The cable television network MSNBC formally severed ties with the far-right commentator Pat Buchanan in February. Several conservative news media voices in Washington, D.C., avoiding the antisemitism that disqualifies Buchanan from their movement, decried MSNBC’s action as an act of left-wing censorship.
Examples included WMAL AM and FM, a major Washington-area talk radio station whose schedule includes the Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levine shows, and The Washington Times, which markets itself as a conservative counter-balance to The Washington Post.
WMAL’s “Morning Majority” (February 20) with hosts Brian Wilson, Mary Katharine Ham and Bryan Nehman, interviewed Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller Web site, about Buchanan’s dismissal. They focused on MSNBC shedding its last right-leaning voice. They did not consider whether Buchanan should have been on the air in the first place.
Washington Times’ syndicated columnist (and rock ‘n roll guitar legend) Ted Nugent (“MSNBC separates from reason; Cutting ties with Buchanan hastens network’s descent into irrelevancy,” February 21) referred uncritically to Pat Buchanan’s “rock-solid conservative thoughts ….”
But as CAMERA pointed out in letters to the station and the newspaper, one need not take ideological instruction from MSNBC to recognize that Buchanan – columnist, author, TV talking head, presidential adviser – is a reactionary, not a conservative, and a bigot. Leading conservatives had said as much before this latest Buchanan brouhaha. For example:
* American Spectator magazine founder and editor R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., wrote a 2009 article headlined, “Is Pat Buchanan a Crank?” Yes, Tyrrell concluded, reviewing Buchanan’s tendency to blame Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt for prolonging if not starting World War II.
Tyrrell noted that George F. Will, perhaps the country’s most prominent conservative columnist, confronted Buchanan over the latter’s false claim that the Holocaust did not begin until 1942. In fact, by then Hitler’s Nazis and their allies had murdered 1.5 million Jews. (The erroneous chronology is important to Buchanan’s anti-Churchill beliefs.)
The father of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., examining Buchanan’s Israel-bashing and American Jew-baiting before Operation Desert Storm in 1991, determined in a long National Review essay that Buchanan “said things about Jews that could not reasonably be interpreted as other than anti-Semitic in tone and substance.”
Buchanan repeated the performance Buckley had indicted him for at the outset of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. TIME magazine (“Pat Buchanan’s Iraq Conspiracy,” April 17, 2003) noted a March 24 commentary headlined “Whose War?” by Buchanan in his The American Conservative journal:
“The article charged that American foreign policy has been hijacked by a ‘cabal’ of ‘neoconservatives,’ clearly Buchanan’s code word for high-ranking Jews in the Bush Administration. These neocons, he says, are ‘deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian peoples’ right to a homeland of their own.’ They harbor a ‘passionate attachment’ to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on the assumption that, somehow, ‘what’s good for Israel is good for America.’ In other words, it’s ‘their war,’ not ours.
“Think about this. Buchanan in effect is charging that such strong-minded and staunch officials as Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell, to say nothing of the President, are mere putty in the hands of such wily plotters as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Elliott Abrams, bending willingly to their traitorous agenda.
“Over the years, the record of this renegade Republican has been loaded with proclamations that have caused many of his fellow conservatives to shy away and even disown him. William Bennett, for one, has charged Buchanan with ‘flirting with fascism.’ During the 2000 Presidential primaries, candidate Alan Keyes accused Buchanan’s advisors of appealing to racist and anti-Semitic voters.”
“Cabal” (of American Jews) and the dual loyalty canard are, of course, staples of antisemitic conspiracy theories. A recent Daily Caller report made it clear, if unintentionally, that Buchanan still scratches the same obsessive itch: He falsely equates Israel, which seeks to defend itself, with Iran, whose leaders have called for Israel to be destroyed, and again, as in ’91 and ’03, paints Israel and its supporters as war-mongers.
Buchanan claims that the Jewish state, which has not called for the destruction of any of its neighbors, is more threatening than the Islamic republic. Yet Iran has been fighting U.S. interests from the 1979 seizure of the embassy in Tehran and imprisonment of American diplomats through the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon and 1996 bombing of U.S. military housing at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to supplying anti-American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.
Buchanan, ordinarily “tough on crime,” has rarely failed to defend accused Nazi war criminals facing deportation. He opposed the Catholic Church’s Vatican II reforms, which included recognition and rejection of centuries of anti-Jewish teachings. He’s on record denigrating blacks and Hispanics.
When Buckley strove to make the new conservative movement respectable in the 1950s, he insisted on marginalizing the John Birch Society. Conservatism and Buchanan long have been in similar tension. He is at best a crank, at worst a rea ctionary extremist and, MSNBC notwithstanding, a drag on the legitimate right.
Conservative apologists for Buchanan’s continued presence in major news media cite his “entertaining” ideological combativeness and purported personal charm. Neither characteristic, even if abundantly present, erases the stain of antisemitism.