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Sunday 23 June 2013

A Vox Cantoris exclusive: An Interview with Patrick J. Buchanan

This is a great honour for Vox Cantoris; an extensive interview with the great conservative politician, commentator, advisor to three American presidents and traditional Catholic, Mr. Patrick J. Buchanan. 

The interview was conducted by our friend and colleague and the Vice-President of the Toronto Traditional Mass Society-UNA VOCE TORONTO, Mr. Michael Krupa for a Polish conservative periodical. Mr. Krupa has graciously has allowed Vox to post the exclusive English language version here.


1. In your view, does there exist a possibility for a conservative revival in the United States along the lines of the famous “Goldwater Revolution” or has the nation, the culture and the political elite moved so far to the left, that American conservatism will remain an embattled political position with its intellectual and political adherents losing ground as time goes by?

A new Goldwater populist movement like the one to which I belonged in college and graduate school is possible, though today’s movement would be more libertarian.  But the Goldwater movement did not triumph.  It was crushed nationally in 1964.

Nixon cobbled together his winning coalition in 1966, 1968, 1970, and 1972 by uniting the Goldwater movement with the GOP base, and capturing the Daley-Rizzo Democrats in the North, and the Solid South to create a New Majority that won him 49 states in 1972.  Could that New Majority coalition be recreated?
Unfortunately not.  It is history.  There are 18 states, including the mega-states of California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, that Democrats have won in all of the last six presidential elections.  Absent a national disaster under a Democratic president, they are moving out of reach for Republicans in presidential elections.
The counter-culture of the 1960s against which Nixon and Reagan inveighed is now the dominant culture.  The traditional culture is almost a sub-culture.  Half the country receives regular checks from government and half the country pays no income taxes.  

In the 1960s the electorate was 90 percent Euro-American.  That figure has fallen to 74 percent and is inexorably sinking.  These folks provide nearly 90 percent of all Republican votes in presidential races.  The fastest growing ethnic groups are Hispanics and Asians. Both voted around 70 percent for Obama.  Demography and culture are grinding down the Grand Old Party.  What interrupts or halts the process in the long term, I cannot now see. 

2. In your book “A Republic, Not An Empire” you basically predicted that the continuation of a hyper-interventionist foreign policy would lead to a catastrophe in the American homeland. 9/11 was that moment. It seemed logical to some that ignoring the laws of “blowback” could no longer go on. However, George W. Bush decided on a completely different approach – more intervention, more meddling, more moralizing and more war. In your opinion, was this policy approach a result of “Dubya’s” strong sense of moral purpose or was post-9/11, as many claim, “the neoconservatives 15 minutes”?

George W. Bush underwent a Damascene conversion after 9/11.  He became a resolute and focused president. And when he set out after Al Qaeda, and to overthrow the Taliban if they did not hand him over, he had America behind him.  The initial Afghan invasion was brilliantly done and fully justified.  Then we should have come home.  Instead, President Bush adopted the neoconservative agenda as his own.  He became a missionary for global democracy.  He made it America’s role to ensure the world‘s worst dictators did not get the world’s worst weapons.  Whereupon North Korea did exactly that.  He declared that America was going to confront an axis of evil including North Korea, Iraq and Iran in perhaps the most ruinous speech given by a U.S. president.  He divided his worldwide coalition, and divided his country, and set out on a crusade almost certain to end like the Children’s Crusade led by Peter the Hermit.  Gen. William Odom called Bush’s decision to invade Iraq the worst blunder committed by an American President.  That is near my view.  Among the few benefits this nation has realized from the Afghan and Iraq wars is that they have helped to re-convert the American people to anti-interventionism.  But our losses from these unnecessary wars of choice are huge.  Neoconservatives played a supporting role in killing the Nixon-Reagan New Majority and crippling the Bush II presidency.

3. You are a well-known critic of the current model of American-Israeli relations. Some have claimed you are an anti-Semite. Does Pat Buchanan hate Israel?

No, Pat Buchanan does not hate Israel.  From June of 1967, when Richard Nixon and I visited Israel after the Six-Day War, for two decades, I was a strong supporter.  At Key Biscayne, when the Yom Kippur War broke out in 1973, I urged President Nixon to send all possible aid to rescue the Israelis.  They were in the our camp in the Cold War, America’s war, in which I believed.  And Moscow had armed Egypt and Syria.  But with the collapse of the Soviet empire and breakup of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War, I returned to the non-interventionist stance that is traditional conservatism.  This put me at odds with the neocons, many of whom equate a posture of non-intervention or neutrality between Arabs and Israelis as anti-Semitic. And for a decade I had defended John Demjanjuk against the charge he was Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka.  As he was about to be hanged in Israel, thankfully, Soviet archives revealed it was another man.  Buchanan had been right.  Not only was Demjanjuk not Ivan, he had never even been at Treblinka.  But it is not politically profitable to be correct on an issue like that and to have exposed those clamoring for Demjanjuk’s hanging as having exhibited the unmistakable traits of a lynch mob.

On the Middle East, I think we should gradually disengage from its quarrels and conflicts, be they ethnic, ideological, sectarian or civil.  The Ottomans were run out, then the British and French, then the Russians.  Now the Americans should go.  As Sarah Palin said, “Let Allah sort it out.”   

4. Let us return to domestic policy. In your famous 1992 speech at the Republican Convention in Houston you stated that America was experiencing a “culture war”, a war that would decide the fate of the Republic for decades to come. In 2003 you returned to this theme in your book “The Death of the West”, where you touched on the theme of Antonio Gramsci’s methodology for the literal destruction of Old Christendom, and thus, Western Civilization. Can we now state that the so-called “long march through the institutions” of the West is at an end, and the Revolution has purged any significant chances of a Counterrevolution, or have there been stumbling blocks along the way that could give traditionalists reason to still hope?

In Death of the West and Suicide of a Superpower, I have argued that, “When the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies, and the people begin to die.”  This seems true of the West.  Europe is far advanced, having abandoned the Faith and rejected Christianity.  Many in what was once the West worship now at new altars: consumerism, materialism, democracy.  Not one Western nation has a birth rate among its native born that will keep its people alive.  This has been true for thirty years.  

Traditionalists have lost large swaths of ground in these last fifty years with the triumph of the counter-culture and its capture of the arts, entertainment, academia, and the media.  In nations like the United States and in some European countries, there remains a remnant resisting going into that good night, but there is no denying that we have been executing a long retreat.  And there is no denying the direction in which we are headed.  We won the Cold War, but Gramsci’s long march through the institutions has neither slowed nor stopped. 

5. You had the rare opportunity of advising three American presidents. I want to especially touch upon your relationship with Richard Nixon. I myself am fascinated with the man. On the one hand, a presidency that ended in shame and tragedy, on the other, a man with immense intellectual capabilities and a strong character, a “fighter”, a rare breed when compared with the contemporary “Big Fish” in the Beltway and especially with the current occupant of the White House. How would you describe the Nixon phenomenon? Was he really a ‘crook’, a national embarrassment, or maybe one of the last true American statesmen?

Nixon was no crook.  He was a friend and mentor, a good man, and I am proud of and fondly remember the years I was at his side.  During Watergate, no one alleged he ever took any money.  His failure was in misplaced loyalty and not appreciating the malice and ability of his enemies.  And he was not what he used to tell me a British statesman said a great leader must be -- “a good butcher.”

He should have acted more decisively dealing with Watergate.  Yet, consider his first term.  He extricated us from Vietnam with honor, brought the POWs home, left every provincial capital in South Vietnamese hands, and was committed to use U.S. air power to enforce the peace.  He ended two decades of hostility between the United States and China.  He negotiated the greatest arms treaty since the Washington Naval Agreement of 1922 -- SALT and the ABM Treaty.  He was the first President to travel behind the Iron curtain, to Romania, then Poland, and Russia.  He created the Environmental Protection Agency and Cancer Institute.  And he won the greatest electoral landslide of modern history, 62 percent of the vote and 49 states.  Nixon’s first term was a triumph, especially when one considers that both houses of the Congress, the federal bureaucracy, and the national media were irredeemably hostile.

6. Apart from being a legend in the world of American media, a true “rock star” of American conservatism, and an uncompromising political figure you are also one of the last public apologists of traditional Catholicism in the West. The theme of “old-school”, pre-Vatican II Catholicism and of a truly “Ecclesia Militans” is very much present in your writings. Do you believe, like many in the Church today, including myself, that any discussion of a Catholic revival cannot ignore two crucial issues: a prudent revision of some of the documents of Vatican II and the restoration of the Tridentine Mass?

The collapse of the Catholic sub-culture in Europe, a product of two centuries of the acids of modernity working their will, and the collapse of the vibrant Catholic sub-culture we had in America in the 1940s and 1950s probably precludes that kind of Catholic revival we would love to see. Moreover, we have had two generations here that have grown up in the post-Vatican II Church and have no memory of what the church and world were like before that.  I fear that the historical pessimists were right, both about the West and the Church in the West.  The converts are being made in sub-Sahara Africa.

7. Going back to domestic issues – will the Supreme Court uphold traditional marriage in America, or is another loss in the Culture War waiting around the corner?

Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg believes the Court erred in Roe v Wade in declaring abortion a constitutional right, rather than allowing each state to decide the issue legislatively, as the states were doing in 1973.  The Supreme Court may strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and invalidate the popular vote in California that reinstated a ban on homosexual marriage, but it will likely leave the question of “homosexual marriage” up to each state to determine.  The court would ignite a social revolution it imposed “marriage equality” or “gay marriage” on the entire nation. 

8. Many politicians in Poland and pundits hold to a very simple assumption when it comes to Polish-Russian relations. The assumption rests on the belief in the “benevolent hegemony” of the United States in its commitment to protecting Poland from a “neo-imperialist Russia”, a Russia ruled by a former “Chekist”. The neoconservative influence here is clearly evident. Many in Poland had hoped that Mitt Romney’s victory in the presidential election would have led to a renewed interest on the part of Washington in projecting American power in Eastern and Central Europe. The Obama-Medvedev reset has been labeled by many in Poland as a “betrayal”. As a person who knows how power in Washington is exercised, the many factors that come into play and the interests which must be considered, is it right and just for Poles to feel angry and betrayed by an American president who is trying to act first and foremost in the American interest? Should we finally dispel the myth of “benevolent hegemony” and realize that the United States, as any normal state, has partners on the international stage that are more important than others?

Poland trusted in her war guarantee from Britain and France, neither of which came to her rescue in 1939.  They declared war and then sat behind the Maginot Line.  Churchill sold the Poles out to Stalin in Moscow.  FDR told Stalin at Teheran he could keep what he had taken, but asked him not to leak word of the concession until after the 1944 election.  Poles in Chicago and Detroit voted.  After the war, only anti-Communist Americans kept the truth of Katyn alive.  At the time of Solidarity, I recall urging President Reagan to put the Jaruzelski regime in default.  He chose no to do so.  It would have sunk some German banks.  Reagan and Bill Casey, however, did aid the Polish resistance led by Lech Walesa.

The truth is this: No matter Poland’s NATO guarantee under Article 5, no European nation is going to declare war on Russia if a collision occurs.  The United States would surely condemn Russia but we would not declare war on or fight a country with a capacity to annihilate us all.  History teaches that. 
As for U.S. relations with Russia, America should deal with Moscow and leave their internal affairs to the Russians to settle and solve.  Poland is as friendly a nation as we have on this earth and millions of Polish ancestry are U.S. citizens.  I went to Catholic schools with them in the 1940s and 1950s.  But Russia is a mighty European and Asian power with whom we have to and ought to correct and cordial relations.  I don’t want another Cold War.  One in a lifetime was enough.

As for “projecting U.S. power” into Central and Eastern Europe, America is headed the other way.  Most Americans think it is past time that European allies like Germany, France and Italy provided the arms and the men for their own defense.  When the Russians left Germany and Eastern Europe, we Americans should have come home as well.  As my late friend Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote, we should have become again “a normal country in a normal time.”

9. Do you project any serious harm to Obama coming out of the latest series of unprecedented scandals?

President Obama will suffer both short and long-term damage from the scandals.  The Benghazi massacre and cynical attempt in the “talking points” to mislead the nation, the IRS abuses, the Justice Department secret investigations of journalists, show him to be a president out of touch with what is happening in his own government. And they contradict his carefully crafted image of a politician of superior ethics and morality.  The NSA revelations show a leader who held out the promise of being different acting in the same old secretive mode.  The greatest damage has been done to him among those constituencies that most believed in him.  He is approaching the nadir of his presidency with his public approval  rarely lower and his disapproval never higher. 

10.  It has been alleged by your biographer, Tim Stanley, that your favorite movie is “The Godfather”. Can you confirm?

Tim is right.  When I was young my favorite was “Shane,” the 1950s classic, but have seen “The Godfather”  and “The Godfather: Part II” many more times in recent years.  Those movies are not only about the Mafia, but about the amoral world of nation states.

© 2013 Vox Cantoris Publications

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This interview by Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institute expands on the theme above:


TLM said...

Pat Buchanan has his finger pretty much on the pulse. Fascinating interview, thanks for this Vox. Obviously, however, this interview was taken before the S.C. ruling in the U.S. on marriage, that one he missed. That said I think a lot of us misread what would happen. Most predictors did indicate that the S.C. would leave the decision of gay marriage up to the individual states. I was shocked at Justice Kennedy's turn around that swung the vote in favor of gay marriage nation wide. Something strange I do believe happened to turn him around. It was very strange that the White House was all set to go with their 'rainbow light show' that very night. Hmm.....pretty quick maneuvering for such an elaborate display, which btw was extremely offensive to anti gay marriage people across the nation. Just a tad suspicious.

S. Armaticus said...

Mr Buchanan states:

"Tim is right. When I was young my favorite was “Shane,” the 1950s classic, but have seen “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II” many more times n recent years. Those movies are not only about the Mafia, but about the amoral world of nation states."

I must disagree. If he would take the time to watch GF III, he would have seen that Michael's character in all 3 parts is a never ending battle between good and evil. He wanted to be legit, but he couldn't escape his environment. The rules existed outside of his will, and were much stronger than even he could resist.

As to Don Vito, what we see here is a man that is in essence a proxy for Justice with a capital "J". What the Don recognizes is that there is an OBJECTIVE JUSTICE that exists outside of man will. This OBJECTIVE JUSTICE has rules. Those rules hold for all concerned. And it is this that he passes on to Michael.

Take for example, when the undertaker comes to the Don to ask for a wedding day favor, the Don answers him that he will not kill the people who beat up his daughter because his daughter is not dead. After all, "we are not murders, regardless of what that undertaker says" is what he tell Tom Hagen.

Furthermore, if you notice the negotiations with the Tataglia family before Michael's return from Sicily, the Don explains that both him and Tataglia lost sons. He says that they are even, and that he will not harbor any vendettas if Tataglia agrees to do likewise. Think about it, this is a man who has just lost a son, and he is willing to "turn the other cheek". This is nothing short of Solomaic.

Sorry, I got carried away. Long and short of the story is this... this is not a movie about an "amoral" world, but rather the story of an ordered world, one with a higher form of Justice. A Justice that exists independant of mans will. Man on the other hand is force to consent to this Justice, or he will die. In other words, they would all kill each other without this Justice. But yet they didn't, and they all made a good living while they kept to the rules. But I digress...

And when Michael meets and speaks with the future JPI, what we see is that the toughest of the tought, instinctively recognizes a higher power. He actually makes his confession. And a perfect one.

No, this is not about an amoral world at all, but rather about a perfectly ordered world.


Vox Cantoris said...

I agree.

I found it profound in GFII how Vito Corleone came to the aid of the old woman in need of rent. It was how the "godfather" should have been, to take care of the "widow and orphan" before the corruption took place. He also fought the rest on involvement in drugs.