LOS ANGELES — Standing alone next to a yellow sign with black letters warning "Buchanan is the Fourth Reich," Bob Kunst, president of the Shalom International, became a magnet for heated emotions on the sidewalk outside Long Beach's Convention Center last Friday.
His smaller signs read: "No More Holocausts" and "Never Again."
"Buchanan represents the extreme right wing," explained Kunst, who traveled from Miami to protest Buchanan, one of two presidential candidates to emerge from a contentious Reform Party Convention.
"He represents the trivialization of the Holocaust, defends Nazi war criminals and apologizes for the Nazi collaborator Pope Pius XII."
Listening with disbelief and obvious displeasure, Duncan Halliburton, a muscular man dressed in a "Marines: The Tough Team" T-shirt, countered, "He's espousing a falsehood that Pat is a Nazi and wants to start a new Holocaust against the Jews. Pat's issues are NAFTA, GATT, illegal immigration and shipping off jobs."
A television cameraman captured the short screaming match.
"There are lots of anti-Semites and Nazis in America," yelled Kunst, a wiry Jewish activist whose group has protested more than 100 Nazi events in the last 10 years.
"Nobody spins better than Buchanan," Kunst added. "Look at Buchanan's history of hate. I spoke to a Texas delegate who denied the Holocaust happened."
Nat Goldhaber, the running mate of the splintered Reform Party's other presidential nominee, John Hagelin, said of Buchanan, "I really do believe that this man is anti-Semitic. He's definitely anti-Oriental and anti-Mexican; I've heard him with my own two ears in that area.
"Although I've never heard him say anything explicit against Jews, there's enough there to alert me to the fact that he's dangerous," said Goldhaber, who lives in Berkeley
Meanwhile, Jewish leaders are asking Sen. Joseph Lieberman to reconsider remarks in which he defended Buchanan against charges of anti-Semitism.
Lieberman told a Sunday morning television talk show that he did not consider Buchanan anti-Semitic even though he has referred to the American Jewish community as the "amen corner" and wrote that Hitler posed no threat to America.
Goldhaber credited the convention with "marginalizing" Buchanan's power in he party. "The grassroots of the Reform Party is rejoicing that, even with his Gestapo tactics, he didn't prevail," Goldhaber said. "He really did take his lessons from [Germany's] National Socialist Party of the late 1920s. This is a man who studied the rise of the Nazi party very carefully. If you read his literature, he states very clearly that he felt Hitler had a few things right."
Daniel Goldman, chairman of the Florida Reform Party, which remained with the Buchanan camp, contended that anti-Semitism is a factor in neither the Reform Party nor its split.
"Sometimes people make politically incorrect statements that some would call offensive, but it's out of awkwardness and never out of hatred," said Goldman. "I respond in kind with something that affirms the values of their faith and reaffirms good feelings toward American Jews and Israel."
Goldman attributed the anti-Semitic perception of Buchanan to the candidate's politically incorrect barbs and confrontational style of raising issues.
Does Goldman, being Jewish, feel uncomfortable backing Buchanan for president?
"I told Pat I support Israel's right to exist, and he understands."