How Long Can Americans Stand Pat?
By Arianna Huffington
September 23, 1999
Pat Buchanan's threat to pack up his bile and make a run for the Reform Party's nomination is good news for the GOP, which should be all too happy to rid itself of his divisive demagoguery. And it's good news for the Democrats, who believe he'll siphon off conservative support from George W. Bush. But it's simply awful news for me -- and for everyone who believes that our present political system needs shaking up.
Just as our ossified two-party system is showing unmistakable signs of exhaustion, and the public's suppressed discontent is ready to be tapped, a disaster in reform's clothing stands poised to take advantage. Like the townsfolk in an old Western, the millions who feel shut out of our "unprecedented prosperity" may thrill at the sight of the masked man riding to their rescue -- until it turns out that he isn't the Lone Ranger but a racist punslinger bent on turning the townsfolk against one another.
There is something uniquely depressing about hearing a message you approve of delivered by someone you abhor. There was Buchanan on "Meet the Press," telling America that "what we have is a one-party system in Washington, D.C., that is masquerading as a two-party system. And I think what we need is a real opposition party, a party that can become a second party and maybe a first party." Now we desperately need more than two corporate parties -- one pro-life and one pro-choice -- but to hear it from Pat Buchanan makes the status-quo stolidity of Bush and Al Gore seem downright reassuring.
The two-party system, incidentally, seemed just fine with Pat, as long as he thought he might lead one of them. Nevertheless, the reformer who gives change a bad name would at this point be the favorite to win the Reform Party nomination. "He would bring an organization to bear on what is fundamentally a disorganized political party," Bill Hillsman, Jesse Ventura's media man, told me. "Right now the party is ripe for a hostile takeover, and Buchanan is certainly a hostile enough guy to pull it off."
This past week our television screens have been filled with Buchanan's loony theories about World War II. "Had Britain and France not given the war guarantees to Poland," Buchanan argues in his new book, "A Republic, Not an Empire," "there might have been no Dunkirk, no blitz, no Vichy, no destruction of the Jewish populations of Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France or even Italy." On what does he base this view that Hitler was appeasable? Well, on the writings of Hitler. On "Face the Nation," Buchanan's defense of the indefensible began with, "If you read a lot of Hitler ...." Read a lot of Hitler? Like we're supposed to explain the deeds of a madman by the writings of the madman?
If they ever decide to remake Mel Brooks' "The Producers," Buchanan would be perfect casting for the role of the Fuehrer-loving playwright: "Hitler was better looking than Churchill ... a better dresser than Churchill, he had more hair, he told funnier jokes, and he could dance the pants off Churchill!"
But if Hitler was not bad enough for America, how can we trust Pat on what's good for America? Thanks to his gift of gab and his gift of a contract on a 24-hour news network, though, Buchanan seems domesticated -- more like an exotic pet than a viper. His way of slithering out of trouble is to claim that his ravings were made tongue in cheek. So it was when confronted with a column he had written last November: "Non-Jewish whites -- 75 percent of the U.S. population -- get just 25 percent of the slots .... Now we know who really gets the shaft at Harvard -- white Christians." That's tongue in cheek? Another Buchanan ploy to slough off his racist statements is to call them, with a chuckle, his "golden oldies" -- as if racist views can be dismissed as youthful indiscretions: "Cut me some slack, I haven't disputed the Holocaust since I was 28!"
Amazingly, thanks to what has been called the "green-room effect," Buchanan's friends in the media remain beguiled by his impish charm. From the Wall Street Journal to the Village Voice, he's been described as "marvelous and witty," "very engaging," "warm and self-deprecating," "a bon vivant" and "very likable." You wonder if Pat's pundit pals would give his fellow anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan such sweet write-ups if only he had a better way with chat-show repartee.It's time to stop making allowances for Pat Buchanan. Anyone who yearns for a healthy democracy and wants to part the seas of the two-party system must do everything possible -- speak up, protest and, above all, seek alternatives -- to ensure that Buchanan is not the Reform Party's nominee, dragging his loathsome views into the mainstream of presidential politics.
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