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Archive: Pat Buchanan

Reform Party Presidential Candidate Pat Buchanan has the answers to your questions. An unapologetic “America First” trade protectionist and pro-life social conservative, Buchanan is often a lightning rod for controversy. Veteran CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante brings a top political expert into the Smoke-Filled Room each week to answer your questions.

Plante: Our first viewer, Aaron Kleinman writes, “You've never held an elected office before, yet you run for the highest one in America. Why don't you start small?”

Buchanan: Tell Aaron Kleinman I started small. I joined Richard Nixon as a staff assistant in 1965 – 35 years ago and since then I’ve served in three White Houses as a top assistant to the President of the United States. I have written a syndicated column on and off for twenty-five years. I’ve begun three of the most famous talk shows in America. In addition to this I’ve written five books. So I think I’m fully qualified, having written about and discussed foreign and national policy for almost forty years. Why have I not held elective office? The primary reason is I grew up in Washington D.C. and there are no federal offices which you can be elected to. Not until 1964 did we even get the right to vote.

Plante: ”Are you really serious about winning the Presidency?

Buchanan: Indeed I am. I joined the Reform Party because I genuinely believed there is a fighting chance this year to win the Presidency of the United States. To achieve that we have to overcome a number of hurdles. I have to get the Reform Party nomination. We are on the way. We have to get the party on the ballot, or me on the ballot in all fifty states. We’re on the way. We haven’t missed a single state yet. Once we get the nomination we have to get the kind of media attention we’ve been denied on the front pages of the nation’s press and on the evening news. Clearly we have to overcome that hurdle. I have to get into the national debates with Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush. Clearly there’s an effort to block us there. We have a number of mountains to cross, but if we can cross them, I believe that by October 1, we can turn this into a three- way race. I would not have the Republican Party and joined the Reform Party if I didn’t believe there was a chance we could win it.

Plante: What are your plans for the Reform Party beyond 2000?” asks Dean Bailey.

Buchanan: When we came into the Reform Party it was a great house in total disrepair. The party had lost ballot positions in twenty-nine states and when Gov. Ventura departed he took the thirtieth state with him. So we have to get the party on the ballot in thirty states. We have to build the party where it didn’t exist, repair it where it does exist. Ou plans beyond this, are to create a viable third party in America which can become, ultimately, the second party. My personal plans are to be part of that. Whether I am or not, will be contingent on how well we do this fall. Our plans for the Reform Party are long term.

Plante: Fred Hoagland notes “I was for you when you were part of mainstream politics. It seems now you are recognized by only a small voting minority, and basically only recognized by the news media as a "spoiler" in the election. My question is ‘Why run Pat? Why be the "spoiler" that elects Albert Gore?’”

Buchanan: I had considered this idea when I decided to go with the Reform Party. Would it simply hurt one party and offer America no real choice? I came to the conclusion that both national parties really no longer represented the American people. Both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush, for example, agree on this wretched China trade deal. They agreed on NAFTA. They agreed on GATT. They both support the WTO. Mr. Bush supported Mr. Clinton in the Balkans – only he thought we should have fought that illegal war more ferociously. They both support NATO expansion. Neither will do anything about illegal immigration. Neither will even talk about the immigration issue. I made a decision that I’m not going to spend the rest of my life supporting a beltway party, the Republican beltway party in which I no longer believe. And which I think no longer fights for the things I believe in. Or that millions of Americans elected Congress to fight for. In 1999 the Republican Congress voted to give Mr. Clinton 500 million more for the Department of Education than he requested. This is the same party that was going to shut down the Department of Education. So we are going out to win the Presidency of the United States, and let the chips fall where they may. If the Republican Party looses the election of 2000 and I don’t win it, it will be its own fault.

Plante: Mike Beltzwrites, “According to estimates, the U.S. population will swell to 405 million by 2050 solely because of immigration.” He asks “Is this a good thing? Why or why not?”

Where there's smoke, is there fire? Sound off on the Campaign 2000 bulletin board!

Buchanan: It is a critical question. We have to ask ourselves, that even though we are a nation made up of people descended from immigrants, whether you can absorb that enormous increase of population from overseas. For example, in California there were 10 million people in 1950. And there is anticipated to be 60 million Californians by the year 2040 or 2050. Can California absorb that many people when perhaps half of them cannot even speak the English language. Is this a good thing for America? Or do we need to cut back on immigration and assimilate those who’ve come here, and introduce them to our language, our culture, our heritage, our tradition, our heroes so we can all become Americans. It takes time to assimilate. We have not given the enormous number of immigrants we’ve taken in, in recent years, 30-40 million, legal and illegal, time to fully assimilate into society. This is one of the reasons we’ve got a Balkanization, a breakdown, ethnic hostility growing – far greater than it even was in the 1960’s during the civil rights revolution. I believe we need a time out on legal immigration. We need to halt illegal immigration at our border even if it means putting the army of the United States on the frontier of America and Mexico. We’ve got a right to do that. Every other country in the world defends its borders better than we do.

Plante: ”Would you, as president, aim to outlaw affirmative action throughout the country? And if you would, what would be the timetable for doing so?” Superguy is curious.

Buchanan: If affirmative action means outreach to ensure that when jobs open up everyone learns about them, and everyone has a chance to compete freely; I’m in favor of that, the original meaning of affirmative action. But when it comes to racial preferences or ethnic quotas, or set-asides, I believe they are a form of discrimination every bit as wrong as the discrimination that proceeded it. On taking office, within my first week, I would issue an executive order outlawing all forms of discrimination or preferential treatment by race, color, creed or gender throughout the entire federal government.

Plante: Rod Rutland wonders “In your opinion, what is the root cause of the violence in our society today? For example; the school shootings and the riots in L.A. following the Lakers' victory last week.“

Buchanan: I think the root cause of the riots in this country, actually there are many, is the collapse of the family, which I blieve is partly due to the collapse of religious faith in many parts of America, to our hedonistic and self-indulgent culture. I think it’s in part due to the violence that we see constantly thrown up before us in the popular culture from Hollywood and television. And fundamentally, the whole ethic of America, the idea of me and selfishness, and I’m going to do it my own way, and what I say is right, and there are no higher values, and no higher laws in America – I think this has contributed mightily to becoming the violent society we are today. I think we were a much poorer nation in 1950, the 1940’s, and certainly in the depression of the 30’s, but people did not behave the way they do today. I think that American society, if you take the end of discrimination, the tremendous growth in opportunity, the economic boom times we’ve had, our leadership in science, medicine, we are in many many ways better off than we were a half century ago. But in terms of the character of our people we are not. I think we are headed downhill as a society by those standards.

Plante: “There is a feeling that the “good old boys” backroom club is alive and well as evidenced by the ouster of John McCain and Bill Bradley so early in the primary process. Many people feel they would have been better candidates than Bush or Gore. But it seems big money has eliminated our ability to choose.”

“It is clear the DNC and RNC party bigwigs are making this happen. Furthermore as these big parties try to control our choices more and more voters are turning to 3rd Party options - or worse - they are continuing to tune﷓out of politics and become disenfranchised,” notes C. Farrington. “Do you think this is a problem” and “if elected what are you going to do about making sure Democracy is not run by an aristocracy of money and power brokers?”

Buchanan: I agree with the premise. I predicted that both those candidates would be eliminated and that the establishment choices, Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush would prevail. That’s why I’ve moved outside the two party system. I don’t believe I could have succeeded inside the system with Mr. Bush being allocated 67 million in contributions and something like thirty governors endorsing him almost six months before the primaries began. And Mr. Forbes having a $100 million to spend. I can’t beat those kinds of resources. I believe we’ve got to go outside the establishment of the two parties and try to create something news. I’m not taking soft money – our party does not take soft money from big business. We only get one fifth of the amount the other two candidates in hard money. Any candidate who gets the hooks of the corporate power in him – I don’t care if they’re conservative, moderate or liberal – they wind up voting the same way on these wretched trade eals, these deals to let American factories be shipped overseas, on these interventionist policies, on foreign aid – even when they don’t believe in it, the whole IMF bailout of $18 billion, was not only opposed by Pat Buchanan, but by Milton Firedman, Bill Simon and George Schultze. Yet a conservative Republican congress voted it. Why? Because they can’t say no to the business roundtable, to the chamber of commerce, because those two organizations pay their room, board and tuition.

There are no guarantees that these powerful forces cannot influence politics. But you can fight them and roll them back by outlawing all soft money in politics. By ensuring that people who contribute to campaigns are the people who can vote in campaigns. Make sure that unions, for example, cannot use union dues for political reasons. You can get reforms that will work for a while. But you’ve got to keep you eye on these powerful forces because they’re going to come back. When the federal government is spending about one fifth of the gross national product and controlling far more by regulation all this money and power is going to try and influence the government. That is a given. You have to be constantly vigilant and constantly expose what they’re doing.

Plante: ”George Bush is very vulnerable to attacks on his reviewing (or lack thereof) of death penalty cases in Texas. Will you exploit this weakness?” questions Bill Stipek

Buchanan: I do believe that in the case of heinous, vicious crimes like that individual committed, who was just executed in Texas, I support the death penalty in those cases. I do believe, because I defended a man, who for ten years, was accused of and convicted of, and about to be hung for being the worst Nazi war criminal of World War II, who I knew in my heart – and we had evidence to prove it was a case of mistaken identity, I do believe that any judge who has any serious doubt in his mind or his heart whether this individual actually perpetrated this crime ought not to impose the death penalty. But in cases like John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy and Richard Speck I support capital punishment. I don’t fault Mr. Bush unless I learn that he did not really closely review the case.

Plante: ”If you were to be elected President in November it's highly unlikely you would have a Reform Party majority in either the House or the Senate. What political strategy will you employ as President 1) to pass legislation given the lack of a sympathetic leadership and committee chairs, and 2) to realign the party system in future years so these levers of power will be available to you and your erstwhile Reform party successors? Given that the choice is often legislation vs. an issue for party building, which would you choose?” writes Jordan Wethe.

Buchanan: I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve been in thre White Houses, two of them during their transition periods, - Nixon and Ford. I worked for Ronald Reagan in the middle of his term. I know how the presidency works and I know the power of the office. I believe this is a less serious problem than people imagine. If, as President, I set a certain date for the withdrawal of all American troops from Korea, Bosnia and Kosovo, I cannot believe there is a coalition in congress that would oppose me. Successfully. For the simple reason that Mr. Clinton had the devil’s time of it, getting support to put them in there in the first place. Secondly, the vast majority of Americans – 75% - want legal immigration controlled and illegal immigration halted – I think it would be enormously popular. In 1992 I urged a security fence on the border of San Diego. Mr. Clinton denounced me, but the fence has been built. Tax cuts. I don’t think you’re going to get a coalition to oppose that. On issue after issue, there are existing coalitions which are majorities. In some cases, say trade, you would get a majority of democrats, if not every one. On a few issues, such as Supreme Court nominees – that would be a battleground but I think Republicans would support me because I would nominate justices with the character of Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist. As for my cabinet, I would find individuals in the Reform Party, Republican and Democrat parties who represented my views on each of these issues. On trade, someone like Pat Choate and Marcy Kaptur are much more in tune with what I believe on trade, but in terms of defense policy you might get a republican there. The problem would be, how do you run for reelection?

Plante: Our final viewers Billy and Alice ask “Since most countries in the western world are subscribing to “globalistic” policies, how can the United States be both protectionist and leader of the “free world?"

Buchanan: The United States has been leader of the free world this entire century. Up until the end of World War II, the United States was the most protectionist country on earth. It had the highest tariffs in the world. I don’t think it has much to do with how you lead the world. I disagree with the premise of the question. Nations like Japan and China, and even the European union, are not globalists. The European union was established as a counter weight to the United States. And quite clearly they want to protect their own industries. And, they want to take down ours. For example, Airbus, which is a socialist cartel of four countries, has destroyed Lockheed’s commercial airline division, McDonald-Douglas’s commercial airline division, and is building the A3 double X to take down Boeing. This is economic nationalism. I understand it. Clinton and Gore appear not to understand it. The Japanese run a $70 billion dollar trade surplus, even thought their currency gets stroger and stronger, because they practice economic nationalism. The Chinese sell us six times as much as we sell them, and they keep American goods out of the market by various non-tariff barriers, because they want to build up their country and their economy. They want our technology, and when they get it all, and consume it all, they’ll tell us goodbye as all countries have always done. The American global system works today for one reason. The United States runs a $400 billion merchandise trade deficit. If America ever ran a trade surplus, you would find other countries not tolerating us running a surplus at their expense. They’re perfectly happy with us running a deficit, which is why they subscribe to the Clinton-Gore policies which is the most incompetent trade negotiating team in American history since the fellows who sold Manhattan Island for 24 bucks.

About Bill Plante
Bill Plante is a three-time Emmy Award winner who joined the CBS News Washington Bureau in 1976. He has been covering national elections since 1968. In 1984, he was part of a CBS News team that captured an Emmy for coverage of Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign. Plante is one of the most knowledgeable and respected political correspondents in Washington. (He'll do just about anything, including bungee jumping, to get a good story.)