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S.F. Chronicle on the Allegations About Congressional Candidate Pete McCloskey:

Here's an excerpt from yesterday's article, discussing tomorrow's primary:

Fiercely opinionated — his critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s — McCloskey can also gleefully poke fun at himself....

The Chronicle had earlier endorsed Rep. McCloskey.

Is the newspaper being quite candid with the readers here, and quite fair to Rep. McCloskey's critics? Of course anyone who brands a candidate anti-Semitic simply for praising Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s is quite wrong, and such charges deserve to be rejected.

But Rep. McCloskey has done considerably more than this. In a speech to a Holocaust revisionist group, he has mentioned the "so-called Holocaust," and told them "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust" (which in retrospect he says was not "question[ing] the existence of the Holocaust," but rather merely "referr[ing] to a debate over the number of people killed," itself a staple of Holocaust revisionist arguments). When he praised Arafat, he did so at the same time as harshly criticizing Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, and Yitzhak Shamir; the allegation isn't simply that he praised Arafat, but that he was applying a double standard that favored the Palestinian leader over Israeli leaders. He'd also complained in 1982 that the Democratic Party was "in the hands of the Jewish lobby" because it had to "look quite often to Jewish money." And he called Israel "very much like Adolf Hitler's Germany" — which, in the view of some (such as me) betrays not just a serious lack of good judgment, but also a double standard under which the misconduct of Israel and Israelis is exaggerated, while the misconduct of Israel's enemies (and other nations) is downplayed or ignored.

Now perhaps even all this is not enough to show that Rep. McCloskey is anti-Semitic. But given these criticisms, is it really fair — and really a service to the newspaper's readers — to reduce the criticisms of him to "critics brand him anti-Semitic for praising the late Yasser Arafat and calling for a Palestinian homeland since the early 1970s," and completely ignore the other, more serious, charges?

Thanks to reader Michelle Dulak Thomson for the pointer.

UPDATE: Reader and fellow lawprof Frank Cross passes along this letter from journalist Mark Hertsgaard to the editor of the Nation magazine:

McCloskey did speak at the 2000 IHR convention, but he appears not to have said what Rafael Medoff and others allege, apparently basing their charge on an IHR newsletter report. But when I viewed a videotape of McCloskey's speech, I found no such wording. He told the delegates, "I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today," before he reiterated a core point of his speech--that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. "I may not agree with you" is very different from "I don't know if you're right or wrong." McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.

The IHR's misquotation of McCloskey may well have been the honest mistake of a volunteer note taker who heard what he wanted to hear and didn't go back and check the tape. McCloskey told me he certainly didn't question the existence of the Holocaust or that 6 million Jews were killed....

I don't know quite what to make of this. I've seen no such claims of misquotation by McCloskey himself or the McCloskey campaign. The campaign has on its own Web site a San Jose Mercury-News article that reports:
Campaign charges are exploding over a 2000 speech McCloskey gave to the controversial Institute for Historical Review, some of whose members question the severity of the Holocaust. McCloskey said at the time, "I don't know whether you are right or wrong about the Holocaust," and referred to the "so-called Holocaust."

McCloskey said Friday that he has never questioned the existence of the Holocaust, and the 2000 quote referred to a debate over the number of people killed.

If the Mercury-News is paraphrasing McCloskey right, this means that he's not denying the accuracy of the quote, and that he did question the number of Jews killed. (I noted the San Jose Mercury-News account of McCloskey's characterization of his quote in my initial post.) In a letter to the editor of the Institute for Historical Review's publication, McCloskey also says that "Numbers of the specific events can be challenged," though goes on to suggest "that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL's distortions of truth."

In any event, none of this, it seems to me, undermines my criticism of the San Francisco Chronicle article: Saying that McCloskey is being called "anti-Semitic" because of his two clearly non-anti-Semitic statements (his praise of Arafat and his support in the early 1970s for a Palestinian state), and ignoring what seem to be much more damning — though partly disputed by Mr. Hertsgaard — evidence, seems to be unfair to McCloskey's critics and a disservice to the newspaper's readers.

Bobbie:
Why don't you write a letter to the editor?
6.5.2006 2:16pm
frankcross (mail):
On the Holocaust comments do you have a source other than the anti-semitic group itself and do you have reason to disregard the journalist I linked who said he viewed the videotape and it was not said?
6.5.2006 2:35pm
Steve P. (mail):
Reminds me of the 2002 flap over Strom Thurmond. Plus, weren't most of the questionable quotes from 1982? The 'so-called Holocaust' is from 2000, which to me is an incredibly idiotic thing to say, but he was talking to a Holocaust revisionist group who would presumably be friendly to those words.

The guy sounds like a jerk, but I'd like to see more of a pattern of behavior than cherry-picking some stupid statements over three decades before I pick up my sword and charge into the fray. Senator Byrd's got a much more questionable past, in comparison.

(just playing devil's advocate)
6.5.2006 2:43pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

The 'so-called Holocaust' is from 2000, which to me is an incredibly idiotic thing to say, but he was talking to a Holocaust revisionist group who would presumably be friendly to those words.


Steve, don't give him a pass for "merely pandering." Currying political favor through anti-semitic rhetoric is hardly morally superior to using such rhetoric because of honestly-held corresponding beliefs. The very fact that the guy spoke to the revisionist groups speaks volumes - that he did not find it beneath him. Whether he is a bona fide anti-semite or just a gutless political prostitute is irrelevant.
6.5.2006 2:49pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Senator Byrd's got a much more questionable past, in comparison.

Would you vote for Senator Byrd?
6.5.2006 2:50pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
Senator Byrd's got a much more questionable past, in comparison.

No argument about that. I don't think that you were suggesting that Senator Byrd be the standard, but he really wouldn't be much of one, would he?

I can understand that reasonable people can prefer McCloskey over Richard Pombo. I don't understand giving no substantive coverage to McCloskey's statements about Israel, the PLO, etc. Yes, many of them were made nearly twenty-five years ago; on the other hand, the Chronicle mentions that McCloskey is a "decorated Marine" in virtually every piece that mentions him, and McCloskey was fifty-four years old in 1982. It may be that McCloskey no longer holds some of those positions, but there is no evidence that that's the case.
6.5.2006 2:56pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Steve P.: As I said, maybe his statements aren't enough to show his anti-Semitism. But how is it justifiable for the Chronicle to repeat the allegations of anti-Semitism but to give the least damning evidence (in fact, in my view, evidence that is on itself not damning at all) and omit the potentially more damning evidence?
6.5.2006 3:11pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Eugene

you are assuming that the reporter, Greg Lucas, is as familiar with these matters as you are. Send him an email about it.
6.5.2006 3:19pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>which in retrospect he says was not "question[ing] the existence of the Holocaust," but rather merely "referr[ing] to a debate over the number of people killed," itself a staple of Holocaust revisionist arguments.<

I find this kind of statement extremely unfair. McCloskey was being painted as a Holocaust-denier. In response, he clarified that he is not a Holocaust denier, that he was not expressing uncertainty about whether the Holocaust occurred, but that all he had done was express a lack of knowledge regarding the debate over the number of people killed.

How is it relevant here that this argument is a "staple" of Holocaust revisionist arguments? He didn't even make the argument! What is he supposed to say, "Oh, yeah, I guess you're right, I guess I must be a Holocaust denier even though I'm actually not. Oops there I went again!"?

There may be instances where it's fair to surmise that numbers-quibbling is simply a veiled form of denial. But shouldn't the person at least have quibbled with the numbers? Here, all McCloskey said was that he didn't want to take part in that debate. To insinuate that he is still a denier in the same way seems to me ridiculously unfair.

To answer the question, it looks to me like the Chronicle decided it wasn't important that certain of McKloskey's statements can be taken out of context to make him look like a Holocaust denier, when in fact he has repeatedly expressed personal certainty that the Holocaust happened, that it involved the systematic murder of Jews, and urging those who deny the Holocaust to stop doing so. Apparently, they decided that he's not anti-semitic, so they weren't going to rehash every allegation. Would it have been more candid to say "There are other allegations, but after looking into them, we think they are mainly unfair and inconclusive"? Sure, but then the whole story probably would have turned to what they meant by "mainly." If we're talking about candor, though, I think there could be a lot more candor here on all sides.
6.5.2006 3:27pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
(Oops, I got a little excitable there. Apologies for the sarcasm; merely trying to make the point)
6.5.2006 3:39pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Christopher Cooke,

[Y]ou are assuming that the reporter, Greg Lucas, is as familiar with these matters as you are. Send him an email about it.

Actually, I emailed Lucas on reading the piece, just before I emailed Eugene, and referred him to the week's worth of discussion here, adding that much of the commentary tried to put the best face on McCloskey's various remarks. Lucas responded with thanks for the referral.

But surely Lucas had come across accusations of anti-Semitism against McCloskey, or he wouldn't have put them in the profile at all, even in the furtive way he did. What I can't quite believe is that anyone accused McCloskey of being an anti-Semite solely because he praised Arafat and called for a Palestinian homeland. I suspect that what we have here is a writer on a deadline who had rumors of anti-Semitism and a profile of McCloskey to work with, and assumed that the charges of anti-Semitism stemmed from the only plausible items in the bio. Journalism is often like that.
6.5.2006 3:44pm
sneddren (mail):
I sent the writer at the Chron an email last night, when i read the story online, pointing out, in less eloquent terms, what Eugene pointed out. The response I received was "Thanks for writing." No response, no defense, no explanation.
6.5.2006 3:46pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Marcus1,

The point is that no one that I know of has called McCloskey an anti-Semite for the reasons Lucas mentioned. No one should call anyone an anti-Semite for the reasons Lucas mentioned. Lucas's giving these as the reasons some people think McCloskey anti-Semitic is (1) untrue; and (2) gravely misleading, in that it suggests that the critics are the sort of people who call "anti-Semitism" whenever someone criticizes Israel in the slightest. The actual allegations against McCloskey are very different. I don't think the reporter was duty-bound to decide whether they were well-founded or not; but surely he ought at minimum to have reported the accusations fairly. He didn't.
6.5.2006 3:56pm
Mike G (mail):
"but he was talking to a Holocaust revisionist group who would presumably be friendly to those words."

Oh, that makes it okay then!

It's one thing to be a Southern politician and wind up talking to a few groups with unsavory racist leanings. It's another thing to talk to neo-Nazis-- they take some effort to find! At the moment you decide to talk to a Holocaust revisionist group, you've made a choice. For them to have sought you out suggests that you already have some leanings they are familiar with-- I doubt they go around inviting everybody and anybody. People can make excuses all they want but this is the equivalent of McCloskey being found with a teenage hooker in his car at 11 pm at night. He could be youth pastoring, he could be giving her a ride back to Mom and Dad, but odds are...
6.5.2006 4:12pm
Steve P. (mail):
Prof Volokh: Apologies, I was speaking beside your point, and not directly to it -- I agree, there is stronger evidence of his possible anti-Semitism than what the Chronicle reported. This might be an effort of the editors to downplay the issue, or maybe the preponderance of his 'critics' stated the reasons printed as why they thought he was an anti-Semite. Though, I'm at a loss as to how one would prove the latter.

Mike: Good points, but I actually believe that the distinction of whether he's an anti-Semite or whether he's a gutless political prostitute to be relevant for this discussion, though not probably not relevant for voting reasons. His mere presence at a speech to Holocaust revisionists is pretty damning evidence as well.
6.5.2006 4:27pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Michelle,

I'll agree with that. I'd say if they're going to take a stance on the anti-semitism charges, they should probably state their reasoning. Frankly, though, I can see why they'd be reluctant to discuss the issue. That would force them, if they wanted to maintain their position, to actually defend McCloskey's comments. Is it so surprising that they wouldn't be jumping at that opportunity? "Sure, he called it the 'so-called Holocaust,' but when you recognize that he was giving a speech in a room full of holocaust deniers, it makes perfect sense." As I've said, the attacks I've seen look unfair to me, but I have a hard time blaming the newspaper for not wanting to carry that mantle. Defending against charges of racism just doesn't work very well in the public square...
6.5.2006 4:27pm
N.I.:
A few points.

First, I've have never understood why it is relevant, other than as an historical point, whether the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews or merely 100,000 as some revisionists claim. It is hardly a glowing character reference for Hitler that he killed "only" 100,000, so even if true I don't see how that helps the revisionists. Would people have a higher opinion of Ted Bundy if it were discovered that he had fewer victims than originally thought?

Second, I don't necessarily consider it anti-Semitic to deny the Holocaust outright; I would think that would depend on __why__ one denies the Holocaust. If one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive well then one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive. In the real world I suspect that's not the case with most Holocaust deniers, but in theory I don't see how denying the Holocaust makes one a hater of Jews any more than denying the historicity of Jesus would make one a hater of Christians.

Third, of course there's a Jewish lobby in Washington and of course lots of Jewish money gets spent making sure Congress remains pro-Israel. There's a lobby that spends lots of money for every other cause so why should the Jews be any different? Isn't the issue here really whether the Jewish lobby is held to a different standard than other lobbies and not whether its (obvious) existence is acknowledged?

Finally, most of the time American interests and Israeli interests are pretty close to each other, but when they are in conflict I think the American government should look after the interests of America first. In listening to the neo-conservatives (I'm an isolationist libertarian myself) I don't always get the impression that they can be trusted to do that.
6.5.2006 4:38pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):

"but he was talking to a Holocaust revisionist group who would presumably be friendly to those words."

Oh, that makes it okay then!


Well, the defense is that he was not expressing personal doubt, but simply acknowledging the doubt of those present. Like if I go to a room of evangelical preachers, as an atheist, and say, "Hey, I don't know if every atheist in history is going to spend eternity burning in hell. I just think the real issue is how to get along in this life, which we do know exists." Or a gay person saying "I don't know if god condemns homosexuality or not, but I do know what's in my heart."

In fact, I think very people know the historical details regarding the Holocaust. In my experience, the standard response to Holocaust skeptics is "Well, sure, there could have been 5,000,000 or 7,000,000 Jews killed; I don't know, but why the hell does it matter?" So McCloskey says this, expressses exactly this sentiment, but then has it taken out of context as if he's saying he has no idea whether the Holocaust even happened, that in his mind it's just as likely that it didn't happen at all. That's what's unfair.
6.5.2006 4:43pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):

If one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive well then one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive.

The point is that the historical evidence is vast, available and overwhelming. Therefore, it is fair to infer that one who finds it unpersuasive may not possibly do so objectively, but must have some other reason. If you aren't sure about it - go to Yad Vashem, go to Poland, go to Brooklyn and talk to survivors. If faced with all of that, you find the evidence unpersuasive, it may be time to put on the tin-foil hat on the freshly shaved noggin. (I don't mean you personally N.I., but your hypothetical holocaust denier).
6.5.2006 4:43pm
megapotamus (mail):
"but he was talking to a Holocaust revisionist group who would presumably be friendly to those words."

Oh, that makes it okay then!


Really, if any candidate were speaking to a "Holocaust revisionist group" I would expect a serious expiation on the nature of the group, the candidate's reason for addressing same and only THEN what was said which, one would hope, would enlighten the preceding. I seem to recall a tiny little controversy over politicians addressing BJU that resulted in a "full scrub" of both that institution and the speaker's justifications for being there. Whatever one's opinion of Bob Jones University shouldn't some explicitly racist group like this get at least the same treatment? At least from the locals? Seems it would be a tasty treat for any reporter who was acting fairly and consistently.
6.5.2006 4:50pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Marcus1,

Well, of course the Chron doesn't particularly want to get into this issue, given that they've already made their endorsement. Obviously they had heard the charges, or at least heard of them, and evidently they thought they had to refer to them somewhere in the profile; but the way Lucas went about it made the charges look frivolous — or, worse, the yammerings of a few knee-jerk Zionists for whom anyone remotely sympathetic to the Palestinians is an automatic anti-Semite. They'd have done better to pretend they'd never heard of the charges in the first place. It would still have been a lie, but a less reprehensible one, and one equipped with plausible deniability. Those of us who know the Chron at all well will not find it difficult to believe that it failed to notice something happening online.

For what it's worth, there's something shamefaced and furtive in the very sentence. A good writer doesn't pile up so many non sequiturs in a sentence unless he's trying to shove something in where it doesn't quite fit. There's nothing else remotely that awkward in the piece, and I rather suspect that the phrase within the dashes was an editor's CYA afterthought.
6.5.2006 4:50pm
N.I.:
"The point is that the historical evidence is vast, available and overwhelming. Therefore, it is fair to infer that one who finds it unpersuasive may not possibly do so objectively, but must have some other reason."

Mike, I don't disagree with you; I find the evidence persuasive myself. But there is enough Holocaust-denying literature out there that it isn't inconceivable that someone could read it, accept it at face value, and disbelieve the Holocaust without necessarily hating Jews (or for that matter being a moron). Every theory that you or I find stupid -- flat earthism, scientific creationism, and theism itself, to name three I find less than persuasive -- has earnest advocates who can't for the life of them figure out why the rest of us don't get it. And calling them nasty names -- in this case anti-Semitic -- doesn't help.

I prefer whenever possible to be charitable toward those with whom I differ. That doesn't mean I want them making social policy.
6.5.2006 5:14pm
PersonFromPorlock:
I've seen no such claims of misquotation by McCloskey himself or the McCloskey campaign.

Perhaps because 86% of the people who read such a denial automatically say "Ah-HA!"?
6.5.2006 5:20pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
N.I. - I do not find it, as you say "inconceivable." I do find it exceedingly unlikely that out of 100 holocaust deniers, there 1 intelligent person/non-anti-semite. We make inferences when B is likely to be true based on A. We do not ask for an airtight connection. As far as I'm concerned, Holocaust deniers are overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, anti-semites. Many are also morons. Pete McCloskey, based on what I know of him, is probably an anti-semite. The mere sliver of a possibility that he "just read some bad books" and, well, believed them, will not sway me otherwise.
6.5.2006 6:06pm
Dan Simon (www):
First, I've have never understood why it is relevant, other than as an historical point, whether the Holocaust killed 6 million Jews or merely 100,000 as some revisionists claim. It is hardly a glowing character reference for Hitler that he killed "only" 100,000, so even if true I don't see how that helps the revisionists.

I'd have thought this was obvious, but the point of minimizing the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust is not to rehabilitate Hitler--most Holocaust revisionists, after all, view his policy of slaughtering Jews as reasonable and even praisworthy--but rather to cast aspersions on the honesty of the millions of Jews who bear witness to the annihilation of their families, friends and communities.

Second, I don't necessarily consider it anti-Semitic to deny the Holocaust outright; I would think that would depend on __why__ one denies the Holocaust. If one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive well then one finds the historical evidence unpersuasive.

Again, once the revisionists have explained away the official Nazi records and other evidence of non-Jewish origin, they are left trying to explain away the testimony of millions of Jewish survivors. How does one do that without casting aspersions on the honesty of an entire people?

Finally, most of the time American interests and Israeli interests are pretty close to each other, but when they are in conflict I think the American government should look after the interests of America first. In listening to the neo-conservatives (I'm an isolationist libertarian myself) I don't always get the impression that they can be trusted to do that.

A helpful suggestion: if you really want to disguise your contempt for Jews by using the euphemism "neo-conservatives", you might want to avoid

1) Darkly hinting that "neo-conservatives" have loyalties (to whom or what, I wonder?) that supersede their loyalty to America;

2) Suggesting that the problem is one of whether they, as a group, "can be trusted"--as if they were, you know, an alien conspiracy undermining America's precious fluids; and

3) Voicing your suspicions about them immediately after wondering what's so terrible, really, about Holocaust denial.
6.5.2006 6:18pm
David in DC:
I find this kind of statement extremely unfair. McCloskey was being painted as a Holocaust-denier. In response, he clarified that he is not a Holocaust denier, that he was not expressing uncertainty about whether the Holocaust occurred, but that all he had done was express a lack of knowledge regarding the debate over the number of people killed.

Marcus, when it appeared he was leaving open the possibility that the Holocaust never happened you totally ignored the statement, instead focusing on other ways to try to paint him as innocent. I think the way you tried to talk around it was that said people addressing this topic faced "unavoidable pitfalls".

Just sayin', is all.

That's why you should focus on his words and actions rather than try to divine what he is thinking. If he didn't say it, he didn't say it, and it requires no mind reading to figure it out. However, if he did say it, then trying to cover for him is pretty bad.

Was the letter he penned to the IHR giving them the strategic advice to lie about their position to better advance their agenda misreported by the IHR?
6.5.2006 6:38pm
David in DC:
I find this kind of statement extremely unfair. McCloskey was being painted as a Holocaust-denier. In response, he clarified that he is not a Holocaust denier, that he was not expressing uncertainty about whether the Holocaust occurred, but that all he had done was express a lack of knowledge regarding the debate over the number of people killed.

Marcus, when it appeared he was leaving open the possibility that the Holocaust never happened you totally ignored the statement, instead focusing on other ways to try to paint him as innocent. I think the way you tried to talk around it was that said people addressing this topic faced "unavoidable pitfalls".

Just sayin', is all.

That's why you should focus on his words and actions rather than try to divine what he is thinking. If he didn't say it, he didn't say it, and it requires no mind reading to figure it out. However, if he did say it, then trying to cover for him is pretty bad.

Was the letter he penned to the IHR giving them the strategic advice to lie about their position to better advance their agenda misreported by the IHR?
6.5.2006 6:38pm
Dan Israel (mail):
Hate to take the easy way out, but after Dan Simon's eloquent comments about the evil that is Holocaust denial, pretty much all I can muster is a link to the well-written Wikipedia entry on Holocaust denial:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_denial

My personal opinion is that Holocaust denial is neither "plausible" nor "arguable"...it is merely a means by which anti-Semites seek to deny the Jewish people their own history, and thus to, in a sense, murder them again. If that sounds extreme, imagine that someone murders your family, is proven to have committed the crime, and then denies that your family ever even existed. That's pretty much what Holocaust denial is - added the most severe insult to the most severe injury. It is not "historical revisionism" any more than arguing that certain races are genetically inferior and sub-human is "science."
And if McCloskey had his head so far up his you-know-what that he felt it was OK to address these cretins, and to even voice some solidarity for even a fraction of their hateful views, then the SF Chronicle owes its readers - especially its Jewish readers - a huge apology and it needs to retract its endorsement of McCloskey NOW. One can only imagine the uproar if the Chronicle had endorsed a candidate who spoke at a KKK meeting 6 years ago. There's no difference. None. Shame on you SF Chronicle. And shame on everyone who defends this crap. Not to be too cliched, but if we can't learn from the history of the Holocaust, we are indeed doomed to repeat it.
6.5.2006 6:41pm
Yitzchak Goodman (mail) (www):
Again, once the revisionists have explained away the official Nazi records and other evidence of non-Jewish origin, they are left trying to explain away the testimony of millions of Jewish survivors. How does one do that without casting aspersions on the honesty of an entire people?

This is an important point, and it needs to be restated more forcefully. The full denier argument drips with conspiracism. Buying into it involves embracing a massively paranoid worldview because the universal acceptance of the truth of the Holocaust has to be explained somehow, and the explanation is near-total Jewish control of media, academia, governments, etc.
6.5.2006 6:46pm
David in DC:
Frankcross,

On the Holocaust comments do you have a source other than the anti-semitic group itself...

Ah, yes, the perils of speaking to an anti-Semitic group. This was a propaganda boon for the IHR, and they made sure that they got full mileage out of it.

I saw this back when EV first posted about McCloskey:


Mark Weber, the Institute's director, told this column that McCloskey was granted a request to remove from the IHR's website an expression of "esteem" for the organization's "mission."


Link here

I thought this was either an outright lie or that something was being taken grossly out of context and misrepresented. (For example, Weber appears to be implying that it was taken down solely because McCloskey didn't want those words of his up there. More likely, IMO, is that the words misrepresented what McCloskey really said and so he wanted them taken down.)

I would be really curious to see the full text of that "expression of esteem".
6.5.2006 6:53pm
Mike G:
You know, the "it's legitimate to question any historical event" argument would hold water if people DID question the existence of any other historical event. I guess they do the moon landings, but there aren't people who deny the War of 1812 happened, there aren't people who deny that Edison invented the light bulb, there aren't people who deny that Babe Ruth hit all those home runs. By an amazing coincidence, the one historical event people get obsessively weird about is related to the one group people get obsessively weird about-- Jews. That's why it's impossible to take Holocaust denial as a funny little quirk some people have, as an amusing sidelight with no political dimension. It's all rooted in its political dimension, of delegitimizing the Jews and Israel.

The numbers game, similarly, is impossible to take benignly because it's not just trivia-- if you can claim that the Holocaust "only" killed 100,000, then that's a drop in the vast bucket of WWII, comparable to this or that bombing raid; you've removed its special status as the key crime of that war (and thus the cause that made Israel necessary). You saw the same kind of arithmetic at work in the Afghan war, where it seemed to very important to the Marc Herolds of the world to get the number killed iby US action over 3000. Why? Because of course the attacks on 9/11 killed slightly under 3000 Americans, so it was important to get the number of Afghan dead up to the point where "America is worse than Osama."
6.5.2006 7:01pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
It isn't at all difficult to find out the basic and uncontested (except by nutjobs) facts about the Holocaust.

If McCloskey didn't care enough about it not to do that, why did he care to address a group whose only reason for being is to question the Holocaust?

I understand that California politics is minutely subdivided into special interest groups, but how many elections there are decided by the Holocaust-denier vote?
6.5.2006 8:08pm
Fub:
For those interested in background to Pete McCloskey's later statements, here is the California 1st DCA case Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, et al. v. Superior Court (Audrey Shabbas), 67 Cal. App. 4th 1072 (1998), which preceded the ultimate settlement of Pete McCloskey's 1993 lawsuit against the ADL.

It is worth noting that his wife was among the plaintiffs.

It's available in PDF, or Word (doc), or HTML formats.
6.5.2006 10:17pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
In fact, I think very people know the historical details regarding the Holocaust. In my experience, the standard response to Holocaust skeptics is "Well, sure, there could have been 5,000,000 or 7,000,000 Jews killed; I don't know, but why the hell does it matter?" So McCloskey says this, expressses exactly this sentiment, but then has it taken out of context as if he's saying he has no idea whether the Holocaust even happened, that in his mind it's just as likely that it didn't happen at all. That's what's unfair.

Oh, so his reasoning must be "anything under six million isn't really a holocaust"? He refers to it as a "so-called holocaust," which is pretty hard to defend as just not wanting to quibble about a million more or a million less.

Sounds a little more like he spoke as he felt, got some heat, and now has to cook up something, anything, to change it.
6.6.2006 1:28am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,


Marcus, when it appeared he was leaving open the possibility that the Holocaust never happened you totally ignored the statement, instead focusing on other ways to try to paint him as innocent.


That's not true. I have never thought it appeared that way. The very first statements I saw from McCloskey were expressing personal certainty that the Holocaust ocurred, urging the IHR not to suggest otherwise, and recounting specific atrocities committed by the Nazis against Jews and those who supported them. The willingness to call him a Holocaust-denier despite this has mystified me from the beginning.

I also noted, though, that for an apparently old man who has opposed Israel's politics for a long time, it is hardly surprising that a few comments could be dredged up that make him look bad. That doesn't mean he was anti-semitic. It just means that at some point you're going to say something like, "Hey, I don't personally know the specific numbers of Jews killed, but that never struck me as important," and somebody is going to put that in a context that looks either like skepticism regarding the scope of the Holocaust, or alternatively that he doesn't think the Holocaust was important. And indeed, that appears to be exactly what happened here.


Was the letter he penned to the IHR giving them the strategic advice to lie about their position to better advance their agenda misreported by the IHR?


As I said on the other thread, I personally once wrote a letter to Fred Phelps telling him that he would probably be more persuasive if he stopped calling homosexuals fags and saying that he wanted them to die. It didn't mean I supported his position. I don't. Nor was I suggesting he lie about his true feelings. I just thought that I was more likely to get his attention if I spoke to him courteously rather than simply shouting at him that he's a degenerate. McCloskey's letter looks to me like exactly the same kind of effort.

Incidentally, I wonder if there are any religious leaders who have ever made similar efforts with Rev. Phelps. I wonder what we would find in those letters. I would bet a fortune that there are great number who have contacted him and said, "Look, I support your ultimate goal here, I support the idea of trying to save people, and I support your effort to bring people to Jesus, but I think you're making a mistake by using such harsh language. Simply as a result of your rhetoric, many gays and even others are likely to be turned away from Christ's message."

Would that be damning evidence against any such author? What if they preceded the comments with something like "I may not agree with your comments on homosexuality."? Would that be damning proof that he or she was anti-gay? There's a serious lack of perspective in these attacks, and that's all I'm trying to say.
6.6.2006 1:55am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Well, given the update, I would say that the most "damning" evidence suggesting McCloskey's purported anti-semitism---his saying "so-called Holocaust" to IHR---is seriously in doubt, and hardly a basis for supporting charges of anti-Semitism now.

Maybe the Chronicle reporter knew about McCloskey's comments to the Contra Costa Times, in which he says he never disputed the existence of the Holocaust, and called the IHR group "a bunch of nuts."

So, there really is only his 1982 speech about "one of the good things about being a Republican" is purportedly that he doesn't have to hit up jewish donors, like the Democrats. Since, at least in California and NYC, it has been historically true that a large number of the major donors to the Democratic Party have been jewish (by large, I would estimate 5 times their percentage of the US population), I am not even sure his comments were factually inaccurate, at least not in 1982 (when he said it). While more jews have migrated to the Republican party, I would venture a guess that the shift has largely been in the Reagan era and later (perhaps I am wrong on this). I do know that many major donors in the Cal. Democratic Party have been jewish. (Whether they expect you to wholeheartedly support Israel--which seems to be McCloskey's issue---I don't know.)

Unlike Professor Volokh, I don't find it surprising that McCloskey wouldn't now categorically deny having said something 6 years ago to the IHR, given that (a) it has hardly been a campaign issue and (b) he may not remember what he told them, anyway. He has said he always believed in the Holocaust and thought the group was nuts. In light of his other comments, his failure to deny what a non-mainstream media group reports he told them--which another journalist now disputes after watching a video of his remarks--- is hardly a damning admission. (I would say there is more evidence of Scalia making an obscene gesture to a reporter, than there is of McCloskey's making these remarks, for example).

I do agree that the Chron reporter's sentence as to why others have called McCloskey anti-semitic was probably factually inaccurate (at least, I have never read of a charge of anti-semitism based solely on McCloskey's praise of Arafat), but think it may have been the result of sloppy writing. Having dealt with reporters on cases, I have found they frequently take "short cuts" that end up misstating things, somewhat.

By the way, isn't the reporter (Greg Lucas) the son of Malcolm Lucas, former Chief Justice of the Cal. Supreme Court?
6.6.2006 2:02am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The numbers game, similarly, is impossible to take benignly because it's not just trivia-- if you can claim that the Holocaust "only" killed 100,000, then that's a drop in the vast bucket of WWII, comparable to this or that bombing raid; you've removed its special status as the key crime of that war (and thus the cause that made Israel necessary).
To elaborate on what Mike G wrote, the people who do this don't try to claim that no Jews were killed in Europe during a massive world war; that would be implausible even to someone who had never heard the word "Holocaust" before. What they claim is that there was absolutely no systematic plan to kill Jews, that the Germans were merely being relocated (like the American Nisei and Issei on the West Coast, that any Jews who died merely died of disease or hunger, incidental to war. That could be plausible if "only" 100K died; it isn't for 6M. That's why they pretend to only question the number. In other words, questioning the number is denying the Holocaust. But it allows them to obfuscate the issue by pretending these are different.


Marcus:
There may be instances where it's fair to surmise that numbers-quibbling is simply a veiled form of denial. But shouldn't the person at least have quibbled with the numbers? Here, all McCloskey said was that he didn't want to take part in that debate. To insinuate that he is still a denier in the same way seems to me ridiculously unfair.
It only seems that way to you because (and I don't understand why) you're desperate to exonerate McCloskey.

To say that he's only saying he doesn't want to take part in the debate completely misses the point: namely, that there isn't any such "debate." There are historians who universally agree that it took place and a bunch of neo-nazis who claim otherwise. It's like saying at a KKK rally that you don't want to take sides in the debate over whether black people actually liked being enslaved or not.

There's simply no way for you to explain it away. McCloskey went to a Klan rally and gave a speech to them, and then when caught and called on it, he claimed he really didn't have an opinion on whether black people were inferior to whites, but that all he wanted to do was object to some of the NAACP's tactics. Indeed, he wrote to them and said that they should stop talking so much about racial inferiority because it might interfere with their mission.

(And then the San Francisco Chronicle pretended that the only issue was whether he was unfairly being called racist for criticizing an African government for bad governance.)
6.6.2006 2:10am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Well, given the update, I would say that the most "damning" evidence suggesting McCloskey's purported anti-semitism---his saying "so-called Holocaust" to IHR---is seriously in doubt, and hardly a basis for supporting charges of anti-Semitism now.
1) Actually, if you read the update, the reporter is denying that McCloskey said "don't know whether you're right or wrong," but not whether he said "so called holocaust," so McCloskey is not exonerated of the most damning evidence, but...

2) ...in any case, one might argue that the most damning evidence is something that nobody denies: that McCloskey gave a speech to the IHR...

3) ...except that in fact the most damning evidence is not any one data point, but the collection of evidence described in the threads here on VC. It's sort of a desperate defense tactic being used here by some of McCloskey's defenders, who argue, "Well, this may not indicate anti-semitism, and that may not indicate anti-semitism, and that may not indicate anti-semitism..." Any of that might be true, in isolation. But combine them, and they certainly do.

And if he isn't one, he sure plays one on TV. Kind of like, as others have noted, Trent Lott.
6.6.2006 2:25am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>Oh, so his reasoning must be "anything under six million isn't really a holocaust"? He refers to it as a "so-called holocaust," which is pretty hard to defend as just not wanting to quibble about a million more or a million less.<

See, this is exactly what makes it so unfair when Prof. Volokh (or others before him) takes this comment out of context; it gives you the false impression that McCloskey was trying to suggest that the Holocaust never happened. The "so-called Holocaust" comment was politically idiotic, which is certainly a strike against him at one level. If you look at the context, though, there is simply no way a listener could fairly surmise that he was trying to raise skepticism regarding the Holocaust or even to endorse such skepticism. In the very speech, he talks about how the Nazis murdered anyone in Poland who tried to help the Jews.

The context clearly shows two things: 1). He used the phrase extemporaneously. 2). He was simply acknowledging the skepticism he had just heard. The quote:


Earlier here today I listened to speeches about the courage of men in France, Britain, Germany, and New Zealand who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust. And I wanted to tell you a story that every American ought to know, because we do have free speech in this country, and a judicial system with the right to jury trial. Whatever you may think of the ability of given judges, or the ability of given members of the press, the independent judiciary and press have saved us from the kind of things that have been described here today in Germany or Britain or Canada.


He also said, (as was apparently then used to damn him further):


I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today, or what you might feel, but your right to say what you believe and to research things that are alleged as true, and to try to disprove them, is perhaps the most important part of our democracy.


The point is, he just got done listening to various people who presumably called into question the use of the term "Holocaust" to describe the Holocaust. So he essentially says to them, well, look, I call it the Holocaust, because that's what people call it. Essentially, he made the decision to speak to them courteously and not to simply disregard them or berate them with every phrase. Did his courtesy go over-board? Well, yes, and I'd bet that with more reflection he wouldn't have used that phrase. To turn it into a holocaust-denial of its own, though, really isn't justified by the comment.
6.6.2006 2:46am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Marcus:

A for effort -- but F for results. I admit, you don't have much to work with in defending him, so I can't criticize you too much, but even you can't really believe that argument, can you? You're just playing devil's advocate, right? Because it's the equivalent of "It's not my pot. I'm just holding it for a friend" or "I'm going to spend my time searching for the real killers."

This part is the part where it really falls apart, though:
So he essentially says to them, well, look, I call it the Holocaust, because that's what people call it.
Unfortunately for your argument, that's "essentially" the opposite of what he said. The phrase "so-called" means "I don't call it that, even though other people do." That is Holocaust denial. Not only is such a conclusion "justified by the comment," but no other interpretation is even rational.

(You keep trying to make a big deal of the fact that he talks about Poles being shot when they tried to help Jews. So what? Holocaust deniers, as noted above, don't deny that Germans mistreated Jews. They simply deny that there was any organized genocide. Nothing in the statement you reference contradicts that. Not to mention that his reference to this fact was in support of his thesis that Jews were persecuting this professor.)


Incidentally, as long as we're talking about his words, how about this line from his speech:
Well, a journalist named Nick Thimmesch, who later [1985] died rather mysteriously, reported that Israel was using cluster bombs.
"Who later died rather mysteriously"? This is Clinton Body Count material. The insinuation here is that the Jews^H^H^H^HIsraelis killed Thimmesch for reporting on their misdeeds. He did not die "mysteriously"; he died of cancer.
6.6.2006 4:32am
The Outlander (www):
It sounds like The San Francisco Chronicle is trying to backtrack from certain and definite backlash for its support of this guy.

Thank you for your time.
6.6.2006 8:58am
N.I.:
Dan said:

A helpful suggestion: if you really want to disguise your contempt for Jews by using the euphemism "neo-conservatives", you might want to avoid

1) Darkly hinting that "neo-conservatives" have loyalties (to whom or what, I wonder?) that supersede their loyalty to America;

2) Suggesting that the problem is one of whether they, as a group, "can be trusted"--as if they were, you know, an alien conspiracy undermining America's precious fluids; and

3) Voicing your suspicions about them immediately after wondering what's so terrible, really, about Holocaust denial.


First of all, I'm sorry you seem to think that anyone who offers criticism of Jews is anti-Semitic; I guess since I am also critical of the Bush administration that must mean I hate America too. (Actually some in the Bush administration have stopped just short of arguing that, but that's another thread.)

But just to be clear, here's what I really do think about the neo-cons:

America is neck-deep in a conflict in the Middle East that we had no business getting into. George Washington was absolutely right that we should avoid foreign entanglements. This particular foreign entanglement has given us little but grief.

Given that we are neck deep in a foreign entanglement that at minimum will require much diplomacy and could even start another world war, nobody who has even the appearance of partiality should be making policy decisions. That means no Jewish Americans AND no Arab Americans. There are plenty of other government jobs for Jewish- and Arab-Americans that don't involve Middle Eastern foreign policy. And if England and France had a conflict comparable to the Arab Israeli conflict, I would take the same position with respect to Americans of English and French descent: put them to work on something else.

This is for the same reason that were my wife and I to divoce, my mother in law, who happens to be a judge, should not hear the case. Even if she does a sterling job of setting aside her natural sympathies and making impartial rulings, nobody would ever believe it. And in politics and diplomacy, perception is everything.

All of that said, in this case there is a far, far deeper problem than mere perception. There is a strong case to be made that American support for Israel is in fact not in America's best interest, and that our policy of supporting Israel has at times caused us to do things that were harmful to our own national interest. Whether or not you believe that to be true, the case can be made. If at some point in time that view prevails in some future administration, it is readily apparent how extraordinarily painful the policy change would be to American Jews. American Jews are, after all, human, and it would be demanding the super-human of them to implement such a policy. And asking them to implement it would be the emotional equivalent of asking a physician to turn off his own child's life support.

Now, if all of that makes me an anti-Semite, well then call me whatever you like.
6.6.2006 9:20am
David in DC:

Earlier here today I listened to speeches about the courage of men in France, Britain, Germany, and New Zealand who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust.


I read this yet a third way. I think McCloskey was trying to relate what the so-called courageous men were doing from their perspective. From the perspective of these 'courageous men', they were not speaking out against the Holocaust but to the fiction of the story of the Holocaust.

But...this requires an exceptionally careful reading. (Obviously, because we are hearing multiple interpretations from people who are examining it in detail.) And might not be right. It was hard for me to even formulate how to explain it, and I'm still not sure I did such a great job.

David N. has it right:


...in any case, one might argue that the most damning evidence is something that nobody denies: that McCloskey gave a speech to the IHR...


This is problematic and this pandering to a group of serious anti-Semites is the root cause of his problems. Calling it the so-called Holocaust is unacceptable in any context IMO, and it stems from his decision to address and grant legitimacy to a hate group in the way he did.

As for Marcus' idea that he was being courteous, I would have liked to see him extend that courtesy to the "Jewish community" he was railing about, but I guess when you are speaking to a group of anti-Semites that goes by the wayside. He also seems to continue to extend courtesy to these anti-Semites even after they egregiously misquoted him on their website and it remains up there. Why not sue them like he did the ADL? He's got to be aware of it by now.

I contend that if McCloskey was as much of a "straight shooter" as the SF Chron gives him credit for, he would have told them:


Look, these guys aren't "men of courage". It is not courage to hide behind some pseudoscience or so-called history to advance your agenda of hate. I can't believe that more than one in 20 of you guys actually believe that the Holocaust didn't happen, and those guys are nuts. The rest of you are bigots.


Marcus,

McCloskey's letter looks to me like exactly the same kind of effort.

It's not, unless you were looking for allies too. McCloskey clearly wasn't there because he was crusading against anti-Semitism. He was there because he saw a group that held a lot of the same beliefs that he did - potential allies.

David N.,

Great KKK analogy. That's exactly it, and there is no way that would ever fly in this country.
6.6.2006 10:01am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David Nieporent,


The phrase "so-called" means "I don't call it that, even though other people do." That is Holocaust denial.


Of course you're right that, out of context, the phrase "so-called" immediately implies that "I don't call it that." Indeed, this is exactly why I think the lack of context is highly misleading. In the context in which he used it, however, and based on his other comments, I think it is extremely clear that his meaning was not "I don't call it that," but "You may not all call it that." If this is not possible, please do tell me why. (Of course, his statement does show deference to the group in front of him, as I said, that he's not simply going to disregard their claims. I don't think that deference indicated agreement, however, as I'll explain.)

So why do I think that's what he meant? 1. It was in the context of responding to comments he had just heard by people who presumably objected to the term, 2. At no ("other," if you like) time did he express skepticism regarding the Holocaust, and 3. McCloskey has repeatedly stated his personal certainty that the Holocaust ocurred, and urging the IHR to stop suggesting otherwise.

If it weren't for factor three, we could sit here and argue all day about what he meant, and it would simply depend on what we thought of McCloskey. I would still tend to suggest that with an ambiguous extemporaneous phrase, one generally shouldn't assume the worst possible meaning.* With the third factor, though, your suggested meaning simply doesn't work, at all. As McCloskey himself said in a letter to the IHR:


I want to make a polite suggestion. So many of my friends and relations personally saw the Nazi death camps during the last days of World War II that I myself am convinced that there was a deliberate policy of extermination of Jews, Poles, gypsies, and homosexuals by the Nazi leadership. Numbers of the specific events can be challenged, but it is my personal view that the IHR would be far more effective if it were to concede that a holocaust did occur and focus on the ADL's distortions of truth.


I know, I know, he's simply admitting that there was a Holocaust here so that he can go on and deny it later, right? I don't mean to be sarcastic, but when somebody makes this statement, I don't see how you continue to call them a denier. In any case, there would have to be a great deal of explaining as why he would write this letter, and then at the same time insert phrases in his speeches that were intended to encourage the IHR to continue denying the Holocaust. In my view, it's a good reason to think that's not what he meant.

>McCloskey clearly wasn't there because he was crusading against anti-Semitism. He was there because he saw a group that held a lot of the same beliefs that he did - potential allies.<

Well, it's possible he saw potential allies. It's also possible he thinks the IHR is damaging his political position, by making it so easy to dismiss anti-ADL types as anti-semitic. It's also possible that he found their denials personally offensive, as I did with Fred Phelps' comments when I wrote him.

Incidentally, I was talking here about why he would write the letter, and suggesting that it was not necessarily an effort to make them more effective in attacking Jews, as David in DC suggested. Sure, it's possible , but the evidence doesn't support it. In sum, I think the worst case scenario is that he's looking for allies. But that would be allies for his position, not allies for their various positions. So then there's the question, is this like writing Fred Phelps (which we would presumably forgive a preacher for doing) or is it like writing the KKK? Well, that's a difficult issue, but for one thing, isn't the KKK a violent organization? On the other hand, many might think those such as the authors of the Bell Curve are no better than the people at the IHR. I'm not sure I can compare all these groups, and who you're allowed to talk to and who you're not, but I would generally say that there are many reasons for granting audiences, and that it is far from obvious when granting an audience is nefarious or where a person might be justified in thinking it was justified. John McCain has called Jerry Falwell a bigot, but spoke at his University anyway. Will I attack him for it? Sure, but I don't think it means McCain agrees with Falwell. Not even a little. Similarly, McCloskey appears to be on the record as calling the IHR a bunch of nuts.

As to why I'd defend McCloskey, you seem to assume that I must recognize him to be a bigot. Please trust me that I don't like bigotry, and that I wouldn't defend him if I thought he was. If he had even expressed any unwillingness to acknowledge that Jews were specifically targeted and murdered in the Holocaust, I really can't imagine defending him. But from the evidence here, he hasn't. In fact, he has gone out of his way to talk about discrimination against Jews as well as the crimes comitted by the Nazis. At some point, it seems you have to recognize that this isn't really what holocaust-deniers do. And he has done this, even though his opposition to Israel would naturally lead him to minimize these things (presumably, like many pro-Palestinians, he would feel that the Holocaust has improperly been used to justify Israel's beligerent policies). In any case, I'm not defending him for being a bigot; I'm defending him because I don't think he is one. And I can't be that crazy, because the Chronicle appears to agree (even if it's not willing to take the heat for explaining why).
6.6.2006 11:55am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
He isn't going to win, anyway. My prediction: Pombo: 57 percent, McCloskey: 40 percent; others: 3 percent.
6.6.2006 12:14pm
David in DC:
It's also possible he thinks the IHR is damaging his political position, by making it so easy to dismiss anti-ADL types as anti-semitic.

Was this before or after he decided to talk to them?

Meaning he either:

a) Decided to speak to the anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers because they were making it easier to dismiss him as anti-Semitic?

b) After talking to the anti-Semitic Holocaust deniers, he realized that there might be guilt by association and so tried to change their whole raison d'etre so it wouldn't reflect badly on him?

It's also possible that he found their denials personally offensive, as I did with Fred Phelps' comments when I wrote him.

This is why McCloskey humored them in his speech? Wouldn't one think that if the "straight shooter" was so personally offended that his speech would reflect that?

I'll borrow from the other David: A for effort -- F for results. F- actually.

And I can't be that crazy, because the Chronicle appears to agree (even if it's not willing to take the heat for explaining why).

The Chronicle agrees with you about McCloskey's statements to the IHR?

You think they were being dishonest then, by presenting the red herrings that EV pointed out?

Or was the Chronicle writing in ignorance, and you are using that to make it sound as if they agree with you about McCloskey's words to the anti-Semitic IHR? If so, then you are being dishonest, not the Chronicle.

(Did I miss something? Did the Chronicle acknowledge anywhere that they knew about all of this IHR stuff?)
6.6.2006 12:31pm
David in DC:
Wait a minute...

From the letter Frank Cross passed on...


He told the delegates, "I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today," before he reiterated a core point of his speech—that the right for anyone to question what is said about the past is basic to freedom of thought in America. "I may not agree with you" is very different from "I don't know if you're right or wrong." McCloskey also devoted much of his speech to describing how Jews had long been discriminated against in the United States and abroad.


From McCloskey's IHR speech on the IHR website...


I may not agree with you about everything I've heard today, or what you might feel, but your right to say what you believe and to research things that are alleged as true, and to try to disprove them, is perhaps the most important part of our democracy.


From later in McCloskey's speech...


I don't know whether you're right or wrong about the Holocaust, but anytime a historian takes a position against Israel, that brings down their wrath and concentrated numbers and economic power.


Clearly the journalist was referring to the first section.

It's also worth noting this execrable passage:


How many of you know the story of John Peter Zenger? If you reexamine history, and go back to 1733-1735 in New York, the royal governor of this British colony was a man named William Cosby. And a very brave editor, John Peter Zenger — maybe the David McCalden or the Mark Weber of his time — came out and said in his paper that "Cosby is corrupt. He's taking money from the royal treasury. The government is corrupt, and the governor is corrupt." He was hauled up for trial [on a charge of seditious libel]...


This Zenger was not the "Mark Weber of his time". Zenger was calling out corruption that really existed. Mark Weber runs a hate group. (By this twisted logic, our founding fathers and everyone who had the courage to speak up against the crown were the "Mark Webers" of their time too.)
6.6.2006 1:23pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
No, I think the Chronicle was less than candid. I'm betting they knew about the other charges, but didn't want to make that the main issue regarding his campaign, because they probably figured it was largely a "he said, she said" kind of thing, and that a straight shooter who has been an avid supporter of the pro-palestinian movement for several decades is probably going to have said some sketchy things, and that it's just probably not justified to comdemn him as a Jew-hating racist based on a few comments, most of them decades old, that he disputes in various ways. That's pretty much my view.

Meanwhile, take N.I. as evidence for my suggestion that over time, ordinary honest people who are willing to discuss this issue and aren't totally pro-Israel will accidentally say something that sounds bad: "I'm sorry you seem to think that anyone who offers criticism of Jews is anti-Semitic." Oops! N.I. just wants to criticize Jews without being called anti-semitic. A mark of some kind of unsavory obsession? Good thing he's not a politician, or he'd be done.
6.6.2006 2:05pm
David in DC:
Oops! N.I. just wants to criticize Jews without being called anti-semitic. A mark of some kind of unsavory obsession? Good thing he's not a politician, or he'd be done.

Actually, I reject your assertion that this single statement by N.I., taken in isolation, is even remotely on par with what McCloskey said and did.

However, his suggestion that Jewish-Americans and Arab Americans can't be trusted in certain government positions - now that is anti-Semitic/anti-Arab, and undeniably so, basically by definition. Then one has to ask, do we restrict government positions to every ethnicity where this dynamic comes into play, or are we singling out Jews and Arabs. Japanese-Americans? Chinese-Americans? Irish-Americans? German-Americans? Russian-Americans? African-Americans? Greek-Americans? Turkish-Americans? Muslim-Americans? Christian-Americans (We must keep church and state policies separated, don't you know, and we wouldn't want someone putting their religious views ahead of their civil responsibilities.) Etc., etc...

So I am going to take N.I.'s statement as evidence, but as evidence counter to your point. Generally people don't make the kinds of statements like you pointed out in a vacuum. Sometimes they do, but then we can chalk it up to an honest mistake. However, usually they will fit into a larger pattern of action and speech, as McCloskey's do, and right-minded people will draw the appropriate conclusions as they are doing here.
6.6.2006 3:16pm
NickM (mail) (www):
McCloskey referred to the "courage" of the people in other countries "who have spoken out against the commonly accepted concept of what occurred during the Second World War in the so-called Holocaust."

McCloskey is calling Holocaust-deniers in countries where that is illegal courageous.

There is a moral dimension to courage - the cause must be reasonably seen as just. I don't care how much jail time you face for it, standing up to argue that Nazi Germany did not kill millions of Jews in an organized effort to eliminate all Jews is not just.

As for the mathematical number killed, we round numbers off. When someone says 6 million, it's acceptable if the actual number is somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 million. If you think the actual number is more like 4 million or 5 million, you will probably use that number should you happen to refer to the number of deaths, but you are highly unlikely to make a career out of proving that the generally accepted number of deaths in a historical event 2 generations ago was off by even 50%. [One other type of disagreement about the numbers is the belief by some that Stalin managed to lay blame on Hitler for somewhere between half a million and one and a half million Jews who were actually killed by Soviet forces.]

What is courageous about David Irving, Ernest Zundel, et al.?

Nick
6.6.2006 4:34pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Well, David, you talk a mean game...

Maybe N.I. thinks ties to Greece are less likely to influence our foreign policy in any appreciable way. No, still a racist?

It's a shame we don't get any actual pro-Palestinians here. I think that'd make for a much more interesting debate. Believe it or not, I'm probably more in agreement with you than I am with them, but in this room, I end up looking like the left-winger.
6.6.2006 4:57pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Marcus,

First of all, there's no "lack of context." The entire speech was provided. (Indeed, in the other thread you tried to claim we didn't know the context and you proposed a fanciful "context" which could explain it away, instead of reading the actual speech.) Second, the "context" doesn't help.
If this is not possible, please do tell me why.
Easy: because "so-called" simply doesn't mean that. So-called doesn't mean "you don't call it that but I do." It means "I don't call it that."
(Of course, his statement does show deference to the group in front of him, as I said, that he's not simply going to disregard their claims. I don't think that deference indicated agreement, however, as I'll explain.)
Okay, I'll play along: what do you think "deference" to a nazi group "indicates," then?

Incidentally, I was talking here about why he would write the letter, and suggesting that it was not necessarily an effort to make them more effective in attacking Jews, as David in DC suggested. Sure, it's possible , but the evidence doesn't support it. In sum, I think the worst case scenario is that he's looking for allies. But that would be allies for his position, not allies for their various positions.
No, the worst case scenario is that he's a fellow traveller. What you propose is the best case scenario, not the worst. But look, I oppose affirmative action. But I wouldn't go speak at a Klan rally in order to drum up allies for my position. If I did, you would be correct in drawing conclusions about my views on race.

Not to mention that you're again ignoring his words. He specifically said that if the IHR followed his advice, that "the IHR would be more effective." But the IHR's only agenda is denying the Holocaust.


I know, I know, he's simply admitting that there was a Holocaust here so that he can go on and deny it later, right? I don't mean to be sarcastic, but when somebody makes this statement, I don't see how you continue to call them a denier. In any case, there would have to be a great deal of explaining as why he would write this letter, and then at the same time insert phrases in his speeches that were intended to encourage the IHR to continue denying the Holocaust.
You think this is the first time a politician has ever said something different to a group he was addressing than to the general public? You think Trent Lott says the same thing when he meets with the Council of Conservative Citizens that he does when he's on television?

You think that if Lott found out his speech to a CCC meeting had been made public, he might not write a letter to them saying he doesn't agree with all of their extreme rhetoric, and telling them they should tone it down a little if they want to advance their agenda?
6.6.2006 4:59pm
N.I.:
However, his suggestion that Jewish-Americans and Arab Americans can't be trusted in certain government positions - now that is anti-Semitic/anti-Arab, and undeniably so, basically by definition. Then one has to ask, do we restrict government positions to every ethnicity where this dynamic comes into play, or are we singling out Jews and Arabs. Japanese-Americans? Chinese-Americans? Irish-Americans? German-Americans? Russian-Americans? African-Americans? Greek-Americans? Turkish-Americans? Muslim-Americans? Christian-Americans (We must keep church and state policies separated, don't you know, and we wouldn't want someone putting their religious views ahead of their civil responsibilities.) Etc., etc...

Now hold on there, pardner. It is racist to say that those of certain heritage shouldn't hold certain jobs because I don't like them. It is not racist, however, to say that those of certain heritage should not hold certain jobs where their heritage creates a substantial risk of a conflict of interest.

As Marcus1 suggests, there is no foreign conflict in which we are currently embroiled in which Greek heritage has any relevance, but were we to interfere in a spat between Greece and Turkey that could change. Can we really expect people to ignore their own heritage, especially if they still have relatives and other ties in that part of the world? That's why, during World War II, American soldiers of German descent were largely sent to the Pacific and American soldiers of Japanese descent were largely sent to Europe.

I would remedy the situation by pulling out of the Middle East altogether and letting the chips fall where they may but that's not going to happen.

On the Palestianian question, I have some sympathy for the Palestinians but not much. I think it was wrong for Israel to evict Palestinians from their homes that they had occupied for centuries and if someone did that to me I might be tempted to toss a few bombs myself. (For that matter, if my name were Kelo and I lived in New London I might be tempted to lob a few bombs myself -- same issue, different context.) But that said, if the Palestinians spent half as much energy bettering their lives and forming a competent, non-corrupt government as they do trying to drive Israel into the sea they would be doing fine even without the confiscated land.

I would also say that I think the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 is going down as the political blunder of the century and were it within my power to go back in time and warn Harry Truman not to agree to it I would. I understand the desire for a Jewish homeland, especially just after the Holocaust (which I acknowledge happened), but not everyone who wants a homeland can have one. (Australian aborigines? Cherokee Indians?) But the blunder having been made I think we are stuck with it; Israel exists, it isn't going anywhere, and the Palestinians will just have to accept that reality.
6.6.2006 5:56pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):

You think that if Lott found out his speech to a CCC meeting had been made public, he might not write a letter to them saying he doesn't agree with all of their extreme rhetoric, and telling them they should tone it down a little if they want to advance their agenda?


Although I have made the Lott analogy, it is still imprecise.

The differences are

(1) Lott's speech to the "concerned citizens" was videotaped, so we indisputably know what he said,

(2) Lott is still a powerful US Senator; and

(3)last I heard, no one has called for him to resign since he left his post as majority leader, and certainly we don't have blogs up in arms over any endorsements he received last time he ran for reelection, given his prior remarks. Indeed, have VC members devoted numerous blogs about his remarks, and have they called into question why anyone endorses or continues to support him? Perhaps I am wrong, but my guess is no. So, as I said, this is an imperfect analogy at best.
6.6.2006 6:21pm
David in DC:
Well, David, you talk a mean game...

Wow. This is your response when confronted with true anti-Jewish and anti-Arab discrimination.

Maybe N.I. thinks ties to Greece are less likely to influence our foreign policy in any appreciable way.

Frankly, I don't care what he thinks. What I know is that he proposed discriminating against Jews and Arabs.

And you clearly you don't have any problem with that, as I suspected.
6.6.2006 6:22pm
David in DC:
That's why, during World War II, American soldiers of German descent were largely sent to the Pacific and American soldiers of Japanese descent were largely sent to Europe.

And why we put citizens of Japanese descent in concentration camps.

Frankly, I don't care how you justify your proposed discrimination, I'll call it what it is and note the double standard.

There are issues other than territorial disputes that could create a conflict of interest - trade, ecomomics, immigration, aid, etc. - and many countries with a higher profile than Greece - India, China, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the African continent to name a few. But to you and Marcus any potential conflict of interest (read: disloyalty to our country) begins and ends with the Jews and Arabs. Charming.

Your suggestion - to discriminate against Americans based on their religion or race - is, in a word, revolting. It is also contrary to the ideals this country of immigrants was founded on.
6.6.2006 6:53pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David N.

Ok, well, I've thoroughly worn myself out on this topic. I respect your position, and you could be right, but I think you very well may be wrong. I think it's very possible that, as bad as some of his comments sound, they didn't actually stem from anti-semitism or a desire to deny the Holocaust, beyond a certain extent to which he is probably defiant against those who have attacked him. I'm happy to leave it at that.
6.6.2006 7:08pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,

>But to you and Marcus any potential conflict of interest (read: disloyalty to our country) begins and ends with the Jews and Arabs. Charming.<

Personally, I find you more charming when you're not attacking me for things I didn't say.
6.6.2006 7:26pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

I read the obvious implication in your answer. It is OK to discriminate against Jews and Arabs, per I.M., but there is no reason to discriminate against Greeks or anyone else. (Otherwise, why pick out the Greeks of all peoples?)

If I am wrong, spell it out.

Do you think that restricting jobs based on religion or race is discriminatory or not?

Why tell someone they "talk a good game" when they point out the obvious discrimination? Is this all about not admitting you took an untenable position? (The fact that you went so far as to accuse the SF Chron of dishonesty also struck me as an uncredible assertion and far stretch.)

I'm sure that the double standard isn't lost on anyone - talk to an anti-Semitic group, you are presumed innocent even if you make pejorative generalizations about the Jewish community. However, belong to that very same Jewish community and you are automatically presumed guilty of having dual loyalties and so are excluded from certain jobs.
6.6.2006 7:49pm
NI:
But to you and Marcus any potential conflict of interest (read: disloyalty to our country) begins and ends with the Jews and Arabs. Charming.

David, I'm sorry but if you can't honestly represent what I said then we really have nothing to talk about. I have said, at least twice already, that anyone of any background who has a conflict of interest should work in a different field. I specifically said I would include Greeks if there were a specific instance in which Greek heritage might lead to a conflict of interest. I cited with approval strategic stationing of Japanese and German troops during World War II. (If you're going to argue that Japanese-American soldiers should have been ordered to invade Japan I'll bluntly tell you you're nuts.) Yet you're now claiming that my concerns about conflicts of interest begin and end with Jews and Arabs. Forgive me my bluntness, but you need coursework either in remedial reading or ethics.

I realize that equality is an important social value and I generally support it. But no value (to paraphrase Jefferson) is a suicide pact. And where national security is involved, better safe than sorry.
6.6.2006 10:02pm
Gary Rosen:
Well, the primary election is over and McCloskey lost so I'll let the cat out of the bag - we Jooooos did it to him! Yep, we used our fiendish Jooooish mind rays to cause the Repbulican voters of California's 11th district to turn down a senile, Holocaust-denying carpetbagger who is completely out of touch with mainstream Repbulicans in California! Otherwise he would have won in a landslide - just ask him.
6.7.2006 5:19am
David in DC:
N.I.,

You chose to talk about hypothetical conflicts involving the Greeks when there were real life examples you could have used. I thought you were avoiding real life examples because you didn't think they applied. Sorry that I misunderstood.

Please, to be clear, which ethnicities other than Jews and Arabs do you consider to have a conflict of interest and which you would limit in their employment opportunities if you could?

Sometimes people use hypotheticals to give the appearance of open-mindedness, knowing (hoping) they will never have to confront them. Marcus always talks a good game with hypotheticals like this, but it turns out he is, to be blunt, blowing smoke.

[Specifically, part of his desperate support for McCloskey is that he tells that he thinks racism is a societal problem based on policy, not a personal characteristic. He described these types of policies as "racist", and I gather he wasn't even referring solely to those that are explicitly discriminatory and designed to be so. Well, here you suggest a discriminatory policy and his response - not word one against the discriminatory policy itself, only his implied defense of it!]

So sorry again for lumping you in there.

I gave you a good list to start with, who in the real world besides our Jewish and Arab citizens should we discriminate against? (I know there are more because you specifically said it didn't begin and end with Jews and Arabs.)

I think you'll see it is easy to put forth hypotheticals, try to come up with real life examples and you see what a slippery slope it is. Someone has to actually craft your so-called "racist" law. Assuming the American people accept this blatant discrimination, how do we do it and remain fair? Which is to say, discriminate against all groups equally.
6.7.2006 8:22am
N.I.:
David, first of all I apologize for coming down as hard on you as I did in my last post. It was late, I was cranky, and I didn't give you the benefit of assuming that perhaps I hadn't been as clear as I should have been.

I don't think we need an actual codified law that says, "No Jews or Arabs can work on Middle Eastern foreign policy so long as that region remains unstable." Rather, I think what is needed is some flexibility on the part of personnel people and supervisors to place people in positions where their human nature isn't as likely to get in the way. It's similar to asking judges to recuse themselves from cases where reasonable people might think they have a conflict. It doesn't mean they're a bad judge; just that it looks bad for them to hear that particular case. And there are plenty of other cases for them to hear instead.

If you want another real world example, how about India and Pakistan? India and Pakistan hate one another and have had four wars since they were partitioned in the 1940s. If I were president I would listen to Pakistani- and Indian-Americans to get background information and their respective takes on the situation, but I would also distrust the objectivity of both. And more importantly, I need both India and Pakistan to trust my objectivity. So, if a Pakistani or Indian American wants to work at the State Department that's fine; let them work at the Japan Desk or the Brazil Desk or the England Desk instead.

Bottom line: Equality is important but there are times when a purist approach to equality gets in the way of the mission and the mission is more important. I've done volunteer work with an inner city youth organization; because I'm white there are Black kids who won't open up and talk to me. So, we find Black counselors for them instead, because getting them to open up is more important than whom they open up to. Were my feelings hurt the first time the issue arose? A little. But frankly, anyone who sees themselves as more important than the mission doesn't belong there anyway.
6.7.2006 10:08am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,

Come. on. I said this:


Maybe N.I. thinks ties to Greece are less likely to influence our foreign policy in any appreciable way. No, still a racist?


And you surmise this?:


But to you and Marcus any potential conflict of interest (read: disloyalty to our country) begins and ends with the Jews and Arabs. Charming.


I think "either a reading or an ethical problem" sums it up pretty well. 1. That's not my opinion; I would not screen people of certain heritages for jobs, and 2. I've never said or implied in any way that I would.

If you think that's a fair inference from what I said, I don't know what to tell you. It certainly reinforces my skepticism regarding your characterizations of the things other people say.


Well, David, you talk a mean game...

Wow. This is your response when confronted with true anti-Jewish and anti-Arab discrimination.


No, this is my response to your ridiculous over-confidence in your ability to righteously condemn people. You're continually drawing absurd inference after absurd inference based only on the weirdness of your own mind, and then issuing these decrees about who "right-minded" people will condemn. Basically, you've got a serious demagogue-streak, which sometimes I feel isn't worth engaging.

What "discrimination" did I even supposedly encounter? NI's comment? And I'm supposed to be outraged, or face your wrath? I think NI did a very good job of explaining why his comment wasn't outrageous. In any case, my lack of outrage did not indicate agreement, nor was it remotely reasonable to assume it did. For the record, asking if I agreed with him might have been a reasonable response.

I feel like you must have a very limited and elitist group of acquaintances. Either that or some serious forehead wrinkles from your perpetual outrage.


Frankly, I don't care what he thinks. What I know is that he proposed discriminating against Jews and Arabs.

And you clearly you don't have any problem with that, as I suspected.


Please stop pretending you don't care what people think or whether they're anti-semitic, when your entire style of argumentation is by ad hominem attacks on people's character. When you use words like "charming," and "revolting," you're personally attacking people, whether you want to admit it or not. When someone responds, and you say "Frankly, I don't care what he thinks..." Well, I'm not really sure what to say, other than that you talk a mean game.

As to hypotheticals, there are various reasons I use them. One is that I'm not anti-Israel, I wouldn't have said the things McCloskey said, and I don't necessarily disagree with your substantive positions. What I do disagree with is your use of rhetoric and your apparent belief that if you can make an argument for why something somebody said is racist, that makes them a racist. Why? Because even if your arguments didn't suck, the fact is that anybody other than very careful lawyers (and often them too) say things that sound racist all the freaking time. Fub's line above about give me six lines from the most honest man and I'll find something in it to hang him for is right on the mark.

I mean, I think I can see what our disagreement is. You seem to think that in order to combat racism, we have to wax indignant any time somebody opens their mouth and says something we decide they shouldn't have said, twist their words around, use words like revolting, and scare them into keeping their mouths shut next time. Personally, I think that's offensive, unnecessary, and a dangerous pathway for demagogues to use charges of racism in order to advance other interests. And for a lot of other reasons, I think that's a bad way to do it. Obviously nobody knows how best to prevent against the next nazi-type regime arising, so I can't claim certainty that your personal attacks are a bad thing, but my feeling is that the resentment that this kind of rhetoric breeds is much more harmful than beneficial.

Which is why I generally try not to insult you either. But when you keep sniping at me...
6.7.2006 11:15am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,

It occurs to me that at one point I may have commented to you that as somewhat of a Swedish American, I couldn't be trusted to promote merely America's interests if an issue arose of whether we should defend Sweden against a foreign invader. I remember saying that I wouldn't necessarily support Sweden in a head-to-head with the U.S., but if there were any doubt whatsoever about the benefits of a relationship with Sweden, I'd definitely go pro-Sweden.

Maybe that's what you were recalling... it seems then, though, that my distrust is at least for Jews, Arabs and Swedes.
6.7.2006 11:38am
David in DC:
N.I.,

Your point is taken, but I would suggest perhaps a more thorough background check for everyone rather than a blanket exclusion of everyone fitting a certain religious or racial profile. As for putting it in the hands of hiring individuals rather than making it a law, that would be a non-starter in today's society and you probably realize that. We have specific laws against that.

Marcus,

Please stop pretending you don't care what people think or whether they're anti-semitic, when your entire style of argumentation is by ad hominem attacks on people's character.... When someone responds, and you say "Frankly, I don't care what he thinks..." Well, I'm not really sure what to say, other than that you talk a mean game.

I can only judge your words, not your thoughts. Hence the "I don't care what you think". I most certainly do care if people are anti-Semitic, but since I can't read minds I have to define being anti-Semitic as saying, doing or supporting anti-Semitic things. And I am talking about a consistent position or a pattern of behavior, not one or your hypothetical statements that one needs a lawyer to avoid.

So I do care, and to tell you the truth, it is depressing to see the extent of this tolerance for intolerance.

For the record, if one discriminates against Jews then one is anti-Semitic by definition ( http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=anti-Semitism ). This holds true whether or not other groups are discriminated against as well. So let's be clear about that, and let's be clear that you managed to manufacture your outrage at me for pointing it out rather than at the policy itself or its originator.

You seem to want to define anti-Semitism up to a point where nobody can meet the definition. I happen to disagree.
6.7.2006 12:13pm
Gary Rosen:
marcus1:

"I think it's very possible that, as bad as some of his comments sound, they didn't actually stem from anti-semitism or a desire to deny the Holocaust"

... which implies that it is also "very possible" that they DID stem from anti-semitism or a desire to deny the Holocaust.
6.7.2006 12:33pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,

Trust me, I didn't manufacture any outrage. You legitimately annoy me sometimes. For instance, when you say things like "Clearly the difference is that I think bigotry is a bad thing and you don't. That's fine." Maybe you don't intend them to annoy me, but I'd imagine you can see why they do.


You seem to want to define anti-Semitism up to a point where nobody can meet the definition. I happen to disagree.


Well, let's agree that a minute ago you were calling NI anti-semitic, and now you seem to give him a bit more credit. I'd also note that NI has shown extremely good humor. If he had responded by insulting you in return, you'd probably have come up with something worse to say about him. A lesson in restraint maybe?

To respond, though, I want to define anti-semitism as a dislike for or desire to harm Jewish people as a group. I think many people fit this definition. But no, I don't think it includes McCloskey, or NI, or your average person who has a beef with Israel. You're right, I don't like broad definitions that include people who don't have any ill will toward Jewish people or any desire to harm them. Whatever their politics, I don't think they're anti-semites.

Now, maybe they inadvertently support an anti-semitic policy, or they support it despite its anti-semitic effect. In that case, though, I still don't think you can honestly call them anti-semitic. Call the policy anti-semitic, but don't go equivocating the whole time.

I'm sure you're familiar with these arguments. Some would define opposition to affirmative action as racist, and I imagine you disagree. And they'd explain very eloquently why opposition to affirmative action has racist results, and thus that ipso facto you're a racist. Wouldn't they? Do you like those arguments? Personally, I don't think they're helpful.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that basically you're racist if you don't like people of a certain race. That is what is legitimately thought of as reprehensible. Attempts to change the definition away from this strike me as artificial.
6.7.2006 1:28pm
N.I.:
David, you're right that my proposal is a political non-starter, but I still think it's right as a matter of policy. The practical problem with more thorough background checks is that somebody has to actually be caught doing something wrong before it will show up on a background check. American history is replete with outright traitors -- the Walkers, Aldrich Ames, Jonathan Pollard, the Falcon and the Snowman, Robert Hanssen -- who passed every background check and whose co-workers were stunned when their perfidy was discovered.

Part of the nature of national security and foreign affairs is that you can't give people the benefit of the doubt -- you have to assume the worst as a precaution. This no doubt results in good people unjustly not being hired, but the alternative is even worse. Or, as a secret service agent once told me, in his profession there just isn't any benefit to taking risks.
6.7.2006 2:13pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Gary,

>... which implies that it is also "very possible" that they DID stem from anti-semitism or a desire to deny the Holocaust.<

Right, which I think gets us to the question of how critical this is to his office. If it's not that important, and the evidence isn't that clear, then I would give him the benefit of the doubt, and I would support the Chronicle for not making a big deal out of it unless clearer evidence arose.
6.7.2006 2:19pm
David in DC:
Marcus,

I sent you an e-mail, but in case it doesn't arrive basically I was apologizing for my part in the disagreeable way this coversation has gone.

Regarding your post, I didn't back away from anything. I think the definition speaks for itself. I think the reason we are talking past each other is because we are using different definitions, from which it naturally follows there will be different connotations.

If you feel the definition I presented is artificial, that is something you will need to take up with the folks putting out the American Heritage Dictionary. These days, discrimination based on race is considered racism, and it is not necessarily motivated by hatred. I can't tell you if that has always been, but it has been how I have always understood it.

N.I.,

Again, I see your point, but the fact that only one Jewish American has betrayed us to Israel in over 50 years is pretty good evidence that background checks do work. And the fact that the latest scandal involved a non-Jewish American shows that discrimination against Jews wouldn't (although, granted, it doesn't hold a candle to what Pollard did).

That addresses national security, not foreign policy.

Foreign policy is more open, and something which can be discussed in public, and I am confident that our political process and the marketplace of ideas is what is needed, not discriminatory hiring practices or laws. (I know you said you weren't talking about laws, but we really would need them if we start talking about positions of influence for which we vote.)
6.7.2006 3:14pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Here are the close to final results, as reported in the SF Chronicle's website:

All Precincts Totals
Name Party Votes %
Richard Pombo (I) Republican 28,944 62.3%

Pete McCloskey Republican 14,856 32.0%

Tom Benigno Republican 2,676 5.8%


Here is the link

According to a political consultant whom I heard interviewed on the radio this a.m., this total does not include absentee ballots and provisional ballots, so it may change slightly (he was predicting Pombo would be slightly under 60 percent, but didn't say why he thought so). My guess is that McCloskey was probably too liberal to win the Republican primary in Pombo's district (which includes San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties), and that the blogging about whether McCloskey was an anti-semite had virtually no impact on the results.

The more interesting race will be this November, when the Democratic challenger runs against Pombo. While Republicans outnumber Democrats slightly in this district, I think the race could be close because of the negative press about Pombo's ties with Tom DeLay (not a popular man in California) and Jack Abramoff, and the changing demographics of his district, which has seen many suburban voters who may not share Pombo's hostility to environmental laws relocate into what was once a sleepy farm community.
6.7.2006 5:07pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Eugene's posts about McCloskey were an eye-opener for me and, I admit, I probably let my dislike of Pombo give McCloskey too much of the benefit of the doubt. I had always held McCloskey in high regard for his environmental stands and for calling for Nixon's impeachment, but didn't know about his penchant for saying such things or cozying up to anti-semitic groups; these actions certainly raise questions about whether he harbors anti-semitic views, or at least show me that he is not above pandering to anti-semitic groups to obtain political support.

The most damning thing for me was the fact that McCloskey would agree to address a holocaust-denier organization, such as the IHR, and then gave a speech that highlighted his "common ground" with them (applauding them for courage to speak out against conventional wisdom). I agree with the posters (David, Dan S. and others) who essentially posit that anyone who denies the Holocaust's existence is undoubtedly anti-semitic, and not just a contrarian.

However, I do think the condemnation of McCloskey on the VC points to a double-standard: I have not heard any of the VC bloggers condemn southern politicians for affiliating with white supremacist groups, such as the Council for Conservative Citizens (not just Trent Lott, but Bob Barr and many others), nor heard any condemnations of politicians who support the Confederate Flag, or who go to Bob Jones U to say nice things to the student body (rather than denouce Mr. Jones' racist policies on mixed dating and marriage).

I think politicians who speak nicely to, or who affiliate with such groups, or who talk about the "heritage" represented by the Confederate Flag (image speaking of the "heritage" represented by the Swastika), are simply pandering to racism, much in the same way that McCloskey was pandering to anti-semitism when he agreed to speak to the IHR and then spoke to them in the manner he apparently did (i.e., by praising and not denouncing them).

By the way, on the raging debate between NI and others, I could not disagree more with NI on disqualifying someone because of their ethnicity from a position within the State Department. You are assuming that jewish-americans are monolithic in their views about the Middle East and Israel, when, in my experience, they are not. And, your policy of disqualifying people based on ethnicity would encourage ethnic divisiveness, which is hardly a social good. Wouldn't it be better to give everyone a presumption that they are loyal to the US unless and until their actions prove otherwise? It seems to me that your reasoning is the same reasoning the Roosevelt Administration used during WWII to justify internment of Japanese-American citizens, which I for one found deplorable.
6.7.2006 6:09pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
However, I do think the condemnation of McCloskey on the VC points to a double-standard: I have not heard any of the VC bloggers condemn southern politicians for affiliating with white supremacist groups, such as
But Eugene's point in posting this wasn't to condemn McCloskey, but to condemn the media for misreporting about McCloskey.

The media never fails to report on Trent Lott's misbehavior -- but they did in the case of McCloskey. (Indeed, they went so far as to endorse McCloskey.) So there's no need for a post saying, "I'll bet you didn't know Trent Lott does X," because everyone knows that.
6.7.2006 8:42pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
That is a fair point---to an extent. This post is about the Chronicle's false characterization as to why some people has said that McCloskey was anti-semitic. I think his prior posts had nothing to do with that point, but were more about whether he was anti-Semitic and how could the LA Times and the SF Chronicle endorse him, in light of his comments.
6.8.2006 12:07am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
David in DC,

Thanks for the note. I'm happy to offer a similar non-specific apology :) As to drinks Friday night, though, I'm afraid I'm busy, so maybe another time.

(Ok, I'm kidding, David didn't ask me out).

As to definitions of racism, I appreciate that they vary. Too often, though, I think people equivocate. You say that you're not passing judgment on people's character since you can't know their character, but it's pretty clear that you are, and indeed that you're specifically trying to undermine their moral credibility.

If we were just talking about the offensiveness of a policy, that kind of thing wouldn't be relevant. The truth, though, is that character does matter, and that we all recognize it matters, and that motive is important, since the wisdom of one policy or another isn't always 100% clear. So we have to try to get to character. Which means we should try not to be ambiguous or irresponsible in our accusations, in my mind.

As to Trent Lott and Bob Barr, I'll agree that McCloskey might be as anti-semitic as those guys are racist. That's to say, they're old guys with out-dated ways of thinking which aren't acceptable any more. I agree that pandering to the IHR is weird, (weirder the more I think about it) and he probably shouldn't have done it. If somebody tried to raise a huge stink though and say that all of these old guys should be publicly shamed and thrown out of congress, I'd respectfully disagree. It just strikes me as overly aggressive and overboard.
6.8.2006 1:08am
Gary Rosen:
marcus1:

"If somebody tried to raise a huge stink though and say that all of these old guys should be publicly shamed and thrown out of congress, I'd respectfully disagree. It just strikes me as overly aggressive and overboard."

I'd settle for McCloskey simply *not* being endorsed by newspapers who otherwise piously pride themselves on their "diversity", "multi-culturalism", "anti-racism" etc. ad nauseam. That was the whole point of this thread, remember?

I wrote a letter to the editors of another newspaper that endorsed McCloskey, the San Jose Mercury News, and accused them of "whitewashing" McCloskey. They replied (paraphrasing), "oh no we didn't, we reported the allegations". But in their editorial endorsing him the Sunday before the election they described him as a "moderate with impeccable credentials". Bleahhhh! I suggest that at the very least McCloskey is, uh, "peccable".
6.8.2006 4:32am