They made a handsome couple, sitting on the aisle of Spaulding Auditorium—too well-dressed, it seemed, to be students; though they are, in fact, Dartmouth seniors, she majoring in chemistry, he in mathematics. I asked why they had come to hear Pat Buchanan speak, and he answered, with an elegant British accent: “I just want to see a man who could say words I thought no human being capable of.” What words, for instance? He pointed to a text on the page of Buchanan sayings that had been handed out in front of the auditorium: “If we had to take a million immigrants in, say, Zulus next year, or Englishmen, and put them up in Virginia, what group would be easier to assimilate?” Why did that quote disturb him? “Because we’re Zulus,” said Mdudzi Keswa; and Chuma Mbalu nodded ruefully. I asked if they intended to put any questions to the speaker after his talk. They shook their heads no. They are too dignified to join the protesters outside, who were chanting as they came in:
Send the fucker home—
Till he’s gone we’ll bitch and moan.
“If it weren’t for real, it would be a great joke,” Mr. Keswa said. If it weren’t for real. The nine hundred people in the auditorium, and those turned away at the door, seem to indicate that Patrick Buchanan is for real. But really what? The only real conservative in the race, he contends—though most well-known conservatives deny that he is one of them. Coming into this hall, I met Jeffrey Hart, the Dartmouth English teacher who, along with his student son, launched The Dartmouth Review, famous for its mockery of blacks, gays, and indigenous Americans. Hart, a choleric redhead whose face is a conflagration, was backing Buchanan, I had just learned at the office of The Dartmouth Review. Wasn’t he disturbed by William Buckley’s claim, in National Review (of which Hart is a senior editor), that Buchanan is guilty of anti-Semitic statements? Hart focused his red eyes, volcanic coals in the conflagration, and said: “No. Bill is concerned with Pat’s protectionism—as, indeed, am I.” Then the anti-Semitic charge is just a pretense? “Mainly. The main thing he has on him is his use of the four names of kids who would do the fighting. There are no Anglo-Saxon names there, either.” (Buchanan had said the fighting in the Gulf War was cheered on by Israel’s “amen corner,” including A.M. Rosenthal, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, and Henry Kissinger. He later said the fighting would be “done by kids with names like McAl-lister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown.”) Hart is willing to swallow his fears about Buchanan’s protectionism in order to get rid of George Bush, whose betrayal of conservatism is unforgivable. Hart wrote, in the November 20 issue of The Dartmouth Review: “As a political leader, George Bush is afflicted with heat-seeking stupidity.”
The Buckley article on Buchanan is something of an embarrassment around the offices of The Dartmouth Review. Buckley helped launch the magazine—every issue carries on its masthead a “special thanks to William F. Buckley, Jr.” In the same article that attacks Buchanan, Buckley defends the Review from charges that it is anti-Semitic. Does the journal make that defense obsolete by backing a man Buckley has identified with anti-Semitic statements? The editor of the Review was out when I arrived; but a contributing editor, Allison Hoffman, told me that the magazine is not endorsing Buchanan (it can endorse no one, since it is tax-exempt); and, besides, “I don’t think Mr. Buckley actually calls Mr. Buchanan anti-Semitic.” Perhaps not technically; but I quote this passage from the Buckley article:
I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it: most probably, an iconoclastic temperament.
I emphasized the words here put in italics as I read the sentence. She shook her head and said, “It would not be in our best interests to take sides between Mr. Buchanan, who is on our board, and Mr. Buckley, who has a historic connection with us.” Buchanan’s presence on the board of the Review makes any endorsement of him otiose. Besides, if they do not (technically) endorse him, he endorses them. Asked, after his talk this night, whether he would continue on the board of the Review after his election to the presidency, he answers, emphatically, “Yes.”
Ms. Hoffman gave me a copy of the long interview with Buchanan that will appear in the next issue of the Review. The first question is about the Buckley article. Buchanan answers:
It is forty thousand words, and I have saved it for beach reading for this summer. So I haven’t read it. What it is, I understand, is an exegesis of a controversy that has been closed for eighteen months. I don’t think it is really an issue in the campaign of 1992.
While it is true that the whole article is forty thousand words, the Buchanan section is only a fourth of that. And it is hard to know how Buchanan came up with his unilateral cut-off point for the controversy. The hottest exchanges began, rather than concluded, with Buchanan’s comments on the 1991 Gulf War.
Hugo Restall, the editor of the Review, came in as I was reading the interview—which he had conducted. I asked if he believed that Buchanan had not read Buckley’s piece. “No, I don’t believe it.” I asked whether he, Restall, thought Buchanan anti-Semitic. He pondered this one, phrased his answer carefully, and asked that I read it back to him, to make sure I had copied it exactly. I had: “I think the matter is ambiguous. You can make a case that he is anti-Semitic. And you can make a case that he isn’t. I don’t think the case that he is anti-Semitic has been established.” He speaks for a journal hurt by prior controversies; and having a Buchanan on your board is a touchy matter.
Yet the magazine is clearly supportive of Buchanan. When he announced his race for the presidency, the Review congratulated Professor Hart for having predicted that development. Unfortunately for Hart, he also predicted that Gordon Humphrey, “one of the most decent and principled men in American politics,” would be Buchanan’s campaign manager. Humphrey, the retired US senator, now a state legislator, is backing Bush, and was at a reception with Dan Quayle just the day before this event occurred at Dartmouth.
John Lofton, one of the conservative activist-journalists who attended the meeting Buchanan called in his house in Virginia to decide whether to run, was riding the press bus that followed Quayle’s swing through New Hampshire. He told me that he supports Buchanan, “despite the fact that Pat is a Catholic and I am a Calvinist.” These categories mean a good deal to Lofton. Arguing with a New Hampshire citizen he later “interviewed,” he said: “What can you expect of George Bush? He is an Episcopalian. They don’t believe in anything. They don’t believe in the Bible. Why should he be more principled in politics than he is in religion?” Lofton accosted Gordon Humphrey, after Humphrey had shaken hands with Dan Quayle, and asked if he did not feel himself a traitor. Humphrey turned the question around, asking if Buchanan felt like a traitor when John Ashbrook mounted a right-wing New Hampshire challenge in 1972 and Buchanan stayed with Richard Nixon.
I put aside the Ashbrook question for later examination. The point here is that Buchanan may find respectable conservatives hesitant about his campaign when his vociferous advocates go around calling “one of the most decent and principled men in American politics” a traitor. Buchanan is gruff enough in his own right, without the maladroit boosting of John Lofton—or, for that matter, of Jeff Hart.
Hart attacked Republican National Chairman Clayton Yeutter for refusing to defend the Willie Horton ads of 1988. Hart called this “Yeutter’s worm-like performance.” since “the Horton ads were right on the mark.” Hart’s journalistic acumen was on display, last fall, when he wrote a column from Grand Rapids, Michigan, denouncing a fish slaughter he had seen from his window—never getting close enough to the crowd of five hundred people to learn these were toy fish in a fund-raising event. The Chicago Tribune media critic, James Warren, wrote that Hart must have topped this off by smashing in his mini-bar, “mistaking the booze for a standing chorus of mice with screw-off hats.”1
Buchanan, known for years as the gunslinger for others, is now forced to wince away from his own crazies. He is also supported by columnist Joe Sobran, the other man Buckley accused of anti-Semitic statements in his long article dealing with Buchanan. He has not been able to add any impressive endorsements to his New Hampshire effort. Nackey Loeb, the widow of Bill Loeb, the extremist editor of the Manchester Union-Leader, is supporting Buchanan, as is the ailing Loeb beneficiary, ex-governor Meldrim Thompson; but the only public event to unveil a key supporter spotlighted ex-Representative Chuck Douglas, a man whose greatest achievement is to have lost a safe Republican seat in the House to a Democrat after serving only one term. (The Democrats had not won in the Second District since 1912.) Douglas’s private life, filled with divorces and rumors, prompted John Sununu’s wife to say, “I’ve never appreciated his values and his morals…. I’d like a congressman who represents more traditional New Hampshire values.”2 Yet Buchanan, who devoted one of his early New Hampshire speeches to an attack on pornography and the decline of the family, had to tout as a major triumph the endorsement by a man so far from “traditional New Hampshire values” that Nancy Sununu refuses to shake his hand.
The Buchanan who makes his circuit through the Rotary lunches and factory stops of New Hampshire is a muted and flat version of the pugnacious television performer. The writer of colorful speeches for others recites oddly vapid applause lines, and gets little applause, at the regular stops: “When you gave the election to George Bush in 1988, he said, ‘Thank you, New Hampshire.’ But what he really meant was ‘Goodbye, and good luck.’ ” Talking with a journalist who said he had his standard speech down, Buchanan said, “The big thing now is not to make a mistake—especially here” (he gestured to the TV studio where he was about to be interviewed). But cautious as he is these days, he lets slip things that a seasoned candidate would avoid—as when he told the Boston Herald that the prospect of Yasser Arafat as the president of a new Palestinian state “doesn’t bother me…. There are a lot of repulsive guys running governments around the world.”3
Buchanan, like the Democratic contenders in New Hampshire, has to emphasize the state’s economic failures. But this is not the kind of issue he really cares about. As he admitted in his autobiography, he could never get worked up about supply-side economics, or any other kind of economics. (“Voodoo economics is redundant.”) That is what separated him from Jack Kemp and other free-market true believers:
To me, economics is an inexact science; it is not a matter for moral certitude…. Economics is not the science that sends men to the barricades. The Abraham Lincoln Battalion did not march into Franco’s guns in the Jarama with the Labor Theory of Value in mind; and Pickett’s division did not charge up Cemetery Ridge because they feared the economic consequences of abolition…. Ben Elliott, who headed President Reagan’s speechwriting shop and left to join Kemp, and I had often discussed what I called Jack’s “Big Rock-Candy Mountain” school of conservatism, where happiness is attained through endless tax cuts and uninterrupted economic growth…. Cal Coolidge notwithstanding, the business of America is not business. Ronald Reagan’s economic agenda was not the reason some of us, as far back as 1975, urged him to challenge Gerald Ford.4
Yet this man now has to plod all over the New Hampshire landscape denouncing George Bush’s tax increase as the great betrayal of all conservative principle. He had no trouble accepting the even greater betrayal that John Ashbrook went to New Hampshire to denounce in 1972: Richard Nixon had actually imposed wage and price controls on the whole American economy in 1971, a far greater act of heresy than raising a few taxes here and there in 1991.
Buchanan cannot talk, this time out, about the things that really move him, the ideological absolutes that gave his past some of its jaunty Manichean combativeness. For one thing, the cold war’s end has taken away the great enemy of his entire lifetime, godless communism. For another, he has made the conscious decision not to defend passages from his past writings. He calls those a distraction from the real issue (the economy), assembled by his enemies with “tweezers and pastepot” (his odd variant on the more accurate scissors-and-paste phrase—just try cutting a column out of the newspaper with your tweezers). He even says the resort to quotes from his past is a measure of the Bush’s team’s “desperation” at his challenge—as if no one should want to inspect a candidate’s statements except foes worried by his present views on the economic condition of America. Rather than get “bogged down” in all the controversies he showed an earlier relish for, he now pretends not to have read Buckley, not to think his earlier views of continuing relevance, not to believe in wasting time on controversies “closed for eighteen months”—or eighteen years.
The demonstration outside Spaulding Auditorium shows why he cannot stop to argue each of his questionable stands. The thing that haunts him is himself, his words, his rhetoric tending always to extremes. The small knot of blacks, gays, and Jews leafletting the audience has crammed onto two sides of a single handout some of the famous Buchanan quotes (like the reference to Zulus).
As soon as Buchanan came out onto the stage, loud boos and hisses pierced the applause. The director of the Hopkins Center, in which the auditorium is housed, nervously asked those present to respect free speech. All the other candidates were invited, as well as Buchanan, and they should all be given a hearing. Buchanan walked to the podium with a defiant grin. He looks like Ted de Corsia, the B-movie actor who played a thuggish enforcer in countless gang movies. But he began with an engaging reference that won the audience’s laughter. He had spoken on this campus eighteen years ago, in the aftermath of the Watergate trials, when “an assistant professor” introduced him merely as “the only member of Richard Nixon’s inner circle who can travel all this distance without first consulting his parole officer.” The laughter dispelled the hostile mood—there would be only one slight hissing episode in the next hour. Buchanan tells us, in his memoirs, that he could escape his father’s ferocious whippings with a belt if he came up with some funny story about whatever escapade he was being punished for. The elder Buchanan, a Joel Chandler Harris fan, called Pat “Br’er Rabbit,” the clever one.
The crowd’s emotion has restored some of the Buchanan pugnacity. He recites his lines with more spirit, and laces them with satiric asides. Despite a tendency to sneer the final word of an emphatic sentence, his manner is not at all demagogic. His fingers, long and surprisingly delicate, grasp an invisible volleyball which he raises and lowers around waist level.
The economy of New Hampshire has made Buchanan abandon his belief in free trade. He thinks the right wingers in their upholstered Washington think tanks should come to New Hampshire and talk to those who used to work in the empty textile mills. “The only unemployed guy George Bush knows in New Hampshire is John Sununu.” Buchanan attacks Bush’s campaign adviser Charles Black for serving as a lobbyist to Japanese fishing interests: “The guy ought to be wearing a kimono.” The people who leave American agencies to become lobbyists for foreign powers are “the geisha girls of the New World Order.” (This reference to “girls” brings the only hiss after the introductory catcalls.)
Bush is accused of caving in to Congress. “He will not fight.” Instead, “he will go out and play golf with Danny Rostenkowski and two other liberal Democrats from the hill.” Richard Darman is “the Doctor Kevorkian of economic recovery.” After the attacks, Buchanan proposes his own program—tax cuts on everything (investment, savings, income); foreign aid cuts (with a special attack on the World Bank for giving interest-free loans to “the eighty-five-year-old chain-smoking communist dwarf, Deng Xiaoping”); troop cuts in Europe, defense cuts for Japan. This is the “America first” program that Dan Quayle is in New Hampshire to call isolationist and protectionist.
Yet there are things in Buchanan’s proposal that even people who differ from him find attractive. When he says, for instance, that we need “a radical downsizing of the government of the United States, both the Cold War state and the welfare state,” most liberals will agree to the first part of that formula (and many are even beginning to agree with the second part). When he says, “I supported the [Gulf] war. I didn’t support the policies leading up to it,” some Dartmouth professors must have felt he was reading their minds. He ended on a phrase that brought unconflicted applause: “We didn’t elect Mr. Bush to be president of the World but president of the United States. He ought to come home and put a Denver boot on Air Force One.”
In the question period, Buchanan easily dealt with students strangling on their own indignation. Some thought him politically incorrect for saying “Jack [Kemp] has gone native on us” (in the Washington bureaucracy), or for referring to geisha girls and a Chinese dwarf. On more serious matters, when Buchanan was asked what he would do if he had a gay son with AIDS, he referred to his friends who died of the disease (like, presumably, Terry Dolan, the head of the National Conservative Political Action Committee) and said he would give the afflicted “the same compassion and care we gave to my brother who died of cancer.”5 When asked if he would close ICBM bases, despite the loss of jobs that would entail, he not only pointed out that his proposed recall of troops from Europe would create more job problems, but displayed a hostility to all first-strike weapons few would have suspected in him (though it is part of his record). Those who brought up specific quotes from his shoot-and-loot past were defeated on specifics—since it is not the single quote but the pattern of emphases that shows his narrow-mindedness. He enjoys this kind of debate, though he knows he should not indulge it now. He tried to get away from specifics by conceding there are widespread charges, and explaining them in terms of motivation. Told that he is the first candidate in many years to be accused of anti-Semitism, he sees the questioner and raises:
In this campaign I have been called an anti-Semite, a homophobe, a racist, a sexist, a nativist, a protectionist, an isolationist, a social fascist, a beer-hall conservative. [Laughter] And then Sam Donaldson had the nerve, on the David Brinkley show, to ask if I was insensitive too. [Laughter] Against smear charges there is not a whole lot I can do. And frankly there is not a lot I’m going to try to do. These charges are being made and raised by people who are terrified—not by Pat Buchanan, but by the message I have just delivered; because I am beginning to represent—beginning—a credible threat to the entire power structure down there in Washington, DC; and you will be astonished at what they will not do—they will do—to stop this campaign. And that is what this is all about. [Loud applause]
Leaving the auditorium, I heard students express grudging respect for Buchanan’s handling of the questions. “At least he believes in something—unlike Bush.” At a reception in Webster Hall, a knot of students forms around him, firing questions and compliments. Doubters stand apart and complain that he didn’t “really answer” questions so poorly formulated that he was able to mock them with quietly specific comments. Some journalists who have not covered him before are surprised: “I didn’t know he had a sense of humor.” Others found him less angry than he looks on TV.
Those who do not know Buchanan seem sure that only a mother could love him. Testimony against that comes from (e.g.) a smitten Peggy Noonan, who registered this reaction on meeting him: “He is handsomer than on TV, with quick, bright eyes and perfectly trimmed brown hair, a big, slim, Brylcreemed man.”6 His colleagues in Washington find him distressingly likable. Murray Kempton thinks that geniality prevents Buchanan from living down to his principles. He says things only a fanatic should be saying, but he is not fanatic in his manner.
Most fanatics are eccentrics in the strict sense, at the edge of a central disaster, shouting in. Buchanan has always felt himself at the center of the universe, serene there, sure that the others are shouting in from envy. His world—white, American, Catholic—is what all the rest of the world would be if it were blessed as he has been. This unquestioning assumption came out over and over again in his 1990 autobiography. Unlike other Catholics growing up in the 1940s, he felt that the Protestant majority was out of step, regretting that it could not be included in the elect, select, self-evidently superior circles Buchanan inhabited:
The outside world was powerfully attracted to what we had…. In the 1940s and early ’50s, most of the non-Catholic kids seemed to be question marks; we Catholics were exclamation points…[so that converts] were fighting their way into the Catholic Church…. Men seek certitude. That is what the Catholic Church of the mid-century offered…. We had the Way, the Truth, and the Light…[Notre Dame’s football dominance showed that] when a group is on the rise, in the ascendancy—as the Catholics were in the 1940s and ’50s—victory and defeat at sports become metaphors.7
Buchanan imbibed his certitude that “we’re number one” from his belt-wielding father, all of whose views and values he replicates to this day—love for the Confederacy (and especially for Robert E. Lee), love for the military (and especially for Douglas MacArthur), love for the Republican Party (and especially for Joseph McCarthy), love for Mother Church (and especially for Pope Pius XII).8 The one true Church was emphatically one during Buchanan’s childhood. It entertained no doubts—none, at least, that he ever heard of from his father.9 School did not alter these notions. He went to Gonzaga High in Washington, whose Jesuits he remembers as apolitical, no doubt because their conservatism was so lukewarm, next to his father’s, that it did not register on his ideological thermometer.
Actually, there were several very different kinds of Jesuits in Buchanan’s day, just as there were several different Catholic churches. The teachers who impressed him were his high-school priests, who tend to be the men left in a backwater, while the more scholarly write or teach in universities. Buchanan significantly says that he had little contact with the Jesuits when he went on to Georgetown University. The exception is a conservative, Father McNamee, who gave him the entire truth in one package, no item of which he has found it necessary to discard or rearrange:
He introduced us to moral dilemmas, to the principle of double effect, to the reasoned choice of the lesser of two evils; he taught us to differentiate between what was illicit (shredding documents, for example) and what was truly immoral, inherently evil, and always impermissible (the deliberate taking of an innocent human life, as in an abortion)…. We even debated the morality of using lethal force to keep a neighbor out of the family fallout shelter [permissible]…. To understand the code he taught us is to understand Ollie North.10
Buchanan deplores subsequent changes in a Church that was supposed to be proof against change. He does not explain why a body possessed of all truth should itself become—worst of horrors—uncertain. Aliens somehow got inside, Communists perhaps, like the Sandinistas who corrupted Maryknoll nuns (including Tip O’Neill’s sister). The same thing happened to the infallible nation of Buchanan’s youth, perfect under Eisenhower, where everybody seemed to be having as good a time as Buchanan. Even the less fortunate were good sports in those days, like the black maid (one of two who cared for the Buchanan children) hosed down by Pat and his siblings for their amusement:
Laura [no last name, here or anywhere] was a delight. One afternoon, when we asked her to come outside for a second, we turned the hose on her for three minutes[!]; she joined right in, laughing, running around the yard, grabbing the hose and turning it on us.11
Black passengers in a bus that carried maids into Buchanan’s neighborhood were similarly delighted when the locals pelted the bus with snowballs:
The white driver was always more outraged than his passengers, who laughed at the diversion from the day’s drudgery provided by the little white boys.12
Buchanan’s venomous attitude toward Martin Luther King comes from his (no doubt sincere) conviction that the preacher deprived such women of the merriment derived from white boys with hoses and snowballs.
The charm that many have felt in Buchanan’s autobiography comes from its idyllic belief in a perfect time, that he himself calls “the American high.”13 But what is harmless nostalgia for some readers is hard ideology to Buchanan. Despite the high grades at Gonzaga (he was first in his class, as he assures us), he thinks with his viscera, and is good at politics as a game of “us against them” because he plays it headlong, unimpeded by the slightest doubt. He was cursed from the cradle with certitude, a curse he mistakes for a blessing. He has not, in all his life, changed his mind on a single important matter, except for free trade—and there is a special reason for that change.
The sense of being blessed, which lends a certain magical and innocent air to parts of his memoirs, also led him to feel that he was, by such favored upbringing, destined for great things. He was, he lets us know, quite a dashing lad, known by many nicknames, like “Blade” (for Gay Blade). But despite his youthful scuffles with police, and his humiliating year of suspension from Georgetown as a result, he felt, through all his escapades, like a prince in disguise:
I identified with Prince Hal, in Henry IV, Part I, as soon as I read it…. The Prince, too, had been a rascal and a roustabout, the despair of his father, but he had turned out splendidly; and I read and reread his famous soliloquy:
I know you all, and will a while up- hold
the unyoked humor of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun…14
Some, who feel even Buchanan must know he is not presidential, think he runs only to assert a principle. But he has been maneuvering for years to come into his kingdom. He pressed Richard Nixon to let him join a China trip, which conservatives were lambasting, because
[my] long-term goals are foreign-policy-oriented and coupled with the visit to the Soviet Union, this will give me the credentials I need to make the requests I intend to make of the President in the second term.15
He later asked Nixon if he could follow Frank Shakespeare as head of the US Information Agency.16 Under Reagan, he asked to be nominated as ambassador to NATO—this man with no military experience dispatched to a military alliance once commanded by Eisenhower and Norstad—and felt bitter when Secretary of State George Shultz blocked his appointment.17 He became a columnist only because he was denied all his preferred roles in office.
When Buchanan tried to run for the presidency in 1988, a number of conservatives (including Nixon) said he should not divert money and energy from Jack Kemp, whose turn it was in right-wing estimates. But the presidential bug had bitten Buchanan, and Kemp’s absence from the race this year has more to do with Buchanan’s running than do any “betrayals” by George Bush. As Gordon Humphrey rightly says, there were more reasons for rebelling in 1972, when Buchanan, far from rebelling, helped put down the Ashbrook challenge.
I asked Buchanan if he felt that Quayle, sent up to New Hampshire to counter his bid, was doing what Buchanan did to Ashbrook in 1972. He said Quayle was more like Agnew in that year—which is true. But John Judis has documented Buchanan’s own campaign against Ashbrook, whose threat was taken very seriously in the White House.18 It was assumed that George Wallace would run again in 1972, splitting the vote three ways. That kind of split made Nixon win by a 43 percent plurality in 1968, and he could not afford to lose any of that small margin.
The case for Ashbrook was strong enough to make William Buckley support him for a while. Not only had Nixon imposed wage and price controls; he had, in the eyes of the right, betrayed Taiwan to make peace with “Red China,” and he was pursuing policies of détente with the Soviet Union. But Buchanan stuck by Nixon, invoking the barroom brawler’s chivalry, that you fight with the guys you came with. Buchanan was still taking that stand in 1976, when some conservatives wanted to punish Gerald Ford for letting Kissinger pursue disarmament treaties with the Soviet Union. Buchanan wrote at the time:
Whatever criticisms may be made of Gerald Ford’s economic and social policies (“I try to be conservative whenever I can”), his Republican passport is stamped and in good order. He deserves well of the party to which he has paid his dues for twenty-six years.19
George Bush has even better-attested Republican credentials than Gerald Ford possessed. Yet Buchanan is now doing what he criticized conservatives for attempting in 1972 and 1976. Why? For an economic doctrine? For what he used to call “Big Rock-Candy Mountain” politics? The disappearance of the Communist threat the central evil in all of Buchanan’s earlier polemics should have made him less, not more, worried about the future.
The truth is that Buchanan runs because he feels the time slipping by for Prince Hal’s chance to seize the throne. He is fifty-three years old and he has held no elective position. He waited once. He cannot do it again. He must, finally, win some votes to lay the base for a more realistic run in 1996. His conversion to economic interests is neither plausible nor edifying. The old idea that he is suicidally principled has been dissipated as he accepts the accolades of Chuck Douglas, John Lofton, Jeffrey Hart and Joe Sobran, while “not reading” Buckley and the more respected figures on the right. He runs because he has to. Ambition, not bigotry, drives Buchanan now.
Polls show him winning votes in hard-pressed New Hampshire, for one simple reason. People want to punish Bush. Few of these votes are for Buchanan the man, or for the second rate staff he has assembled, or for the crazies boosting him. In that respect, the comparison with David Duke is a fair one. Duke’s followers also deny voting for the man (whatever his background); they vote against his enemies, against “them,” against Washington or bureaucrats or liberals or blacks or foreigners. That is the company Buchanan is forced to keep in order to press forward toward office. It is a long way from the golden time of a perfect Church in a perfect America that promised the golden “Blade” so much.
February 13, 1992
James Warren, “Media Watch,” Chicago Tribune, October 27, 1991. ↩
Michael Barone and Grant Ujifusa, The Almanac of American Politics 1992 (National Journal, 1992), p. 763. ↩
Ralph Ranalli, “Arafat Remark Stuns GOP,” the Boston Herald, January 10, 1992. ↩
Patrick J. Buchanan, Right From the Beginning (Little, Brown, 1988), pp. 5-6. ↩
Yet Buchanan has called AIDS nature’s revenge on homosexuality, and he suggested in Nixon’s White House that a check made out to Paul McCloskey be elicited from some gay liberation group at Dartmouth, so the donation could be publicized in the homophobic Manchester Union-Leader. Memo to H.R. Haldeman, December 15, 1971, in From: The President: Richard Nixon’s Secret Files, edited by Bruce Oudes (Harper and Row, 1989), p. 348. ↩
Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (Random House, 1990), p. 208. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, pp. 59, 72, 73, 84. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 78: ↩
I asked Buchanan, a defender of the family who has no children, if he would bring up offspring of his own as his father did him. He paused a moment, then said: “Probably not. Those days are gone.” In his book, the times have changed for the worse; he never criticizes his father’s terrorist pedagogy. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, pp. 226–227. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 134. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 132. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 16. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 225. ↩
Buchanan memo, October 1, 1971, in Haldeman, From: The President, p. 326. ↩
Buchanan memo, November 10, 1972, in Haldeman, From: The President, p. 568. ↩
Buchanan, Right from the Beginning, p. 10. ↩
John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr., Patron Saint of the Conservatives (Simon and Schuster, 1988), pp. 336 338. ↩
Patrick J. Buchanan, Conservative Votes, Liberal Victories: Why the Right Has Failed (Quadrangle, 1975), p. 174. ↩