September 12, 2000
Patrick Buchanan, one of two Reform Party candidates, discusses his conservative ideology and the split within his party.
GWEN IFILL: Patrick Buchanan, along with John Hagelin, is staking claim to the Reform Party's presidential nomination. Five weeks ago, both men were nominated by competing conventions in Long Beach, California, leaving it up to the states -- and possibly the courts -- to decide on the true nominee. This is Buchanan's third run for president. He was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996. He won the New Hampshire primary in 1996. He served as an advisor to Presidents Nixon and Ford, and as the White House director of communications for President Reagan. Patrick Buchanan was born in Washington, DC. He is 62 years old. He holds a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. Best known as a television commentator, he has written five books, including two bestsellers, Right from the Beginning, and A Republic, Not an Empire.
Patrick Buchanan, welcome.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: And he's only 61.
GWEN IFILL: And he's only 61 going to give you that extra year
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I'll be 62 in a couple months.
GWEN IFILL: We'll wish you happy birthday when it comes.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: All right.
GWEN IFILL: You've been in the hospital on and off for the last month, how are you feeling?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I feel very well now. I'm sort of coming back and building up the energy and stamina and strength. We're not fully back yet, but we have very good doctors and we're on our way.
|An FEC victory|
GWEN IFILL: Today the Federal Election Commission gave you $12 million, or at least said you deserve the right to the state claim of $12 million due to the Reform Party. What would you like to do with that money, and do you think you can hold on it to since John Hagelin has already said he'll challenge you for it?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, the good thing about today is the Federal Election Committee confirmed I am the nominee of the Reform Party, and Mr. Hagelin's claim was rejected 6-0. Actually, the Hagelin claim is a bit of a hoax. It is designed more than anything else... they don't expect to get the money. It is designed to derail and destroy our campaign so that we really cannot lead this party into the election. I think it's basically a sabotage effort, and I frankly think it's funded by Ross Perot. But we have won that battle, and I believe we'll get the money on Thursday. Clearly, Gwen, we have lost one-third of the campaign, four of the twelve weeks, partly because of the health situation, partly because of lack of money.
What I have to do is basically what I've done today, is go all out on national media, radio and television to make the case that we offer the American people something different, use that $12.7 (million) as a megaphone to get our message through national radio, a couple million dollars, and probably through local television -- you can't buy much national television -- and try to get ourselves up in the polls to where we can get in the debates. If I can get in the debates and stand alongside George Bush and Al Gore, I think the American people will see they have a different candidate and a different party who offers America something different. And many people feel something very good.
GWEN IFILL: You have had more time on your hands since you intended since your convention in August. Have you been watching the two big guys in this race, Gore and Bush, and do you have any thoughts on the sidelines about what that looks like?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, yes, it's quite clear that - and I don't want to get into my McLaughlin Group mode, if you will, but it's quite clear the Vice President, despite what a lot of pundits said, had a very good convention. The Lieberman choice was very helpful. He appears much more confident. I think he's knocked down a lot of the negatives, people basically feeling they didn't want him. And I think Mr. Bush has had a very rocky three or four weeks.
But the Bush problem is fundamental. It is this: the Republican Party of Philadelphia fundamentally has abandoned its small government, low tax, non-interventionist, and it's become a Clinton Party in the sense that it embraces Clinton's politics of triangulation, tries to use his politics and policies while it condemns Mr. Clinton's personal misconduct. That's not enough.
I think the Republicans found Mr. Bush is in a bidding war. According to the conservative Washington Times, he's offered $570 million in new programs and entitlements. He's not going to cut a single agency or department.
So there's a vacuum here, Gwen. And we hope to fill it. There is no real conservative party in Washington, DC, left. We have two big government party, both beholden to big money, both of them whose trade policies with China, for example, is dictated by the people who pay their room, board and tuition, which is the lobbyists and the big corporations.
GWEN IFILL: You have said that it is critical for you to survive this election that you be in the debates. You're clocking in at about 1% of the polls; in order to meet the Commission standards, you have to be at about 15%. How does that look right now?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, the Commission, actually that was fakery. What happened was there was a 5% threshold. The only threshold to get in the debates was you be a recognized national party and funded by tax dollars. And we're one of three. When I got into the race, they said, oh, no. And so the Commission said we want to set a 15% threshold. I think we might have been able to reach that if I had had four weeks of campaigning and four weeks to spend money. I don't think we can reach that in two weeks, quite frankly. So we are in court. We hope the court will decide.
But Gwen, look, this is a fundamental question of American democracy. In Mexico, they had three candidates even in the final debate, although the third had almost lost it completely. If Mexico can hear three different arguments, and America's got three recognized national parties, why can't the American people hear Pat Buchanan when they're the ones paying for our campaign and we have promised them we will take our case to the country? Why can't they hear it?
|Building a "small government" party|
|GWEN IFILL: They have
been hearing Pat Buchanan over the last several elections as a Republican.
This time they hear you as a standard bearer, probably, for the Reform
Party. What does the Reform Party stand for?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: We stand for a foreign policy that brings American troops home from foreign wars that are none of our business; that opposes wars like Kosovo, where America destroys countries that did not attack us. We believe in protecting and defending America's borders, if it means putting troops on our borders. We believe in cutting back immigration along the lines of the Barbara Jordan Commission to about 300,000 folks, rather than a million a year so we can all come together. We believe in shutting down some departments in Washington, DC, just as we sent welfare to the states.
I disagree with George Bush. Send primary and secondary education back to the states, back to Texas, back to Minnesota, back to Wisconsin. Send all the money back there. Let them decide whether they want vouchers, whether they want a different policy in Greenwich Village, what they want in Kansas, what we have in Virginia -- just like we did in welfare. It worked. Decentralize government. We need one small government party in America and the Reform Party is now the only one.
GWEN IFILL: We watched the Reform Party basically, it looked like it was imploding in Long Beach about a month ago. What is the future of the party now?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Look, if we get rid of these malcontents, and there's only a handful of them, but I will say they're very energized. I was being interviewed by BusinessWeek yesterday at home, and somebody rang the bell. I said, Shelly, can you get the door. And she was somewhere - "I'll get it." I went to the door, and it was another subpoena - (laughing) - from the same suspects. And it was about that thick, you know. So I said, send this to the headquarters.
But, look, they are malcontents. They simply want to sabotage the party. I intend to give the rest of my life... if we do well and if we have a good campaign, I'm going to give the rest of my life to build this party. And let me say this, Gwen: I know we're at 1% or whatever. There is a vacatoin in American politics. No party today stands for an "America First" foreign policy. No party says, "leave Microsoft alone; that's an American asset." If you want to smash a cartel, criminal cartel, break up OPEC. They're gouging American consumers. They're bringing Europe to its knees! That is a criminal conspiracy, a price-fixing conspiracy, which if it met in America, we would arrest the whole lot of them. Why isn't Clinton fighting against the OPEC cartel instead of Bill Gates? What has Gates done to me? He tried to sneak me a free browser; that's the only thing he's done.
|Vice presidential candidate Ezola Foster|
GWEN IFILL: You have a running mate, Ezola Foster.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: She's a great lady, a great lady.
GWEN IFILL: Among other things about her is that she is former member of the John Birch Society and we know that she claimed a disability for a mental illness that she now says she never had as a schoolteacher. What does your selection of her tell us about you?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, you know, let me tell you why I chose Ezola Foster. She's a black lady born in Louisiana in the segregated South, went to those schools; went down into Watts, taught for 29 years. She's a teacher. She stands up for traditional values and beliefs and has been abused and called every name you can think of. She's shown rare courage there. She stayed with me in '92. She stayed with me in '96. I went with Reform, and she says, I'm going with Pat Buchanan because I believe in him.
And I believe on these issues, cultural, moral, social issues which are vitally important. She is as pro-life as she can be, and she's got moral courage, and she's strong on education, and she believes black folks should be taught they can succeed from the time they're two years old and stop blaming things on somebody else. She has the right values. Okay, on foreign policy...
GWEN IFILL: Is she equipped to be...
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I've said, look, if I get the presidency of the United States, let me say this: George W. Bush is being home schooled by Condoleezza Rice right now on foreign policy. Okay? And Miss Ezola Foster, if I'm elected president, from day one she will be surrounded by people who will be talking foreign policy with her. That's an area no doubt where it's not her strong suit. It's not George's strong suit either.
|Fighting internal battles|
GWEN IFILL: You've talked about the fakeries involved with getting into the debate and the problems involved with John Hagelin's claim to the party. Do you find you're spending more of your campaign time fighting internal battles than fighting what you imagined you'd be doing, which is being the third party candidate?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, very good point, Gwen. I didn't think I'd be sitting in the hospital watching Gwen at 8 o'clock hosting this and watching all these TV shows. No doubt, but that is the objective of our opposition. They don't have an agenda. They don't have a cause. They don't have a candidate. They don't have a dream for America. We do. They just want to sabotage us.
So this is why we believe it is so important that the FEC finalize that decision on Thursday, give us that money, and let us get out there and get in a national debate over how we should deal with OPEC, what we should do about immigration, what kind of Supreme Court should we have? I believe we ought to have pro-life constitutionalists and conservatives who respect the religious tradition of this country and no liberal judicial activist need apply. Mr. Gore disagrees. Mr. Bush, "I don't have any litmus test." There's something we ought to talk about -- a future Supreme Court -- not some character filing suit against me in some state.
GWEN IFILL: You said this morning in the... In an interview in the New York Times, I assume you were joking, vote Lazarus. That leaves the impression that you think people should be voting to bring you back from the dead.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, I was talking about my physical condition, and as well as my political situation partly because of it. And I was talking to Frank Clines from the New York Times. He said, what's your message? So I said, "Vote Lazarus." Well, maybe that's it. This is Campaign Lazarus. We're coming back.
GWEN IFILL: You're coming back. What will it take between now and November for you to win?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: What it will take is for us to get into the debates and for us basically to get into the much larger national debate so that people say, look, there's another voice out there and another point of view. And what we have over here is rather boring; everybody would agree. We have something different and somebody who offers a new direction for America, so that I think if we can get the kind of momentum I got rolling in 92, when I came off a talk shows to challenge George Bush in New Hampshire, and we certainly got it in '96, it's tough to do in eight weeks. And, I agree, I thought if we could do it better in 12. But we just will do the very best we can to give the people that nominated me the kind of battle they deserve. And, the Lord willing, and the health holding out, we can do that.
GWEN IFILL: And voters are just waiting for you, the Pat Buchanan voters, who are always out there alone, you don't think they've fallen off along the road with all of the confusion?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Some have, but they're going to say one of these days, "Pat's back." If we can get... look, I know this country. And I know McCain ignited it in a matter of weeks. We did in '92 and '96. If you can get that kind of thing going in a matter of weeks and the crowds start coming out, then the press says, look, he's coming up in the polls, he's the margin of error, they all come in. It can get going again. I think the country wants an exciting campaign. They want more than what we've got now.
GWEN IFILL: Patrick Buchanan, thank you very much for joining us.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Thank you very much, Gwen. Good to see you again.
GWEN IFILL: Good to see you too.