Pat Buchanan is a controversial figure in American politics. As a former aide to Richard Nixon and press secretary to Ronald Reagan, he has impeccable establishment credentials. Yet he's raised hackles in contemporary conservative circles by opposing free trade, offshore outsourcing, open borders, and the Iraq War. In fact, he even opposed the first Gulf War (1990), making him one of the few prominent Americans to back Pope John Paul II's position on that conflict. An outspoken Catholic, Buchanan has strongly reiterated the Church's traditional "just war" teaching against those in the "neoconservative" Catholic camp—such as Michael Novak—who've argued that just war theory should be revised to include pre-emptive warfare in an age of terrorism. He talked to Godspy about the recent election, Catholic voters, and other topics:
GODSPY: Despite your opposition to the war, in the end you . In some sense, you must be happy with the result. What's the Buchanan perspective on the meaning of the 2004 elections?
PAT BUCHANAN: I was for Bush because the people who support him largely share my views and values and those who backed Kerry did not. There is a hope that Bush will appoint justices who may overturn Roe v Wade and ring down the curtain on our 50-year social revolution. Kerry would have given us more Ruth Bader Ginsbergs. As for what the country was saying, it said, "We trust President Bush on terror, taxes and values, and, though we may think America is headed the wrong way, Kerry is not the man to set it right."
The Catholic neocons are the altar boys of a sect that holds, heretically, that free-market democracy is mankind’s salvation.
What about the Catholic vote? As you know, most committed Catholics followed the lead of such Catholic as Deal Hudson, George Weigel and Michael Novak in supporting the war. How do you think the war issue factored into their decision making?
Most committed Catholics did not follow neoconservatives. Most wouldn't know one from a ham sandwich. They followed President Bush. They like him. But the war is the worst U.S. foreign policy blunder in my lifetime. George Will, and others are all having second thoughts about it. As for the Catholic neocons, they are the altar boys of a sect that holds, heretically, that free market-democracy is mankind's salvation. And they are willing to support military force in our moment of preeminence to bring it about worldwide. Catholic neocons have been had. They have signed on to an agenda of interventions and wars in the Middle East that have less to do with U.S. security than with U.S. hegemony and some vision of a Pax Americana. It is , even if we call it democratic imperialism. And it will end the way they all did in the 20th century.
You've always been an admirer of the Pope, despite differences regarding Vatican II and some other issues. You called him "the most admired man in the world." How has it felt being on his side, against the majority of conservatives, on the war issue? Has it increased your appreciation at all for his judgment?
I am honored to be on the side of the Holy Father on the war and have always been on his side on faith and morals. As for being on the other side of the neocons and their conservative poodles, I have been there
Incidentally, events are driving the traditional Right home. The true neocons are isolating themselves—because is, at bottom, not what is best for America and people are beginning to see it. They are using our country as a means, not seeing her as an end in herself, to be loved, protected and preserved.
In your newest book, , you have a very realistic and insightful chapter on the history of terrorism, which leads with the quote: "Terrorism is the war of the poor. War is the terrorism of the rich." Have you gotten much flak for that? Has anyone accused you of providing a rationale for terrorists?
I have been called lots of colorful names, but no one has mentioned that quote which is not original with me. Some charged me with "blaming America first" for 9/11 when I wrote that the terrorists were over here, because we were over there. The neocons say we were attacked because of who we are. My view is we were attacked because of what we do. It is not our principles that are hated, but our policies, not our people, but our government. Terrorism is the price of empire. If we wish to be rid of it, we must be rid of the empire. And, one day, in the not too distant future, we will be. The country is unwilling to pay the rising price in blood and treasure of an empire. It contravenes our principles and best traditions. Mark my words. America is coming home.
The neocons are isolating themselves because their agenda is not what is best for America and people are beginning to see it.
In that same chapter, you're very candid about the cruelty of American actions against civilians in the Civil War, in the wars against the Indian nations, and in the bombing of German and Japanese cities in World War II. But in your book, , you slam liberals for focusing on the negative in teaching American history to kids. How do you reconcile these two views? Is it possible to reach a balance?
You do need a balance. Children in grammar school and high school should be taught about what a good country we have and what a glorious history is ours. Teaching about America's sins should be saved for college and graduate school. The positive needs to be taught, because the negative predominates in the popular culture. And if some folks miss out on the negative, they haven't missed the best part anyhow.
In your chapter "Is Islam the Enemy?" you chide Americans for not being able to see themselves as the world sees them. Why do you think that is? Do you think Americans need to become more informed about the world, and world events?
Americans, in my view, are among the most decent and generous people on earth, but also among the least reflective. We Catholics were raised, in days of yore, to "examine your conscience." Many Americans no longer do.
Americans need to read and study more history. They need to come to know why the Founding Fathers, who were skillful at finding ways to stay out of wars, were so successful in building this great nation. One of our problems is that every foreign adversary is presented as Hitler who must be destroyed, or we have failed our moral mission in the world, and every idea to avoid war is . In writing , I came to the conclusion that the only people who really wanted to fight the United States were the Mexicans in 1846. Nobody else really wanted to mix it up with the Americans except maybe the Brits from time to time. The cousins were tough customers.
It is not our principles that are hated, but our policies, not our people, but our government. Terrorism is the price of empire.
The Pope, for the millennium, on behalf of the Church for the sins of her sons and daughters throughout history. Yet he did this without falling into moralism, or "presentism" as some might call it—falsely blaming people long-dead for not living up to the standards of the present-day. Should the U.S., now that the cold war is over, and we have an idealistic foreign policy, publicly repent of actions taken during the cold war, in deposing democratically elected leaders, or supporting tyrants, that were considered necessary, but still stain the national conscience? If not, will our ideals be taken seriously in the world?
First, our foreign policy is not all that "idealistic." It does and must contain a heavy dose of pragmatism, as we are constantly offered the lesser-of-the-two-evils choices. Mr. Bush talks about how ignoble it was for us to embrace all those non-democratic regimes in the Arab world in the Cold War. But in order to win our Afghan war, we allied with warlords with blood-soaked hands and a fellow in Uzbekistan who boils his enemies in lobster pots.
No, I do not believe we have to apologize, but we ought to explain why it was, for example, that we gave all that support to Stalin in World War II, and why Pinochet was preferable to Allende. I gagged watching Clinton apologizing all over Central Africa and in Latin America. In this, I like Jefferson's "decent respect for the opinion of mankind," which is a self-imposed requirement that we explain ourselves after the fact.
Polling done during the Democratic convention showed a huge gap between the views of the delegates and those of Democratic voters on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Yet no columnist since the election has called for the Democrats to reexamine their reliance on NARAL, gay activists, radical feminists, and secularists. Why is that?
Most journalists support the causes of NARAL, the Gay & Lesbian Caucus, feminists and secularists. They believe that reactionary America is not ready to embrace their ideals, so they should disguise who they are and what they believe, and, eventually, the nation will come into their camp, as it is drifting their way. And with Bush now supporting civil unions and our First Lady of Roe v Wade, are they entirely wrong?
Americans, in my view, are among the most decent and generous people on earth, but also among the least reflective.
People should stand for what they believe in. Clearly, a majority does not want to reverse Roe v Wade. As we would not change our view on Roe, due to a poll or an election result, why should others alter their views if they believe them to be moral and right?
Do you think that groups such as Democrats for Life, the Alliance for Marriage—which has built a coalition across racial lines—and people like Ray Flynn, can be the basis for a socially conservative rebellion within the Democratic party? Should Christians open up a second front within the Democratic party?
Ray Flynn is a good man. So, yes. However, Democratic traditionalists may wind up like my ancestors who started the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. I fear the Democratic Party is a lost cause. Those not driven out like Zell Miller are being wiped out by Republicans running against them in the South.
Do you have any plans to reenter politics? Do you think the time might be ripe for you to try to take over the Democratic party on a platform of social conservatism and economic populism—a sort of William Jennings Bryan approach, with a nod towards Catholic social teaching and distributism? In the end, do you think the Republican reliance on affluent voters means it will eventually sell out on issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, cloning, globalization, etc.?
Nope, there is too much Goldwater, Nixon, Agnew and Reagan on my resume. And as I wrote in my endorsement of Bush in , I have concluded that the last best hope of traditionalism and conservatism is in the GOP.
There are good men and women inside it. At its heart, it is still an America First, defend-our-borders, anti-interventionist, anti-globalist, pro-life party. It supports George W. Bush because it likes him as a man, and is royalist and loyalist to the core. Even most Third Party champions realize that in the end we must capture one or the other wings of our two-party duopoly in Washington. The GOP is our best shot.
One of our problems is that every foreign adversary is presented as Hitler who must be destroyed, or we have failed our moral mission in the world.
You rightly observed that . Do you ever think it worthwhile going to war over a sandwich? More seriously, what was it like being interviewed by ? Do you think you can arrange for us to meet him?
While I did not know at first Ali G was an impersonator, I knew early on he was a whole lot smarter than he was putting on. When I would drop some wiseacre quip, he would smile. He picked it up. So, the thing to do was to do what I do when talking with children in classrooms or when interviewed by folks who seem off-the-wall. Accept their premises and play ball. Play at their level. The interview must have lasted an hour and a half. By the time it was coming to an end, I was in the swing of the thing. It was most entertaining. But Ali G has not lately been in touch.