Buchanan’s strange concern for former Nazis (Alan A. Ryan, Jr., a former Justice Department prosecutor, once characterized Buchanan as “the spokesman for Nazi war criminals in America”) is coupled with a disdain for Holocaust survivors, whom he’s described as suffering from “group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.”
A constant critic of the late Kurt Waldheim during the latter’s tenure as UN secretary general, Buchanan suddenly became supportive when the nature of Waldheim’s wartime activities was made public. The ostracism of Waldheim by the U.S. and other countries, wrote Buchanan, had to it “an aspect of moral bullying and the singular stench of selective indignation.”
Buchanan actively lobbied then-Attorney General Edwin Meese on behalf of Karl Linnas, who had headed a Nazi concentration camp in Estonia (Meese ignored Buchanan’s entreaties and Linnas was deported to the Soviet Union), and made his unhappiness known when the U.S. apologized to France for having sheltered the “Butcher of Lyons,” Klaus Barbie. (“To what end,” Buchanan asked rhetorically in a column on the Barbie matter, “all this wallowing in the atrocities of a dead regime…”)
Buchanan, who in his autobiography describes being brought up in a milieu of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism by a father whose “sympathies had been with the isolationists, with Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee,” seems always to be spoiling for a religious war, particularly when he feels that his church has been slighted or trumped by Jews or Jewish interests.
His deep-seated resentments are perhaps best summed up in his complaint about what he calls “the caustic, cutting cracks about my church and my popes from both Israel and its amen corner in the United States.”
The controversy that erupted in the late 1980’s over the desire of some Carmelite nuns to erect a permanent convent at Auschwitz was made to order for Buchanan. Upset with conciliatory statements made by the late Cardinal John O’Connor and other church leaders, he sneered: “If U.S. Jewry takes the clucking appeasement of the Catholic cardinalate as indicative of our submission, it is mistaken.
“When Cardinal O’Connor of New York … declares this ‘is not a fight between Catholics and Jews,’ he speaks for himself. Be not afraid, Your Eminence; just step aside, there are bishops and priests ready to assume the role of defender of the faith.”
Although he likes to say that he was at one time an “uncritical apologist for Israel,” Buchanan was already on record as early as the mid-1970’s imploring Congress not to listen “to the counsel of the Jewish lobby” and criticizing legislation designed to counter the Arab boycott of Israel.
In 1982, Buchanan referred to the mass killing of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps as the “Rosh Hashanah massacre,” and opined that “the Israeli army is looking toward a blackening of its name to rival what happened to the French army in the Dreyfus Affair.”
And so Buchanan already had a history when he gained notoriety, shortly before the 1991 Gulf War, by describing the U.S. Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory” and claiming that “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.”
As international-affairs scholar Joshua Muravchik wrote some years ago in Commentary, Buchanan “is hostile to Israel….sprinkles his columns with taunting remarks about things Jewish…rallies to the defense of Nazi war criminals, not only those who protest their innocence but also those who confess their guilt … [and] implies that the generally accepted interpretation of the Holocaust might be a serious exaggeration.”
When confronted with a man who does all these things, suggested Muravchik, a fair conclusion would be that his actions are consistent with the succinct definition of anti-Semitism – “an embedded hatred of Jewish people, manifest in writing and conduct” – given, in a 1990 column, by none other than Patrick J. Buchanan himself.