March 18, 2012


REVIEW: 'The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan' by Timothy Stanley (Matthew Continetti, 3/18/12, Washington Post)

It was in electronic journalism that Buchanan would have the greatest influence. In 1977, he was invited to co-host a D.C. area radio show called "Confrontation." He and a liberal counterpart spent hours verbally ripping each other apart. The program was such a hit that it spawned a local television version, which moved to CNN in 1982 and was rechristened "Crossfire."

Together with the syndicated "McLaughlin Group," which also premiered in 1982 and featured Buchanan as a frequent guest, "Crossfire" established a template for televised political commentary that has lasted 30 years. You can decide for yourself whether that is something to be proud of.

The two years Buchanan spent as Ronald Reagan's communications director between 1985 and '87 were his only other stint in government. Even as a Reagan adviser, however, he was sailing to the political frontier, where the eccentric and offbeat turn into the ugly fringe. By 1991, when George H.W. Bush warred with Saddam Hussein and global communism was no longer the threat that held various factions of conservatives together, Buchanan was totally at odds with the Republican mainstream.

He was against overseas intervention, free trade, immigration and much else. His frequent criticism of Israel and prominent American Jews prompted William F. Buckley Jr. to examine Buchanan's record for signs of anti-Semitism. Buckley was unable to acquit him of the charge. As a commentator, Buchanan had mild words for Hitler beginning in the newspaper columns he wrote in the 1970s; he took up the "cause" of Nazi war criminals John Demjanjuk and Karl Linnas; he aggressively defended Reagan's decision to visit the German war cemetery at Bitburg; and he blamed America's wars with Iraq on Israel and the pundits who he said served as the Israeli Defense Ministry's "‚ÄČ'Amen' corner in the United States." Such comments served as an indictment against Buchanan.

So did the company he kept. In each of his three campaigns for the presidency, two as a Republican and one as a Reform Party candidate, Buchanan's supporters included writers such as anti-Semite Joe Sobran and miscegenation-obsessive Sam Francis, actor Mel Gibson, activists associated with the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review, numerous black-helicopter spotters, and others hot on the trail of the international banking conspiracy. Such was the well from which Buchanan drew strength.

For 50 years the Right hated Communists more than any other group, and so they made compromises to fit in with the broader conservative movement and with the Republican Party.  But once that enemy was removed and they had nothing to fall back on but their essentially racial and religious hatreds they moved steadily from the mainstream back to the margins.

Posted by at March 18, 2012 7:52 AM

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