The late, great Charles Krauthammer, as a Jew, was asked frequently to discuss his thoughts about Richard Nixon’s ranting and raving about Jews, immortalized on tape. (“Generally speaking, you can’t trust the bastards,” etc.)
“I am unmoved,” wrote Mr. Krauthammer.
I don’t really care what a public figure thinks. I care about what he does. Let God probe his inner heart. Tell me about his outer acts.
What were President Nixon’s outer acts vis-à-vis Jews?
Well, in 1973, he saved Israel from possible destruction with his massive weapons airlift during the Yom Kippur War. He even put the U.S. military on worldwide alert to keep the Russians from intervening on Egypt’s behalf.
I feel about Nixon the way I feel reading about Truman’s occasional ethnic lapses. (Truman was a man who still … could use a word like “kike.”)
So what? Truman remains a hero to Jews for having recognized the State of Israel at the crucial moment of its birth in 1948.
Reflecting on Nixon’s Jewish problem, Herb Stein, chairman of Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisers, offered that he never felt anything but the utmost respect and friendship from Nixon.
Whatever Nixon’s private thoughts, both in his personal relations and in his public actions as president, he was a friend of the Jews.
It is part of the trivialization of politics that we give endless attention to the inner life of the politician – his private thoughts, his inner demons – at the expense of his outer life.
“Know thyself” is a highly overrated piece of wisdom. As for knowing the self of others, forget it.
Know what they do and judge them by their works.
Charles Krauthammer’s essay was published in the Washington Post, 13 October 1999. You will also find “The Inner Man? Who Cares” in Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics.