Wide-ranging Buchanan interview

Diana West’s hour-long interview of Patrick Buchanan on everything that threatens the survival of America is available for Internet viewing at C-SPAN, though I’m not sure if it’s permanently archived. At the moment it is on the main page, under Recent Programs, the fourth from the bottom. I saw it last night. Diana West does a good job as an interviewer. She kept engaging Buchanan on matters of non-liberal substance in a way that no ordinary mainstream interviewer would ever do, and is nice looking to boot. Let’s hope C-SPAN makes her a regular.

As for Buchanan, on the positive side, Buchanan’s central theme is in my view the central theme, namely that if a country fails to make its own countryhood primary in its politics, its economics, and its moral system, everything that the country does only serves its own undoing.

On the negative side, Buchanan remains deeply naive on the subject of Islam, refusing to see it as a threat to America; or, like the neocons, he says that Islam is an existential danger to Europe, but not to America. As though the Islamization of Europe would not represent the most profound threat to America. In my view Buchanan’s blindness to the real nature and program of Islam is explained by his long-standing animus against Israel. To speak of Islam as a serious danger to us would be to treat Israel’s mortal enemy as our mortal enemy. But because Buchanan identifies with the mortal enemy of Israel, that is something he cannot do. It is like Ernest Jones’s famous Freudian explanation of Hamlet. According to Jones, the reason for Hamlet’s mysterious inability—which Hamlet himself cannot understand—to take action against his uncle Claudius for having murdered Hamlet’s father and married Hamlet’s mother is that Hamlet himself unconsciously desired to kill his father and marry his mother. Hamlet thus identifies with Claudius for doing what Hamlet himself unconsciously wanted to do, and so he is incapable of treating him as an enemy or punishing him.

Buchanan’s conflicted mentality on the subject of Israel came out when he said that the model of nationhood for America to follow is Israel, since Israel cares about its own nationhood, common culture, and identity. Leaving aside the oddity that Buchanan seems not to know that Israel since the early 1990s has, like other Western countries, effectively abandoned its national ideology Zionism for post-Zionism, national guilt, and multiculturalism, his praise of Israel in this context is simply bizarre. Buchanan himself strongly supports leftist Tony Judt’s proposal for a “one-state solution,” whereby the Israelis and the Palestinians would be joined into a single state. This “solution” would of course instantly destroy the Israeli nation that Buchanan recommends as a model for America. That Buchanan would engage in such a blatant contradiction strongly suggests to me that he has not admitted into consciousness the full extent of his anti-Israel animus.

* * *

Some readers will object to the psychological discussion above. “Stay with a writer’s arguments,” they will say. As a general principle they are correct. But when a writer’s positions are blatantly contradictory and cry out for a psychological explanation, there is nothing wrong with following the evidence where it leads.

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Ploni Almoni writes:

I almost agree with your analysis of Buchanan. I just think that if you’re looking for the motivation here, it’s not Buchanan’s antagonism to Israel. That too is an epiphenomenon. The cause is his antagonism to organized American Jewry and their supporters: the neocons, liberals like Alan Dershowitz, etc. He projects that antagonism onto Israel and possibly, as you say, onto a pro-Islam position. I say that as someone who’s sympathetic to Buchanan’s politics in general.

I also think this phenomenon is typical of the paleo-conservative movement. Paul Gottfried is the shining exception, one of the very few pundits anywhere on the political spectrum—actually the only one I can think of off-hand—who actually understands the state of Israel as it is, and describes it honestly.

Also, I know this won’t change your belief, but I’ll just repeat again that post-Zionism, multiculturalism, etc., apply to only a tiny minority in Israel. Buchanan is right that Israelis, Left and Right, have a fierce sense of national loyalty and a determination that Israel remain a Jewish state. (Can Americans even imagine politicians on the Left basing their arguments on the need to preserve the sovereignty of the majority ethnic group over their state?!)

If you want a good picture of Israel, I suggest that you try to talk to a number of people who actually live there. You’ll hear something very different than what you’d hear from a few novelists or historians.

LA replies:

I have said many times that paleocons and Buchananites project their dislike of Jews, particularly of American Jewish neocons, onto Israel, and I’ve condemned them strongly for doing so. I’m less sure of that in the case of Buchanan himself. His animosity toward the state of Israel seems to stand out as a thing in itself.

Let’s just say that one can only analyze so many layers of another person’s psyche in a single article. I did quite of a bit of that in this article.

Diana West writes (this is posted with her ok):

You wrote:

“In my view Buchanan’s blindness to the real nature and program of Islam is explained by his long-standing animus against Israel. To speak of Islam as a serious danger to us would be to treat Israel’s mortal enemy as our mortal enemy. But because Buchanan identifies with the mortal enemy of Israel, that is something he cannot do.”

Thank you, Larry.

I find your analysis very convincing (quite chilling, as well)—a very possible answer to something that seems otherwise inexplicable.


Paul K. writes:

I just listened to Diana West’s excellent interview with Pat Buchanan. You mention that she is nice to look at. While that is true, what is more appealing to me is that she is nice to listen to. There are a lot of nice looking women on TV but few who are not grating. West is intelligent and makes her points, yet she remains very feminine. Her voice is gentle and soothing. She is the antithesis of Eleanor Clift.

I would become a devoted fan of an interview program featuring her.

LA replies:

If you are referring to the braying sound emitted by most female tv talking heads today, I know exactly what you mean. The male and female commentators on American television chirp, bray, whinny, emit harsh noises. But they don’t speak. Diana West speaks, in a gentle, thoughtful manner.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 19, 2007 12:26 PM | Send

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