Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
My internal alarm clock – a flawless device goes off, and I'm up and ready to do battle at 6 in the morning. My battlefield is a radio program: "Battleline America," hosted by Alan Nathan, on about 65 radio stations from coast to coast. As an official "surrogate" – a stand-in for Pat – I was initially supposed to attend a breakfast with the other surrogates at 7, but had to miss this in favor of actually being a surrogate. It would've been nice to see and hear Pat first thing in the morning, but I don't need a pep talk and the very idea of looking at food – let alone eating it – at such an ungodly hour makes me slightly ill. Fortified by some pretty strong coffee, I sallied forth into the fray. . . .
At any rate, the interview – with "Battleline America" – turned out to be a Crossfire-type show, with me up against Tim Heightman, a columnist for The Georgetowner newspaper (how Establishment can you get?) and a nationally syndicated columnist: Nathan addressed him as "Doctor" and touted him on the air as being some kind of "expert" on electoral politics, but his doctorate seemed to have been in the Conventional Wisdom, and the bromides came fast and furious: "Pat is 'entertaining,' but he can't win; Pat is a 'fringe' candidate, and is 'hijacking' the Reform party; he's at one percent in the polls and will stay that way."
Fer cryin' out loud, give me a break: the "experts," as usual are wrong on all counts. This obsession with polls – which capture popular sentiment in any given moment – is an indication of a "mental disease," as George Orwell put it, typical of intellectuals and the chattering classes in general: it is the conviction (expressed in terms of a virtual certainty) that what is happening now will continue to happen into the indefinite future. Translated into political terms, this means that whomever is winning now will continue to win – that those in power now will continue to be in power, an assumption particularly attractive to those intellectuals – not a few, unfortunately – who worship at the altar of Power. Groveling comes naturally to the kind of mid-level intellectuals who inhabit the punditocracy and the world of journalism. Those who live by the word tend to be overly impressed by the sword: but swords, as we all know, can change hands in the blink of an eye . . . .
Which brings me to the point I made on the radio: the September (or October) surprise. War can change polling numbers – and much else. As the only candidate who has made a major issue out of the Kosovo war, and pledged to get us out of the Balkan quagmire within weeks of taking the oath of office: as the only White House aspirant who condemns in frankly moral terms the murderous sanctions against Iraq; as the only man in this race who has put foreign policy front and center in his campaign – it is Buchanan who will benefit politically from the coming "surprise" that ought to be a surprise to exactly no one. As I have pointed out in this column before, the timing of the coming crisis in Iraq couldn't be more serendipitous as far as the Clintonians (and their Republican enablers) are concerned. At the end of August the UN arms inspectors will be clamoring to be let into Iraq, and the proudly defiant Iraqis are bound to refuse as long as the sanctions remain in place. By the first week of September, perhaps, US and British warplanes will be ready to move, awaiting only the order from their commander-in-chief – who has every reason to give it.
For this will galvanize the War Party behind the Vice President, shift the focus away from the Republicans, and give the Democrats a bump in the polls that they sorely need. Surprisingly, Dr. Heightman agreed with me – but there was no time to get into the implications of this. Heightman seemed to believe that the Republicans would steal Pat's thunder on the war question, but one can only wonder which convention he was tuning into last week. There was Norman Schwartzkopf, blustering and scowling from the deck of a battleship, touting his great "victory" over a virtually helpless Third World nation – these guys are going to steal Pat's thunder? I don't think so: but then who am I to be arguing with the "experts"?
The whole strategy of the anti-Buchanan brigades has been to provoke violence: I report this with complete and utter amazement, not only because it seems so out-of-line, but because of how – once again the conventional wisdom is turned on its head. It is the Buchananites who are supposed to be the "bullies" – the favorite epithet of Mangia and his crowd and their media echo chamber is that Buchanan and his people are "brownshirts." But the real brownshirts seem to be the very physical and easily excitable opponents of Buchanan, including, surprisingly, the Hagelin people. Having split off from the official convention, the dissidents effectively seized physical control of the room where the Credential Committee was meeting: the official convention had to go find another room because the wackos wouldn't leave! John Hagelin and his glassy-eyed followers staged a march through the Convention Center lobby, and up the stairs to the main hall, carrying signs and chanting "Democracy! Reform!" The idea was to literally storm the hall, to physically take it – so as to delay, derail, and discredit Buchanan's (seemingly) inevitable victory. And these are the guys who want to send Transcendental Meditators to Kosovo – a move, they claim, that will bring instant peace to that wartorn region. But what about right here in Long Beach, I asked one of their leaders – instead of picking a fight with Buchanan and his brigades, why not just send in the big guns among the "yogic flyers" so Hagelin and his friends can meditate their way to victory? The guy I asked this question to looked baffled, and his glassy stare was replaced, for a moment, with a look of genuine perplexity. But there is no room for such questions in the strictly circumscribed worldview of these folks, and his uncertainty vanished like mist in the morning: "I'd have to ask someone about that," he said, confident that his leader (or his press secretary) would have the correct answer.
Read previous dispatches from the Reform Party convention:
Buchanan in Long Beach: The Inside Story
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