of good will.

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate