Rabble rouser for the Reform party
This article was posted on September 29, 1999.
Born to fight
Since he was a young boy, Pat Buchanan has been something of a rabble rouser, both physically and verbally. His combativeness and moral righteousness were ingrained in him by his autocratic father, William Buchanan, an accountant, who preached to his nine children the importance of faith, family, allegiance, and self defense. The elder Buchanan was a nativist and passionate anti-Communist who idolized Sen. Joseph McCarthy and taught his sons to fistfight.
Pat Buchanan inherited several of his father's controversial views. Many of those are outlined in his new foreign-policy book, A Republic, Not an Empire, in which he says Nazi Germany posed "no physical threat to the United States after 1940" and that because Hitler's aim was to move east, into Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe, the United States should have let him complete his mission because the areas were not significant to the U.S. A vehement isolationist, Buchanan's book also lashes out against intervention in areas such as Kosovo: "We have no vital interest in that blood-soaked peninsula."
He has also been widely accused of being anti-Semitic and racist. In his book, he rails against Jewish influence in foreign policy and the influx of immigrants. "No nation has ever undergone so radical a demographic alteration and survived," he said. Fellow conservative William Buckley labeled him an anti-Semite after he criticized President Bush for U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War.
"There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East - the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States," Buchanan said.
When Buchanan hinted that he may bolt from the Republican Party and seek the presidential nomination as a Reform candidate, presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain said, "It is evident to me by Pat Buchanan's own rhetoric that he has left the Republican Party."
As a third-party candidate, Buchanan will indeed siphon votes from the Republican nominee. Buchanan appeals to two major constituencies: blue-collar workers, who may feel slighted by the prosperous economy that has eluded them, and the religious right, which has embraced his archly conservative beliefs.
Buchanan Finds His Calling
Patrick J. Buchanan was born November 2, 1938 in Washington, D.C. He attended Jesuit schools and graduated from Gonzaga College High School in 1956. He went on to Georgetown University, where he earned a degree in English and philosophy. He was nearly expelled during his senior year after a run-in with police. In his autobiography, Buchanan said, "I struck a size 10 ½ cordovan where I thought it might do him some good."
Buchanan found his calling as a graduate student at Columbia University's School of Journalism. He graduated in 1962 and went straight to work at the conservative St. Louis Globe-Democrat, writing editorials that lambasted Communism and endorsed Barry Goldwater. In 1966, he became Richard Nixon's executive assistant, helping the future president prepare for the 1968 election. Buchanan met his wife, Shelley Scarney, who was Nixon's secretary, during the campaign. They married in 1971.
When Nixon was elected, Buchanan signed on as adviser to the President. He wrote speeches intended to lure blue-collar workers and disaffected Democrats into the Republican Party. Buchanan stuck by President Nixon throughout the Watergate scandal and resumed his writing in 1974, becoming a syndicated columnist. He and liberal Tom Braden hosted a radio talk show, the predecessor to CNN's Crossfire.
The Reagan Years
He joined the Reagan administration in 1985 as Communications Director and left in 1987, after several of his hard-line speeches had to be toned down. His departure was also fueled by criticism for pushing Reagan to visit a German military cemetery that housed Waffen SS graves.
Upon leaving the West Wing, Buchanan immersed himself in his syndicated column and in several political talk shows, including CNN's Crossfire and Capitol Gang, and NBC's The McLaughlin Group.
He challenged George Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and made another go of it in 1996, against Sen. Bob Dole. He found more success the second time around, winning the New Hampshire primary.
While he's still a long shot in his third campaign for the presidency, Buchanan will get a $12 million boost in Federal funds if he does win the Reform Party nomination. That is, if he can maneuver by Gov. Jesse Ventura, who would much prefer to see real estate/casino magnate Donald Trump represent the party. It will be an interesting battle to observe, a professional wrestler vs. a scrappy fist fighter.