April 9, 2017

THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY:

WHEN PAT BUCHANAN TRIED TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN (SAM TANENHAUS, APR 5, 2017, Esquire)

It's a curious fact of Buchanan's political history that his crusades are remembered as other men's defeats--George H. W. Bush's in 1992 and Bob Dole's in 1996. Both secured the Republican nomination, but only after Buchanan beat them up and exposed them as out-of-touch frontmen for the GOP elite. In '92, amid a slumping economy, Buchanan railed against Japan's "predatory trade policies" and an agreement with Mexico later called NAFTA. The United States, he suggested, should think about quitting the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These heresies got him 37.5 percent of the vote in New Hampshire against the glass-jawed incumbent Bush. Four years later, declaring himself the tribune of "a conservativism that gives voice to the voiceless," Buchanan won the state outright, beating Dole by a percentage point. Dole recovered in later primaries, but, like Bush, he staggered on rubbery legs to the finish line, where Bill Clinton was waiting.

Trump also belongs to the company of the Buchanan-scarred. The confrontation happened in 2000, when Buchanan, having become a pariah within the GOP, made a quixotic last stand on the Reform party ticket. Trump, even more quixotically, sought the Reform nomination, too, swaggering in with a book to promote and hot-air talk of the $100 million he would spend to get on the ticket and then to win "the whole megillah." Before Buchanan smacked him down, Trump got in some preemptive sore-loser licks. "Look, he's a Hitler lover," he said. "I guess he's an anti-Semite. He doesn't like the blacks, he doesn't like the gays." For once affecting a statesman's high detachment, Buchanan said only that the Reform party and the presidency weren't for sale.

He remembers it all today, as he remembers much else in his half-century of national politics, as a quasi-joke. "Somebody said, 'Pat, he called you a Nazi, a Hitlerite.' I said, 'With Trump, you have to realize, these are terms of endearment.' "

Posted by at April 9, 2017 5:14 PM

  

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