‘DRAGON SLAYER’ NO SAINT GEORGE?
Palo Alto, Calif.
While I respect Mark Hertsgaard and revere The Nation, I certainly take exception to the fulsome praise heaped on Pete McCloskey in “A Dragon Slayer Returns” [March 27]. There are perfectly good Democrats running against Richard Pombo, including a true progressive, Jerry McNerney, running on a platform of renewable energy (he’s a nationally recognized expert), universal healthcare and a phased withdrawal from Iraq. McCloskey also has some baggage from his past, such as his support of the CIA coup against Salvador Allende.
Melrose Park, Pa.
Pete McCloskey was one of the featured speakers at the May 2000 convention of the Institute for Historical Review, the most prominent Holocaust-denial organization in the United States. McCloskey said in his address, “I don’t know if you are right or wrong about the Holocaust” and spoke of the “courage” of Holocaust deniers in Europe.
McCloskey’s challenge in no way detracts from any Democrat’s campaign against Richard Pombo. McCloskey meets Pombo in the Republican primary. If he beats Pombo, voters can decide in November between him and Jerry McNerney or whoever wins the Democratic primary. If McCloskey loses the primary, he will still have made Pombo’s re-election less likely by forcing him to spend money and answer criticisms he doubtless would rather avoid.
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. He did and does criticize some of the actions of the state of Israel, but that is not the same–and it’s sad this point must still be made in 2006–as being anti-Semitic. Pombo’s spokesman, when informed of McCloskey’s actual remarks, replied that even appearing at the IHR showed “not very good judgment” on McCloskey’s part.