Is it really about partisanship?
Pat Buchanan is an interesting character. We all know him as the man who praised Hitler in the 2000 campaign, who was involved with and has to this day defended the actions of the Watergate conspirators, and who has courted the extreme religious right and made numerous anti-semitic remarks throughout his employment with both the government and the media. These are only the broad brush-strokes, and up until recently I would have sided with any uninformed leftist who called him a Nazi bastard and a waste of human life. But certain events of late, as well as some research of my own, have led me to question that simplistic evaluation.
Now, please understand, I'm not going to be throwing any parties for this man who admittedly urged Nixon to "burn the tapes", who claimed that the Nazi Gas Chambers were a myth, and who staffed his Campaign Committee with apologists for anti-abortion violence. However, a handful of factors have piqued my interest and made me re-examine some of the history of this Odd Duck, and in particular certain glaring irregularities in his behavior.
The first thing I ever read that made me wonder about Pat was a conversation recorded in Hunter S. Thompson's The Great Shark Hunt
, in which Hunter describes Buchanan as "one of the few people in the Nixon Administration with a sense of humor."
Odd, no? That a man who who describes Adolph Hitler as a "Great Statesman" would even be seen talking to Thompson, much less spending "about eight hours one night in a Boston hotel room, finishing off a half-gallon of Old Crow and arguing savagely about politics."? Indeed, when Thompson asks McGovern campaign staffmember Rick Stearns, "perhaps the most hardline left-bent idealogue on McGovern's staff", about Buchanan, he "chuckles" and says, "Oh, yeah. We're pretty good friends. Pat's the only one of those bastards over there with any principles." (To which, to be fair, another staff member responds: "Yeah, maybe so...like Josef Goebbels had principles.")
The second time I was forced to raise my brows at Buchanan was last week on Real Time with Bill Maher
. During which Buchanan--via satellite--came out against the war in Iraq, saying, with a historical perspicacity heretofore unseen from any Republican that I know of, that "Terrorism is the price of Empire." The sentiments, he said, would have been expressed historically by the French, as they left Algeria, by the Russians, when they left Afghanistan, and by the British, leaving the Colonies.
Could I be hearing right? A Republican--Pat Buchanan!--using a historical precedent to disagree with a Republican President? Surely I had accidentally ingested some mind-altering substance? I couldn't be hearing this.
It only gets wierder.
I am quickly becoming a Watergate junkie. From the standpoint of a reasonable argument, it is worth knowing the legacy of political trickery at the present time, but to be honest, it's the intrigue that gets me. Did they really think they were going to get away with what they did? What is in the "missing" or "corrupted" tapes? And who, by god, was Deep Throat? Well...
A new special on Discovery Times
sought to answer some of those questions. I watched this Saturday, hoping to learn more details about the time period, the names, and some of the faces, for as hard as I try I have a really tough time retaining all those names and all the funny business they perpetrated. (Although I never have any trouble remembering Bebe Rebozo. Who forgets that name?) At any rate, the most interesting aspect of this special was the attention paid to new evidence about Deep Throat. An FBI profiler was brought in to pick through Woodward and Bernstein's book, All the President's Men
, purportedly a strict record of their meetings with Deep Throat and the subsequent investigation. He determined that, despite previous speculation, Deep Throat was indeed a single person, as the language and character are consistent throughout the book. He also argued that he/she was a person who wore his/her emotions on his/her sleeve, was alternately inside and outside of the White House, and who opposed the use of the Vietnam War for political purposes, as Nixon was said to have been doing. (It is necessary to use an indefinite gender because, although most of the candidates imagined to be Deep Throat are men, one is Diane Sawyer.) Only Woodward and Bernstein know for sure who Deep Throat is, and they have vowed to keep their informant's identity a secret until he/she dies. John Dean says he knows who it is, but he, too, is mum, possibly because he has outed who he thought it was in the past and has been proved wrong.
At any rate, a list was compiled. For the purposes of the Discovery Times Special, all the people on the list were contacted and asked to participate in the program. The documentarians received flat denials--"I am not Deep Throat"--from every person on the list except one.
That's right. You guessed it. Pat Buchanan.
Do I think Pat Buchanan is Deep Throat? Not likely. But I'm not putting any money down either way. But if you're as interested as I am, go to this website and check out a bewildering, well-documented array of conflicting behaviors: www.realchange.org/buchanan.htm
It would take far too much room on the blog to delineate all this bizarre behavior, so the link has the facts.
What has me thinking is this: We all know politicians say one thing to the cameras and say something else to their friends. Bush is a Christian Compassionate Conservative who calls reporters "pimply-assed assholes" and has protesting nuns thrown in jail. He also claims to have had a "salvation experience" and yet his behavior in public has not changed since his early, "pre-Christian" campaigning. (Bush lost his first campaign in the primaries to a Republican who ran in alliance with the religious right; in that campaign Bush was the "secular candidate". He seems to have learned an important lesson from that loss.) But what is the strange truth about Pat Buchanan, a man who seems to have no trouble allying himself with the most demented philosophies to have ever come down the twisted avenues of Right-Wing American Ideology, and yet is good friends with Larry King (Jewish) and, at one time at least, would hang out by the Watergate pool drinking beers with self-acknowledged Drug Freak Hunter S. Thompson? What is going on with this man? Could he be a sheep in wolf's clothing? It takes an olympic stretch of the imaginaton, but if we know anything about politics, it's that there is always more going on than we know, and often the reality so far out-weirds our perception we, the People, are shocked beyond the ability to process it. Which could explain why any Vietnam Veteran could be a Bush supporter....
I think perhaps the reason I am so fascinated by the idea that Pat Buchanan may indeed be the opposite of what he seems is that it would be comforting to assume that level of internal espionage goes on in our government. Because if things are as deceptive as that, then we can be certain of nothing, and what appears to be a hopeless route to destruction for American Democracy may indeed hold some hope after all.
Don't worry, I still trust Buchanan about as far as I could throw him, and no Nazis will be invited to my dinner table, but I absolutely love to think that someone--anyone--with that kind of access into the den of thieves could turn--for whatever reason--and be responsible for it's downfall.
As Buchanan himself said, in defense of the Watergate activities, "It's just a little spying. That's politics."
Take that however you like.