Iowa Wrap with Patrick Buchanan
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MARGARET WARNER: How do you explain your strong showing last night?
PATRICK BUCHANAN, Republican Presidential Candidate: I think our message is resonating across this country. We have a new conservatism of the heart that speaks out not only to the innocent unborn but speaks out for working Americans whose jobs have been shipped overseas, and it speaks for the American middle class and their concerns about economic insecurity and economic stress, and we’re the only candidate that’s addressing that issues of jobs and economic insecurity. And I think that was it, and we had a wonderful organization, and we got devoted followers and supporters who work harder than anybody else, even though we don’t have as much money as anybody else.
MARGARET WARNER: You made your living as a television commentator, handicapping politicians and politics. Give me your quick assessment of the top, other top four finishers in Iowa, how they did as well or as poorly as they did and what it says about the prospects.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: All right. Sen. Dole only got 26 percent of the vote in a state where he is really a favorite son, 75 percent voted against him. I think that means the Republican Party wants someone other than Bob Dole, even though they respect him, admire him, and like him. I think the Dole candidacy for Republicans is like an arranged marriage. They really would prefer not to do it; they may have to. Steve Forbes, I think, really crippled his campaign with the extent and the remorselessness of his attack ads on everybody in the race. They were on every other minute, it seemed. Originally he came in as an outsider with three good issues which happened to have been my issues, and he sort of seized them, and said, I stand for these, and they were very popular. But when he turned to the remorseless attack ads all the way up to the last day, I think he hurt himself, and a lot of his votes, I think, went to Lamar Alexander. Lamar’s a good friend of mine. He’s a class act. He runs a class campaign. I think Lamar did well because a lot of the Forbes people went to him, but I think this–Lamar’s problem is that there is no agenda. There is not cutting edge there. There is, there is Lamar, who’s a nice, moderate man and a good friend of mine. I used to serve with him in Richard Nixon’s White House in our youth long, long ago. Phil Gramm is suffering from the fact that he and I were competing for the title of Mr. Conservative in the politics of 1996, and I defeated him in the first major battle in Alaska, and he came in fifth. And then we went down to his state, which is virtually home state of Louisiana in his backyard, and we worked it and worked it and worked it, and to the life of me, I don’t understand why he didn’t go down there. And we defeated him, and I think that hurt his campaign. What happened was the conservatives in Iowa said, well, there’s only one conservative now who can win, and so we came into Iowa with momentum. At the same time, people were being disgusted by these attack ads everyone was doing. We ran positive ads, and the conservatives started moving toward Pat Buchanan.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask about–
PATRICK BUCHANAN: That’s Bob Dole’s problem in New Hampshire.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you about the two legs of your conservative message, the first being the social or cultural conservative message. There are a lot of voters who are turned off by that message.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Right.
MARGARET WARNER: As much as you have fervent support, you also are a polarizing figure. If you really want to win the nomination, how can you–can you deal with that? How are you going to deal with the polarizing nature of the candidacy?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Margaret, we were out-spent by Mr. Dole maybe eight to one in Iowa, by Mr. Forbes thirteen to one at one television station, we saw. I’m in this campaign because I have ideas, convictions, and beliefs. We don’t have consultants, focus groups, pollsters. No one tells me what to say. I am firmly pro-life. I always have been. My supporters in United We Stand, they say, Pat, why don’t you not talk about that so often? My right- to -life folks say, Pat, I don’t think you’re right on trade. And I tell ‘em, look, this is what I believe, and these are the issues that I’ve decided upon, and you agree with me on so much, even if you disagree with me there, come on, this campaign’s wide open. You’re welcome. I know you disagree with me, but that’s where I stand, and I’m going to be faithful to all of my constituencies. You know, it’s something I learned from a President you covered and I worked for, and that’s Ronald Reagan. Say what you mean and mean what you say, and, and follow through, and do it with a smile.
MARGARET WARNER: But can you do that particularly on these social conservative issues and win actually a majority of your party? And if you look here in New Hampshire, a majority of even Republicans say they are pro-choice and–
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Margaret, we are a pro-life party. We elected 40 new pro-life Congressmen in 1994. Ronald Reagan wrote the pro-life platform plank in the Republican platform. He did fairly well twice. George Bush ran as a pro-life candidate in 1988. I believe that not only is pro-life the right position to take because it’s right, I think it’s politically right, and I think these Republicans who say, well, it looks like the polls are moving, let me start moving over there, I think as they move over, they cut their own throats, because people know they really are just, they’re just creatures of polls and creatures of trends and people are tired of that.
MARGARET WARNER: You have a very firm anti-free trade message. You’re talking about abolishing or getting out of GATT and NAFTA. Do you think that’s a selling message again to a majority of voters?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, I think–see, I think that’s–that is really a distortion of the message. I’m in favor of the, the free trade agreement with Canada. I would be in favor of free trade with the Europeans and I said Australia, even with Japan, if they were free traders. People that play hardball with us, you play hardball with them. Here’s what we need, Margaret. We need a free trade zone, if you will, among nations that have comparable wage levels and comparable regulations. But if you take, try to make a free trade agreement with Mexico, your factories will go down there and get labor which they can buy at 10 percent, no environmental rules, and none of these other rules, and all your factories and good-paying jobs will go down there. It is simple common sense. It is happening. We’ve now got a 1.7 trillion dollar total merchandise trade deficit in the last 15 years. My friends in Washington have got to wake up and smell the coffee. There are more Americans now working in government than in manufacturing. And we wanted America–I want America to be the greatest industrial and manufacturing nation on Earth, with the highest standard of living for our workers, and I want to make America the enterprise zone of the western industrial world. It is Reaganism plus the Founding Fathers equals Buchanan.
MARGARET WARNER: You just had a press conference that I just attended in which you said that you thought your party had become too arid. Arid was one of the adjectives you used. What did you mean by that?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Well, I mean, look, this was–I thought we had a great victory in ’94, and there’s got to be some romance and poetry in politics, and you’ve got to concern yourself with leading people, but in the last several months, all we hear about is, you know, balancing the budget in seven years with OMB or what’s that other group up there, numbers–
MARGARET WARNER: CBO.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: –CBO numbers, and I mean, that’s really something to march up the Hill for, isn’t it? I mean, look, Ronald Reagan made ours a party of the city on a hill. Ronald Reagan brought romance to politics. What Jack Kennedy did for the Democrats, Ronald Reagan did for the conservative movement. And people expect their leaders to really–to lead, and to show where we’re going and to describe it to ‘em. Instead, we’ve got, I mean, a lot of our guys are behaving, you know, like they’re accountants working on an audit, you know, of some company I’m not interested in, and they got to get out, and they got to address the people, and they got to communicate with ‘em in words people understand.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Let me go back to this electability issue one more time. A senior Dole person in the state said to me last night, this is just what we want, it’s a two-man race, and our opponent in this two-man race, Pat Buchanan, is a guy with a built-in ceiling.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: That’s what Phil Gramm said in Louisiana. That’s what they all said in Alaska. Listen, in the state of New Hampshire and in this race, I believe that not only can we win this nomination but Bob Dole would have far, far more difficulty beating Bill Clinton than I would. I’ll tell you why, two reasons: One, I can communicate and I can debate with Bill Clinton head-to-head, no problem. I think Bob will have a problem on that. Secondly, Bob cannot bring home the Perot voters. This is the missing element. They were driven off from 1989 to 1993, 19 million Americans, where do they stand, they oppose NAFTA, they oppose GATT, they oppose the Mexican bailout, they want campaign finance reform. Bob Dole is the antithesis of campaign finance reform.
MARGARET WARNER: They’re also–
PATRICK BUCHANAN: He was for NAFTA, GATT, and he was for, he was for the Mexican bailout.
MARGARET WARNER: They’re also pro-choice.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Many of them are pro-choice, but if you were at that Dallas convention, they know I’m pro-life. I mean, they lifted the roof off there a couple of feet.
MARGARET WARNER: One final thing about the week ahead. You benefited in good part, it seems to me, in previous weeks because you were not a target of the negative advertising by Steve Forbes. He did go after Alexander, Gramm, and Dole. Do you expect that special status to continue, or do you think he’s going to start attacking you?
PATRICK BUCHANAN: I think it’d be–he might start attacking me, but it would be a mistake. My vote is rock solid, and if he hammers me, they’re not going to leave me and go to him, because Steve Forbes is a social liberal. They’re not going over there, and so I think that would be a mistake, and also I think it would be a mistake from the second standpoint. Steve Forbes better stop attacking people, or he’s going to get less than 10 percent. I mean, people are a little bit tired of someone, you know, excuse me, but as I described it, a little rich kid throwing rocks at every car that comes down the street, and, uh, and I think he hurt himself, and he had a good message, and I don’t know why he did it. I know Steve Forbes. He’s a much nicer guy than the campaign he ran in Iowa.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thanks very much.
PATRICK BUCHANAN: Thank you.