WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pat Buchanan may not be heading to the White House in 1996, but he intends to make a big splash at the Republican Convention in San Diego in August.
The conservative commentator, who lost all hope of a serious presidential bid now that Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) has clinched victories in several large Midwestern states and locked up the GOP nomination, plans to campaign all the way to the end of the primaries.
Moreover, he hopes to make his agenda a centerpiece of the Republican platform.
That agenda, which includes hardline positions on abortion, immigration and protectionism, has infuriated many Jewish voters, who already have a host of reasons not to like Buchanan.
Back in his days as an aide and speech writer under Presidents Nixon and Ford, Buchanan sometimes seemed a supporter of Israel.
While working in the Nixon administration in the early 1970s when Israel was struggling to buy U.S. arms, for example, he lashed out at a White House strategy meeting on behalf of the Jewish state.
He labeled the State Department "a bunch of striped-pants pro-Arabists" who were leading the charge to deny Israel much-needed fighter jets.
But nearly two decades later, as Iraqi Scud missiles fell on Tel Aviv, Buchanan took to the airwaves to declare that Israel is "a strategic albatross draped around the neck of the United States."
Buchanan also seized the occasion to label Capitol Hill "Israeli-occupied territory."
And in perhaps the most notorious of what he terms his "golden oldies," Buchanan railed against Jewish advocates of the Gulf War.
"There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East — the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States," he said.
Victor Gold, self-described longtime friend of Buchanan who worked with him in the Nixon White House, maintained that Buchanan, a fierce anti-Communist, "saw Israel as the West's friend fighting against the Soviet Union" when Egypt and Syria were in the Russian camp.
Buchanan remained pro-Israel — though never "pro-Jewish" — his friends say, until the intifada, when he sympathized with the Palestinian uprising that erupted in 1987.
That radical shift in attitude, epitomized by his remarks before and during the Gulf War, led to public charges of anti-Semitism by former colleagues and friends, including prominent conservative columnists.
His indiscriminate use of anti-Semitic code words to support his policy positions, his praise of Hitler as "an individual of great courage," and his defense of Nazi war criminals alienated even those who had given him the benefit of the doubt.
"I don't believe that he's an anti-Semite but somewhere in his intuition he has a problem with Jews," said another Jewish friend of Buchanan's from his White House days who asked not to be identified.
Others have been less friendly.
When asked whether Buchanan is anti-Semitic, William Safire, a conservative New York Times columnist and a colleague from Buchanan's White House days, says "yes."
And in a 1991 issue of the conservative National Review magazine, editor William F. Buckley Jr. wrote an extensive piece on anti-Semitism, devoting a major section to Buchanan.
As an example of Buchanan's questionable rhetoric, Gold, now a journalist and co-author of President Bush's autobiography, cited the candidate's opposition last year to the U.S. financial bailout of Mexico.
"I agree with Pat on his objection to the Mexican bailout," Gold said, but the only people he railed against who supported the bailout were Jewish bankers. "There are a lot of non-Jewish bankers. There is something beneath the surface here."
It is this "problem with the Jews" — as well as extremist positions on a host of other issues — that had many observers seething at Buchanan's prominent spot in the campaign since his upset victory in the New Hampshire primary.
The National Jewish Coalition, the Republican Jewish group whose leaders condemned Buchanan from the outset of his campaign, turned up the heat recently, issuing a report that declared Buchanan's positions the "antithesis" of the GOP's positions and declared its "strong opposition" to his candidacy.
Aside from his offensive rhetoric, Buchanan has held positions on many issues strongly at odds with mainstream Republican views.
Buchanan has said he would impose a five-year moratorium on all legal immigration, and turn welfare programs over to the states for five years, at which point he would end federal support outright.
Buchanan has blam-ed increased violence and pornography in the United States to the lack of prayer in schools. So he has urged a constitutional amendment that brings prayer back to the classroom and halts the "de-Christianization of America."
Buchanan plans to work for a constitutional amendment ending all legal abortions in America, including cases involving rape and incest.
In addition to his protectionist views on trade, Buchanan also told supporters at campaign stops there would be no foreign aid in a Buchanan administration.
Addressing the issue of aid to Israel in particular, Buchanan said on a recent broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation: "While we don't have a formal treaty alliance with [Israel], we've undertaken something of a moral obligation to help them defend their security and survival."
Whatever his current views on Israel or the Middle East, Buchanan is unlikely to make many Jewish friends.
For Rabbi Avi Weiss, a New York rabbi whose Coalition for Jewish Concerns-AMCHA dog-ged Buchanan during his race for the White House, "he is a smart anti-Semite. He doesn't wear it on his sleeve."
But, Weiss added, "he is one of the most dangerous anti-Semites in America today."
When four Jewish protesters from Weiss' group rushed the stage during Buchanan's campaign announcement last March, the candidate bellowed to his cheering throngs, "Now you see. This is what we're fighting against."
Buchanan had to fight against Jewish protesters throughout his campaign. What AMCHA terms "truth squads" followed Buchanan at many stops along the campaign trail to protest his candidacy.
Nonetheless, some Jews have supported Buchanan's bid for the presidency — including Rabbi Yahuda Levin of New York, who has served as one of Buchanan's four campaign co-chairmen.
Levin ran for mayor of New York in 1985 on the Right to Life ticket against then-Mayor Ed Koch. He also ran against Democrat Rep. Steven Solarz as the Right to Life candidate in 1984.
He acknowledged he "is troubled" by Buchanan's "emphasis on defending Nazi war criminals. He feels that Hitler had courage. So what?"
On "80 or 90 percent of the issues," however, "I agree with him," Levin said.
Buchanan's campaign also attracted many extremists, including campaign co-chairman Larry Pratt, who took a leave of absence to defend himself for attending rallies with Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist and militia leaders.
Other supporters, including some of his elected delegates, reportedly have ties to David Duke, the former Louisiana gubernatorial candidate who was a leader with the Klan.
Some former associates suggested a good way for Buchanan to have built his candidacy would have been to follow a recommendation by Safire in a 1991 column — to start to distance himself from his past and his extremist supporters.
"I can see how some wiseguy cracks of mine in the past can be taken as anti-Semitic," Safire suggested that Buchanan say. "I did not mean to hurt or frighten any group of Americans, and to the extent I did I repudiate it right now."
But Buchanan, who became a GOP frontrunner after winning New Hampshire, has made no apologies. So now he returns to his 1992 position as a largely symbolic protest candidate.