Was Pat Buchanan Always A Crackpot?

I’m not sure whether Pat Buchanan was always barking mad or if he’s just become so in the last decade. He was always someone who – in my mind – kind of defined the boundary between tolerable conservativism and political leanings that really needed to be pushed to the swamps well outside the mainstream of American political dialog.

But he’s certainly insane today, and I don’t completely understand why he has any kind of a reputation or following today.

His latest is a column that suggests that the British – by their reluctance to negotiate in good faith with Hitler – were responsible for the Holocaust. No, really.

What of World War II? Surely, it was necessary to declare war to stop Adolf Hitler from conquering the world and conducting the Holocaust.

Yet consider. Before Britain declared war on him, Hitler never demanded return of any lands lost at Versailles to the West. Northern Schleswig had gone to Denmark in 1919, Eupen and Malmedy had gone to Belgium, Alsace and Lorraine to France.

Why did Hitler not demand these lands back? Because he sought an alliance, or at least friendship, with Great Britain and knew any move on France would mean war with Britain — a war he never wanted.

If Hitler were out to conquer the world, why did he not build a great fleet? Why did he not demand the French fleet when France surrendered? Germany had to give up its High Seas Fleet in 1918.

Why did he build his own Maginot Line, the Western Wall, in the Rhineland, if he meant all along to invade France?

If he wanted war with the West, why did he offer peace after Poland and offer to end the war, again, after Dunkirk?

That Hitler was a rabid anti-Semite is undeniable. “Mein Kampf” is saturated in anti-Semitism. The Nuremberg Laws confirm it. But for the six years before Britain declared war, there was no Holocaust, and for two years after the war began, there was no Holocaust.

Not until midwinter 1942 was the Wannsee Conference held, where the Final Solution was on the table.

That conference was not convened until Hitler had been halted in Russia, was at war with America and sensed doom was inevitable. Then the trains began to roll.

And why did Hitler invade Russia? This writer quotes Hitler 10 times as saying that only by knocking out Russia could he convince Britain it could not win and must end the war.

Wow, it’s hard to know where to begin here.

Let’s start with a few facts. Hitler had been building concentration camps and killing the inmates in unsystematic ways since – 1933. The first industrial killing of Jews – generally considered to be the responsibility of the Einzatzgruppen – took place in the conquered Baltic and Russian territories during 1940 and 1941. Note that the invasion of France took place in 1940. By 1942 when the Wanasee Conference rationalized what had been a fairly ad-hoc killing regime – it’s not logistically easy to kill millions of people. It’s not clear how Buchanan constructs a logical bridge to get from 1940, and the beginning of the war with the British – and 1942, or how he dismisses the wholesale murders of Jews, Gypsies, gays, Poles and others that took place before 1942. Because there were certainly trains running before Wanasee.

And it may have escaped Buchanan’s notice, but the Germans built a few boats between 1935 and 1939 (See “Bismarck” and “Tirpitz”). They planned to build more, but the Z Plan, like many of Hitler’s industrial plans, couldn’t be supported by his industrial infrastructure.

In the years before the war, the Kriegsmarine believed that any military confrontation in the near future would not be against Great Britain again, Poland and France were seen as possible enemies and the naval construction was directed to with this possible enemies in mind. A possible confrontation with one of the major sea powers was not believed before the mid or late 1940, at a time where the Z-Plan should have been completed. As it got obvious that tensions with Great Britain started to rise in 1938, the fear of a military confrontation with Great Britain caused the increased speed of the introduction of the naval construction program. But even at this time, the Kriegsmarine still believed that a war with England was several years away.

Look, I’m not aware of a mainstream history of World War II that suggest that Hitler ‘accidentally’ invaded France. This is just crackpottery. Nor am I aware of any history that suggested that Hitler could have been dissuaded if we’d only let him invade Poland without declaring war.

There are two reasons why the metaphor of Hitler is brought up: The first is that there are some people so evil they just need to be defeated; and the second is that not everyone who sits down to negotiate really intends to settle.

I’ll add a third point, which is not that bringing up more morally or historically ambiguous points about Hitler is somehow off bounds – but that if you’re going to do something like that you’d best walk in the door with better facts and arguments than are displayed here.

This is the kind of clueless commentator that our mainstream media supports?

26 thoughts on “Was Pat Buchanan Always A Crackpot?”

  1. My grandparents and I used to watch Crossfire on CNN back in the early 80’s and liked Pat at that point. Then one night the show had a guest from Ireland and Pat took a strong pro-IRA stance. My grandparents were mad for a week and never watched the show again or listened to anything he had to say on any other channel.

  2. Don’t know; It’s my impression that being pushed into those swamps MADE him barking mad; He wasn’t nearly this bad before he got exiled from the conservative movement. OTOH, maybe he was always barking mad, and just played nice while he had something to lose…

    All I know is that during the ’96 primary campaign I sent him $20 with the aim of causing Bob Dole heartburn, and he delivered. ;)

  3. I think he was always barking mad but kept it close to the vest.

    I have no evidence, but I always had a queasy feeling about Pat.

    On the one hand he can make very lucid and cogent arguments. He’s a brilliant rhetorician. However, given time, I start feeling something slimey in his arguments, something anti-semitic or bigoted in some other way.

    I’ve been watching his star rise over MSNBC for a few months now and I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s got a severe case of sour grapes for the conservative movements, which I’m sure he would say left him and it’s core principles.

    Naturally, the left leaning media love him as they do all conservatives who may have left the reservation. That is, not really but useful idiots are useful in an election year.

    What bothers me most about Pat isn’t really about him so much. I’m bothered by the people that latch on to his argument and elevate it to the level of fact or common knowledge.

    Go see his book reviews on Amazon. Folks who disagree with him are “closed minded” or “uncritical” of history as we know it.

  4. John Bull:

    My grandparents and I used to watch Crossfire on CNN back in the early 80’s and liked Pat at that point. Then one night the show had a guest from Ireland and Pat took a strong pro-IRA stance.

    Pat Buchanan can be the very model of decorum and restraint. He makes an excellent talk show guest – one who stays friendly and doesn’t talk over the other guests. You might see him on TV a hundred times and never take him for a controversialist.

    Hunter S. Thompson wrote that Buchanan was one of the media’s favorite members of the Nixon White House. At a time when everyone else was bunkered down and hostile, you could always talk to Pat. He was always friendly and cheerful.

    So he doesn’t wear the crazy on his sleeve, but when it comes out, it really comes out. Like when he praised the death fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and laughed about it.

    Buchanan is the amiable version of David Irving. I haven’t read his book and probably won’t, but I’ll bet it doesn’t say half the things he’d like to say. He doesn’t openly truck with holocaust deniers like the so-called Institute for Historical Review, but he lets them carry his column. For him, it’s all about the J-people.

  5. I didn’t become a Republican until sometime in the middle of the first Clinton administration. I well remember watching the Republican convention where Pat Buchanan gave the keynote speech. It must have been 1992. We thought, “Buchanan just lost the election for the Republicans.” Up until then, I’d only seen Buchanan on talk shows and hadn’t seen the eelbrain side come out. I think that speech had to have delayed my abandonment of the Democratic Party, if only for a couple of years. He might as well have been sputtering “Ein Volk, Ein Land.”

    These days, it seems I get an email every day from Buchanan’s machine. I started to read the first couple, but it was like dipping into the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” I delete his stuff on sight now. I consider him the Rev. Wright of the conservatives.

  6. “We thought, “Buchanan just lost the election for the Republicans.””

    Please, Bush the Elder needed no help in accomplishing that goal, he was working hard at it almost from the moment he was elected.

  7. Buchanan probably read this recent New York Times bestseller:

    “Human Smoke”:http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FHuman-Smoke-Beginnings-World-Civilization%2Fdp%2F1416567844&ei=g65fSP3JMJ6eer2KwdEO&usg=AFQjCNGip9POmwj0KDe1mbAWtKsB7fpZbQ&sig2=j0a266dnXggRff5_Ye9zkw

    I won’t risk quoting from the AP, but near the end of “this article”:http://www.sunjournal.com/story/266096-3/National/Maine_novelists_WWII_book_stirs_controversy/ the author of the book blames the US and UK for the war in Europe, and envisions a peaceful continent and no Holocaust if only Roosevelt and Churchill had taken seriously Hitler’s “peace feelers.”

  8. Brett,

    He wasn’t nearly this bad before he got exiled from the conservative movement.

    I don’t know; wasn’t it more like he left the conservative movement, rather than being expelled? Or at the very least a mutually-agreed-up divorce? (Either way, I have nothing to disprove Lunacy’s case in #5.)

    As to A.L.’s question, absolutely Buchanan’s public persona has drifted further loonward over the years.

  9. Buchanan was raised in a household where Gen. Franco was a hero, and I don’t think there has ever been evidence that he disagrees with this assessment. I’d say, in fact, that Buchanan has made some progress over the years: he used to be a closet Holocaust denier and I think he’s come to his senses on that.

    I believe that Buchanan’s view here is not unknown in the British Conservative movement, where it’s related to the possibility peace (!) with Hitler would have enabled Britain to maintain the Empire.

    You have to remember that in Buchanan’s view, the Soviet postwar occupation of parts of Catholic Europe was just as evil as the Nazis’.

  10. Buchanan used to be able to fake it better back when he was holding down the Cal Thomas conservative-anchor post on a good fraction of the flyover country syndicated editorial pages, but if you look back over his career, he was pretty clearly from the fascist side of the Republican Party. By which, I mean the folks who brought us all sorts of Bismarckian leftist policies during the Nixon era – from affirmative action, to the EPA, to price & wage controls. He was, and is, a corporatist, which is to say, fundamentally hostile to free trade, free markets, and furriners in general.

    As fascists go, Buchanan’s pretty socially conservative, which made it harder to notice back in the heyday of the “culture war”, and far more difficult before the end of the Cold War. Hostility to the commies and the hippies and the feminists made the other stuff less obvious.

    But he’s always had a soft spot for the Nazis, and his antics on the editorial page used to make it really hard to defend conservatism in general against the “crypto-fascist” tag.

  11. I have written to the Editors at both Human Events and Townhall informing them that I would no longer read their stuff or patronize their advertisers as long as they continued to promote and support the writings of Pat Buchanan. I urge everyone to do likewise.

  12. I had always heard that the Seigfried line was constructed by the Nazi’s primarily for its propaganda value.

    It would appear that it is still bearing fruit.

  13. If Buchanan isnt a massive anti-semite, i’ll eat my hat. You just _know_ it, and i dont throw that term around just because someone doesnt like Israel. This guy hates jews.

  14. Sorry, Mark, but at risk of being labeled an old leftie crank,(meaning I’m gettin’ old, and I’ve been a Leftist, not that I’ve ever been an “Old Leftist”) I’ve thought Pat was from far on the ill-concealed-fascist-thuggery side of the Republican party going back to about 1973. That’d be about the time he came up with the idea, for the Nixon White House, that the Republicans should establish themselves as opponents of the status quo, and critics of the “Establishment”, rather than its core constituancy, a brilliant line of propaganda which continues to this day, with relatively undiminished success

    Notwithstanding the dinner-table debates I had with my father then, when I said that there were folks in the Nixon, and then the Reagan camps and administrations who were “fascists”, I meant it, and didn’t simply mean they leaned right and I didn’t like ‘em.

    On the other hand, I hope Republicans keep defending him; one of the best things they can do to help Obama in November.

  15. Mark Buehner,

    _If Buchanan isnt a massive anti-semite, i’ll eat my hat_.

    Sure, easy for you to say – I happen to know that this so-called “hat” of yours, is this little cute chocolate pastry, in the shape of a 10 gallon – sorta like the thimble from Monopoly.

    What, I’m supposed to be impressed? I’ll eat 4 or 5 of those myself, and will sacrifice the inches I’ll have to absorb in my waistline.

    :)

  16. Whoops; just realized that I should have said “Marc”, or just “A.L.”, not “Mark”, and that my response would get read as a response to Buehner.

    Meanwhile, hypocrisyrules, I’ll call and raise Buehner; I wear a 7 3/4″ (that’s XL) and will specify I’m talking panama, not felt…

  17. RE:

    “On the other hand, I hope Republicans keep defending him; one of the best things they can do to help Obama in November.”

    If I were supporting Obama I’d be concerned that Pat seems to lean toward Obama over McCain too. He’s been a regular on MSNBCs “Morning Joe” for the past 2 to 3 weeks. Every day I’m more convinced that he is rooting for Barry.

  18. I’m surprised that so many people are surprised about Buchanan’s views. He has made no secret of them for at least two decades for anyone paying attention. In the radio reportage of the Falklands war, Buchanan gave himself away by insisting on calling those little islands the “Malvinas,” (the Argentinian name for them) which, by the way, wsa also the preference of Jesse Helms. Buchanan also predicted disaster for the British in that venture and proved spectacularly wrong.

    I’m also a bit perplexed by the level of vituperance about Buchanan’s views and books. I don’t agree with his worldview either, but I suppose that, since I’ve known for years what Buchanan’s views and sympathies were, I was not ambushed by his latest publishing efforts.

  19. There appears to be a certain strain of opinion in American politics that hates Britain, and it is obviously still alive; however, it was much more obvious in the early part of WWII (sorry, before that war as far as the USA was concerned) when in payment for the _loan_ of some equipment the USA took the majority of the UK’s overseas bases.

    I really don’t understand it, either. After all, the War of Independence was over two hundred years ago, and you won it! What’s the problem?

  20. Personally, I’m still pissed-off that the Brits burned the original US Capital in the War of 1812. Katzman still likes to rub it in.

    ;-)

  21. Pat Buchanan has been bouncing between hard-core and soft-core Holocaust denial for decades. As far back as his first presidential run, it was already well known that he had claimed (despite mounds of documentary and forensic evidence) that the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau were technologically impossible.

    Given his continued presence on mainstream television news programs and in the mainstream print, he is arguably the most visible Holocaust denier in the world after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Even David Irving doesn’t have this sort of media saturation.

  22. Personally, I’m still pissed-off that the Brits burned the original US Capital in the War of 1812. Katzman still likes to rub it in.

    I have sort of forgiven the Brits for that after Tony was nice enough to come over and say “sorry” to both Houses of Congress. I figure 190 years is more than long enough to hold a grudge.

    Besides which I seem to recall that next Tuesday is the anniversary of our dumping a boatload of tea in the Boston Harbor . . .

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