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Republican Convention: Where the Right Went Wrong

Patrick J. Buchanan
Author, Conservative Commentator
Wednesday, September 1, 2004; 2:00 PM

In his newest book, "Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency," three-time presidential candidate and author Patrick J. Buchanan lays out why he believes the current administration has abandoned its core principles and is leading America down the wrong path.

Buchanan tooks questions and comments live from the Republican convention on his book, politics and the 2004 election.

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The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Glenmont, Md.: As a Republican, I'm glad to see that you were not able to hijack the party with your hateful, isolationist views.

Patrick J. Buchanan: My foreign policy views are rooted in the wisdom of Washington's farewell address and Thomas Jefferson's admonition that we avoid tangling alliances and seek peaceful commerce with all countries. You may call the founding fathers isolationists. I think they were among some of the wisest men to lead a country on the face of the earth.


Laurel, Md.: Pat...First of all even though I disagree with a lot of your opinions and philosophies, I always enjoy hearing you talk and debate others. You and Eleanor on the McLaughlin Group! I hope I can discuss politics with you over a drink sometime!

My questions is in reference to the 527s. President Bush was all for them in 2000 when his crew used them to smear John McCain, but now he is suddenly opposed to them since the Democratic groups have heavily outspent the Republican groups. Do you feel the 527s have the right to raise funds and voice the opinions of their groups during a Presidential election?

Patrick J. Buchanan: I disagree with both the president, John McCain and John Kerry on independent expenditures. I think outside groups of angry or concerned citizens have the same right to participate and actively in the choosing of a president as do the two political parties and journalists. I do not think a political-media establishment should be allowed to dictate who can and cannot participate in an electoral process to chose the leader of the nation and the free world. If anything, we need to break up this two party monopoly of American politics. The more choices we have the better. The more ideas we have expressed through the media to the country the better. National politics should not a union shop.


Atlanta, Ga.: We never seem to hear much these days from either party about our huge deficit, much of it fueled by ever-growing entitlement spending. How would a President Buchanan tackle those two hot potatoes?

Patrick J. Buchanan: Exactly right. This is one of the central issues of my new book "Where the Right Went Wrong" I n the chapter titled "Conservative Impersonators" I document how federal spending for domestic priorities since 9/11 has grown more rapidly than spending for defense and homeland security and this president, despite mammoth growing defects, has not eliminated a single program, department or agency since taking office, nor has he vetoed a single spending bill. That is not traditional conservatism, that is big government conservatism which is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.


Portland, Ore.: Mr. Buchanan:

Only watching by television, but it appears the energy level in Madison Square Garden is significantly lower than the Democrats enjoyed in Boston. Do you agree, and if so, what do you attribute it to?

One other thing, like many, the Bush twins' performance made me cringe. I know they are young and inexperienced in public speaking, but I think it is almost cruel of their parents to put them into this position, when the Bush girls have indicated they would just as soon stay out of the public eye. No idea who wins in November, but based on Chelsea Clinton and the Kerry, Heinz and Gore children, Democrats are winning the good parenting contest.

Patrick J. Buchanan: You must understand these people are REPUBLICANS first. Secondly they are congenitally a less demonstrative people than Democrats. And third the passion and fire in this election year is as anti-Bush as it was anti-Clinton/Gore in 2000. The Democratic Party in Boston was deeply and passionately motivated by only two issues, anti-war and Bush must go.


Boston, Mass.: Mr. Buchanan,

Thank you for taking our questions. There has been a lot of talk on the cable networks & in print that the reason the speakers at the convention are all moderate is due to your speech back in 1992. What do you say to these people?

Patrick J. Buchanan: That night in Houston in 1992 that I spoke along with Ronald Reagan was not only the best night of the convention but the best night of the year for George Bush. The tracking polls showed Bush gaining on Clinton 10 points in one night. That is why the Clinton campaign went into full war room mode. But there is no question that the Republican Party once they realize we had ignited a firestorm on the cultural/social issue front and they were engaged in that battle backed away. And by so doing they rejected and ran away from the only issue that could have won the presidency for George Bush. Because foreign policy was off the table by August on 1992 and only 1 in 6 Americans thought George Bush had done a good job on the economy. Had they run on the cultural/moral issues, where 60 - 70 percent agreed with George Bush and disagreed with Bill and Hillary, they would have won. Read Clinton's book. Even he says that he thought these issues were the Republican Party's strong suit in '92. That is why Clinton and Carville did not want to talk about them. That is why they insisted, "it's the economy stupid."


Portland, Ore.: Hi Pat,

Love your columns.

1. As a reporter, how much enthusiasm do you sense from Republicans for the war in Iraq? Any fatigue setting in there yet?

2. As an opinion writer, Iraq may be front and center in the press, but economic malaise is what's most on folks minds where I work. Isn't the current administration policy pretty indifferent to working people? We all just see jobs being exported to Asia. Do any conventioneers feel any of this privately?

Patrick J. Buchanan: I think "enthusiasm" is not the right word. I think the Republican Party trusts the president and supports the war effort in Iraq largely because they trust in him but I doubt there are very many people in the hall that would not agree that Iraq had turned out differently than they anticipated and that it has turned out precisely as some of us predicted when we urged the president not to go to war. I said back then we would win the war in three weeks and then we would inherit our own Lebanon, out own West Bank, out own Gaza Strip and that is exactly what has happened. But I do believe this party trusts the president, Cheney, Rumsfleild and Powell far more to extricate us from Iraq than they trust John Kerry, and understandably so because in my judgment Kerry voted to give the president a blank check to take us into a war in which he did not truly believe.

Yes, many do feel it deeply and again this is another issue dealt with in my new book "Where the Right Went Wrong" and for the life of me I cannot understand why the loss of 2.7 million manufacturing jobs - 1 in every 6 that existed in this country when George Bush took the oath - has not caused more second thoughts about the trade policies of the Bush presidency. Global free trade, I have written in my book, is economic treason to the American worker. Free trade is the serial killer of American manufacturing and the Trojan horse of world government. It is an idea rooted not in Hamiltonian economics which built the greatest industrial power the world has ever seen but in the ideas of European scribblers who never built a great nation. My problem as an Old Right conservative is that here too George Bush agrees with John Kerry and the policy they both support is sapping the industrial vitality of this nation, bankrupting it and will eventually cause the collapse of the American dollar.


Patrick J. Buchanan: Thanks for the questions. Enjoyed it. As many of you know, 50 years ago I used to deliver the Washington Post in upper Northwest D.C.

They still owe me money.


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