Pat Buchanan

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Pat Buchanan
Buchanan in 2008
White House Communications Director
In office
February 1985 – March 1987
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Gerald Rafshoon
Succeeded by Jack Koehler
Personal details
Born Patrick Joseph Buchanan
(1938-11-02) November 2, 1938 (age 83)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican (1960s–1999, 2004–present)
Reform (1999–2002)
Spouse(s) Shelley Ann Scarney
Alma mater Georgetown University
Columbia University
Occupation Writer
Religion Catholic

Patrick Joseph "Pat" Buchanan (/bjuːˈkænn/; born November 2, 1938) is an American paleoconservative political commentator, author, syndicated columnist, politician and broadcaster. Buchanan was a senior advisor to U.S. Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and was an original host on CNN's Crossfire. He sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996. He ran on the Reform Party ticket in the 2000 presidential election.

He co-founded The American Conservative magazine and launched a foundation named The American Cause.[1] He has been published in Human Events, National Review, The Nation, and Rolling Stone. He was a political commentator on the MSNBC cable network, including the show Morning Joe until February 2012. Buchanan is a regular on The McLaughlin Group and now appears on Fox News.

Early life and education

Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C., a son of William Baldwin Buchanan (Virginia, August 13, 1905 – Washington, D.C., January 1988), a partner in an accounting firm, and his wife Catherine Elizabeth (Crum) Buchanan (Charleroi, Washington County, Pennsylvania, December 23, 1911 – Oakton, Fairfax County, Virginia, September 18, 1995), a nurse and a homemaker.[2][3] Buchanan had six brothers (Brian, Henry, James, John, Thomas, and William Jr.) and two sisters (Kathleen Theresa and Angela Marie, nicknamed Bay).[4] Bay served as U.S. Treasurer under Ronald Reagan. His father was of Irish, and Scottish ancestry, and his mother was a German.[2][5] He had a great-grandfather who fought in the American Civil War in the Confederate army, which is why he is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans[6] and admires Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy.[7]

Of his southern ancestry, Buchanan has written:

I have family roots in the South, in Mississippi. When the Civil War came, Cyrus Baldwin enlisted and did not survive Vicksburg. William Buchanan of Okolona, who would marry Baldwin’s daughter, fought at Atlanta and was captured by General Sherman. William Baldwin Buchanan was the name given to my father and by him to my late brother.

As a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I have been to their gatherings. I spoke at the 2001 SCV convention in Lafayette, LA. The Military Order of the Stars and Bars presented me with a battle flag and a wooden canteen like the ones my ancestors carried.[8]

Buchanan was born into a Catholic family and attended Catholic schools, including the Jesuit-run Gonzaga College High School. As a student at Georgetown University, he was in ROTC but did not complete the program. He received his draft notice after he graduated in 1960. However, the District of Columbia draft board exempted Buchanan from military service because of reactive arthritis, classifying him as 4-F. He received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1962, writing his thesis on the expanding trade between Canada and Cuba.

Professional career

St. Louis Globe-Democrat Editorial Writer

Buchanan joined the St. Louis Globe-Democrat at age 23. During the first year of the United States embargo against Cuba in 1961, Canada–Cuba trade tripled. The Globe-Democrat published a rewrite of Buchanan's Columbia master's project under the eight-column banner "Canada sells to Red Cuba — And Prospers" eight weeks after Buchanan started at the paper. According to Buchanan's memoir Right from the Beginning, this article was a career milestone. However, Buchanan later said the embargo strengthened the communist regime and he turned against it.[9] Buchanan was promoted to assistant editorial page editor in 1964 and supported Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign. However, the Globe-Democrat did not endorse Goldwater and Buchanan speculated there was a clandestine agreement between the paper and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Buchanan recalled: "The conservative movement has always advanced from its defeats... I can't think of a single conservative who was sorry about the Goldwater campaign."[7] According to the foreword (written by Pat Buchanan) in the most recent edition of Conscience of a Conservative, Buchanan was a member of the Young Americans for Freedom and wrote press releases for that organization. He served as an executive assistant in the Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander, and Mitchell law offices in New York City in 1965.

Work for the Nixon White House

Buchanan on July 12, 1969

The next year, he was the first adviser hired by Nixon's presidential campaign;[10] he worked primarily as an opposition researcher. For his speeches aimed at dedicated supporters, he was soon nicknamed "Mr. Inside."[11]

Buchanan traveled with Richard Nixon throughout the campaigns of 1966 and 1968. He made a tour of Western Europe, Africa and, in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War, the Middle East. When Nixon took the Oval Office in 1969, Buchanan worked as a White House adviser and speechwriter for Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew. Buchanan coined the phrase "Silent Majority," and helped shape the strategy that drew millions of Democrats to Nixon. In a 1972 memo, he suggested the White House "should move to re-capture the anti-Establishment tradition or theme in American politics."[12] His daily assignments included developing political strategy, publishing the President's Daily News Summary, and preparing briefing books for news conferences. He accompanied Nixon on his trip to China in 1972 and the summit in Moscow, Yalta and Minsk in 1974. He suggested that Nixon label Democratic opponent George McGovern an extremist and burn the White House tapes.[11]

Buchanan remained as a special assistant to Nixon through the final days of the Watergate scandal. He was not accused of wrongdoing, though some mistakenly suspected him of being Deep Throat. When the actual identity of the press leak was revealed as Federal Bureau of Investigation Associate Director Mark Felt in 2005, Buchanan called him "sneaky," "dishonest" and "criminal."[13] Because of his role in the Nixon campaign's "attack group," Buchanan appeared before the Senate Watergate Committee on September 26, 1973. He told the panel:

The mandate that the American people gave to this president and his administration cannot, and will not, be frustrated or repealed or overthrown as a consequence of the incumbent tragedy.[11]

When Nixon resigned in 1974, Buchanan briefly stayed on as special assistant under incoming President Gerald Ford. Chief of Staff Alexander Haig approved Buchanan's appointment as ambassador to South Africa, but Ford refused it.[11]

Buchanan remarked about Watergate:

The lost opportunity to move against the political forces frustrating the expressed national will.... To effect a political counterrevolution in the capital —... there is no substitute for a principled and dedicated man of the Right in the Oval Office.[11]

Long after his resignation, Nixon called Buchanan a confidant and said he was neither a racist nor an antisemite nor a bigot or "hater," but a "decent, patriotic American." Nixon said Buchanan had "some strong views," such as his "isolationist" foreign policy, with which he disagreed. While Nixon did not think Buchanan should become president, he said the commentator "should be heard."[14][15]

News commentator

Buchanan returned to his column and began regular appearances as a broadcast host and political commentator. He co-hosted a three-hour daily radio show with liberal columnist Tom Braden called the Buchanan-Braden Program. He delivered daily commentaries on NBC radio from 1978 to 1984. Buchanan started his TV career as a regular on The McLaughlin Group and CNN's Crossfire (inspired by Buchanan-Braden) and The Capital Gang, making him nationally recognizable. His several stints on Crossfire occurred between 1982 and 1999; his sparring partners included Braden, Michael Kinsley, Geraldine Ferraro, and Bill Press.

Buchanan is a regular panelist on The McLaughlin Group. He appears most Sundays alongside John McLaughlin and the more liberal Newsweek journalist Eleanor Clift. His columns are syndicated nationally by Creators Syndicate.[16]

Accusations of antisemitism and Holocaust denial

Buchanan has written about the Holocaust. For example, Buchanan wrote that it was impossible for 850,000 Jews to be killed by diesel exhaust fed into the gas chamber at Treblinka.[17] Such statements have led to accusations that he has helped legitimize Holocaust denial. When George Will challenged him about it on TV, Buchanan did not reply. In 1991 William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote a 40,000-word National Review article discussing anti-Semitism among conservative commentators focused largely on Buchanan; the article and many responses to it were collected in the book In Search of Anti-Semitism (1992). He concluded: "I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism."[18][19]

The Anti-Defamation League has called Buchanan an "unrepentant bigot" who "repeatedly demonizes Jews and minorities and openly affiliates with white supremacists."[20] "There's no doubt," said Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Charles Krauthammer, "he makes subliminal appeals to prejudice."[21] Buchanan has adamantly denied that he is antisemitic, and a number of conservatives and his journalistic colleagues, some of them Jewish, including Joe Sobran,[22] Murray Rothbard,[23][24][25] Justin Raimondo[26] Jack Germond, Al Hunt and Mark Shields, have defended him against the charge.[27] It is alleged that, as a member of the Reagan White House, he actively suppressed the Reagan Justice Department's investigation into Nazi scientists brought to America by the OSS's Operation Paperclip.[28] In the context of the Gulf War, on September 15, 1990, Buchanan appeared on The McLaughlin Group and said that "there are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East – the Israeli defense ministry and its 'amen corner' in the United States." He also said: "The Israelis want this war desperately because they want the United States to destroy the Iraqi war machine. They want us to finish them off. They don't care about our relations with the Arab world." Furthermore, on The McLaughlin Group Buchanan has also made such comments as “‘Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory’ and ‘If you want to know ethnicity and power in the United States Senate, 13 members of the Senate are Jewish folks who are from 2 percent of the population. That is where real power is at…’”[29] When he delivered a keynote address at the 1992 Republican National Convention, known as the Culture War speech, Buchanan described "a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America".[30]

Work for the Reagan White House

Buchanan served as White House Communications Director from February 1985 to March 1987.[31] Buchanan supported President Reagan's plan to visit a German military cemetery at Bitburg in 1985, where among buried Wehrmacht soldiers were the graves of 48 Waffen SS members. At the insistence of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and over the vocal objections of Jewish groups, the trip went through although White House officials sought to minimize the effect of the visit. As Mr. Reagan left Bonn for Bergen-Belsen in the morning, officials disclosed that the President and Mr. Kohl would be joined at Bitburg by two prominent retired American and German military officers. The men were Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, 90 years old, who had led the 82d Airborne Division in Europe and later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Lieut. Gen. Johannes Steinhoff, 71, a Luftwaffe flying ace who later rose to the highest ranks of the West German Air Force. After the wreath laying ceremony at the military cemetery, the two men shook hands.[32]

In an interview, author Elie Wiesel described attending a White House meeting of Jewish leaders about the trip:

The only one really defending the trip was Pat Buchanan, saying, 'We cannot give the perception of the President being subjected to Jewish pressure.'[33]

Buchanan accused Wiesel of fabricating the story in an ABC interview in 1992:

I didn't say it and Elie Wiesel wasn't even in the meeting.[... That meeting was held three weeks before the Bitburg summit was held. If I had said that, it would have been out of there within hours and on the news.[34]

In a speech to the National Religious Broadcasters in 1986, Buchanan said about the "Reagan Revolution,"

Whether President Reagan has charted a new course that will set our compass for decades—or whether history will see him as the conservative interruption in a process of inexorable national decline—is yet to be determined.[11]

A year later, he remarked that "the greatest vacuum in American politics is to the right of Ronald Reagan."[11] While her brother was working for Reagan, Bay Buchanan started a "Buchanan for President" movement in June 1986. She said the conservative movement needed a leader, but Buchanan was initially ambivalent.[11] After leaving the White House, he returned to his column and Crossfire. Out of respect for Jack Kemp he sat out the 1988 race, although Kemp later became his adversary.[12]


Buchanan has contributed to VDARE since 2005.[35]

VDARE is a right wing website and blog founded by anti-immigration activist and paleoconservative Peter Brimelow.[36] VDARE is considered controversial because of its alleged ties to white supremacist rhetoric and support of scientific racism and white nationalism.[37][38][39][40] It has been designated as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.[41]

Political career

1992 presidential primaries

In 1990, Buchanan published a newsletter called Patrick J. Buchanan: From the Right; it sent subscribers a bumper sticker reading: "Read Our Lips! No new taxes."[42]

In 1992, Buchanan explained his reasons for challenging the incumbent, President George H.W. Bush:

If the country wants to go in a liberal direction, if the country wants to go in the direction of [Democrats] George Mitchell and Tom Foley, it doesn't bother me as long as I've made the best case I can. What I can't stand are the back-room deals. They're all in on it, the insider game, the establishment game—this is what we're running against.[7]

He ran on a platform of immigration reduction and social conservatism, including opposition to multiculturalism, abortion, and gay rights. Buchanan seriously challenged Bush (whose popularity was waning) when he won 38 percent of the seminal New Hampshire primary. In the primary elections, Buchanan garnered three million total votes.

Buchanan later threw his support behind Bush and delivered a keynote address at the 1992 Republican National Convention, which became known as the culture war speech, in which he described "a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America." In the speech, he said of Bill and Hillary Clinton:

The agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose on America—abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat units—that's change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America needs. It is not the kind of change America wants. And it is not the kind of change we can abide in a nation we still call God's country.[43]

The enthusiastic applause he received prompted his detractors to claim that the speech alienated moderates from the Bush-Quayle ticket.[44]

Off the campaign trail

Buchanan returned to his column and Crossfire. To promote the principles of federalism, traditional values, and anti-intervention, he founded The American Cause, a conservative educational foundation, in 1993. Bay Buchanan serves as the Vienna, VA-based foundation's president and Pat is its chairman.[45]

Buchanan returned to radio as host of Buchanan and Company, a three-hour talk show for Mutual Broadcasting System on July 5, 1993. It pitted him against liberal co-hosts, including Barry Lynn, Bob Beckel, and Chris Matthews, in a time slot opposite Rush Limbaugh's show. To launch his 1996 campaign, Buchanan left the program on March 20, 1995.

1996 presidential primaries

1996 saw Buchanan's most successful attempt to win the Republican nomination. With a Democratic President (Bill Clinton) seeking re-election, there was no incumbent Republican with a lock on the ticket. Indeed, with former President George H. W. Bush having made clear he was not interested in re-gaining the office, the closest the party had to a front-runner was the Senate Majority leader Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who was considered to have many weaknesses. Buchanan sought the Republican nomination from Dole's right, voicing his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Other candidates for the nomination included Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander and the multi-millionaire publisher Steve Forbes.

In February, the liberal Center for Public Integrity issued a report claiming Buchanan's presidential campaign co-chairman, Larry Pratt, appeared at two meetings organized by white supremacist and militia leaders. Pratt denied any tie to racism, calling the report an orchestrated smear before the New Hampshire primary. Buchanan told the Manchester Union Leader he believed Pratt. Pratt took a leave of absence "to answer these charges," "so as not to have distraction in the campaign."[46]

Buchanan defeated Senator Bob Dole by about 3,000 votes to win the February New Hampshire primary, getting his campaign off to an energetic start. He was endorsed by conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly among others. He won three other states (Alaska, Missouri, and Louisiana), and finished only slightly behind Dole in the Iowa caucus. His insurgent campaign used his soaring rhetoric to mobilize grass-roots right wing opinion against what he saw as the bland Washington establishment (personified by Dole) which he believed had controlled the party for years. At a rally later in Nashua, he said:

We shocked them in Alaska. Stunned them in Louisiana. Stunned them in Iowa. They are in a terminal panic. They hear the shouts of the peasants from over the hill. All the knights and barons will be riding into the castle pulling up the drawbridge in a minute. All the peasants are coming with pitchforks. We're going to take this over the top.[47]

The line "The peasants are coming with pitchforks" became somewhat of a slogan for the campaign, with Buchanan occasionally appearing with a prop pitchfork at rallies.

In the Super Tuesday primaries, however, Dole defeated Buchanan by large margins. Having collected only 21 percent of the total votes in Republican primaries, Buchanan suspended his campaign in March. He declared however that, if Dole were to choose a pro-choice running mate, he would run as the US Taxpayers Party (now Constitution Party) candidate.[48] However, Dole chose Jack Kemp and he received Buchanan's endorsement. After the 1996 campaign, Buchanan returned to his column and Crossfire. He also began a series of books with 1998's The Great Betrayal.

2000 presidential campaign

Buchanan announced his departure from the Republican Party in October 1999, disparaging them (along with the Democrats) as a "beltway party." He sought the nomination of the Reform Party. Many reformers backed Iowa physicist John Hagelin, whose platform was based on Transcendental Meditation. Party founder Ross Perot did not endorse either candidate for the Reform Party's nomination. (In late October, 2000, Perot publicly endorsed George W. Bush; however, Perot's 1996 running-mate, Pat Choate, would go on to endorse Buchanan.)

Supporters of Hagelin charged the results of the party's open primary, which favored Buchanan by a wide margin, were "tainted." The Reform Party divisions led to dual conventions being held simultaneously in separate areas of the Long Beach Convention Center complex. Both conventions' delegates ignored the primary ballots and voted to nominate their presidential candidates from the floor, similar to the Democratic and Republican conventions. One convention nominated Buchanan while the other backed Hagelin, with each camp claiming to be the legitimate Reform Party.

Ultimately, when the Federal Elections Commission ruled Buchanan was to receive ballot status as the Reform candidate, as well as about $12.6 million in federal campaign funds secured by Perot's showing in the 1996 election, Buchanan won the nomination. In his acceptance speech, Buchanan proposed US withdrawal from the United Nations and expelling the UN from New York, abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, taxes on inheritance and capital gains, and affirmative action programs.

As his running mate, Buchanan chose African-American activist and retired teacher from Los Angeles, Ezola B. Foster. Buchanan was supported in this election run by future Socialist Party USA presidential candidate Brian Moore, who said in 2008 he supported Buchanan in 2000 because "he was for fair trade over free trade. He had some progressive positions that I thought would be helpful to the common man."[49] On August 19, the New York Right to Life Party, in convention, chose Buchanan as their nominee, with 90 percent of the districts voting for him.[50]

In a campaign speech at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, Buchanan attempted to rally his conservative base:

God and the Ten Commandments have all been expelled from the public schools. Christmas carols are out. Christmas holidays are out. The latest decision of the United States Supreme Court said that children in stadiums or young people in high school games are not to speak an inspirational moment for fear they may mention God's name, and offend an atheist in the grandstand. ...

We may not succeed, but I believe we need a new fighting conservative traditionalist party in America. I believe, and I hope that one day we can take America back. That is why we are building this Gideon's army and heading for Armageddon, to do battle for the Lord. ...[51]

In the 2000 presidential election, Buchanan finished fourth with 449,895 votes, 0.4% of the popular vote. (Hagelin garnered 0.1 percent as the Natural Law candidate.) In Palm Beach County, Florida, Buchanan received 3,407 votes—which some saw as inconsistent with Palm Beach County's liberal leanings, its large Jewish population and his showing in the rest of the state. As a result of the county's now-infamous "butterfly ballot", he is suspected to have gained thousands of inadvertent votes. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer stated, "Palm Beach county is a Pat Buchanan stronghold and that's why Pat Buchanan received 3,407 votes there." However, Reform Party officials strongly disagreed, estimating the number of supporters in the county at between 400 and 500. Appearing on The Today Show, Buchanan said:

When I took one look at that ballot on Election Night... it's very easy for me to see how someone could have voted for me in the belief they voted for Al Gore.[52]

Some observers said his campaign was aimed to spread his message beyond his white conservative and populist base, while his views had not changed.[53]

In retrospect, Buchanan told The Daily Caller explicitly in October 2012 that "What cost Al Gore Florida in 2000, and the presidency, was the 'butterfly ballot'".[54]

Later political involvement

Following the 2000 election, Reform Party members urged Buchanan to take an active role within the party. Buchanan declined, though he did attend their 2001 convention. In the next few years, he identified himself as a political independent, choosing not to align himself with what he viewed as the neo-conservative Republican party leadership. Prior to the 2004 election, Buchanan announced he once again identified himself as a Republican, declared that he had no interest in ever running for president again, and reluctantly endorsed Bush's 2004 re-election, writing:

Bush is right on taxes, judges, sovereignty, and values. Kerry is right on nothing.[55]

Buchanan also endorsed Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, stating in an article that "Obama offers more of the stalemate America has gone through for the past two years" while "Romney alone offers a possibility of hope and change."[56]

Return to private life

MSNBC commentator

Buchanan being interviewed in 2008

Although CNN decided not to take him back, Buchanan's column resumed.[57] A longer variation of the Crossfire format was aired by MSNBC as Buchanan and Press on July 15, 2002, reuniting Buchanan and Press. Billed as "the smartest hour on television", Buchanan and Press featured the duo interviewing guests and sparring about the top news stories. As the Iraq War loomed, Buchanan and Press toned down their rivalry, as they both opposed the invasion.[58] Press claims they were the first cable hosts to discuss the planned attack.[59] MSNBC Editor-in-Chief Jerry Nachman once jokingly lamented this unusual situation:

So the point is why does only Fox [News Channel] get this? At least, we work at the perfect place, the place that's fiercely independent. We try to have balance by putting you two guys together and then this Stockholm syndrome love fest set in between the two of you, and we no longer even have robust debate.[60]

Just hours after his talk show debuted, Buchanan was a guest on the premiere of MSNBC's ill-fated Donahue program. Host Phil Donahue and Buchanan debated the separation of church and state. Buchanan called Donahue "dictatorial"[61] and teased that the host got his job through affirmative action.[62]

MSNBC President Eric Sorenson canceled Buchanan and Press on November 26, 2003.[58] Buchanan stayed at MSNBC as a political analyst. He regularly appeared on the network's talk shows. He occasionally filled in on the nightly show Scarborough Country during its run on MSNBC. Buchanan also was a frequent guest and co-host of Morning Joe as well as Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show.

In September 2009, MSNBC removed a Buchanan opinion column which defended Hitler from its website after it was urged to do so in a public statement by the National Jewish Democratic Council.[63] Buchanan had used the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland to argue that Britain should not have declared war on Germany.[64][65] This revived charges of antisemitism and helping to legitimize Holocaust denial.

In January 2012, Buchanan was indefinitely suspended from MSNBC as a contributor and MSNBC President Phil Griffin said he had not decided whether to let Buchanan come back. The minority advocacy group Color of Change had urged MSNBC to fire him over alleged racist slurs.[66] MSNBC permanently parted ways with Buchanan on February 16, 2012.[67]

The American Conservative Magazine

In 2002, to start a new magazine featuring paleoconservative viewpoints on the economy, immigration and foreign policy, Buchanan joined with former New York Post editorial page editor Scott McConnell and financier Taki Theodoracopulos. The American Conservative's first issue was dated October 7, 2002.

On Supreme Court appointments

In a 2010 column, Buchanan expressed his disapproval at Barack Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan, to the United States Supreme Court. Pointing out that Democrats had failed to nominate a single black person to the Supreme Court for the last 43 years, Buchanan wrote: "If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the US population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this the Democrats' idea of diversity?"[68]

Personal life

Buchanan married White House staffer Shelley Ann Scarney in 1971.[69] Their longtime tabby cat, Gipper, was named for U.S. President Ronald Reagan and reportedly sat on Pat's lap during staff meetings.[70][71]

Political positions

Electoral history

See also



Major speeches

Selected articles



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Party political offices
Preceded by
Ross Perot
Reform Party presidential nominee
Succeeded by
Ralph Nader