Thursday, June 16, 2005

Nixon, Anti-Semitism, And Watergate (Deeply Throttled Part III)

Yeah, I know I'm late but...

Here are Parts I and II of the series.

First, let me get a few loose ends out of the way before I smack around Ben Stein.

Here is the best joke out of the whole ordeal (the one attributed to "Tad Hauer").

There is another side to Mark Felt. Most everyone was aware of it, but I'm not sure many liberals knew just how how dark and creepy he was. Of course, people are capable of doing good and bad things, and Felt's crucial role in Watergate was a very good thing. But, just for the record, COINTELPRO was bad stuff, though absolutely typical of the spook mindset at the time, and Felt was into it up to his eyeballs. (Parenthetically, I might add that everyone's whipping boy, Ward Churchill, did some of the first valuable research on the FBI's COINTELPRO activities.)

More information has come out on how Felt pulled off the Deep Throat act: he was, apparently, his own boss -- so to speak.

Okay, and now on to business. Richard Nixon was an anti-semite, no question at all. The most virulent sort, too, the paranoid variety. On the Hardball program I linked to in my first post, Andrea Mitchell, who is vile for other reasons but here perfectly righteous, says:

Let me just show you a bit of a transcript, or read you a bit of a transcript, of an October taping in 1972 between Halderman and Richard Nixon. And the subject was Mark Felt, because Halderman suggested that the leaks that were coming out might have been from Felt.

And at this point, Nixon says, “What can we do about it?” And Halderman says, “If we move on him, he‘ll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that‘s to be known in the FBI. He has access to absolutely everything.”

Nixon, “What would do you with Felt?” Halderman, “Well, I‘d ask Dean.” Nixon, “What the hell would he do?” Halderman, “He says you can‘t prosecute him, that he hasn‘t committed any crime. Dean‘s concerned if you let him know, he‘ll go out and go on network television.”

I wish he had. Nixon then says, “Is he a Catholic?” Halderman says, “Jewish.” Nixon, “Christ, put a Jew in there?” Halderman, “Well, that could explain it, too.” Does that give you a sense of how ugly things were in the Oval Office back then when they did not remember that they were being recorded, Chris? [misspellings in original]

To which Chris Matthews responds:

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know. And by the way, if you really study the tapes
I‘ve spent a lot of time with them—the worst possible influence in Richard Nixon, when it came to that ethnic stuff, was Bob Halderman. He always seemed to lead him into the ugly stuff, all the time when you go into those transcripts.

Is there or not an element of excuse-making in this explanation? Actually, Nixon needed no "help" in being an anti-semite, and though Haldeman was indeed a jackass, the person most likely to share with Nixon bigotted commentary in this regard was the Reverend Billy Graham, icon of the Religious Right. There's much more evidence at Rense, but there's a particular quote from it that I want to share...

Nixon then broaches a subject about which "we can't talk about it publicly," namely Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media. He cites Paul Keyes, a political conservative who is executive producer of the NBC hit, "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," as telling him that "11 of the 12 writers are Jewish."

"That right?" says Graham, prompting Nixon to claim that Life magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and others, are "totally dominated by the Jews." He calls network TV anchors Howard K. Smith, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite "front men who may not be of that persuasion," but that their writers are "95 percent Jewish."

Nixon demurs that this does not mean "that all the Jews are bad" but that most are left-wing radicals who want "peace at any price except where support for Israel is concerned. The best Jews are actually the Israeli Jews."

"That's right," agrees Graham
[My emphasis]

It's Nixon's attitude to Israel that makes several rightwing Jews, who should know better, defend him and his genuine anti-semitism. This attitude was carried over in policy, and of course the Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson types, and their "constituents" who commonly hold similar feelings on Jews-in-general, are all fiercely pro-Israel.

Now Ben Stein had already soiled himself in vilifying Mark Felt and defending Richard Nixon (particularly citing Nixon's act of "saving Eretz Israel") before his latest atrocity. We had already "won Ben Stein's baloney", and speaking for myself, it didn't feel like a Publisher's Clearing House moment. Well, the latest was so bad that even Andrew Sullivan was horrified. It's worse. Far Worse:

Now, we read that Mark Felt's family and Mark Felt put out their story solely to make money off it. So, this makes the family's karma even more unnerving. The father, patriarch, Mark, took out his anger and frustration for being passed over at the FBI, by ruining the career of the peacemaker, Richard Nixon. So, he condemned a whole subcontinent to genocide and slavery and poverty to please his own wounded vanity. (Maybe his nickname should be "sour grapes" and not "deep throat" because he has as much in common with that fox as with a porn star.) And, blood will tell, as the old saying goes: his posterity is now dragging out his old body and putting it on display to make money. (Have you noticed how Mark Felt looks like one of those old Nazi war criminals they find in Bolivia or Paraguay? That same, haunted, hunted look combined with a glee at what he has managed to get away with so far?)

And it gets worse: it's been reported that Mark Felt is at least part Jewish. The reason this is worse is that at the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.

Stein, accusing Felt of betrayal of the tribe and in the most toxic way with the Nazi war criminal reference, actually here exhibits the apotheosis of a particular right-wing brand of betrayal. If I remember correctly, the Jewish analogue to the black "Uncle Tom" is an "Uncle Sal". Stein, covering up for Nixon's anti-semitism far beyond even his own father's lame apologies for Dick, is the Ultimate Uncle Sal. Ben Stein has displayed his copious idiocy on other matters before, and Nixon hacks making strained and hypocritical appeals to ethnicity is not a new phenomenon. But why the nastiness and vehemence? Hypocrisy is one thing, but why hypocrisy squared or cubed? Or, as Atrios asks it:

You'd think the faux philo-semitism which has become a part of the religion of the Right would lead to at least a few Righties being disturbed by [Nixon's taped anti-semitic comments]

I'll tell you why they're not, because long ago Stein, and fuckwits on the right like Norman Podhoretz, decided that genuine anti-semitism is no big deal so long as Israel is supported without qualification. Because Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger encouraged Israel to violate the cease fire of the October War, the United States, reacting to the Soviet reaction to this dirty trick, was put on Defcon III. And this action wasn't done to save plucky little Israel, it was done to preserve/enlarge the Occupied Territories (a.k.a Eretz Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This is what makes the likes of Stein go silent when Richard Nixon's anti-semitism is mentioned.

Okay, that takes care of Stein, but is it so widespread on the right? Yes. Since Norman Podhoretz essentially invented the formulation that re-defined anti-semitism to mean "absence of unqualified support of Israel", the whole of the rightwing picked it up. Don't believe me? Well, I'd think that the opinions of AEI "scholars" are pretty representative of wingnuttery, Jew and Goy divisions:

We wanted to know: is it the power of their ideas, or is it their power?

After spending a day at AEI, we suspect it's the latter.

In the morning, we caught a session titled: Europe: Anti-Semitism Resurgent?

Looked around the audience. There was Bork. There was Kirkpatrick.

They were there to listen to what was supposed to be a debate between two right-wingers, Ruth Wisse of Harvard University and John O'Sullivan, of United Press International.

But there was little debate.

Everyone agreed that the issue wasn't anti-semitism, as traditionally defined, but anti-Israel views.

In fact, Wisse and O'Sullivan had now effectively redefined the term anti-semitism to mean anti-Israel.

We had suspected this, but didn't get a confirmation until a questioner in the audience asked Wisse about Billy Graham's 1972 conversation with Richard Nixon, memorialized on the White House tapes, and made public earlier this year by the National Archives.

In the conversation, Graham says to Nixon that "a lot of Jews are great friends of mine."

"They swarm around me and are friendly to me," Graham says. "Because they know I am friendly to Israel and so forth. They don't know how I really feel about what they're doing to this country."

And how does he feel?

Graham tells Nixon that the Jews have a "stranglehold" on the country, and "this stranglehold has got to be broken or the country's going down the drain."

"You believe that?" Nixon says.

"Yes, sir," Graham replies.

"Oh boy," Nixon says. "So do I. I can't ever say that but I believe it."

So, the questioner wanted to know whether Professor Wisse considered these sentiments, as expressed by Graham, and widely publicized earlier this year, to be anti-semitic.

No, they are not anti-semitic, Professor Wisse says.

Not anti-semitic?

No, anti-semitism exists today in the form of "political organization" against Israel.

Inference: the religious right in this country, as long as they organize politically to support Israel, can say and think whatever they want about Jews.

Not anti-semitism.

Right. Exactly right. I've had my own encounters with it, courtesy of this fucking asshole. It's been there more or less since the mid-70s (though it wasn't really "official" until after '82), it is a horrible formulation that trivialises or excuses real anti-semitism, but Stein's Nixon-defenses are the worst examples of it that I've ever seen.


I'll probably do a few more Watergate posts eventually, especially on the Greek connection I mentioned in my second post. With regard to this subject, I have something in mind relating to Kissinger and the Hersh piece that I linked to above, but it'll be a while before I can find it.

This Digby post on Stein is also a good read.