Standing alone next to a yellow sign with black letters warning, "Buchanan is the Fourth Reich," Bob Kunst, president of the Shalom International, became a magnet for heated emotions on the sidewalk outside Long Beach's Convention Center last Friday afternoon.
"Buchanan represents the extreme right wing," explains Kunst, who traveled from Miami to Long Beach to protest Buchanan. "He represents the trivialization of the Holocaust, defends Nazi war criminals, and apologizes for the Nazi collaborator Pope Pius XII."
Listening with disbelief and obvious displeasure, Duncan Halliburton, a muscular man dressed in a "Marines: The Tough Team" T-shirt, counters, "He's espousing a falsehood that Pat is a Nazi and wants to start a new Holocaust against the Jews. Pat's issues are NAFTA, GATT, illegal immigration and shipping off jobs." A TV cameraman captures the short screaming match.
"There are lots of anti-Semites and Nazis in America," yells Kunst, a wiry Jewish activist whose group has put on 150 anti-Nazi events in the last 10 years.
"Nobody spins better than Buchanan," says Kunst, a 50-something who protested for a unified Jerusalem outside Camp David during the Mideast Summit. "Look at Buchanan's history of hate. I spoke to a Texas delegate who denied the Holocaust happened."
Inside the convention center lobby, myriad activists lined the hall with tables for a wide variety of political causes ranging from abolishing the WTO, ending trade with Red China and protecting the Second Amendment to banning abortion, ending illegal immigration and reforming election laws to ban corporate PACs. The John Birch Society, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and Jeremiah Films, the producers of the "The Clinton Chronicles," stocked their tables with large supplies of controversial books, videotapes and audiocassettes alerting Americans to dangers and various underreported conspiracies. One fast-selling bumper sticker read, "Clinton snorts coke, rapes women, takes bribes, launders money, starts wars, what's next?"
Amidst this sea of strong political speech, it was easy to overlook the "Americans for Buchanan" newspaper dated July 24, 2000. One article, titled "JFK's Views on WW II Were the Same As Buchanan," defends the American First Movement in the 1930s. The second small article, "Buchanan Anti-Semitic" says "If, because of his foreign policy views, Pat Buchanan is an 'anti-Semite' as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith and others have claimed, Buchanan is in rather distinguished company." The article proceeds to list 26 prominent elected officials, including President Nixon, Secretary of State Jim Baker, Pete McCloskey and Andrew Young for their views.
Buried inside the publication, however, was a bizarre and deeply disturbing full-page article titled "George Bush and Al Gore: What's the Difference?" Arguing that a small group of elite advisers "share the core principle of 'Israel First,'" the article on page 10 claims that the "rogue states rollback" means "undeclared warfare and even genocide against Islamic nations that refuse to recognize and bow to Israeli hegemony." The solution: Vote Buchanan. An ad for the anti-Semitic paper The Spotlight, runs on page 11. Sitting behind the table for the California Council for Immigration Reform, Evelyn Miller, a retired LAUSD teacher, links continuing anti-Semitism to the support of mainstream Jewish organizations for "open borders."
"Working with the immigration-reform movement, I've encountered my share of bigots. They exist in every movement," begins Miller, a Jewish activist living in Orange County. "Most people don't want illegal immigrants. But all our Jewish politicians, the ADL, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee push for more and more immigration. I hear people saying we're creating problems."I don't worry about being picked on [as a Jew]," continues Miller. "I worry about my country."Anti-Semitism is not an issue in the Reform movement or the Reform Party split, said Daniel Goldman, chairman of Florida's Reform Party, who remained with Buchanan.
"Sometimes people make politically incorrect statements that some would call offensive, but it's out of awkwardness and never out of hatred," said Goldman.
Does Goldman, being Jewish, feel uncomfortable backing Buchanan for president?
"I told Pat I support Israel's right to exist, and he understands." Goldman then talks about his father's reaction to his active role in the Buchanan campaign.
"He said, 'I have no problem if you support Pat Buchanan. The worst that can happen is you help elect Al Gore. If I thought your efforts would led to Pat Buchanan becoming president, then I'd throw myself in front of a bus.'"