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Buchanan Lays Down The Law

A Shiite sheik, right, and a Sunni sheik, left, lock hands during Friday Prayers in front of the Mohammed al-Amin mosque in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Friday Dec. 8, 2006.
AP Photo/Hussein Malla
Pat Buchanan accepted the nomination of what he called the "New Reform Party" Saturday night with a speech that slammed the Clinton Administration and George W. Bush in equal measure.

"Welcome to the last red meat convention in America!" Buchanan said to hundreds of supporters in a Long Beach, Calif. convention center.

If the convention was red meat, Buchanan's speech was a roast beef sandwich.

He said America should "get God and the Ten Commandments … back into public schools." He decried the "godless new world order" and called for an end to the American trade pact with China. He inveighed against "the Visigoths and vandals of multiculturalism," blaming Walter Cronkite for the supposed erosion of U.S. sovereignty.

And in a last-minute revision to his acceptance speech, Buchanan extended an olive branch to party founder Ross Perot. "Ross, let's go out and do battle together," Buchanan said "We're giving (the party) the chance to grow and live. We've earned that chance. Ross, come on out and give us a hand."

There was no immediate indication that Perot or his supporters would accept the invitation.

Buchanan's speech was the highlight — or low point — of a chaotic three days of accusations, hurt feelings and walkouts that split the Reform party in two.

This week, about 200 Reform Party activists threw their support behind their own presidential nominee, nuclear physicist John Hagelin, in a protest against what they feel is a hostile takeover of Perot's grassroots movement by a traditional politician who uses strong-arm tactics to force-feed Reformers a socially conservative agenda.

Earlier in the day, Buchanan's choice for vice president, Ezola Foster, an obscure African-American educator from Los Angeles, was rubberstamped by the convention. Foster polled 399 delegates to just 30 who abstained or voted for Charles Collins, a longtime Reform Party activist who sided with the Hagelin camp.

Foster, 62, defended her running mate against charges of bigotry: "Pat Buchanan ain't no racist, ain't no homophobe" and "ain't no anti-Semite!"

Reprising a role that's kept him employed for 30 years since he served as a speechwriter to Richard Nixon, Buchanan claimed the role of real conservative to Bush's sell-out.

He admonished Bush for saying "barely a word" on behalf of the unborn at the "festival in Philadelphia"; for having "no litmus test for the Supreme Court"; and he poked fun at the governor's mangled syntax, mocking Bush for saying, Is our children learning?”

After all that, Buchanan still had some bile left over for the Clinton administration, which he accused of "arrogance of power" in foreign affairs.

Calling American intervention in the former Yugoslavia "Clinton's War," he asked "why did we bomb this little country" that has "nothing to do with the vital interests of th United States?"

Both major parties, he said, have "colluded" with the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and Goldman Sachs.

Brushing off an old line that's always a winner with his supporters, the erstwhile CNN talk show host said, "My friends, it is time to pick up the pitchforks and go down and clean out the pig pen!"

A few doors down from the Buchanan bonanza, at the rival Reform Party convention, Hagelin supporters huddled like people who've been through something awful together. They conducted an interminable but very democratic review of five vice-presidential nominees, all of whom got to speak for five minutes, providing a window onto the diverse motives that bring people into a third-party movement in the first place.

On a stage that evoked a junior-high school election debate, an earnest, long-haired guy in jeans and cowboy boots talked about his 1992 run for president on a platform that had something to do with a homemade bicycle, while aged campaign finance reformer "Granny D" nodded and smiled in the audience.

Decorated Air Force veteran Robert Bowman talked about getting corporations out of politics. New York leftist Lenora Fulani got a boisterous ovation for announcing a "single-issue" candidacy of "democracy, democracy, democracy." And Chuck Collins, who got 23 votes at the Buchanan convention, warned, "I know where all the bodies are buried and where all the skeletons are."

From this embarrassment of riches, the Hagelin Reformers chose Silicon Valley venture capitalist and executive Nat Goldharber, who said, "It’s hard to believe this, but we have a chance of winning the White House in November!"

The Hagelin camp was not discouraging speculation that Goldharber might bankroll a their run, if the $12.6 million in federal matching campaign funds that the two Reform parties are fighting over is awarded to the Buchanan side or tied up in litigation.

Federal elections officials on site said that if both sides can show their nominee is on the ballot in ten states, the situation is in "uncharted waters."

Outside the conventions, a lone, bare-chested, sun-burnt demonstrator showed that the major parties are still relevant by holding a sign that said "Vote Bush-Cheney. Go to church, not to hell."