Kissinger redux: understanding the context, missing the point

In his latest defense of his indefensible comments about Soviet Jews during the last days of the Nixon administration, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once apologizes, sort of. In a Washington Post op-ed to be published on Sunday, he says that “[r]eferences to gas chambers have no place in political discourse, and I am sorry I made that remark 37 years ago.”

But once again, he argues that the odious White House tape has been taken out of context by the many critics who were appalled by his claim that it wouldn’t be a U.S. issue if those Jews were taken off to gas chambers.

Which suggests that once again, Kissinger may understand the context but not the point.

The point isn’t that the Nixon administration didn’t do good things for Israel, or that its opposition to the Jackson-Vanik amendment wasn’t principled and may have aided in the emigration of Soviet Jews.

The point isn’t that the two weren’t discussing the human rights issue in the context of the much more impactful quest for detente with the Soviet Union at a time when it was still possible the world could go up in nuclear flames.

The point was that Kissinger, a Jew whose family fled the Nazis, apparently felt perfectly comfortable sitting in the Oval Office day after day, listening to a flaming anti-Semite, apparently not responding to Nixon’s over-the-top bigotry, and sometimes using language (“gassing” the Jews) that must have warmed the cockles of his boss’s hating heart.

What I’d like to know: in any of the countless hours of Nixon White House tapes, which are replete with the disgraced president’s bigoted outbursts, does Kissinger protest Nixon’s anti-Semitism? Does he ever stand up to his boss “Don’t say that, it’s offensive?”

Or was it all OK in his mind because he was pursuing loftier goals?

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.