Saturday, September 11, 2004

Buchanan Play the Anti-Semitic Card--Again

Timothy Noah calls Buchanan "America's most respectable anti-Semite," though Ralph Nader is giving him a run for his money. Regardless, Noah nails it.

Pat Buchanan has achieved what I never would have thought possible. He has created sympathy for Richard Perle, the belligerent Iraq hawk, aspiring litigant, expense-account jockey, and best pal a guy ever had on Hollinger International's Executive Committee. Buchanan managed this feat by tossing an anti-Semitic slur Perle's way in his new book, Where the Right Went Wrong. It hasn't gotten much pickup yet; Jacob Heilbrunn, a Los Angeles Times editorial writer, flagged it on Aug. 29, and Michael Kazin mentions it in the Sept. 12 New York Times Book Review. But I suspect it will create yet another hue and cry about Buchanan's animosity toward Jews, which is getting harder and harder to explain away.

Let's turn to page 42 of Where the Right Went Wrong. In a passage introducing the group of Iraq hawks who called themselves "the Vulcans," Buchanan observes that the best known members

were Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. Perle's depiction of his delight at first meeting the future president reads like Fagin relating his initial encounter with the young Oliver Twist.

Buchanan is trying to evoke, humorously, the con artist's delight at finding an innocent to corrupt. But Fagin is second only to Shylock as the most famously anti-Semitic portrayal of a Jew to be found in English literature. Scholars often argue that, as characters in The Merchant of Venice and Oliver Twist, respectively, Shylock and Fagin possess human qualities that transcend the ugly stereotype of the grasping Jew. But nobody would dispute that any comparison between Fagin and an actual, living Jew—particularly one made by a writer (Buchanan) who has more than once been called anti-Semitic—is, well, anti-Semitic.

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