I recently watched a couple videos on the internet that dramatically changed my perceptions of two political figures: Pat Buchanan and Alan Dershowitz.
The first video is an interview with Pat Buchanan talking about his 2008 book Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”. Prior to the video, I had a very negative opinion of Buchanan for his anti-trade, anti-immigration and general social conservative views. Although I still think Buchanan is wrong on those issues, I now have a much greater respect for him after watching the interview.
Near the end of the interview, Buchanan remarks that the national leaders in the First and Second World Wars could not be easily divided into “white hats and black hats.” Buchanan’s ability to see nuances in both adored figures such as Churchill and reviled figures such as Hitler and Stalin was impressive and also unexpected coming from a conservative. Compare that to the Bush Administration’s “good versus evil” mantra.
The second video is a debate between Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that aired on Amy Goodman’s radio program Democracy Now! in 2005. I had seen Dershowitz debate Noam Chomsky on the issue before and thought that Chomsky presented a better case that Israel is responsible for blocking the peace process. I assumed that Finkelstein, who is a friend of Chomsky’s, would tear Dershowitz to shreds, but I was wrong.
Finkelstein makes almost nothing but ad hominem attacks against Dershowitz. For nearly the first half of the debate, Finkelstein repeats the line that Dershowitz plagiarized material for his book The Case for Israel and that Dershowitz is not qualified to be a professor at Harvard (as if that were at issue). I was not impressed with Finkelstein, but I was impressed with how Dershowitz responded and did a good job of sticking to matters of fact without resorting to personal attacks.