WASHINGTON (Dec. 10)
Patrick Buchanan’s announcement Tuesday that he will challenge President Bush for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination will likely make it harder for the GOP to convince American Jewish voters that the party is not hostile to their interests.
Democrats had a similar problem trying to portray their party as pro-Jewish in 1984 and 1988, when the Rev, Jesse Jackson ran for the nomination. Jackson, who was accused of slurring Jews, supporting black anti-Semites and showing bias against Israel, is not running this time.
But the Republicans now have a double challenge with Buchanan and David Duke, the former American Nazi and ex-grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke, a Louisiana state representative who lost his bid for the governorship last month, announced his candidacy for president last week.
While Buchanan, a conservative newspaper and television commentator, is considered more respectable than Duke, he has upset many American Jews by questioning their alleged dual loyalty to Israel and the United States.
In a 13-page report on Buchanan, released before he announced his presidential bid, the Anti-Defamation League concluded that the former White House aide has exhibited a “disturbing pattern of baiting Jews and attacking Israel.”
Buchanan, who worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, has also defended accused Nazi war criminals and called for the dismantling of the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, the Office of Special Investigations.
Duke, on the other hand, is an avowed white supremacist whose message of restoring America’s Christian values in widely perceived as hostile to Jews and other minorities.
BUSH’S WEAK STANDING AMONG JEWS
Both Buchanan and Duke have opposed affirmative action and many of the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s that American Jews helped conceive and overwhelmingly supported.
They have sounded an “America First” theme that would get rid of foreign aid to Israel and other countries.
The National Jewish Coalition, a Republican group, will likely try to convince American Jews that Buchanan and Duke are fringe candidates that do not represent the mainstream policies of the GOP. But its task will be complicated by the fact that President Bush’s policies toward Israel have received little approval from U.S. Jewry.
The president’s standing among American Jews plummeted in September, when he attacked the “powerful political lobbyists” who had come to Washington to urge Congress to approve loan guarantees for Israel.
Duke and Buchanan are the first Republicans to announce their candidacy. The Democratic field so far includes former California Gov. Jerry Brown; Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin; former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas; and Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
Most of the campaigns so far have attacked Bush’s perceived preoccupation with international concerns at the expense of the economy and helping Americans. But unlike Buchanan and Duke, the Democratic candidates support continuing the $3 billion in annual U.S. aid to Israel.