You can’t say he didn’t warn us.
Pat Buchanan, the conservative political commentator and former senior adviser to Ronald Reagan, warned against going to war for Kuwait.
He warned against the siren song of unfavorable trade deals. He warned against political correctness. And he warned against the evils of the abortion industry, among other things.
He wasn’t right about everything. But he was far more right than wrong, especially given the Bush family’s long record of abject failure, especially given the Washington establishment’s long record of abject failure.
Moreover, he warned against going to war in Iraq and was proven tragically right. The heartbreak is that so many young lives have been ruined in what was a counterproductive and needless foreign adventure.
Buchanan, who sought the Republican nomination in the ’90s, gave a speech in Houston in 1992 that was full of predictions. He predicted the “culture war for the soul of America,” the intolerance for Christians and the “with Bill you get Clinton and Clinton,” meaning two for the price of one. We are seeing this now in the sense that Hillary Clinton may be the next president of the United States.
At the time Buchanan was shamefully called “xenophobic” and an “America Firster” and a “protectionist.” Too bad. All for telling the truth. Politics ain’t beanbag, but the vitriol the Bush clan and the corrupt establishment aimed at an honorable conservative who had the temerity to ask unpleasant questions of the elites was astonishing.
Buchanan simply said we were a Republic and not an Empire. He was right then and even more right now.
As much as the neocon-High Tory-Establishment Republicans hated Ronald Reagan — such as those at the Ethics and Public Policy Center — they hated Buchanan even more. He called the neocons’ foreign policy “compulsive interventionism” even in the face of Washington warning against “entangling alliances.”
Iran and Iraq were two spiders, trapped together in a bottle so intent on killing each other they had little time for anyone or anything else. But George W. Bush, for reasons unfathomable, reached into the bottle and pulled the spider named Saddam Hussein out, freeing Iran to focus on paying for and exporting terrorism.
He did not have WMDs and we knew so, despite the false protests of the Bush 43 administration and their sycophants. A CIA operative who was a station chief in the Middle East told me that several years earlier, Saddam’s nephew had been captured. He was in charge of Iraq’s chemical weapons program except that Saddam had none, having used some of the Kurds while the rest had degraded into uselessness.
In short, Bush and Co. sold America a pig in a poke and only a few courageous voices like Buchanan had the courage to say so.
We, in the meantime, have been focused for years on the nonsensical notion of planting democracy in a place that doesn’t deserve or understand or want democracy. The Middle East is the Third World, and the best we should expect is a benevolent strong man. Ronald Reagan messed around once in the Middle East and then never did so again. After his presidency, he told a jokey parable that made clear his views on worthless ventures into the quagmire of the Middle East.
The distinction between reckless foreign adventures and peace through strength is important. While Buchanan never embraced isolationism, he did embrace making it difficult to come into to America and even more difficult to send our military out of America.
It took guts to run for president. It took courage to take on the Bush Machine. It took a lot of self-confidence to look into the mirror and proclaim that you, too, could be president. And who knows? Would he have received the paltry 37 percent George Bush did in 1992? Would Ross Perot have run as an independent, campaigning against the same bad trade deals that Buchanan had warned against?
He certainly would have fared better in the debates with Bill Clinton than George Bush, who viewed them as a bore and a nuisance, rather than a great intellectual show. Bush was put out for having to demean himself and he showed it. Buchanan, in short, would have eaten Clinton’s lunch. He had a better reason to run for president in 1992, as a real Reaganite, than did George H.W. Bush, as a faux Reaganite.
Is it too improbable that a writer and a speechwriter and public intellectual being elected president in 1992? Was it any more improbable that a failed little haberdasher was elected president? Or the president of Princeton? Or a former Hollywood movie star?
The great thing about the American people is they have a better capacity for imagination than all of the elites combined. Like Moses, Buchanan wasn’t allowed to go to the Promised Land, but over the years he has been vindicated on many, many issues.
Craig Shirley is the author of several Reagan biographies. His new book, “Last Act: The Final Years and Enduring Legacy of Ronald Reagan,” is due out in October.