Hitchens: Palin’s Nixon-Era Adviser

Christopher Hitchens has an article at Slate about Sarah Palin’s increasingly open extremism, and points out that one of Palin’s new advisers is Fred Malek — the Nixon administration hatchetman who infamously compiled a list of Jews to be fired from the Department of Labor: Sarah Palin’s brand of populism is dangerous and deceptive.

On Saturday night, she was due to put on a black dress and be a featured guest at the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C. It was time to don the fake finery of wit and beauty again. (I do hope this isn’t why the press, which gives this annual gala, went so utterly soft on her “birther” garbage over the course of last weekend.) The person who has been introducing Palin into the more exalted social and political circles of the capital, and who has already arranged her appearance at the Alfalfa Club, is Fred Malek. Two things about Malek are worth bearing in mind.

The first is that he was an important member of the Nixon administration, a senior figure on the Republican National Committee, and the campaign manager for the re-election of George H.W. Bush in 1992. With his Carlyle Group and other corporate connections and his mansion in suburban Maclean, Va., Malek is almost the prototypical “establishment” Washington insider and consiglieri Republican, against whom Palin’s adoring book-tour crowds, in their pathetic dreams, imagine her to be a crusader. But her preposterous book Going Rogue is larded with praise for the wise support and advice of this leathery old Beltway bandit. Populism? Hah! Unless, that is, you count Jew-baiting as a form of populism, which I suppose in a way it is. (Bryan, that other foe of Darwin, was also a fan of the Klan.)

Because the second thing to note about Malek is that he was the man who drew up a list of Jews to be fired from the civil service under the Nixon administration. I am surprised that so many people have allowed themselves to forget this—and that Palin has never been asked a single question about it. In the early 1970s, Nixon, whose White House tapes show consistent evidence of anti-Semitic paranoia, gave orders that the Bureau of Labor Statistics be purged of what he called a “Jewish cabal.” The job of drawing up the list was given to Malek, whose information led to what was called the “reassignment” of some officials within the Labor Department. Malek later tried to give a weaselly excuse for his conduct, but was caught by my Slate colleague Timothy Noah.

It beats me why such a disgusting character is still received in polite circles, except that now at least he’s back doing the sort of task to which he is best-suited. He has found an unscrupulous and uncultured political neophyte who will happily act as a megaphone for any kind of libel and insinuation—Obama’s “palling around with terrorists” was, I suppose, the money shot of the last campaign—and then later revise and extend her remarks. Nasty work if you can get it. Malek, now so near old age, must be pinching himself at his good fortune.

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