Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
Though today he is often out-shouted by “neocon” right-wingers and the younger, louder contingent of Ann Coulter and the like, Pat Buchanan remains true to the old school of bigoted, right-wing conservatives. A relic of the paleoconservative era, he, too, works the college circuit, warning of that non-white, non-hetero, non-Christian menace that threatens to corrupt your children and grandchildren.
Buchanan, who often claims to be a DC “outsider,” is, in fact, a Washington, DC, native who remained inside the Beltway well into his twenties. He attended Catholic schools in DC, got in lots of fistfights, and graduated from Georgetown University. After going to Columbia for a Masters in Journalism, Buchanan wasted little time jumping into politics. In 1966, he became an advisor to Richard Nixon, who was gearing up for his second run for the White House. Buchanan made his specialty “opposition research,” the backbone of the Nixon campaign’s “covert ops,” i.e., dirty tricks against Democrats. Buchanan’s strategies were Rove-esque before Karl Rove had even graduated from high school. Buchanan and his top aide recommended staging counterfeit attacks by one Democrat on another, arranging demonstrations and spreading rumors to bring down the opposition, fouling up scheduled events, all the while being careful not to arouse the suspicions of authorities. Nixon was elected in 1968, and Buchanan went with him, becoming a White House speechwriter and advisor.
During Senate hearings in the Watergate summer of 1973, Buchanan firmly denied supporting such dirty tricks. But in 1996, a 1972 memo turned up in which Buchanan explicitly discussed various covert campaign operations. Remarkably, in the Watergate controversy, the greatest “dirty tricks” fiasco in American history, Buchanan was never implicated nor convicted of any wrongdoing. In June 2002, students at the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois briefly speculated that “Deep Throat,” the infamous Watergate conspirator who facilitated the downfall of President Nixon, was in fact Buchanan. They had come to this conclusion by feeding information into a computer program that their professor asserted would determine the identity of “Deep Throat.” This theory was quickly dismissed, given Buchanan’s commitment to President Nixon.
Leaving the White House in the first year of the Ford administration, Buchanan established a syndicated opinion column. He returned to the White House for two years to serve as communications director for President Reagan, where his most memorable act was pressing Reagan, in the face of enormous public criticism, to stand firm and visit a cemetery where, among others, Nazi SS storm troopers were buried. This was just one chapter in Buchanan’s career-long championing of the causes of Nazis, accused World War II war criminals, and other fascists.
As the cable screamfest era heated up, Buchanan became one of the Right’s more popular on-air debate pundits, earning spots on “The McLaughlin Group” and “on the right” for CNN’s “Crossfire.” Later, he and liberal commentator Bill Press co-hosted MSNBC’s “Buchanan & Press.” Buchanan is still with MSNBC as an analyst, and he occasionally fills in for Joe Scarborough on the nightly show “Scarborough Country,” where he shares his fire and brimstone moralist worldview with millions of viewers.
In 1992, Buchanan challenged incumbent President George H. W. Bush for the Republican Party nomination. His strong showing in the primaries, during which he snatched up some 3 million votes, forced Bush to run a more conservative campaign than he had in 1988. Buchanan later delivered a controversial keynote address at the 1992 Republican National Convention, since dubbed the culture war speech. In it, he strongly attacked Bill and Hillary Clinton, saying:
The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America—abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat—that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.
Needless to say, many within the Republican Party were put off by Buchanan’s controversial outburst, while many outside the party saw the speech as intolerant. Buchanan’s speech is considered to have alienated voters in the general election.
Buchanan, who says he subscribes to traditional conservatism, is often described as a paleoconservative, a breed of conservative that focuses far more on American isolationism than the “neoconservative” agenda promoted by President Bush and the conservative Republican faction in power today. As presented in his 2000 presidential platform, Buchanan believes President George W. Bush defies “true conservatism” by refusing to endorse tougher anti-immigration policies, abandon free trade, and establish English as the official language of the United States. One of the most marked divergences from the Bush White House has been Buchanan’s fervent opposition to the ruling GOP on the war in Iraq and the nature of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Buchanan’s positioning on the attacks—his 2004 statement "Terrorism is the price you pay for empire" sounds closer to radical left-wingers than radical right-wingers- embody his isolationist position on foreign policy.
Buchanan ran for president again in 1996 and managed a surprising victory in the New Hampshire primary. It wasn’t enough to get him the nomination, which went to Bob Dole. In 2000, Buchanan declared himself a nominee for President on the Reform Party ticket, the party founded by billionaire Ross Perot. That party, thanks to Perot receiving over 5% of the national popular vote in 1996, was eligible for federal election funding. Buchanan’s receipt of the Reform nomination was the result of a highly disputed write-in campaign, which eventually led to massive dissention and a lawsuit. Buchanan received less than 0.2% of the popular vote in 2000.
Due to his unwillingness to toe the party line, Buchanan long ago fell out of favor with mainstream Republicans. But he still makes common cause with arch-conservatives on a range of issues including multiculturalism, homosexuality and abortion.
Buchanan has described multiculturalism as “an across-the-board assault on our Anglo-American heritage” (in a speech to the Christian Coalition, September 1993) and supports restricting immigration into the United States to protect that heritage, of which he says: “Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free” (Speech to the Christian Coalition, September 1993). He has described homosexuality as leading to “a decay of society and a collapse of its basic cinder block, the family.” He opposes abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. A 1996 New York Times article quoted him as saying, ever so delicately, “I don’t care about the circumstances of a child’s conception. You want to execute somebody in the case of rape, execute the rapist and let the unborn child live.”
Buchanan frequently draws ire for his contentious anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust revisionism. In a now infamous 1977 column, he wrote: “Though Hitler was indeed racist and anti-Semitic to the core, a man who without compunction could commit murder and genocide, he was also an individual of great courage, a soldier’s soldier in the Great War, a political organizer of the first rank, a leader steeped in the history of Europe, who possessed oratorical powers that could awe even those who despised him … Hitler’s success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood in his path.” In a March 17, 1990, column in the New York Post, Buchanan asserted the innocence of an American accused of being a Nazi war criminal, retired Cleveland autoworker John Demjanjuk, comparing his trial to the Salem witch trials. Buchanan claimed that the diesel engine used to kill victims at Treblinka could "not emit enough carbon monoxide to kill anybody." When asked for his source, Buchanan used some fuzzy associative logic, reasoning that he had read an article about children surviving the fumes of idling diesel engines while trapped in a tunnel, neglecting to take into account, however, there was ample oxygen in the tunnel, and the primary cause of death in diesel-powered chambers was asphyxiation on carbon monoxide rather than carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keep an eye out for Buchanan ’08. He’s still a bundle of anger, outrage, aggression, intolerance, and he’s not done with America yet.
A few of our favorite Pat Buchanan quotes:
"The War Between the States was about independence, about self-determination, about the right of a people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give allegiance … How long is this endless groveling before every cry of ‘racism’ going to continue before the whole country collectively throws up?"—syndicated column, 7/28/93
"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 and would cause less problems for the people of Virginia?"—This Week With David Brinkley, 1/8/91
"Our culture is superior. Our culture is superior because our religion is Christianity and that is the truth that makes men free."—Speech to the Christian Coalition, September 1993
"I don’t care about the circumstances of a child’s conception. You want to execute somebody in the case of rape, execute the rapist and let the unborn child live."—New York Times, 2/24/96
"Homosexuality is not a civil right. Its rise almost always is accompanied, as in the Weimar Republic, with a decay of society and a collapse of its basic cinder block, the family."—New Republic, 3/30/92
"Rail as they will about ‘discrimination,’ women are simply not endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western capitalism."—Syndicated column, 11/22/83
"The real liberators of American women were not the feminist noise-makers, they were the automobile, the supermarket, the shopping center, the dishwasher, the washer-dryer, the freezer."—Right from the Beginning, p. 149
Pat Buchanan Update:
Just last August Buchanan renewed his participation in the crazed, conservative anti-immigration chorus. Along with Samuel Huntington and Tom Tancredo, Buchanan has cashed in on the recent frenzy surrounding America’s immigration battle, making money by sprouting useless, xenophobic rhetoric. While lacking any of the intellectual rigor of Huntington’s Who Are We?, Buchanan’s State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America manages to almost look scholarly in comparison to Tancredo’s In Mortal Danger. It’s scary when even Buchanan can’t manage to be the biggest of these three immigration ignoramuses.
Buchanan’s book is jammed packed with tautological reasoning, unsubstantiated claims, and whimsical imagery of the past. His answer to America’s immigration difficulties? An escapist return to (the never existent) conformist, “Leave it to Beaver,” 1950’s America. Such pathetic argumentation is nothing new for far-right publishers, but Buchanan can’t even manage to produce original insular commentary. ThinkProgress showcases Buchanan’s rhetorical recycling, revealing the similarity between State of Emergency’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric and earlier tropes against Irish, Italian, and German immigrants.
But don’t expect reason to dissuade this prolific pundit from his warped imaginings anytime soon.
Here are some more pearls of wisdom from Buchanan’s recent book:
Page 118: “But rather than securing our bleeding border, U.S. soldiers secure the borders of Korea and Kosovo, where no threat exists to the United States of America.”
(Guess he just forgot about that whole nuclear North Korea thing.)
Those who believe that the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address—liberty, equality, democracy—constitute an “American Creed” that holds us together as a nation are ignoring or rewriting history. For even the most famous words in those documents, “All men are created equal,” do no mean the same thing to all Americans. They never did.
(I’d have to agree, Hispanic immigration really does pose a greater threat to America than say, the Civil War)
As the immigrant poor from Latin America pour in, filling all the new schools we build, imposing a constantly rising tax burden on Middle America, their children will continue to pull down US test scores and stress out teachers trying to bring them up to national standards—a task of which we have never succeeded and at which no one seems to know how to succeed. And our educrats will point with alarm each year to falling national scores to berate taxpayers for not putting enough money into reducing class sizes and raising teachers’ salaries. We are on a treadmill we will never get off if we do not get control of immigration.
(Characteristically Buchanan provides no real data to substantiate this claim, and ignores evidence that immigrants actually replenish U.S. coffers)
Illustration: August J. Pollak