News Analysis: Buchanans strong Iowa showing distresses Jewish Republicans

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Stung by Pat Buchanan's strong start in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Jewish Republicans are distancing themselves from a man many consider an anti-Semite.

Bolstered by a second-place "victory" in this week's Iowa caucus, and wins in Louisiana and Alaska, Buchanan has emerged as the early choice of the religious right for the GOP nomination.

"Pat Buchanan has a very strong hate message and message of class warfare and unfortunately, a number of Republican Iowans bought it," said Bud Hockenberg, a Jewish Republican activist in Des Moines.

"Pat Buchanan poses a grave danger for the Jewish community."

Matt Brooks, executive director of the National Jewish Coalition, the leading Jewish Republican organization, said "Buchanan's views are so far out of the mainstream of the Republican Party today that they are practically out of the Republican tent."

But, Brooks added, "He is a rather large nuisance, like a little dog who is constantly barking at your heels."

Fearing a repeat of the 1992 GOP convention, when the party ap-peared intolerant and exclusive, Republicans pledged this year to keep the GOP's far-right wing in check.

Yet while Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) won 26 percent of the Iowa vote, Buchanan won 23 percent.

Buchanan has shunned the Jewish community during this campaign. The former presidential speech writer turned talk-show commentator turned presidential aspirant was the only Republican candidate to decline an invitation to speak to a National Jewish Coalition forum last year.

Buchanan has championed a socially conservative platform with an emphasis on policy goals advocated by the religious right. He has promised to propose a constitutional amendment to outlaw all abortions in the United States, to take steps to end immigration and to bring prayer into the nation's public schools.

Lately, Buchanan has avoided the fiery rhetoric that led the American Jewish Committee's Kenneth Stern in a 1991 report to describe Buchanan as someone who is "no friend to the Jews, and [who] has serious problems with `Jewish issues.'"

Buchanan has criticized U.S. foreign aid to Israel as "subsidizing a policy that denies to Palestinians that God-given right to a homeland" and accused Israel and its "amen corner" in Washington of leading the charge for the 1991 Gulf War.

He has defended accused Nazi war criminals such as SS guard John Demjanjuk and supported Holocaust deniers. He has questioned the number of Jews gassed at Treblinka and accused survivors of having a syndrome of "group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics."

In addition, Buchanan stands accused of using classic anti-Semitic theories to fan his conservative ideology.

"The anti-Semitic models on which he has based his conservatism combine to produce a man with a severe Jewish problem," Stern wrote in his 1991 report.

It's a sentiment many echo today, and at least one group has been protesting his candidacy.

"It is simply unbelievable that a man with this record of anti-Semitism and hate can get this strong a level of support in America," said Ronn Torrosian, national spokesman for the Coalition for Jewish Concerns–AMCHA.

Dole, a favorite among many Jewish Republicans, attracted little support from religious-right voters in Iowa and relied on senior citizens.

With Buchanan running strong in New Hampshire — where he received 37 percent of the vote four years ago against then-President George Bush — Dole has reason to worry, many say.

But Buchanan's success to date is largely traced to support by the religious right, who comprised an estimated 37 percent of voters in the Iowa caucus.

This week's caucus was in a state with a large evangelical Christian population that turned out to vote in significant numbers while many other Republicans stayed home.

The religious right is expected to have less of an impact on next week's New Hampshire primary but still play a major role March 5, with primaries in 12 states.

Buchanan faces some pitfalls. Primary rules allow independents to cast their votes for a GOP candidate that weakens the strength of the party's right wing. Still, Jewish Democrats fear his message has struck a chord in grass-roots America.

Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said Buchanan's success "proves that the radical right has a significant place in the party."