THE BLOG

Sen. John Cornyn Meets the Racist Right

09/20/2006 02:02 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Tuesday, September 18, inside the Dirksen Senate Office building, Republican Texas Senator and Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Citizenship Chairman John Cornyn spoke at a conference entitled, "Defending the Homeland: America's Immigration Crisis." The conference was organized by the Rockford Institute, publisher of Chronicles Magazine, and was moderated by its president, Thomas Fleming.

Even though the Rockford Institute has been dubbed "xenophobic, racist, and nativist," by its former New York branch director, Richard John Neuhaus; even though Rockford's current director, Thomas Fleming, is a leading anti-Semite and Holocaust revisionist; even though Rockford's flagship publication, Chronicles, has served as a nest for white nationalists like Sam Francis; Cornyn -- a moving force behind Republican immigration policy -- accepted Rockford's invitation to headline their conference.

Perhaps Cornyn thought nobody would notice his appearance with a marginal organization like Rockford. Though it was once considered influential within the conservative movement, Rockford has been in steep decline since 1989, when Neuhaus wrote an internal memo warning that some institute publications contained attacks on "rootless, deracinated and cosmopolitan elites" that reflected "the classic language of anti-Semitism." In response, Fleming sacked Neuhaus, throwing him and his staff (and their belongings) out in the street and changing the locks on his Manhattan office. The incident was reported in the New York Times and is described in detail in neocon pundit David Frum's provocative essay about paleoconservatism, "Unpatriotic Conservatives." Since then, Chronicles has suffered under the direction of the draconian Fleming, whose racist diatribes have helped reduce the magazine's subscription base to a piddling 5000.

An example of Fleming's extremism came in the form of a defense of Mel Gibson after the drunk-driving actor unleashed a barrage of anti-Semitic insults on his arresting officers:

"...Still, putting the two facts together--the drunk defense and his conspiracy theory--Gibson is clearly what the Abe Foxman and Norm Podhoretz would call an anti-Semite. However, we Christians do not have to accept their opinion, which is deliberately crafted to suggest that most Christians throughout history are classic anti-Semites on par with Heinrich Himmler. Liking or disliking the Jews one meets--or even liking or disliking them generally--is a matter of taste, preference, and upbringing. Most serious Christians, as a matter of preference and conviction, would rather spend time with other Christians. There would be something wrong with them if they did not--much as there is something with a husband who prefers to spend time with women other than his wife. It is hard enough for Baptists to tolerate Lutherans and a bit too much to insist that they become matey with Jews who often despise their religion and their way of life

Theories of history are matters of fact and reason. The fact that so many troublemakers of the past 150 years have been of Jewish extraction--Marx, Freud, the Neoconservatives--is certainly no argument in their favor. Jewish "intellectuals" continue to be in the forefront of the movements that aim to destroy our religion and culture."

Not surprisingly, Fleming has supplemented his anti-Semitism with a revisionist view of the Holocaust that would make even Holocaust-denier-enabler Christopher Hitchens blush. As he wrote in the comments section on Chronicles' website:

"Personally, I am tired of the whole pro-Jewish/anti-Jewish thing. It is as tedious as the Holocaust myth and the anti-holocaust myth. Millions of Jews died in German camps. It is hardly defense of the Nazis to say that many or most of them might have died of natural causes. The architects of the killing of Jews, Catholics, and Slavs were evil because what they did was evil. On the other hand, there is so much evil to deplore, I do not see why Nazi evil is more serious than Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist evil, just as I do not see why it is OK for Americans and Israelis to target civilians but not for Muslim terrorists. I think it might be useful to quit taking sides, with or against Hitler or Stalin or Israel, and to stand for something."

To be sure, Rockford's conference on immigration ostensibly had nothing to do with "the Jewish question." So Cornyn's office could argue that the senator only lent his good name to it to advance his crusade against the liberalization of immigration laws. Many people oppose a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and most of them claim their opposition is not rooted in racial animus. Fleming, the conference's moderator, is a notable exception, however, complaining in a column about immigration in Chronicles:

"...the plain fact is that we have reinvented America as an abstract nation 'dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.' Every time a new group stepped up to demand its share of rights--and our money--we Americans have given them everything the asked for: blacks, Jews, women, homosexuals. We are programmed to see ourselves in a drama of good and evil, in which traditional Americans are evil, aliens and outsiders are good. The only way to redeem ourselves for our skin color, religion, and traditions is to sacrifice the interests of our children to the morally privileged minorities. Of such people and such a mentality, no counter-revolution can be made."

It's common knowledge that Cornyn used to be a moderate, at least by the standards of Texas' radical GOP, and that he has shifted to the right to support George W. Bush's reactionary agenda. But has Cornyn lurched so far to the right that he now supports the views of Fleming and his confederates? Someone should ask him.

(By the way, on Thursday, The Nation will be running a lengthy article by me exposing the influence of white nationalists like Fleming on the Washington Times, and how the paper is imploding as a result.)