Neoconservative Animus

by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

An increasingly acrimonious debate with the master of a conservative website concerning neoconservative intolerance impels me to spell out my views on this subject once again. I have been told repeatedly that my reports about neoconservative offenses against me have been fabricated. If that series of misdeeds had indeed taken place, I would not be protesting. I would be taking it all on the chin with an indulgent grin. Obviously my conservative critic believes that my failure to practice forgiveness proves that my enemies do not exist. All that has been shown, however, is that as a victim of malice I am less saintly than Mother Theresa.

Two other censures made are that I tip my hand when I prefer the "anti-Semite" Pat Buchanan to the Commentary circle; and that I disguise my personal grievances by shifting them on to other (presumably imaginary) victims. This last point is made with reference to M.E. Bradford, the Southern literary scholar who was dropped from consideration for the NEH directorship in 1981; this happened because of Bradford’s harsh criticism of Abraham Lincoln and because of his expressed sympathy for Southern secessionists.

These last two charges are as bizarre as the first one. Buchanan’s attacks on the Sharon government in Israel do not prove that he is an "anti-Semite," any more than his longtime friendship with Sharon’s onetime opponent, Yitzhak Rabin. Also one can disagree with another person, as I have with Buchanan on the Middle East and trade, without having to ascribe diabolical intentions. Unlike the Commentary circle, which practices a form of discourse that resembles that of European Communist Parties, Buchanan engages in honest debate, without sliming his opponents. That he has savaged neoconservatives is only tat for tat, considering the character assassination inflicted on him since the 1980s by what Murray Rothbard aptly called the "smearbund." But even more importantly, unlike his enemies and mine, Buchanan has treated me consistently as a friend. Why should I dislike him more than those who have wronged me, because he is not sufficiently hawkish on Israel or trusts the Palestinians excessively? A critical difference between, on the one side, Buchanan, Ralph Raico, Lew Rockwell, and other friends with whom I have disagreed and, on the other, the neocons is that the former do not try to slit your throat as soon you dissent.

And why does bringing up neoconservative slander against other people, rather than dwelling on one’s own misfortune, suggest a morbid preoccupation with one’s (allegedly fictitious) fate? What such a practice seems to indicate is just the opposite, namely an ability to look beyond one’s problem to notice a general historical pattern. That pattern is the way neocons habitually calumniate those who are perceived as being on their right or else those who are seen as unwilling to share with them government largess or posts that neocons covet. What could be discerned in my professional setbacks after the neocons had gone after Mel, and had paid their accomplices with NEH funding, partly to insert as NEH Director the mentally and physically sluggish gambler, Bill Bennett, was more of the same pattern. The successful war that Podhoretz and various Straussians waged against me in the CUA affair* was intended not only to punish someone perceived as "unreliable’ on Israel. It was also done in order that a minicon with an advanced degree would have a shot at the same post, once I had been denied. Thanks to my supporters this second success did not occur and the neocons gained at most a Pyrrhic victory.

It is also irritating to be told that Bradford never suffered attack from neocon quarters, except for a sage warning from the prudent Irving Kristol, that he could not be confirmed as NEH Director, because of his verbal and political immoderateness. The neocons played up Bradford’s supposed lack of moderation in numerous syndicated columns and then prepared to send visitors taken from their Heritage Foundation beneficiaries to warn then president Reagan against Bradford’s extremism. The neocons were likewise involved in all likelihood in the attacks made on Bradford by leftwing professional historians, who subsequently received NEH funding beyond the dreams of avarice, after Bennett, or, more accurately, his handlers, had taken charge. A similar campaign was launched a few years later to keep Bradford from becoming Librarian of Congress. But since the first attacks had worked so well, it was unnecessary to spend as much public money to chase Bradford away a second time. Since he died a broken man soon after, no further assaults had to be organized.

My critic, whose truculent Zionism may keep him from thinking clearly on this matter, should consult the second edition of my book The Conservative Movement. The work documents the extent of neoconservative malice and mischief. And it did predict in 1992 the fated success of what Claes Ryn calls "the new Jacobins’ in grabbing hold of the rudder of government and then pushing the U.S. into foreign crusades for "democracy." My book might also suggest why neoconservative groups created to defend "academic freedom" are NEVER to be trusted. They have the same sorry kind of record of defending those who are not politically useful, e.g., paleos, as the American Communist Party had in upholding civil liberties. At my school I do not need these paladins of academic rights to protect me against anti-war protestors or critics of Ariel Sharon. By the time the second edition of my book came out in January1993, American "conservatives" were not what they claimed to be. They had become the "unthinking but animated instruments," that Aristotle once identified as slaves, in the hands of a neoconservative master class.