ANTI-SEMITISM AND A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY
Mar 11, 1996, Vol. 1, No. 25 • By NORMAN PODHORETZ
Chances are that most of the voters now supporting Buchanan are unaware of his anti-Semitism. In 1992, when he was merely a protest candidate with little to lose, he defiantly adopted the slogan "America First," in full knowledge that the purpose of the original America First movement, founded in 1940, was in the short run to oppose American aid to the nations of Europe threatened by Nazi Germany and in the longer run to keep the United States from going to war against Hitler. (This identification with the America First movement casts a harsh light on his bizarre solicitude for Nazi war criminals. ) In 1996, he has been more cautious, and if his political fortunes keep improving he will probably become more cautious still: He may even stop pointing to identifiably Jewish names like Goldman Sachs, Greenspan, and Rubin gesthenever he attacks the Mexican bailout. It will, then, be up to others to make sure the voters know that this man appealing for their support in a bid for the presidency is an unrepentant anti-Semite.
We are told to treat Buchanan's supporters with respect, and it is precisely because I do respect them and share their concern over the moral condition of this country that I believe many of them would consider him morally unworthy of their respect if they became aware of his anti- Semitic record. But even if I am mistaken about this, avoiding the issue will still exact a heavy price from the conservative movement.
Buchanan's ideas about the economy and foreign policy are wrong and indeed dangerous, and even if he were not an anti-Semite, they would provide suffcient grounds for working against him. But he is an anti-Semite, which means that for conservatives to remain silent about it while opposing him only because he is a protectionist and an isolationist is inescapably to suggest that anti-Semitism is of no great importance as compared pared with these other issues. Conversely, conservatives who ignore or deny or forgive Buchanan's anti-Semitism because they favor the positions he takes on abortion or immigration bring disgrace upon those very causes by accepting such a man as their leading spokesman.
To say it again: The voters attracted to Buchanan deserve to be taken seriously, and the worries about our society that are driving them into his arms deserve to be addressed. But Buchanan himself deserves no such treatment from conservatives. What he deserves -- and what the honor of the conservative movement demands -- is that his anti-Semitism be taken seriously and that he be disqualified as a candidate because of it and because of it alone.
Norman Podhoretz, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, retire last year after 35 years as editor in chief of Commentary magazine. Among his writings on anti-semitism are the articles "J'Accuse" (1982 about Isreal and the war in Lebanon) and "The Hate Taht Dare NOt Speak Its Name" (1986, about Gore Vidal).