Go, Pat, Go...

By William Westmiller
web posted April 1999

Patrick Buchanan is an accomplished speech writer and debater. He can turn a phrase and enflame basic human passions. He is a rabble-rouser of the highest class. He might even make a good President of the United States, if he weren't so terribly wrong on basic issues at least half the time. It's a pity that he brings such disrepute to the good half of his heartfelt positions.

Buchanan's primordial bogeyman is the "New World Order", which threatens the very fabric of our society, the independence of our nation, and the livelihood of every American family. His fears have some legitimate grounds, but this terrible dragon which he promises to battle is little more than a rhetoric myth. It's a poor substitute for the fundamental principles of good government.

On the one hand, he will attack the Clinton Administration for using trade laws to benefit their constituents, then turn right around and promise to use the same trade laws to benefit his constituents. Rather than championing the traditional Republican values of free trade and individual enterprise that benefit everyone, Buchanan promises an industrial policy that caters to special privileges and trade protections that benefit a very few. Blind to the serious injury that would be visited on consumers and businesses that are denied the opportunity to freely exchange goods and services, he trumpets the temporary job security and military value of feeble industries that can't cope with the demands of competition.

Yes, there are faults and weaknesses in NAFTA, primarily the managed trade elements that are little more than an exchange of political privileges among powerful oligarchs, both here and abroad. But, there are sound and important principles at work in many international efforts, which need to be encouraged and supported. The basic principles of the World Trade Organization champion every consumers right to be free from their own government's exercise of privilege and power. Aside from cutting general tariffs (taxes on trade) among people everywhere, the WTO stands against the political elite who are willing to sacrifice the general good for the benefit of a privileged few. Buchanan should be opposing privileges, not promising membership in a new elite for the price of a few votes.

We're all patriots. Even Bill Clinton stands forthright for the things that have made this nation great. Clinton's "things" aren't the same as Buchanan's "things", but at least we know where Clinton stands on his "things". It's not sufficient to wrap the flag around your noble devotion to country and expect everyone to salute. Buchanan properly faults Clinton for expanding foreign entanglements, yet fails to provide his motive for a new expansion of American military power. Is there a real risk of Russia or China invading or bombing the United States? Should we withdraw any hope for liberty among the oppressed people around the world? Not simple issues for thoughtful citizens, but Buchanan's "vital interests" are just as vague as Clinton's. To what end would his "Arsenal of Democracy" be applied? Perhaps it's only a hollow tribute to the worthy history of the "Greatest Generation"? Waving the flag is fine. Brandishing deadly military force without good motives is not.

We have to assume that Pat Buchanan is serious. It would be petty to surmise that his motives for running are simply to improve his CNN salary or secure a MacLaughlin Group chair across from Eleanor Rodham-Cliff. It's a little puzzling why he would want to occupy the White House, a "temple of our civilization" that has "desecrated" by the previous Administration. Whatever the objective, it's probable that Buchanan's candidacy will be relegated to the lower ranks of the cultural warriors seeking the Republican nomination. After a while, "one nation, under my God" is going to grate on the nerves. No doubt, his Jesuit instructors are proud of Pat. No doubt, he will strive mightily to acquire the power to clean up "all that pollutes and poisons our culture." No doubt, he'll eventually discover that holy jihads are unwelcome in American politics. No doubt, it'll be later, rather than sooner.

The most troubling thing about Pat Buchanan is that he is serious. It's just difficult to determine exactly what he's so serious about. Occasionally, he sounds like an echo of Karl Marx, urging the "Workers of the World" to unite. At other times, his scowl seems to be caused by brown boots of a smaller size. He's a righteous man. He's a serious man. He's even right half the time. He scares my mother half to death.

William Westmiller is the California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (CA24) Congress and Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party. His previous columns are available on-line at: www.westmiller.com/comment/




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