I first experienced Pat Buchanan when he was a regular on the McLaughlin Group, in the 1980s. I thought he was entertaining and pugnacious, making his points with a brutal yet elegant logic and a biting wit. I found myself kind of liking him.
Then I noticed that the more I saw him, the less I liked him. I started to see him more as a bully than an actual debater, one more inclined to use brute force when other approaches might work — and even work better.
And I noticed that I didn’t like a lot of his supporters. Pat seemed to have enormous appeal to thugs, bullies, fascists, punks, and others of that ilk.
I especially noticed this in 1992, when Pat made one of his runs for president. I started debating with a couple of his supporters on the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire, and the debate ended when one of them offered to enlighten me by throwing me through a nearby plate-glass window.
That’s when I started listening to some of Pat’s critics, and I saw they had a point, One observer noted that Pat was a notorious law-and-order guy, with no sympathies for those convicted — or accused of crimes. The notable exception was if the person was accused of Nazi war crimes. The only time I’ve ever seen Pat come to the defense of an accused criminal has been when reputed Nazis living secretly in the West have been apparently exposed and threatened with trial for their alleged deeds.
Then Molly Ivins — one of the more brilliant political humorists the Left has ever had — skewered Pat’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Ivins dismissed concerns about the tone of the piece, saying that “it probably sounded better in the original German.”
Since then, I’ve noted that Pat has a tendency to harp on World War II, especially Nazi Germany. It seems whenever something new comes out about that era, Pat has to come out and make sure that there isn’t the slightest possible exaggeration about what the Nazis did — or did not — do, and even hint that gee, maybe they weren’t the most hideous monsters that ever walked the earth.
Case in point: this article,
Buchanan seems to be arguing that the most significant cause of World War II was twofold: first, Poland’s refusal to yield the city of Danzig/Gdansk; secondly, England’s pledge to fight alongside the Poles should the Germans attack. Had the Poles simply given the city to the Nazis, then Hitler would have been happy and not started World War II.
I guess with Danzig returned to Deutschland, Hitler’s idea of “all German-speaking peoples must be part of Germany” would have been sated, and he wouldn’t have then turned to areas such as France’s Alsace-Lorraine region, or even parts of Pennsylvania and Minnesota where a lot of Germans came to settle.
According to Pat, Hitler didn’t want to conquer Poland. He wanted the Poles as allies against the godless Communists of the Soviet Union. It was only when they were too stubborn to give up Gdansk to him that he had absolutely no choice but to ally with the hated and feared commies and divvy up Poland between them.
Maybe Pat has a streak of absolute intellectual integrity in him that demands that whenever the matter of Nazi Germany is brought up, that the facts be presented as accurately and honestly as possible. Maybe he thinks that the absolute truth about the Nazis is so evil and so important that he will not tolerate any misstatement, exaggeration, or lie be uttered about them. He is concerned that the lessons the world learned not be forgotten, and wants to make damned sure that the lesson remains undiluted, unadulterated, and absolutely accurate.
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
I think there’s a part of Pat that likes riling up people, and flirting with Nazism and Nazi apogeticism really angers those people he likes to anger. Maybe he’s not really a neo-Nazi, or even a classical Nazi, but he thrills at flirting with it, running headlong right up to it, then slamming on the brakes and stopping just short of crossing the line. That way, his opponents have to admit no, Pat isn’t really a Nazi, and those who like that tendency in him can say “he really is with us, he just can’t quite cross that line without the Jews/Neocons/Liberals/Big Media/(insert your own favorite group here) destroying him.”
Pat appeals to the ugliest parts of people. And I’m honest enough to admit that there’s a part of me that likes seeing him get certain people all bent out of shape. He’s damned good at it, he knows it, and he has fun doing it.
But I need to master that part of me. It’s the part of all of us that we need to restrain, in the interests of remaining civilized.
It certainly doesn’t need to be egged on by the likes of Pat Buchanan.