THE BUCHANAN FACTOR
FEBRUARY 21, 1996
Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and "Wall Street Journal" columnist Paul Gigot discuss the divisions that Pat Buchanan's presidential candidacy has exposed in the Republican Party with Margaret Warner.
MARGARET WARNER: Welcome back. Mark, we just heard four Republicans trying to grapple with the divisions that Pat Buchanan's candidacy has exposed in the Republican Party. Do you think this year that the party can accommodate all those differences without some kind of serious rupture?
MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, I think the point Vin Weber made was a telling one, that that is that the party has become a more popular party, a bigger party, a more disparate party. It is, it is no longer a white Protestant, upper middle class, college-educated party, and with that comes divisions. I think it's going to be tougher to put it together because--for a very simple reason, Margaret, and that is that Pat Buchanan and his campaign has reached out to a group of cultural conservatives and religious conservatives and said, I will carry your banner. Prior to this time there's been a certain patting on the head, sort of a wink and a nudge and I'm with you and don't you worry, and I'll talk to you with a loud speaker on the pro-life march, but I don't show up myself, and they know--thousands of people who disagree with Pat Buchanan know one thing about him--he means what he says on this stuff. And I think that, I think that's become a real problem.
MARGARET WARNER: How serious do you think these divisions are?
PAUL GIGOT, Wall Street Journal: Well, the divisions, the divisions are real. And these fault lines exist. What the Buchanan candidacy has done is it's opened it much wider. There will be consequences. For example, I don't think that the abortion plank in the platform is going to be changed, flat out will not be changed.
MARK SHIELDS: Because of that.
PAUL GIGOT: Because of his candidacy.
MARGARET WARNER: Because of Buchanan.
PAUL GIGOT: Because of the strength that he's shown. I think that it will be much tougher if Bob Dole gets the nomination, for example, or Lamar Alexander gets the nomination to have somebody as the vice presidential nominee who is not pro-life, probably impossible, which probably damages Colin Powell's chances of being on the ticket, for example. So he is asserting the cause of the cultural conservatives, and that has consequences for November.
MARGARET WARNER: And how about on the economic issues, Mark? I mean, the trade, the protectionism of Pat Buchanan versus, you know, the historic free trade commitment, can that be papered over? Can that be accommodated?
MARK SHIELDS: No, it can't be papered over, Margaret. What Pat Buchanan does is he attacks a basic premise of the Republican economic approach. The Republican economic approach has been unfettered capitalism, uninhibited by government regulation, will lead to nirvana, will lead to joy, will lead to expanding and happy lives.
PAUL GIGOT: Or at least jobs.
MARK SHIELDS: And what Pat Buchanan argues, and shows the evidence that this isn't the case, that the ideological purity of that argument, this is the wonderful thing, that as it's become more uninhibited and unfettered capitalism, under 20 years of Republicans and a conservativizing of the Democrats, the income gap is growing, and people are being hurt, and that's what Pat Buchanan is addressing. I don't think it's trade versus non-trade nearly as much as is there is a role, is there some sort of greater public--in a way, his message is putting people first, I mean, as opposed to profits.
MARGARET WARNER: But, Paul, as what Ann Stone and Vin Weber pointed out, it's one thing that Pat Buchanan is identifying this, this symptom, this middle class anxiety, but his solutions are very different from traditional Republican solutions. I mean, is there any way that say Dole and Alexander can coopt that, the message, but come up with a solution that somehow is more in keeping with the traditional Republican view?
PAUL GIGOT: Sure, there is. The way not to do it is to do what Buchanan is doing, which is a kind of Robert Reichian, the labor secretary, and a Bill Clinton Democratic analysis, blaming corporations, making regular business decisions to keep them profitable for what's going on. The Clinton remedies, the path for the Republicans, I think, to take is to go back to the solutions of growth and opportunity, the Jack Kemp/Ronald Reagan agenda of unleashing opportunity, reducing taxes, and also pointing out that in the first three years of the Clinton administration, their policies haven't done anything for the wage gap either. Dick Armey, for example, the House Majority leader, is going to come out next week probably and talk about the Clinton crunch, say that Bill Clinton got your raise.
MARGARET WARNER: But do you think that the voters that Pat Buchanan is speaking to are going to respond to that kind of argument?
MARK SHIELDS: No, and, and I think the mistake--I think the mistake that's made is that Americans are basically pragmatic; they are not ideological people, and Americans hate government, they think it's awful, think it's a pain in the neck. But when they're told that one can of tuna fish has been outside of Pocatello, Idaho, with a trace of botulism in it, they want the federal government involved. And there's a sense right now that they want something done about this. You want to see the real impact of Pat Buchanan's candidacy--
MARGARET WARNER: The "Newsweek" cover.
MARK SHIELDS: --the "Newsweek" cover, not "Time," what Pat Buchanan was on, but on "Newsweek," where they got corporate killers, where the CEO's are being held accountable for the layoffs with record profits, that's going to be part of the political--it is part of the political dialogue.
PAUL GIGOT: There's no way in the world that Bob Dole can get the nomination and win the election against Bill Clinton running as Pat Buchanan-like. I mean, the--or bashing corporations--I mean, he does not come off as--somebody who flies around in an Archer-Daniels-Midland's jet does not come off as somebody who will bash Archer-Daniels-Midland, and the, the thing Mark is right about is that the danger for the Republican Party is that Pat Buchanan's diagnosis is shared by the left wing of the Democratic Party, and that can be big trouble for Republicans if they feel that they need to accommodate it. They need to meet it head on. The only thing that can beat redistribution and soak the rich is growth. It's opportunity. And those to paradigms have fought each other, and if the Republicans slide over and agree to that view of the world, they're going to get walloped.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Let's talk about this Republican establishment. Buchanan is out there saying we've got the establishment on the run, the establishment is out to get me, they're sending their faxes all over Washington. Who is this Republican establishment, Mark, and is there anything it can do to stop Buchanan?
MARK SHIELDS: Second part first is sure, there are things they can do. They cannot stop him politically.
MARGARET WARNER: Wait. Who are they?
MARK SHIELDS: They can drop a dime on him. They can put stories out on him; they can do all that sort of stuff and trying to get--trying to attack him personally. Who are they? They're K Street and they're Wall Street essentially, and the problem is, is this big overlap between the two parties, between K Street and Wall Street. K Street is the lobbyists' canyon here in Washington, D.C.. They're people who are wired, who are very close to policy that affects their industry, their, their particular interest, but, Margaret, in 1964, when governors controlled delegations to conventions, they tried to stop Barry Goldwater; in 1972, when governors overwhelmingly endorsed Ed Muskie, they tried to stop George McGovern. If somebody wins primaries and defeats his principal opponents, there's no way he or she can be deprived of the nomination.
PAUL GIGOT: Who is the establishment? I mean, I'd like to know. I mean, the parties--the two parties now are almost shells, shells of elected officials and fund-raisers. What the Republican establishment, if you will, can do, and it includes an awful lot of people like Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey, I think, No. 1, they could say a Pat Buchanan presidential nomination, he would be our George McGovern; he would cost us control of the House and the Senate and it's too great a risk. I don't think this, this habit of calling him an extremist works at all. That is exactly what was said about Ronald Reagan. It is exactly what was said about Barry Goldwater. It almost never works. It's what Bill Clinton is saying about the Republicans in general. It's not going to work. And so you've got to take him on under your shoes. You've got to say he would cost us Congress and then I suppose if it really gets bad toward the end you have to prevail on one of the two candidates or Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, or Bob Dole, whoever is trailing, get out of the race, so it can be head-to-head.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think that's going on even right now, that Haley Barbour, the chairman of the RNC, is trying to send signals, or someone is, to Dick Lugar or Steve Forbes to--
MARK SHIELDS: Right.
MARGARET WARNER: --get out?
MARK SHIELDS: I assume that people are calling Dick Lugar. I mean, right now, you have to concludes that the Senate has become a graveyard for presidential ambition. When you look at the roster up there, people who have tried to run for president as recently as Arlen Specter and Phil Gramm, but back to Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden, I mean, it's not a place to run for. And the anti-Washington fervor and passion is still very strong. Sure, Haley Barbour would like to but you're not going to talk somebody--Lamar Alexander has staked his life on this. This is all he's been doing. This is Bob Dole's last chance. You're going to walk up to him and say, hey, Bob, why don't you step aside? Come on, that's not going to happen.
PAUL GIGOT: Lamar Alexander has at least a couple of good weeks, another few shots at it. Now if he loses three, four, five in a row, then he's--then it becomes a different story. He won't have any money anyway, so they won't have to tell him to get out.
MARGARET WARNER: Quickly, before we leave, three of the four guests talking to Jim said Pat Buchanan is too extreme for the mainstream of the party and he can't get the nomination. Do you agree?
MARK SHIELDS: I recall four saying that about George McGovern in '72. I remember saying Republicans were saying it about Ronald Reagan in 1976, that he was too extreme. I think that if he wins, he's going to win it. If they can keep Alexander and Dole in, he could very well have a string of victories.
PAUL GIGOT: I agree with Mark on the three-man race and one other point, if Bob Dole and Lamar Alexander continue to run what I think are largely tactical, passionless, idea-less campaigns, maybe Pat Buchanan can beat 'em one on one because an idea beats a non-idea every time.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, guys, very much. Leave it there.