Not only is Patrick Buchanan predicting the death of America as a superpower, but he is blaming it singularly on a "[President Barack] Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color."
The ascendance of the First Black Family to the White House has driven race-crazed Buchanan over the edge. It was not much of a trip. For years, the dour pundit viewed every African-American advance as a distinct slight against "white folks."
In his new book, the title of which will fester unmentioned in this space, the syndicated columnist-analyst-white-power advocate yearns for the good old racially segregated days of his youth in Washington, D.C. "Back then," he writes of this golden age in his "Last Chance" chapter, "Black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans."
It's not just blacks who Buchanan blames for the impending death of America. The Asians, Latinos, especially the Mexicans — Spanish blood and all, who preceded Anglos in the Southwest — they all terrify him. The bright light of civilization, he argues, can be sustained only by "peoples of European descent from the steppes of Russia to the coast of California."
Ironically, Buchanan, as an Irish Catholic, runs to type as bigoted members of these ethnic groups for long stretches of American history were themselves targeted by white Anglo-Protestants as carriers of the blight. Before the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys of 19th-century Boston could get their footing, for example, they had to come to grips with homegrown bigotry and exclusion.
These forebears of the 35th U.S. president first "had to overcome the harsh, widespread discrimination against Irish-Catholic immigrants at that time," as noted in presidential papers at the Kennedy Library. That bias extended to the 1960 presidential campaign, when a large segment of white Americans opposed Kennedy because they saw the Irish Catholics as ushering in the decline of American culture and power.
In calling for a return to the apartheid state, Buchanan strongly opposes excluded citizens fighting for their inclusion, say, in a nondiscriminatory job market. When a national consortium of black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American journalists petitioned 10 major media outlets in 2008 to promote at least one additional, nonwhite senior manager to their individual staffs by 2010, Buchanan objected in a 900-word Web post.
The white-power advocate wrote that the petition did not include "journalists of Irish, English, Polish, Italian, German or Jewish ancestry, since they are white." Far from being aggrieved, the white-group combination was precisely the owners, CEOs, producers, senior managers and publishers being petitioned. Some 222 years of white privilege have empowered these media titans, who oversee an industry that — contrary to Buchanan's passionate yearning — should more accurately reflect the America of the 21st century.
The sludge in Buchanan's book speaks, I submit, to the need of a biopsy of the writer capable of such toxin. I put the author under glass for the NABJ a couple years back and offer here a sketch of my findings.
Some macabre, life-altering tragedy, early on, likely affected young Patrick Joseph, and his outlook mutated into a permanent state of race phobia. Clarence Mitchell III, the black former state senator, grew up with him in Maryland and, over the years, has been repeatedly astonished at his buddy's venomous "insensitivity to the plight of black Americans."
Just as avoiding the military draft hardened the cowardly conservative into a chicken-hawk on the Vietnam War, Buchanan's Columbia journalism degree set him against the Jeffersonian idea of the free press as a watchdog on government.
Earlier, he had caddied for the sitting U.S. vice president, so when Richard M. Nixon passed through town, the conflicted, young editorial writer at the St. Louis Globe Democrat put an arm on the politician for a job. "If you're running for president," Buchanan reportedly asked, "I'd like to get in on the ground floor." The ersatz journalist quickly transformed himself into a truncheon for politicians soft on civil liberties.
Writing speeches for President Nixon, he sharpened the teeth of the conservative chainsaw used against the press. Along the way, he wielded his power against those seeking a free, fair and racially integrated society. In 1974, when Nixon resigned ahead of an impending impeachment, his scrappy dirty trickster, with masterful survival skills, regained his feet as a syndicated columnist, lecturer and co-host of CNN's Crossfire. In 1985 Buchanan returned to government as communications director for the Reagan White House.
White-power bluntness earned Buchanan a front-row seat at one of Reagan's major PR blunders: laying a wreath at the graves of Nazi stormtroopers in Bitburg, Germany. Among the 49 Waffen-SS troops in the cemetery was one Otto Franz Begel, awarded the German Cross for killing 10 American GIs. The cemetery contained no U.S. soldiers. This Aryan purity apparently made the cemetery all the more worthy of honor in Buchanan's eyes. It was reportedly he who staunchly pushed for the presidential honor for the Nazi troops.
Once he passionately lectured a group of opposing American Jews visiting the White House, including author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. As if the wreath laying for the Nazi troops were a patriotic act, Buchanan cautioned those accompanying Wiesel that they were "Americans first." Compounding the insult, Buchanan was reportedly observed to have written over and over again in his notebook: "Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews." According to Lou Cannon's biography, Ronald Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, the Bitburg visit "was the seminal symbolic disaster of an administration that placed great store in symbolism."
As with his recent book, Buchanan's primal racial fears have repeatedly surfaced in his determined efforts to conserve an America whose unshared authority is defined strictly along lily-white racial lines. "There is nothing wrong with us sitting down and arguing the issue that we are a European country," he said in opposing the entry into the U.S. of blacks from South Africa. The columnist and White House tactician strongly opposed the democratic process in South Africa that would give the black majority the vote.
Buchanan's bold flirtation with anti-Semitism sparked even the National Review, the magazine bible of William F. Buckley Jr.'s hard conservative right, to worry aloud about his brutish style. "Some of his writings raise serious questions about his judgment and his underlying philosophy," the magazine wrote in an unsigned commentary. "[He] must sometimes wish he could call back the hasty word, the logic gone subtly wrong, the rash epithet, the savage retort."
Buchanan himself, however, has never shown any inclination to back away from bold, verbal, racial assaults. If anything, he has drawn his "white folks" covered wagons into an even tighter xenophobic, Eurocentric media circle. "The American majority," he wrote in his book Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War, is "not reproducing itself," and thus allowing "Asian, African, and Latin American children … to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see."
Such racial narcissism blinds Buchanan to the reality that these newly arriving immigrants — coupled with the rise of Native Americans and black descendants of slaves — need not signal a decline of America, but indeed its very salvation! As but one of a million examples, Steve Jobs, the late acclaimed co-founder and CEO of Apple, was an Arab American, whose father was born in Syria, descendant of one of the non-European groups Buchanan has decided will doom the "white Christian republic."
Curiously, such backward know-nothingism has catapulted Buchanan to a highly visible media perch where, with all the charisma of a clenched fist, he reigns daily as a TV presence on political chat shows. His countenance as an analyst recalls nothing so much as that of the Joker in the Batman movies as played by Heath Ledger, lacking only the red lip smear and the dark eye paint.
Surf to some blessed channel tonight and you'll catch the scared and scary Pat Buchanan, chopping the air with his hands, hawking his devilish book, peddling his gospel of hate.
Les Payne is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and frequent contributor to The Root.