Pat’s Party

Written by David Corn on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.

thanked William Safire, Alan Dershowitz and Chris Matthews for the attacks that
pushed the book onto the bestseller lists. He clearly relished the tussle, noting
triumphantly that two months ago he was merely a back-of-the-packer in the Republican
contest who had no idea how he was going to promote his new tome. Now, beaming
in the crossfire of television lights, Buchanan boasted he was running first
in the polls in the Reform Party and was receiving "more attention than
anytime in my life." He even proudly related how a limo driver recognized
him: "I know you. I know you. You’re the guy who wrote the Hitler
book!" And Buchanan belly-laughed when L.A. Times political writer
Robert Shogan jokingly cried out, "Sieg heil."

While talking
with Buchanan’s chief fundraiser–who was touting his candidate as
the antidote to the same-old-two-party model–I sympathized with the fundraiser’s
smash-the-status-quo sentiments, but voiced disagreement with his boss on a
host of issues. "Such as?" his wife interrupted. All the social issues,
I replied: gay rights, school prayer, abortion. "Have you ever seen an
aborted 23-week-old fetus?" she shot back. I politely said that I had seen
all the photos, had gazed at my infant daughter in utero courtesy of
sonogram technology, and that this was clearly not an argument in which either
one of us would persuade the other.

But she’d
already locked and loaded: "If you haven’t seen a 23-week-old fetus
in person, then you don’t know what you are talking about. I’m tired
of hearing about the Holocaust when there is a genocide of infants going on
right now." As for gay rights, she asked how I would feel once the gene
determining a predisposition toward homosexuality was discovered and people
began aborting fetuses possessing that genetic ingredient. "Then you’ll
see all those gay rights guys backing Pat on abortion," she declared.

I came up
with an excuse to disengage and moved on. Just as I escaped the anti-abortion
rant, a sixtysomething man I didn’t know read my name tag and accused me
of being prejudiced against Christians. He said that years ago I’d written
"that article" about Oliver North in which I’d assaulted the
colonel for being a Christian. I had no idea to what he was referring, and told
him I’d written several pieces on North, including a profile during his
unsuccessful U.S. Senate run in 1994. My complaint with North, I said, was that
he was a convicted Iran-Contra felon, a lying religious-right ringleader, a
Constitution-shredder who’d managed a secret (thus illegal) war in Central
America during which he supported a band of rebels that committed torture and
other human rights abuses. That’s all. "You used the word ‘Christian’
as code," he shouted at me. I have nothing against Christians, I said;
I married one. "Don’t give me that," he went on. "You’re
against Christians."

I left him
at that point and chatted a few minutes with Pat’s sister and former Equal
cohost, Bay Buchanan, who was all geared up for her brother’s
defection from the Republican Party. It was obviously an all-but-done deal,
and she gleefully reported she would be running his Reform presidential campaign,
displaying not a whiff of reluctance about saying goodbye to the Grand Old Party.

Yo, Jude!
highlight of the evening was when I stumbled into a conversation between Jude
Wanniski, the former Wall Street Journal editorialist and Reagan-era, supply-side
tax-cuts evangelist, and John Lofton, a religious-right commentator. (Promotional
material for Lofton’s newsletter proclaims, "Support Your Local Calvinist!")
Wanniski, for some reason, was defending Louis Farrakhan, maintaining the Nation
of Islam leader was neither a racist nor a nut but a sincere "man of God."
Wanniski said that he’d reached this judgment after watching 100 hours
of Farrakhan videotapes and having met with him several times. Lofton was flabbergasted.

Yes, right-of-center
politics has gotten interesting. Wanniski–the Reaganaut who was one of
the first to encourage flat-taxer Steve Forbes to run in 1996 and then served
this year as a tax-cut-adviser on Dan Quayle’s team–is now talking
up Farrakhan and informally advising Buchanan, who has struck an alliance with
African-American pseudo-Marxist Lenora Fulani (who has her own anti-Semitism
problem), who heads a wacky political cult that’s infiltrated the Reform

After Lofton
walked away, I asked Wanniski why he wasn’t in Forbes’ corner. After
all, supply-siders and flat-taxers inhabit similar turf in the conservative
cosmos. I could not have anticipated his answer: He told me his main beef is
that Forbes ignored Wanniski’s 1996 advice to put John Sears, Ronald Reagan’s
1980 campaign manager, in charge of his own effort and instead placed his campaign
in the hands of "white supremacists." Honestly: This former Reaganomics
guru talked about the Forbes crew as if they are no different from David Duke.
He then added that while most white people are benign white supremacists, Forbes’
handlers (now and in 1996) seem to be more prejudiced than your average whitey.
I never did get an explanation of why he believes this, but I wouldn’t
mind seeing the headline: "Buchanan Adviser Calls Forbes Campaign Racist."

A Buchanan Split
few days before the Buchanan event, The Washington Post gossip columnist Lloyd
Grove reported that several prominent Washingtonians would not be attending
the gathering. Perhaps that’s why Grove was cold-shouldered by Buchanan
at the event. Indeed, Buchanan failed to draw much of the media elite. John
McLaughlin showed and provided a supportive slap on the back. Brit Hume of Fox
News Channel was there. John Sununu, another former from-the-right host of Crossfire
(last noticed helping Quayle with his presidential campaign) paid his respects.
Editors of conservative magazines The American Spectator and Human Events were
in attendance, but I spotted no one from Bill Kristol’s Weekly Standard.
(Kristol had been enthusiastically bidding good-riddance to Buchanan for weeks.)

has caused something of a split in the conservative movement: The neo-neocons,
led by Kristol, want to drum him out of the right and their Republican
Party; the classic cons are more forgiving, even if they don’t support
Buchanan’s bolt from the GOP. Political opportunists, like George W. Bush
and the leadership of the Republican National Committee, begged him to stay,
not on principle but because they feared he might swipe votes from the Republican

most sympathetic ally of late, Pat Choate, was at the shindig, too. Choate’s
a pro-labor, anticorporatist policy wonk who ran for vice president with Ross
Perot in 1996 and has been Buchanan’s leading advocate within the Reform
Party. The two agree on opposing corporate-friendly trade pacts like NAFTA.
But liberal-minded old friends of Choate had confided to me that they can’t
understand his bonding with Buchanan, so I asked him how he could’ve saddled
up with a fellow who has uttered hateful and denigrating remarks about minorities,
AIDS sufferers and women. Choate tried to make sense of it for me. He said he’s
pro-choice and a supporter of gay rights–two standpoints Buchanan would
deem blasphemous–but that he was happy to work with both Buchanan and Fulani
because each agrees on the pressing need for "political reform." Only
if various ideologues join together, Choate asserts, will there be a chance
to threaten corporate-dominated politics-as-usual. Given that the Republican-controlled
Senate that day was once again torpedoing the most modest of campaign finance
reform measures, it was hard to argue with him, but, I noted, putting Buchanan
in charge was too high a price to pay for discomforting the Washington establishment.
"We’ll have to keep talking," Choate said with the smile of one
who believes he has found the answer.