My longtime friend Ralph Raico reminded me that Thomas Szasz used to complain about “Jewish Nazis” in the psychiatric profession. This was the term by which Szasz, a Hungarian Jewish scholar, referred to other Jews in his field who wished to deal with those they didn’t like as demented and possibly in need of institutionalization. Ralph was suggesting that Krauthammer, who in fact is a psychiatrist, might fit the type that Szasz was describing, that is, someone who can’t recognize an honest difference of opinion without suspecting that his opponent represents an existential threat. From my own impressions, it seems that Ralph may have a point, and the point that he makes would easily apply to neoconservative spokesmen for a suborned and mendacious conservative movement.
As I stressed in an earlier commentary, I don’t believe that Krauthammer and his allies are simply misguided American patriots when they attack those who aren’t as enthusiastic as they are about certain designated holy wars. America, from this perspective, is great because it has waged something comparable to Old Testament wars of extermination against the forces of absolute evil. Whether warring down Confederate soldiers in the Civil War, smashing the “German militarists” in the Great War; or incinerating Japanese cities in World War Two, these are the things that we’re supposed to celebrate ecstatically and unconditionally as good Americans.
I have held conversations with people who believe that some of our bloody past military actions were necessary, to preserve the American Union or to deal decisively with a foreign enemy. Like Ralph, I find myself often disagreeing with those who hold these positions. But I would never question that those who express them are motivated by patriotic feelings and a genuine if sometimes misguided love for their country. Needless to say, I don’t have the same sympathetic feeling when neocons start ranting against the usual enemies or appeal to our supposedly better natures to humiliate their defeated objects of hate, for example, when Max Boot, Jonah Goldberg, Jeff Jacoby and Krauthammer call upon the government tear down or efface any symbol that might lead us to respect the defeated Confederacy.
Such unseemly behavior is driven by a certain type of hysteria that I have encountered many times among noticeably fearful Jews. Such people, who are now our authorized conservative opinion-holders, consider certain groups to be “bad for the Jews,” and one can list these baddies without breaking a sweat. They would include traditional American Southerners, Germans and Germany’s allies in World War Two, Arabs and perhaps to a lesser extent Russians. Neocons rejoice for their own parochial reasons that these enemies were weakened or defeated and wish to have us go on recalling their awfulness. Anyone who thinks we’ve done enough celebrating or hating is likely to anger our “conservatives” who would consider our insufficient enthusiasm for their fixations to be “un-American.”
Commentary magazine (even before it became really bad under John Podhoretz and was still a serious neocon publication) has never stopped obsessing over anti-Semitism. Almost every issue of the magazine since it was founded in 1950 includes one or more feature pieces focusing on the hatred felt for Jews by white Christians somewhere. One might gather from reading these literary samples that anti-Semitism has been a persistent evil in the US as well as in Europe, and though we were assured in the 1990s and even earlier by such Commentary-mavens as Elliot Abrams, and Leonard Dinnerstein that this hatred is not raging in the US as dangerously as was the case in the past, we are still urged to stay on guard. For example, the anti-Jewish feelings vented by blacks is something we are asked to notice. Nonetheless, this all too evident hostility may not be entirely the fault of black anti-Semites. According to a well-received study of American anti-Semitism prepared by University of Arizona historian Leonard Dinnerstein and favorably reviewed in Commentary, American blacks have turned against Jews because of their contact with the theology and sermons of Southern white Christians. One needn’t be a genius to put together the dots and to notice the connection between this view of Southern white culture and those recent deafening neocon outbursts against the few remaining manifestations of “Southern pride.”
Reading this confessional bombast, one sometimes gets the feeling of having just attended a Woody Allen movie. The conversation in both Woody Allen and Commentary is annoyingly neurotic and centers on the grievances of a particular subset of American urban Jews. But perhaps that’s where the comparison ends. Woody Allen makes occasionally entertaining satirical movies, which at their best poke fun at the mindset of those who have become our current “conservative” luminaries. Woody is also not in favor of exterminating his mortal enemies; nor does he attack anyone who objects to his feigned belligerence as “anti-American.” He satirizes Jewish paranoia, which has become synonymous with neocon foreign policy expertise. Why anyone in his right mind would mistake this lunacy for patriotism or statesmanship is beyond my understanding.
That said, Donald Trump may be underestimating his neocon enemies, who are now grouped around Bill Kristol, and working relentlessly to upend Trump’s bid for the presidency. Contrary to what Trump tells us about Kristol as a “loser” and “lightweight,” the GOP’s presumptive nominee’s opponents are not to be treated as inconsequential. For all their ethnic hang-ups and lack of any recognizable conservative principle, Trump’s neocon enemies have an extremely strong hand. Their control over the conservative movement is much more formidable than he suggests; and their public presence, which stretches from the Murdoch media empire into the national press, is still a thing to behold. I am pulling for the Donald in this fight but am still not willing to bet on his victory over those who deserve to be defeated.