Patrick J. Buchanan is not only making news: as the first presidential candidate since Senator Robert A. Taft to take on the internationalists, Buchanan is making history. The organized campaign to smear him and drive him to the margins of American politics has been defeated, much to the chagrin of Norman Podhoretz and the Hate Pat Brigade, and he is getting a hearing in the media if only on the grounds that his ideas are the most interesting. Out of sheer boredom at the sameness of the bromides uttered by the leading "major" party candidates, journalists turn to Pat to inject some much-needed vigor into a colorless and seemingly passionless presidential contest.
To the dismay of his enemies and the cheers of his friends, Pat is everywhere: from This Week to CSPAN to the wires of Associated Press, bringing his message of a peaceful and noninterventionist foreign policy to millions of Americans. With not only Bush but also Clinton attacking "isolationism," Buchanan has single-handedly managed to focus the nation's attention on the looming danger of war and provoke a national debate on a subject dear to my heart: shall the US remain a republic, or will we take the path of Empire? This, in itself, is a great victory, a singular achievement that will earn Buchanan the gratitude of generations of conservatives to come. His stature grows by the day especially in comparison to his competitors.
For a bit of cognitive dissonance, consider Dubya's much-ballyhooed foreign policy speech which he read with no enthusiasm and smirking all the way. Compared with Buchanan's address on the same subject, delivered a day later, Dubya's seemed like the performance of some adolescent schoolboy forced to stand up and recite in front of the class.
On the other hand, Buchanan, when he addressed the Cato Institute, was the teacher, not the pupil, as he derided the Clintonian assault on what Sandy Berger called the "New Isolationism." Agree or disagree with him, you can be sure that here is a man who not only writes his own speeches but actually believes in what he is saying: here is an authenticity that cannot be faked (sorry, Al). Unlike the over-prepped Boy Dubya, who read his speech off a teleprompter from the relative safety of the Reagan Library, and took no questions, Buchanan appeared on the turf of his sometime critics, the auditorium of the libertarian Cato Institute, hardly a bastion of Buchananism, and took a good forty-five minutes worth of questions on every foreign policy subject from China to Serbia to the WTO. While many at Cato are no doubt appreciative of Pat's foreign policy views, the Buchananite heresy on the trade question has drawn lots of libertarian fire, yet he strode into this arena and engaged his audience in a way that no other candidate seems willing or able to do.
Sure of himself, and not afraid of a fight, Buchanan is boldly reaching out to all sorts of disaffected and disenfranchised constituencies: libertarians, conservative Republicans, radicalized Middle Americans of all races and even disaffected leftists who stand, aghast, as yesterday's peaceniks morph into the militarists of the new millennium. No wonder the globalists in both parties are in a panic, and have launched the most vicious and prolonged smear campaign since the infamous vilification of Barry Goldwater in 1964.
It was a radical speech, and yet a prudent one: he called for a complete reorientation of American foreign policy in the name of a return to ancient principles. He invoked the laws of nature and of God and outlined an eminently practical program, firmly grounded in realism and informed by a keen knowledge of history. And he rejected the "isolationist" label in words that need to be underscored:
"America has never been an isolationist nation. 'No president or national party in the entire history of the United States...ever advocated isolating the United States from the rest of the world,' writes historian Wayne Cole. Historian Walter McDougall calls the term isolationist 'but a dirty word that interventionists, especially since Pearl Harbor, hurl at anyone who questions their policies.'"
In the context of having watched Bush deliver his address the previous day, seeing Pat's speech on CSPAN was revelatory experience. As he stood at the podium, outlining the parameters of what he calls "a New Americanism," it was clear that, compared to Boy Dubya and the rest of the presidential Brat Pack, Patrick J. Buchanan is a statesman of the first order. Instead of mindlessly repeating stock phrases put in his mouth by unseen handlers, here is a man who has a theory of foreign relations, who has thought long and hard about America's place in the world. Next to him, the two "major party" heirs presumptive seem like the over-rehearsed actors in a high school play, nervous amateurs who mouth their lines without cadence or conviction.
While nearly everyone else is taking aim at the phantom threat of "isolationism," Buchanan wastes no time defending himself from the baseless accusation except to point out that such a thing has never existed in America, and does not now; instead, he goes on the offensive, and his first target is the Democrats, especially one by the name of William Jefferson Clinton. The Clintonian invasion of Somalia was a "bloody debacle," the Haitian adventure was "ruinous" to those it was intended to benefit, and the alleged good intentions of the interventionists were unmasked when
"to divert attention from a personal scandal, the President fired missiles at a poison gas factory in Sudan. It now appears to have been an innocent pharmaceutical plant. Perhaps Mr. Clinton, who was apologizing for yet another of his predecessors' foreign policy sins, might wish to apologize for one of his own."
None of the Republican presidential candidates, least of all Boy Dubya, is remotely capable of speaking truth to power in quite this way. While we hear much braying about how the GOP intends to "restore dignity" to the office of the President, only Pat seems to understand the nature and extent of this administration's moral depravity. While the Republicans and their neoconservative grand strategists are focused on l'affaire Lewinsky per se, Buchanan is far more disgusted and outraged by the act of wanton aggression which should tell us something about the difference between Buchanan and his neocon critics.
For the past few months but doesn't it seem like years? we have been hearing about "compassionate conservatism," which is supposed to be "inclusive," friendly to minorities, and warm and cuddly in a way that the old-fashioned hard-edged conservatism represented by Buchanan could never be. But how come the "compassion" of the Bushians doesn't extend to anyone beyond our borders? If Buchanan is supposed to be a mean s.o.b., and a "xenophobe" to boot, how come he is the only one talking about the suffering of dark-skinned foreigners, the Iraqi people, under the cruel US-enforced embargo? Why is Buchanan the only one raising his voice in the name of tens of thousands of murdered Iraqi children? Here's why:
"Under the Christian conditions for a just war, the targeting of innocent civilians is forbidden. But who is suffering, who is dying from the sanctions we impose on Serbia and Iraq? We read of tens of thousands of deaths among Iraqi children. Is it moral to cause their deaths because these toddlers refused to rise up and oust Saddam, which the mighty Army of Desert Storm was itself reluctant to do? America is a good country; she does not make war on children."
Buchanan speaks for the millions of Americans who watched, in horror, as their President rained death on a people who had never attacked the United States or threatened its interests:
"Having smashed Serbia, it is now U.S. policy to deny fuel to the Serb people, so they can suffer in the brutal Balkan winter. This immoral policy shames us as a people. What are we doing putting old men, women, and children under a sentence of death for being unable to what NATO itself could not do-overthrow Milosevic?"
Buchanan understands all too clearly how the new cold war is unfolding: Russia is the new enemy-designate, the villain of choice in a new international morality play in which Chechnya is the first act. As we have pointed out in the pages of Antiwar.com, the oil-rich Caucasus region is the new locus of international tensions, where ethnicity, religion, competing nationalisms and the prospect of great wealth all combine to create a volatile mixture. Buchanan, alone of all the presidential candidates, seems to understand the gravity of the unfolding situation:
"That photo of the President in Istanbul, smiling broadly as the oil treaty was toasted, while his Energy Secretary crowed about our "victory," was a provocation. Be assured: Russian nationalists are surely even now plotting to overturn Mr. Clinton's "victory." Mr. Clinton's successes have been in Northern Ireland and the Middle East, where America assumed the role of peacemaker, rather than military interventionist. That is the role the greatest nation on earth should play, one ordained in the Sermon on the Mount."
Pat's Catholicism has much to do with his rise as the great nemesis of the War Party. It is increasingly hard for the Smear Brigade and the professional character assassins to depict him as an admirer of Hitler and Franco when he sounds more like Dorothy Day than Father Coughlin.
Buchanan's program makes sense and has popular appeal: Europe can defend itself from a Russia that is smaller than under Peter the Great. It is time to bring the troops home, and let the Europeans take care of their own defense. Indeed, it appears to be the Russians, and not the Europeans, who need to be defended against the encroachments and intended encirclement of the emboldened West. Buchanan attacks the Russophobia of the Republican elites, calls for reaching an accord with the Arab world, and generally seems to perceive the problems of American diplomacy and strategy in civilizational terms. The great civilizations of Russia and the Arabic world must not be our enemies, for in that case another world war or a series of wars is inevitable, as he points out in A Republic, Not an Empire. Do we really want to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia over the Baltic republics' right to join NATO? The more Americans are told that even asking such a question is "extremist," the more receptive they are likely to be to Buchanan's message.
When it comes to China, Buchanan's tone becomes considerably harsher, yet he seems not to have forgotten his stance, as explicated in his book, against going to war over Taiwan. He states unequivocally: "We do not want a hot war or a Cold War with China. Nor do we wish to contain China. She is already contained by suspicious neighbors, north, south, east and west."
The foreign policy outlined by Buchanan in his Cato speech is not an isolationist manifesto, but a program for an independent foreign policy that puts America not only first but second and third as well. Not in the grasping mercantile sense of predatory imperialism and economic self-interest, the gunboat diplomacy of the Big Oil Republicans on the make in the Caucasus and the Middle East, but in the name of the legitimate interests of a free republic that seeks commercial relations with all nations, but, as Washington put it, "as little political connection as possible."
As the mushy center of American politics begins to resemble two varieties of vanilla, all real thought and ideological innovation is taking place "beyond the pale" on the "far" left as well as the "far" right. As the range of the politically permissible shrinks, and the range of "respectable" views gets ever-narrower, the interest in and populist appeal of Pat the Outsider can only increase by leaps and bounds.
The attacks on Buchanan will also increase, as we approach the height of the campaign season, not only in quantity but also in terms of sheer volume and we won't have any of this nonsense about the Smear Brigade blunting its attack, as Forbes is being asked to soften his attacks on Dubya. Expect the sharp edge of the knife to lunge at Buchanan's political jugular, with all kinds of proxies, such as Donald Trump and Jesse Ventura, coming out of the woodwork to stop the GOP's worst nightmare from happening: Buchanan in the debaters' arena with Dubya and the Bore. Those who say it will never happen are not saying how or why the Democrats would agree to such an outrageous exclusion. Certainly it is an event we can all look forward to, and hope for, if only to relieve the extreme ennui that is otherwise the leitmotif of this campaign season.
Will somebody please tell me why Eric Burns, a 19-year-old "hacker," is being given fifteen months in prison for "hacking" the sacred White House website? Yes, they are dead serious about making an example of him, this "computer criminal," who dared deface the sacred cyber-symbols of American global hegemony: the US Information Agency website, as well as that of NATO, an unidentified US embassy site and those of several unidentified consulates "and even Vice President Al Gore," according to one horrified news report. Yes, folks, even Al Gore, who might have been expected to have some kind of computer defenses (him being the Inventor of the Internet, and all). These people are so dumb and vindictive that they don't even realize they should be thanking young Eric for pointing out the vulnerabilities of US government websites, which could come under attack from real terrorists. But, oh no, instead Eric is being sent to jail, ordered to pay "restitution," and is furthermore forbidden to even go near a computer for three years after his release from the pen! His real crime, of course, was "defacing" the White House website with the ungrammatical but no doubt sincere slogan: "Stop all the war." Will our felonious President and Commander in chief feel this boy's pain enough to pardon him? Don't hold your breath but, who knows, a campaign to "Free Eric Burns" just might embarrass even the shameless Clintonites into doing the right thing.
A contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans, a 60-page booklet packed with the kind of intellectual ammunition you need to fight the lies being put out by this administration and its allies in Congress. And now, for a limited time, donors of $40 or more receive a copy of Ronald Radosh's classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form
Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible