Recently in this space, I wrote unflatteringly of the entertainer Patrick J. Buchanan, suggesting that his material was old and that he was perhaps overly preoccupied with the subject of Jews and money. Various of Buchanan's admirers wrote to denounce me as a member of a vast left-wing conspiracy bent on destroying a good patriot. ("It's obvious to me what ethnicity you are, no matter what your surname," wrote one delightful correspondent.)
Very well. Let's take a fresh look at the Populist of the Potomac. Happily, the material for this is at hand. Mr. Buchanan is just out with a new book, a work of, so to speak, history titled "A Republic, Not an Empire."
It turns out that Buchanan is not static in his views. In this book, he has advanced to a whole new level of thinking. And quite unusual thinking it is for a presidential aspirant.
Pat Buchanan has arrived at the terminus toward which his intellectual train has long been chugging. With the arguments put forth in "A Republic, Not an Empire," Buchanan stands up as a full-fledged, card-carrying 1930s anti-Roosevelt isolationist. He has come out as an ardent America Firster, a determined Hitler appeaser and a passionate opponent of America's entry into both the First and Second World Wars. Now, that's a winning platform.
In Buchanan's classically isolationist analysis of World War I, America was duped by British and philo-British propagandists to enter a morally meaningless conflict in which "no vital U.S. interest was at risk," except of course "the vital interests of U.S. financial houses." Buchanan quotes approvingly the progressive senator George W. Norris, who blamed U.S. intervention on the machinations of financiers "concealed in their palatial offices on Wall Street, sitting behind mahogany desks, covered up with clipped coupons . . . coupons tainted with mothers' tears, coupons dyed in the lifeblood of their fellow men."
Had America stayed out of the Great War, asserts Buchanan, "the Allies would probably have been forced to negotiate an armistice or sue for peace. The Kaiser's army, bloodied but undefeated, would have gone home. . . . Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and the whole grisly gang might have been hung from the lampposts of Petrograd. A strong, united and prosperous Germany would not have spawned a Hitler. There might have been no Holocaust, no quarter-century reign of Stalin, no Cold War. There would have been no Versailles, no occupation and dismemberment of the German nation, no American war dead, no debt, no era of disillusionment."
My God. And it gets worse when the great man shines the mighty light of his mind on the question of World War II. In Buchanan's considered view, the West should have let Hitler have his little treats in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and then left him alone to take care of Stalin for us. Buchanan blames the war in which nearly a half-million Americans died not on Hitler and his mad dream of dominion but on the allies who finally rose to stop Hitler by promising to declare war on Germany if the Nazis invaded Poland.
"The British-French declarations of war impelled Hitler to attack in the West to secure his rear before invading Russia," Buchanan declares. "Had Britain and France not given the guarantee to Poland, Hitler would almost surely have delivered his first great blow to Stalin's Russia. . . . Even had Hitler conquered the U.S.S.R. at enormous cost, would he then have launched a new war against a Western Europe where his ambitions never lay? Had Britain and France not given the war guarantees to Poland, there might have been no Dunkirk, no blitz, no Vichy, no destruction of the Jewish populations of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, or even Italy."
Anyway, says Buchanan, the Nazis represented no threat to America, because "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." Buchanan seems to have no real problem with the idea of the Third Reich as the "master of Europe."
It turns out that Buchanan is not so much an America Firster as the ultimate Blame America Firster. It's all our fault. The world would have been a finer, happier place if we had just let the Germans take what they wanted. "In 1917 Wilson had gone to war to make the world safe for democracy, and had made the world safe for Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler," writes Buchanan. "In 1941 Roosevelt had gone to war to make Europe and Asia safe for democracy and had made Europe safe for Stalinism and Asia safe for Maoism." This is all a fantastic, hideous lie.
Buchanan threatens to bolt the Republican Party. Republicans, hold the door open for that man, grease the skids and give him a helpful boot down the steep, swift road to sure and deserved oblivion.
Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal.