|ONE-ON-ONE: PATRICK BUCHANAN|
October 28, 1999
Patrick Buchanan, the former longtime Republican Party loyalist, discusses his decision to become a Reform Party presidential candidate, his qualifications to be president, and criticism he has received.
JIM LEHRER: Now, the third in our series of interviews with presidential candidates. Tonight's is with Pat Buchanan, the former Republican speech writer and commentator. On Monday he left the Republican Party, announcing his candidacy for the Reform Party nomination. He's 60 years old, a graduate of Georgetown University and the Columbia School of Journalism. He worked at the St. Louis Globe-Democrat before joining Richard Nixon's law office. He served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. He first ran for the presidency, as a Republican, in 1992 and again in 1996. Mr. Buchanan, welcome.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Thank you, Jim
JIM LEHRER: How would you assess the reaction you've received since your announcement on Monday?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I think the reaction has really been outstanding. I am astonished at the enthusiasm we got in New Hampshire. In Michigan, we had a crowd of 500 packed into a small auditorium. Last night, I was down in South Carolina and we signed books for two hours. I just signed books for two-and-a-half hours up here in Minnesota. Jim, I think there's been an explosion of interest and enthusiasm for the idea that there's going to be a third choice in the election of 2000.
JIM LEHRER: What about the Reform party? What is the Reform party to you? What does it stand for? What is it?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: What it stands for basically, Jim, I think is fundamentally, it is economic patriotism, a foreign policy that keeps America out of wars that are none of our business. It stands for restoring the full sovereignty and independence of the United States and on issues that are of concern to me -- social and cultural conservatism and right to the life -- it does not take a stand, and it includes people of all parties basically no matter their views on those as long as they stand basically for the Reform Party agenda. I forgot to mention obviously, political reform, campaign finance reform, opening up the system to other people and other parties.
|The Reform Party's money|
JIM LEHRER: Would you have joined this race for the Reform Party nomination if it had not had the $12 million in federal matching funds for its nominee?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I think I would, Jim. Certainly, it would be difficult without the $12 million. But nobody can win an election with $12 million when the other parties have $65 to $70 given to them by the government -- and they have enough piles of money in addition to that. One of the reasons is, Jim, if you want to be president of the United States, at one point, 19 percent of the American people voted for the Reform party. They are comfortable with the Reform party.
JIM LEHRER: And voted for Ross Perot?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Excuse me. You're right. In voting in Ross Perot in 1992. They accept the idea, I think, of a Reform party today as a legitimate third party, which gives you at least access to those debates.
JIM LEHRER: As you said, the Reform party has taken no position on social and cultural policies. Let me quote what you said when you announced your candidacy for the Republican nomination in March. "As long as Pat Buchanan is fighting in the arena, there will be at least one major political party in America that dares without apology to stand up for the rights of the unborn." Will that party now be the Reform party?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: If Pat Buchanan is the nominee of the Reform party, Jim, the Reform party nominee will be the most committed, dedicated pro-life candidate in the presidential election of 2000.
JIM LEHRER: And will you insist that the Reform party, as a party, adopt your positions on matters like right-to-life?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: No. In 1996, Jim, we wrote basically the Reagan plank back into the Republican platform over the objections of some national Republicans. We kept the Republican party pro-life and its platform pro-life as I had pledged to do. No sooner had we done that than the Republican ticket announced that it had not read the platform and party leaders said, "We are not bound by it." At that point, I decided it was futile, simply to write platforms when individuals did not feel bound by them. What we needed was a candidate and president who was dedicated to these beliefs and who would carry them with him in his heart and into the Oval Office. And I believe I am that man. I think those who trust in me believe in me, that no matter what ticket I ran on, if I became president, I would be true and faithful to all the commitments I've made including a new Supreme Court which would overturn Roe v. Wade.
JIM LEHRER: But you're not going to insist that in order to be members of the party and support you, you have to also accept your social policy positions.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: No. I didn't even insist on that in the Republican Party. As you know, there are many individuals in the Republican party who are -- or were -- pro-choice on abortion or some of them very strongly pro-abortion. I never called for the expulsion of anyone from the Republican Party.
|Less support than 1996|
JIM LEHRER: You said you've had a good response since your announcement on Monday.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Right.
JIM LEHRER: How do you account for the fact that there has been less support for you this time than there was in 1996? At least as a result of the polls and what polling had been done within the Republican Party, which caused you to go into the Reform party in the first place, what's happened?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, in New Hampshire, I was doing very well. I won the straw poll up there on July 4 three-to-one over everybody else and defeated the other conservative candidates. I was running second or third in New Hampshire when I started dropping out of the race. In Ames, Iowa, I got the greatest reception of any of the candidates there based on my ideas and my ability to communicate those ideas. Now, why didn't we come in third as I had in '96? And why did we come two slots behind that? Basically, the first reason, Jim, is money. I can beat Mr. Forbes, I believe, hands down. I beat him in 46 states in 1996. I can't beat him if he's going to put $100 million into the race and pay $1000 a vote in an Ames straw poll. I can't do that.
Secondly, a lot of candidates saw how well I did in '96, so they got into the race A friend of mine told me that Lamar never left New Hampshire after '96 and some of these fellows were in there for three years, and they organized and organized and beat me by some votes in the straw poll. I decided that the conservative base, that was primarily a strong Buchanan base, was being carved up six ways. At the same time, you had Mr. Bush, who is raking in $37 million in a couple months, and Mr. Forbes with $100 million. I could not tell our folks that I could win that nomination against those kinds of insurmountable odds when the whole party began to rearrange the primaries and pour in that kind of money. It is a fixed system, Jim. I think I could have beaten Dole head-to-head. If I would have had half the money he had, I would have beaten him. I can't go up against $100 million opponent -- or two in a primary -- and expect to beat him.
JIM LEHRER: What do you say to those who say that you are, because of the fact that you have been on television and that you have been in the public eye for many years that, you had a lot of "free media going for you" and that the better known you became and the better known your views became, the lower you went with the voters?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, what I would say is this: The views, let's take the views that Pat Buchanan represents that are different than Mr. Bush and Gore. On NAFTA and GATT, the country agrees with me, not with them. On controlling illegal immigration cold, and cutting back on legal immigration, 75 percent want to cut back on legal immigration. Ninety-five to 100 percent want to end illegal immigration. They agree with me there. On China, a majority agreed that our policy is too soft toward China. Mr. Bush would make more concessions. If you take those issues, the war on Kosovo... I don't think the American people wanted that war. Bush did, McCain did, Mr. Clinton did, Mr. Gore did. If you take those issues, I'm in a majority position. That's why those Republicans came out of their chairs cheering and I got ovations, unlike any Mr. Bush got or Mr. Forbes got. Because I can articulate those positions. But Jim, you cannot put together a nationwide campaign with -- against two folks with $100 million when you're barely making it raising money.
JIM LEHRER: New York Times editorial page sees it quite differently. On Tuesday, it said "your," -- meaning you, Pat Buchanan -- "warlike oratory draws fringe voters and surrounds his candidacy with a persistent whiff of racism and anti-Semitism." Is that a fair statement?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: That is recycled garbage from the New York Times. And to say that about the three million people that supported me -- most of them $15,000 to $30,000 incomes in 1992 and 1996 when I ran against the president of the United States, and I ran against the leader and established candidate to the Republican party, to call these good grass roots populist conservatives -- to say they're animated by racism and hatred of any kind of people, I think, is wrong. There's a sense of elitism in Washington and New York which suggests that any populous candidate has got to be smeared because he somehow threatens the hegemony of the establishment. It happened to Ronald Reagan. It happened to a man who helped bring me into politics, Barry Goldwater. He was called a fascist. He was called every name you could think of. There were ads run against him by psychiatrists saying he was insane simply because he stood up for his country.
|The charges of anti-Semitism|
PATRICK BUCHANAN: All right let me ask you. Name one single racist statement I've made.
JIM LEHRER: I'm asking you. If you have looked at yours
PATRICK BUCHANAN: You cannot throw out nonsense like that without making a statement. Let me tell you why. With regard to the charge of anti-Semitism. I defended the nuns at the convent in Auschwitz which was very controversial. I defended Pope Pious XII.. I think he is a saintly man, saved 800,000 Jewish folks in World War II, according to a Holocaust historian. He was praised by Golda Meier at his death. The world Jewish congress gave a million dollars to the Pope at the end of World War II in gratitude to him.
All these things were known about him from 1939 to 1959. Now he's called anti-Semitic. Now he's called Hitler's Pope. Pope Pious XII hadn't changed. Attitudes of people have changed. In my view, I am attacked because I defend traditional values of Catholicism. I defend people who are falsely accused, one almost to the point to being hanged in Jerusalem as a Nazi war criminal who was innocent. I think because I have succeeded and because I will speak up for my faith when it's attacked, and I will criticize the Israeli lobby when others will not, people will attack me and use these smears to silence me. And they have not succeeded, Jim. And the reason they haven't succeeded -- because the people that know me in Washington and the people know me in America from the thousands of appearances you describe, know that in Pat Buchanan's heart there isn't a trace of that. That what there is, is a man of convictions who fights for those beliefs and convictions against anybody.
JIM LEHRER: Your conscience is completely clear on these issues?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: My conscience is as clear as can be. Moreover, I don't owe anyone an apology. I believe I am owed an apology by people who attempt to silence me or get my columns killed, or get me off television, or get me out of speaking engagements or use the vilest terms you can think of against me. Go find the record of Pat Buchanan. He doesn't run around calling people communists, fascist or terms like that. I am called those names.
JIM LEHRER: Speaking of qualifications and your record, what would you list as your qualifications to be president of the United States?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I have a greater -- I think, a vision more in tune with America, where America is going than any of my potential rivals. I believe many of them are caught in a Cold-War mindset. I think some of them are looking upon America as the next great empire of some kind. I think what the American people want is to restore a Constitutional republic in this country. They don't want to lose their nation in some global economy or New World order. And I think because I represent that, I think that's why they respond to me as passionately as they do. And I think it's the reason why we've got a fighting chance to be the next president of the United States.
JIM LEHRER: But your views aside, your qualifications to run the government -- to actually administer all of the things that have to be administered, et cetera?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: All right. They would be these. Let's take Mr. Bush .
JIM LEHRER: I'm talking about you.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: He has had has four years as governor. It's a fairly weak job. I commanded the largest staff in the entire White House, far larger than any other Senatorial or Congressional office. I've been to four summits. I wrote presidential speeches as long ago as 30 years. In addition to that, I've authored five books, including a New York Times bestseller. I've written syndicated columns in 200 papers. I've gotten three ACE awards for television appearances. I don't think there is anyone almost in national politics who has my varied background and extent of experience and knowledge of the issues. I mean, I not only delivered speeches at national conventions, I've written them for presidents at national conventions. Who, Jim, in American politics has that much experience? You know, I came into politics and national notice probably at the same time as Governor Bush's father came to national notice. I've been here many, many years, almost 40 years. And it's hard for me to think of any other candidate who can rival that experience. But the test would be, let Pat Buchanan in the debates with Al Gore and with Mr. Bush. Take away all the notes. Take away the podium, the lecterns. Put up three naked microphones and let them debate for ninety minutes four times and let the American people decide, and I will be the next president of the United States.
JIM LEHRER: Pat Buchanan, thank you very much.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Thank you, Jim.