September 27, 1999


The storm unleashed by Patrick J. Buchanan's courageous book, A Republic, Not an Empire, continues to wend its way across the American political landscape. As the pundits hurl rhetorical lightning bolts, and ominous waves of thunder interrupt the rhythms of ordinary political discourse, a single man stands serenely at center of it all, virtually alone in the eye of the media hurricane, unbowed and undefeated.


Any ordinary politician would be crawling on his belly through the mud, backtracking, and begging for forgiveness. Buchanan was not only unrepentant, but actually went on the offensive over the weekend, on every talk show and newscast, attacking both parties, "especially the Republicans," as "the braying donkeys of interventionism." We are headed, he said, for World War III unless the people wake up to the questions posed in his book: the U.S., he said, should apologize for "double-crossing" the Russians and going ahead with NATO expansion, a clearly provocative act that could restart the Cold War, unleash Russian nationalism, and lead to a military confrontation with Moscow. "We are repeating the errors that led to World War II," he warned, "and for heaven's sake, stop it before we wind up starting World War III."


This is Buchanan's real sin, opposing the drive to war – not any of the made-up charges of "anti-Semitism" and the spurious comparisons to Father Coughlin, the pro-FDR "radio priest" whose bigotry was his undoing. The charges of "homophobia" and "xenophobia" and all the other phobias that supposedly bedevil Pat are not what this debate is really about. These accusations are nothing new, they are merely the same old recycled and already discredited smears of two presidential campaigns ago. We are, after all, talking about a book here, not some random off-the-cuff remark deemed offensive by the politically correct. If you want to know what the elites are really all riled up about, then listen to what they are not saying.


One thing they are not saying is what is actually in the book – which leads many to believe that its harshest critics have not even read A Republic, Not an Empire. Don't you believe it. Not only have they read it, they have pored over every line, and their natural reaction is fear and loathing – fear that Americans, especially conservatives in an isolationist mood, will wake up to the war danger, and loathing of a man who dares speak truth to power.


Yes, they have read it, but are careful not to quote from it, except in very brief and selective passages, fragments of sentences torn out of context. Here, for example, is what passes for a "news" report from Salon's Washington correspondent,

"The flap began with the release of Buchanan's latest isolationist screed, A Republic, Not an Empire, in which the on-again, off-again host of CNN's Crossfire asserts that Hitler and the Nazis posed no threat to the United States, and thus the US had no business interfering in his plans to conquer Europe – the slaughter of 12 million innocents, including 6 million Jews, notwithstanding."


This summary does not contain a single quote because the author, the prolifically shameless Jake Tapper, is simply making it up as he goes along. In the vapid world of Gen-Ex Journalism, the assumption is that no one cares enough to check. But those old-fashioned fuddy-duddies who insist on accuracy will note that, in an important sense, Buchanan takes precisely the opposite stance imputed to him by Tapper: on page 266 of A Republic, Not an Empire, Buchanan avers that war with the West could have been averted in time for the West to prepare:

"Had Britain not given the guarantee to Poland, Hitler would almost surely have delivered the first blow to Stalin's Russia. Britain and France would have had additional years to build up their forces."


As the German National Socialists and the Russian Communists engaged in a fight to the death on the Eastern front, the victims of the Holocaust in Belgium, Holland, France, etc., would have been saved. Anne Frank might be alive today. This is Buchanan's thesis in the chapters dealing with World War II, which the pundits have focused on to the exclusion of all else. Throughout these chapters, the author's horror and disgust at the great crime of the Holocaust is apparent, indeed the possibility that Western nonintervention could have in large part prevented that catastrophe is what appears to motivate much of his critique. This naturally matters not one whit to Tapper and the liberal-neocon "Get Buchanan" alliance.


When Tapper finally does get around to quoting the book, however, he manages to reveal his complete dishonesty as well as his own rather embarrassing ignorance of history, to wit:

"'Hitler's real ambitions lay in carving out an empire in the east,' Buchanan writes. 'He had given up the idea of global empire ... Hitler saw the world divided into four spheres: Great Britain holding its empire; Japan, dominant in East Asia; Germany, master of Europe; and America, mistress of the Western Hemisphere.' Thus, he argues, the US should have allowed Hitler to conquer Poland and Czechoslovakia, since he could have served a greater good for the US by balancing the power of Stalin's USSR."


To begin with, the idea that the US was ever going to go to war with Germany over the fate of Poland or Czechoslovakia is a figment of Tapper's perfervid but grievously uninformed imagination. As the Rhineland, Austria, the Sudentenland and finally Poland fell before the German blitzkrieg, FDR was pledging "again and again and again," as he put it, "that I am not going to send our boys off to war." The US did not declare war against Germany and Italy even after Pearl Harbor, and FDR's war message to Congress in the wake of the Japanese attack did not even mention Germany. So much for Jake Tapper, historian. Now, we move on to Jake Tapper, dissembler . . .


What is really wrong with the passage quoted above, however, is not really so much the bizarre ignorance of history – bizarre in someone with the impressive title of "Washington correspondent" for one of the most self-important and little-read magazines on the Internet – but the shameless way in which Tapper falsifies the quote from A Republic, Not an Empire. For the part quoted before the ellipses appears nowhere near the rest of the quotation after the ellipses. Tapper has simply cut and pasted the two together, and the effect is to imply that Buchanan thinks we ought to have handed over Europe and the Soviet Union to Hitler – in the belief that it would "balance the power of Stalin's Russia," as Tapper describes it. But Buchanan says no such thing. Indeed, he says the complete opposite: that Hitler's dream of world domination would have been foiled far sooner and the Nazi regime ended by Hitlerian hubris. Buchanan approvingly quotes Harry Truman's view that US policy should be to allow the two totalitarian regimes to destroy each other. Elsewhere (p. 266) he makes the point that the exhausted Germans, after taking on the Soviets, would be in no condition to turn Westward, and would in any case be vulnerable to a formidable Allied counterattack.


The Tapper-ized quotation from Buchanan's book gives the deliberate impression that Buchanan is a kind of Vichy Republican who would have welcomed the Germans as they marched down the boulevardes of Paris. As is so often the case in Tapper's journalism, the truth is precisely the opposite: indeed the whole thesis of the chapters on World War II is that Hitler was following the familiar German foreign policy of Drang nach Osten, the "drive to the East," and would have struck first at Eurasia and not Western Europe.


Tapper spends most of his piece pumping the ignorant and opportunistic accusations of presidential aspirant Senator John McCain, who has become the Anti-Buchanan and the preferred instrument of the media lynch mob. Liberals love him for his warmongering during the Kosovo war – he could hardly wait to bring in the ground troops and take Belgrade, if you remember. Liberals particularly like his support of silencing organizations such as the National Right to Life Committee and independent citizens groups through draconian (and completely phony) campaign finance "reform" that violates the First Amendment rights of ordinary citizens.


And with their newfound enthusiasm for militarism, liberals exult in the prospect of a McCain-Buchanan slugfest, in which the "war hero" takes on the dreaded "isolationist." Tapper touts McCain as coming from "a line of Navy royalty," chronicles the military career of the McCain clan, and reiterates the story of McCain's experience at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, a POW camp. He writes: "Buchanan, conversely, a legendary teenage brawler who was arrested for fighting while at Georgetown University, sought and received a medical deferment for rheumatoid arthritis during the Vietnam war." But so what? While Tapper may think that a world where Buchanan was drafted and never lived to write books and run for office would be a better world, I beg to differ.


And as for McCain's much-touted status as a "war hero," why hasn't the media researched that as carefully as they've combed the complete works of Patrick J. Buchanan? If they did, they would find the following snippet from the US News and World Report of May 14, 1973, in which McCain described his experience as follows:

"I think it was on the fourth day [after being shot down] that two guards came in, instead of one. One of them pulled back the blanket to show the other guard my injury. I looked at my knee. It was about the size of a football . . . when I saw it, I said to the guard, 'O.K., get the officer' . . . an officer came in after a few minutes. It was the man that we came to know very well as 'The Bug.' He was a psychotic torturer, one of the worst fiends that we had to deal with. I said, 'O.K., I'll give you military information if you will take me to the hospital.'"


The last time I looked, giving information to the enemy was not a qualification for war hero status. And what about the broadcast statements purportedly made by McCain admitting to bombing civilian targets and assuring his audience he was being treated well by his North Vietnamese captors? A Washington Post story [June 5, 1969] "Reds Say PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral" reported that:

"Hanoi has aired a broadcast in which the pilot son of United States Commander in the Pacific, Adm. John McCain, purportedly admits to having bombed civilian targets in North Vietnam and praises medical treatment he has received since being taken prisoner. The English-Language broadcast beamed at South Vietnam was one of a series using American prisoners. It was in response to a plea by Defense Secretary Melvin S. Laird, May 19, that North Vietnam treat prisoners according to the humanitarian standards set forth by the Geneva Convention."

Move over, Jane Fonda, and give the future Senator and presidential candidate that microphone. So much for the myth of the War Hero versus the Cowardly Isolationist.


Incredibly, Tapper accuses Buchanan of "playing the victim" in his response to the terrific storm of protest set off by his book. Pat a victim? In spite of the virtually unprecedented media pile-on, Tapper isn't buying it: "Pat Buchanan Wednesday decided to play victim" in demanding "an apology from the Vietnam war hero." But Buchanan was responding to a statement by McCain, in which the war hero bloviated on about how "Defeating Hitler's Germany and Tojo's Japan was a very noble cause. And I wouldn't want any Republican to ever think otherwise – or any American for that matter."


As if Buchanan thought otherwise! It is really pointless to underscore the passages in A Republic, Not an Empire in which the author declares that, "whether or not it had been America's war before December 7, it was our war now. In Yeat's line, 'All changed, changed utterly.'" (p. 294) Does anyone really believe that Jake Tapper, or McCain, or the legions of media vultures exulting at the prospect of picking at Pat's bones, care about the truth?


McCain owes Pat more than an apology. Out of sheer shame and what should be, in any decent man, an almost unbearable chagrin, McCain should drop out of the presidential race. Indeed he would be doing us – and himself – a real favor if he dropped out of politics altogether – before journalists in search of a story begin to uncover the truth about the "war hero" status of the warmongering McCain. But the pomposity and self-importance inherent in the character of most politicians is, in McCain, amplified to the nth degree, and so such an honorable course is entirely ruled out in his case.


What the Hate Buchanan crowd loved about McCain's statement on Buchanan was precisely its overblown pomposity and moral posturing. This, combined with the aura of military prowess, gave his peroration just the right tone of hysterical self-righteousness, to wit:

"At a time when Americans are growing increasingly cynical about public service and increasingly disillusioned about their political leaders, I was disappointed to see my fellow Republicans' reaction to recent comments and writings by Pat Buchanan concerning our nation's role in defeating Nazi Germany. By continuing to appease Buchanan, several of our candidates appear to have put politics ahead of our party's principles."


And so Buchanan, like Hitler, is not to be "appeased." Having written a book raising the question of whether Hitler could have been defeated without direct US military intervention, Buchanan is now equated with Hitler by a third-rate politician on the make. Are we to be spared nothing? Is there no outrage, no matter how low and demagogic, that McCain and Tapper and their Bushian allies will not stoop to in their campaign to destroy Buchanan? The answer to this question appears to be an emphatic no.


"There is no place in the Republican party," declared the bombastic McCain, for Buchanan and anyone who questions the Official History as laid down by the court historians. One can only wonder what other litmus tests for GOP membership will be unilaterally declared by McCain and his Thought Police: must all Republicans take a similarly enthusiastic view of World War I and rejoice in the terms of the Treaty of Versailles? And what about the Spanish-American war, that fatal step in which we first donned the imperial purple? And, of course, there is always Vietnam – a war that most Americans think we should never have allowed ourselves to get dragged into. Are all these people to be excluded from McCain's "militarists only" GOP? That is going to be a very exclusive club, which could be comfortably housed under a very small tent. But notice how the "big tent" theory, so often touted by GOP "moderates," goes completely out the window when it comes to Buchanan. Now why, do you suppose, is that?


Bob Novak said it best on CNN's Capital Gang this weekend: "The assault on [Buchanan] by the media, by members of the media, some of whom are reporters, not even commentators, and then Senator McCain with the temerity to read him out of the party and then accuse George Bush for not reading him out, I think it all makes me a little ill."


Yes, ill – but not discouraged. Far from it. For the gap between what Buchanan wrote in A Republic, Not an Empire, and what they are saying about it, is so great that any thinking person can discern it by simply reading it. In their zeal to obscure the real message of the book, the smear artists and character assassins are in danger of creating a backlash in precisely those quarters – the Reform Party and other dissident sectors of American society – where Buchanan is likely to find his base of support. Conservatives are used to confronting and challenging the lies of the media. When they find out that the liberals are at it again (with more than a little help from their neoconservative friends), then stand back – and watch out. Bereft of its conservative base, the GOP will wither on the vine, the captive plaything of political hacks and northeastern Rockefeller Republicans. Buchanan, if he leaves the GOP, will take the American Right with him – and that is what this fight is really all about, at least from Buchanan's perspective.


Many commentators, even Bob Novak, have remarked on the supposed tactical blunder of releasing this book at a crucial moment in his presidential campaign. But seen as part of Buchanan's battle for the heart and soul of the conservative movement, the publication of A Republic, Not an Empire makes perfect sense – and perfect timing. With the Cold War era long since come to a close, and the conservative wing of the GOP up in arms over foreign interventionism in Kosovo and around the world, now is the perfect time to raise the banner of America First and bring the noninterventionist message to the American people – as the political pundits, to their horror, will soon discover.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, “China and the New Cold War”

“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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