Never would have figured on this one: Pat Buchanan going to bat for affirmative action:
"Not since Thurgood Marshall, 43 years ago, has a Democratic president chosen an African-American. The lone sitting black justice is Clarence Thomas, nominated by George H. W. Bush. And Thomas was made to run a gauntlet by Senate liberals."
Actually, Buchanan was less interested in making the case for diversity than he was in sounding a new alarm:
"If (Elena) Kagan is confirmed," he wrote, "Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats."
"If Kagan is confirmed," he went on, "three of the four justices nominated by Democratic presidents will be from New York City: Kagan from the Upper West Side, Sotomayor from the Bronx, Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Brooklyn. Breyer is from San Francisco."
Well, Katie bar the door before the kreplach cabal busts through the gates.
Buchanan didn't say it but he didn't have to: The real danger is that too many Jews will wind up sitting on the highest court in the land. And that would be a bad thing for the republic.
Not individual Americans, mind you.
So much for Buchanan's past criticism of identity politics as a betrayal of the broader "American" narrative (when, it goes without saying,) the nation was overwhelmingly an Anglo-Saxon, Christian republic.
But there's an obvious political context for Buchanan's remarks.
In the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings, Republicans may have a hard time giving Kagan a hard time. Not because they plan to rubber-stamp her nomination, but, as others have noted, the former Harvard Law dean and current solicitor-general, hasn't left much of a paper trail to this point. So in the absence of a what are they to do? Buchanan obviously did the math and didn't like the answer. A yes vote for Kagan means the Supreme Court would then be only seven seats away from a full minyan. And you can't have that.
Buchanan's qualms notwithstanding, the Senate's going in a different direction. Kagan may face tough questioning but it won't be about her religion or ethnicity. During her "Face the Nation" appearance on Sunday, California Senator Dianne Feinstein did the right thing and politely dismissed Buchanan's complaint as irrelevant.
"Does that bother me?" she said. "The answer is no. Each one of the Catholic justices are very different in how they approach the law, and I don't believe it's necessarily related to their religion. And I think they are total people, the products of their learning, their backgrounds, their experiences in life, and that's the way it should be."
(Of course, she's one of them so what would you expect?)
At this stage of his life, Buchanan reminds me of the proverbial cranky uncle. Every family's got one. You expect the guy to get worked up over small stuff; but he eventually calms down. Not so, though, with Buchanan, where any change to the culture, post-"Leave It to Beaver," has been a very big deal. And when it comes to the Jews, the man's pursued by a dybbuk. He says he's not an anti-Semite, so I'll take him at his word. But the controversy keeps making Lazarus-like revivals because well, Buchanan keeps saying obnoxious things.
Everyone's got their pet theories about why he keeps goading the Jews. Here's another.
But for this, you need to go back more than four decades, when the counterculture was rocking America and the nation was divided over the war in Vietnam. This was the thick of the culture war and there were fears the country was coming apart. Conservatives were outraged by Hollywood and "the liberal elite" (and we all knew who that meant.) It was not accident that most Jews were Democrats and they didn't back Richard Nixon or the war. Strike One. But they did support military aid to Israel. Strike Two. Buchanan was understandably sore about the opposition to Nixon and what later happened to his president. Buchanan was also communications director under Ronald Reagan, when he again faced off against a critical liberal opposition. Strike Three. Is he still nursing a grudge? You bet your bippy.
Fast-forward to the present and Buchanan's living in an America led by a black liberal president and a population marked by an outsized representation of Jews in culture, politics and finance relative to their numbers. You can Google "Buchanan" and "Jews" for the full list but some of his greatest hits include the following:
"There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States."
Hitler was "an individual of great courage...Hitler's success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path."
- "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody."
- "If U.S. Jewry takes the clucking appeasement of the Catholic cardinalate as indicative of our submission, it is mistaken. When Cardinal O'Connor of New York seeks to soothe the always irate Elie Wiesel by reassuring him 'there are many Catholics who are anti-Semitic'...he speaks for himself. Be not afraid, Your Eminence; just step aside, there are bishops and priests ready to assume the role of defender of the faith." (Writing in response to Cardinal O'Connor criticism of anti-Semitism during the controversy over plans to build a convent near Auschwitz)
"Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free."
None of this necessarily makes the man an anti-Semite. Unfortunately, it also doesn't make him a mensch, either.