October 30, 2000


It had to happen – and, now, it has. In spite of Ralph Nader's strenuous effort to not discuss foreign policy except in the broadest terms, the crisis in the Middle East required at least some comment, and old Ralph came out swinging: Denouncing Al Gore for his "cowardly" echoing of the Israeli line, he declared:

"In this conflict you cannot take sides and be an honest broker. The US is taking sides. You cannot be a friend of the Israelis in this conflict without being a friend of the Palestinians. You cannot be a friend of the Palestinians without being a friend of the Israelis. The burden of restraint is more placed on the Israelis. The military superiority of the Israelis forces is staggeringly greater than the Palestinians rock throwers ... most of the death and injuries have occurred in the Palestinian territories."


Pretty mild stuff, compared to what Buchanan has to say on the same subject – but the response to Nader's comments was almost identical to the hysteria that greeted Buchanan's critique of the same crowd. Of course, I don't mean a response from Gore himself – who, as Ralph correctly opines, is too much of a coward to directly engage Nader on the issues. The Vice President can only robotically reiterate what is by now a tired and supremely unconvincing lie – that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush – with vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman tearfully pleading with the voters to please please don't abandon a sinking ship. No, instead Gore unleashed his surrogates over at the New Republic against the Green Party's standard-bearer, and out came some very long knives –


Yes, of course you're right: the charge against Ralph is – what else? – anti-Semitism! But how in heck can they possibly back that one up? I mean, Ralph Nader an anti-Semite? You have got to be kidding! Unfortunately for all of us, they are most definitely not kidding, and here is the "evidence": It seems that Nader published an article entitled "Business is Deserting America" in which "he warned ominously of 'our ingrained gullibility to internationalism.'" Are you shocked yet? "The remarkable thing," the editors of TNR gleefully confide, "is that Nader published his piece in The American Mercury, an obscenely anti-Semitic magazine. Nader's piece appeared in the same months that the magazine was publishing a series called 'Termites of the Cross, which was full of such teachings as:

"'As soon as anyone demonstrates that he is willing to expose the enemies of communism or world Zionism, their vast machines start working to advance his interests. The Disciples of Judas do not even have to be openly pro-Communist or pro-Zionist to qualify for the big payoff.... '"


Let us examine the unappetizing anatomy of a smear, up close and ugly. To begin with, the American Mercury in 1960 may not have been H. L. Mencken's scintillating journal of literary and political commentary, as it was when he founded it in January of 1924, but it still retained at least some of the aura of that era, and the prestige of having been a literary home not only for Mencken's writings, but also the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and William Faulkner, among others. The subsequent complex history of the magazine is relevant, in this context. Mencken resigned as editor in 1934: the journalist and economist Henry Hazlitt took over for four issues, when the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf sold the magazine to Paul Palmer, a conservative and outspoken opponent of the New Deal. The Mercury became the last refuge of Old Right anti-imperialism and libertarian sentiment in a collectivist age, but its circulation and influence were considerably reduced. In 1937, the magazine was acquired by Lawrence Spivak, who would go on to found "Meet the Press."


By this time, the American Mercury had become a conservative version of the Reader's Digest, in form if not entirely in content. It went through a series of owners, and, in August 1952, was sold to one Russell Maguire, millionaire oilman and munitions manufacturer, who presided over the magazine, along with his daughter, Natasha, for eight years. For most of that time, the Mercury reflected the general conservative orientation of its very conservative audience and its owner. Defending Joe McCarthy and states' rights, calling for the abolition of the income tax, the UN, and NATO, Maguire's Mercury typified the conservative movement of that time. Billy Graham, a recipient of Maguire's largesse to the tune of some $75,000 (for a film on the virtues of free enterprise) was featured on the cover of the January 1957 issue, touting his featured article. (Somehow, Graham was never taken to task for this hate crime.) J. Edgar Hoover contributed several pieces on the evils of Communism. Ralph de Toledano wrote on "Gravediggers of America": a typical article was one by a long-forgotten right-wing polemicist who noted that Fidel Castro, the alleged "agrarian reformer," was more like East Germany's Walter Ulbricht. Robert A. Heinlein weighed in, in the October 1960 issue, with "Pravda Means Truth." The following month Bishop Fulton J. Sheen warned readers that the "World Battles Demonic Forces."


But by this time, toward the end of his tenure, Maguire had begun to go a little batty. Really starting in 1960, Maguire began to sprinkle the usual Mercury fare with openly anti-Semitic nonsense – over the strenuous objections of his wife and daughter. But the magazine still had the tattered remnants of its old reputation, and was still in transition to what it was to become: yet, at this point, the American Mercury was definitely not considered "obscenely anti-Semitic." If Nader's article was published in March of 1960, who knows when it was submitted – it could have been as long as six months or even a year prior to publication, before the publication of the justly infamous "Termites of the Cross" serial that got Maguire in trouble. (So much trouble that he sold the magazine in January of the next year.) The magazine eventually wound up in the hands of Willis Carto, now publisher of the Spotlight, the William Randolph Hearst of the racialist press – but that is not the Mercury Nader's piece was published in, although TNR wants to leaves you with that impression.


Of course, the mere act of having an article published in a magazine can hardly be considered a blanket endorsement of its editorial policies, but by these standards we would have to believe that, by October of 1962, when he published an article in the Freeman that Nader had become a libertarian. The piece, "How the Winstedites Kept Their Integrity," told the story of how a proposal to build a public housing project with some "free" money from the feds met with opposition in Winsted, Connecticut, Nader's home town – in which the author clearly sides with the protesters. No doubt we'll soon be hearing about how "racist" he is. Few will deny, however, that Nader is on the mark when he attacks the aesthetic aspect of government housing projects as symbolic of "the drab, uniform, barrack-type existence" that awaits its tenants. "Living under the government as landlord neither teaches children the value of property (which is one reason why public housing deteriorates so quickly)," he writes,

"nor produces the environment for the exercise of independence, self-reliance, and, above all, citizenship. Any government intrusion into the economy deters the alleged beneficiaries from voicing their views or participating in civic life. The reason for this goes beyond the stigma of living in subsidized housing. When public housing becomes, as it has over the nation, a source of additional patronage for local distribution to contractors, repairmen, and tenants, the free expression of human beings is thus discouraged."


What really riles Ralph about the Winsted housing project is that locals were routinely denied access to information by bureaucrats, and had to resort to three successive referenda before they could scotch the plans of political insiders and their cronies to milk private profit from the public teat. It's the same old Ralph, albeit a bit more libertarian than we're used to. Another familiar note is struck by his article in the Mercury – the content of which, incidentally, is nowhere discussed by TNR – in which he denounces policies that make it possible for the federal government to subsidize American corporations for shipping jobs overseas.


Desperate to smear Nader, and avenge their impending defeat, Gore's character assassins smelled blood and struck before getting their facts straight. They were in such a frenzy to get at their intended victim that they simply grabbed the first mudball at hand and sent it on its sloppy way. But this is the kind of smear that really ought to boomerang. While I do not support Ralph Nader's candidacy – and hold to my view that his most prominent supporters view his candidacy as a left-liberal "get out the vote" drive to elect a Democratic congress – I have no doubt that he is personally a man of the utmost integrity. That, after all, is why he has Gore and his claque in such a frenzied lather to begin with. The whole tone of TNR's editorial, with its snide references to Nader as a self-conscious "saint," is a sneer directed at the very idea of integrity, as if Nader represented some kind of personal reproach. The editors of that esteemed journal seem especially outraged by the suggestion that there is no fundamental difference between the two corporate parties: this idea is clearly, in their view, symptomatic of

"a paranoid view of the world, a conspiratorial economicism, for which nothing is what it seems, and only a handful of epistemologically privileged comrades and movie stars know the truth "


The problem with this psycho-smear is that you don't have to be "epistemologically privileged" to see that cash changes hands, and things happen: if the seer who coined the phrase "follow the money" is "paranoid," then everybody's grandmother deserves a similar diagnosis, and "conspiratorial economicism" is a synonym for ordinary common sense.


Foam-flecked and ranting, dripping with venom, and real hatred, TNR brings up Nader's Lebanese heritage – as if that had any relevance to the question of his alleged anti-Semitism. Of course they don't exactly say outright that Nader is an anti-Semite: only that he may be a reformed one, ending their little editorial with a flourish of extravagant malevolence.

"The youthful mistake of the saint? Perhaps; but neither Gore nor Bush ever made quite such a mistake. In this respect, there is truly no difference between them."


Around this time of year a decade ago, the journalist Abe Rosenthal and a neoconservative goon squad raised the same kind of phony charges against Pat Buchanan for daring to correctly identify Israel's "amen corner" in the US – notably TNR, among others – as the main driving force behind the last Middle East crisis, the war in the Gulf. In spite of a similar comment by Richard Cohen in a news article in the New York Times – "The problem," he wrote, "with those who argue for a quick military strike is that they seem to be arguing from an Israeli perspective" – a veritable lynch mob of journalists and other enforcers of political correctness went after Buchanan with a vengeance. Buchanan's long record as a good friend to Israel was ignored. Pat described it as an attempt "to frighten, intimidate, censor, and silence, to cut off debate; to so smear men's reputations that no one will listen to them again; to scar men so indelibly, that on one will ever look at them again without saying 'Say, isn't he an anti-Semite?'"

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Past Columns

The Smearing of Ralph Nader

Nader Sells Out

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisted

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cargagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. 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 U.S. 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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Now Nader is in for the old Buchanan treatment: endless articles in the New Republic comparing him to Father Coughlin, Huey Long, and the Southern Agrarians, assiduously researched and creatively edited polemics analyzing each and every word he has ever written, all of it scanned for the least hint of anti-Semitism – especially if, as seems likely, Gore goes down to defeat, and Nader can be plausibly blamed. Yesterday he was a saint, the man who gave us seat belts – the next day he's practically the second coming of Hitler. See what happens when you start talking about foreign policy? That's when they really start coming after you.


Now that makes two of the major-minor party presidential candidates – two out of two – who stand accused of "anti-Semitism." Gee, what a coincidence. The two most visible and outspoken opponents of our bipartisan foreign policy of global intervention both happen to be closet Nazis, now wouldn't ya just know it! How convenient for the interventionists and Israel Firsters that there can be no honest disagreement with the policy of subordinating Israeli for American interests in the Middle East – or, at least, none that is anything but evidence of anti-Semitism at its most obscene. That way, there is never any debate over such matters as the $2.8 billion in aid just recently voted by Congress in aid to Israel: it is all settled in advance.


When is Al Gore going to either own up to or disavow these Clintonian smear tactics? TNR's unconscionable attack bears all the hallmarks of a classic Gore campaign operation; vicious, cowardly, ineptly executed – and likely to boomerang. Gore must either take responsibility for this hit or else do the right thing and come to Nader's defense. That, of course, would be the classy, and unexpected thing to do, it would show that Gore has character and even a few principles – which is why, of course, he wouldn't think of doing it.


I predicted this months ago, noting in a midsummer column that

"Our elites don't like opposition, whether from the left or the right. This presidential election year, with the Buchanan and Nader campaigns challenging the two-party system – and exposing, each in their own way, the bipartisan ideology of corporatist control over government policy both foreign and domestic – a concerted campaign by our militant 'centrists' to discredit them both is underway."


You'll recall, if you follow the above link and scroll down to near the end of a very long column, that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was the first to try to pin the "extremist" label on Nader. Krugman also started his screed with the allusion to Orwell's essay on Gandhi: "Saints should always be judged guilty until proved innocent." But Krugman was less worried about his possible vices, "if any," and more concerned that Nader would "impose his virtues on the rest of us." Nader is taken to task for opposing the South African constitution – "the one that dismantled apartheid" – with the clear implication that this might reveal just a hint of racism. Nader, Krugman concluded, "the moderate humane activist of the 1960s," is "a changed man" – he has turned into an "extremist" monster. How did this transformation take place? "Your amateur psychology," averred Krugman, "is as good as mine."


As I wrote at the time:

"If what Krugman has done – or tried to do – to Nader is 'amateur psychology,' then get ready for the professionals. Because this slimeball is but the first of several that the Gore camp intends to send Nader's way."

Of course, you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict that the Gore camp is going to resort to the dirtiest, most underhanded tactics imaginable in order to clear every obstacle from their path. But, while it is in somewhat dubious taste to say "I told you so," in this instance I can't resist pointing to another prediction that wasn't so easy to call at the time, and which now seems to be coming true:

"The more they attack Nader, the more popular he will become – and the more support will be forthcoming from Nader's followers, who will be energized by the attention and the reality that their candidate is making a difference. I know that is the case with the Buchanan Brigades. So, bring it on, guys, we need more easily-refuted and desperate attacks like this on both candidates – the more the merrier. And, you know what? In the weeks and months to come, I'm sure I won't be disappointed."

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