Ever since I first saw him on The McLaughlin Report, I’ve never liked Pat Buchanan. He just struck me wrong, and that feeling has never gone away. But after his little reminiscence about World War II kicking around today, and hearing him shill his latest book on a talk show, I finally decided to give it a thorough think-through.
Buchanan’s critics (and they are legion) accuse him of being an isolationist, a Nazi apologist, a fascist, and an anti-Semite, just to hit on a few of the big things. They say that he takes Conservative ideas and principles to the extremes, that he’s too radical.
I don’t think those accusations are true. I don’t think that Buchanan is an isolationist, a Nazi apologist, a fascist and an anti-Semite. And that’s aggravates the hell out of me.
Buchanan is a brilliant man. He has perfected his technique over the years of racing headlong towards the extreme, to the point where he can be freely called a whacko, and then he slams on the brakes and stops JUST short of crossing the line. Like the best test pilots, he flirts with the edge of the envelope, but always pulls back just short of disaster.
In the meantime, though, he captures the imagination of those who live over those cliffs. The real isolationists, the real neo-Nazis, the real fascists, the real anti-Semites see him racing towards them and when the doesn’t quite cross the line, they tell themselves that he would if he dared truly speak his mind and go against the Powers That Be.
I’ve experienced this first-hand. In 1992, when Buchanan was running for president, I met with a few of his supporters, and had a bit of a disagreement with them. The discussion ended up with one of the other guys offering to settle the matter by tossing me through a plate-glass window.
Others have pointed out Buchanan’s history. His constant stream of criticisms of Israel, while pointedly avoiding mentioning the wrongdoings of her enemies. He’s hard on crime and tough on criminals, unless those accused criminals are facing charges of being Nazi war criminals. And now he re-examines the causes and results of World War II and questions whether it was really worth fighting Nazi Germany.
I’m almost jealous of that piece. It’s as cold and calculating piece of reasoning, looking at objective facts and results, and his conclusions are difficult to easily refute.
Like I said, Buchanan is brilliant. And it disgusts me that he uses that amazing intellect of his and uses it in such appalling ways. He could be a truly great thinker, an inspiring leader, and instead he panders to the lowest common denominator of the far right. He gives voice to those who really have nothing to contribute to the common discourse, egging them on and encouraging them.
He reminds me of a few people on the left side of the political spectrum who also have cultivated reputations as bomb-throwers. At least we can say that we’ve never elected Buchanan as Democratic National Chairman.