The Philadelphia Inquirer recently announced a shake-up in its editorial pages (9/10/95), dumping long-time syndicated contributors Jeff Greenfield, Richard Reeves and George Will in favor of E.J. Dionne, David Shribman and Joseph Sobran.
Greenfield is a centrist, while Reeves is a moderate liberal, so their replacement by two other Beltway centrists marks a slight shift to the right. There's no syndicated columnist now appearing on the Inquirer's editorial page who can fairly be described as an advocate for the left. (Centrists like David Broder, William Raspberry and Richard Cohen don't count.)
What is surprising is the replacement of Will with Sobran--and the Inquirer's rationale for doing so. Will is a partisan, conservative Republican, who often criticized George Bush for being insufficiently right-wing. The Inquirer also featured--and will continue to feature--the writings of Charles Krauthammer, another pundit from the conservative wing of the Republican party. None of the Inquirer's syndicated columnists are anywhere near as far left as these two are right.
But in the new ideological climate, being to the right of George Bush is no longer right enough. The Inquirer quotes Sobran as saying, "I used to think I was a conservative, but I may as well admit I don't measure up. I'm just not liberal enough to be a conservative." The paper then comments: "Over the years, we've heard often from readers who complain that this kind of unvarnished conservatism is not represented on our pages. Sobran's work should fill that gap."
Which kind of conservatism is that, exactly? Sobran, a former senior editor at the National Review, has praised an openly racist, Holocaust-denying newsletter: "I know of only one magazine in America that faces the harder facts about race: a little magazine called Instauration," Sobran wrote in the New York City Tribune (5/13/86; quoted in the Nation, 6/7/86). "It is openly and almost unremittingly hostile to blacks, Jews, and Mexicans and Oriental immigrants," he acknowledged, but called Instauration "an often brilliant magazine covering a beat nobody else will touch, and doing so with intelligence, wide-ranging observation and bitter wit."
Instauration, for its part, praised "The Brave Pen of Joseph Sobran" with this endorsement (9/85): "The man has repeatedly defended white racial pride and solidarity, despite the mounting campaign to get him."
In a column on Schindler's List, Sobran decries "all this Holocaust-harping," explaining that the Nazi genocide was largely an overreaction to the terror spread by "Jewish-led communist movements." (Arizona Republic, 3/24/94) The New York Times, he has written (cited in New Republic, 8/11/86), "really ought to change its name to Holocaust Update."
He argues that the U.S. should have stayed out of World War II, which it entered only because of President Franklin Roosevelt's "obsession with destroying Germany." (Arizona Republic, 5/26/94) And he's tired of hearing about the Inquisition, as well: "If Christians were sometimes hostile to Jews, that worked two ways" (cited in New Republic, 8/11/86).
"Anti-Semitism" is the obvious term for this sort of nonsense, a term that Sobran rejects--sort of. He has described his philosophy (which he says he shares with Patrick Buchanan) as "counter-Semitism": a reaction against "the excessive moral prestige Jews have in the media and the public square...Jews deciding the standards, setting the criteria of humanity. Since they set themselves up as the arbiter, there is, if you'll pardon the expression, a certain kill-the-umpire impulse" (quoted in New Republic, 10/22/90).
Inquirer editorial page editor Jane Eisner has asked for comments on its new line-up. You might let her know what you think of a syndicated spectrum that excludes "unvarnished progressives" while going out of its way to make sure that anti-Semites have someone to represent them. She can be reached at the Philadelphia Inquirer, 400 N. Broad St., P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, PA 19101, or at 215-854-4530 (fax: 215-854-4483; e-mail: editpage@AOL.com).