Patrick J. Buchanan – June 1, 1999
Full Transcript – Including Question and Answer Session
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB – WASHINGTON DC
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB LUNCHEON SPEAKER:
PATRICK J. BUCHANAN – REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
MODERATOR: LARRY LIPMAN – NATIONAL PRESS CLUB PRESIDENT
MR. LIPMAN: Good afternoon. Welcome to the National Press Club. My name is Larry Lipman. I’m the Palm Beach Post correspondent in the Cox Newspapers Washington bureau. I would like to welcome Club members and their guests in the audience today, as well as those of you watching on C-SPAN or listening to this program on National Public Radio. I would also like to welcome in our balcony 50 students from the Lutheran College Washington Consortium.
Before introducing our head table, I would like to remind members of some upcoming speakers. Tomorrow we will hear from Robert Burdahl, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. On Monday, June 7th, former President Gerald Ford will discuss the Foundation Awards. And on Tuesday, June 8th, presidential candidate Bob Smith will discuss the future of the Republican Party.
Press Club members may access transcripts and audiophiles of luncheons at our Web site, npc.press.org. Non-members may purchase audio and videotapes by calling 1-888-343-1940.
If you have questions for our speaker, please write them on the cards provided at your table and pass them up to me, and I will attempt to ask as many as possible.
I’d now like to introduce our head table guests and ask them to stand briefly when their names are called. All head table guests, except those invited by the speaker, are National Press Club members. Please hold your applause until all head table guests have been introduced.
From your right, Carl Leubsdorf, Dallas Morning News; Paul Rodriguez, Insight Magazine; Tom Diemer, the Plain Dealer; Dick Ryan, chairman of the National Press Club board of governors and Detroit News correspondent; Lyn Nofziger, senior adviser to the Buchanan campaign; Ken Eskey, chairman of the speakers committee.
Skipping our speaker for a moment, John Aubuchon, News Night Maryland, Maryland Public Television, and the speakers committee member responsible for organizing today’s luncheon; Alan Elsner, Reuters; Mark Sandalow, San Francisco Chronicle; Edward Schaeffer, St. Louis Informer; and Martin Sieff, White House Weekly. (Applause.)
Our guest today, Patrick J. Buchanan, is a lightning rod for controversy. His enemies have called him a racist, anti-Semite and woman-basher. His supporters have called him a conservative true believer, a major political intellect, and an economic nationalist. A journalist by education, a commentator by vocation, and a politician by association, Mr. Buchanan is making his third bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
The pundits — and, when he’s not running, he’s one of the nation’s major pundits — give him little chance. But Pat Buchanan is the only candidate in the Republican field who already has won a New Hampshire primary. He beat Bob Dole there in 1996, and gave George Bush — as in President Bush, not Governor Bush — a scare there in 1992.
A native of Washington D.C., Mr. Buchanan was educated in parochial schools here, received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. At the age of 23, according to his official biography, he became the youngest editorial writer on a major newspaper in America, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
In 1966, Mr. Buchanan’s close association with politicians began. He became the first full-time staff member for Richard Nixon, then building the comeback campaign that would propel him into the White House two years later. He was a speechwriter and special assistant to Nixon right through the Watergate period. He remained briefly during President Ford’s administration. President Ford will be here on Monday.
After leaving the White House, Mr. Buchanan became a columnist, but he returned as a presidential adviser under Ronald Reagan, serving as communications director from 1985 to 1987. Again leaving the White House, Mr. Buchanan became a leading television commentator, a regular on such programs as the McLaughlin Group, Crossfire and Capital Gang, where he’s honed his in-your-face debating skills and rapid response quips into lethal weapons.
When not writing columns, appearing on political talk shows or running for president, Mr. Buchanan became the founder of the American Cause, a conservative foundation, and has written five books, including “Right From The Beginning” and his most recent book, “The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy.”
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a warm National Press Club welcome to a fellow journalist who keeps straying to the other side, presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan. (Applause.)
MR. BUCHANAN: Thank you very much. Larry, there’s nothing that bothers me more than these journalists who keep crossing the line back from journalism to politics. It’s one of my pet peeves. But I appreciate it very much.
It is an honor to appear at this distinguished podium two weeks after my friend John McCain, who inspires in me both awe and a measure of envy. I mean, I thought I did a lot of television. (Laughter.) But John is clearly this year’s favorite for the 1999 William Ginsburg trophy — (laughter) — named after Monica Lewinsky’s legendary lawyer, who, on one Sunday, appeared on no fewer than five Sunday morning talk shows in a single morning, a record that I believe will stand as long as Joe DiMaggio’s streak. (Laughter.)
When he spoke here, John was most gracious to me. He called me “an eloquent and a forceful advocate for an utterly wrongheaded view of the world.” (Laughter.) For his part, John urged an all-out war if necessary, including a U.S. invasion to crush Serbia. John believes that friends and enemies alike will gauge future actions by our success or our failure in the Balkans. Let me commend Senator McCain for forthrightness and not engaging in trivial pursuits but contending about the central issues of our day.
And now that the long parliament known as the Texas legislature — (laughter) — has adjourned and Governor Bush has emerged from his tutorials — (laughter) — perhaps a great debate over America’s destiny and role in the world can now get underway, because I believe the two parties should present a clear choice of policies and philosophies. I am here to underscore my profound disagreements not only with Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore, but with my principal rivals for the Republican nomination — Governor Bush, Senator McCain, Elizabeth Dole and Steve Forbes. All are good and able individuals, but all four endorsed the president’s decision to launch this war on Serbia. Mr. Bush, Mrs. Dole and Senator McCain endorse sending a United States Army to fight its way into the Balkans to occupy Kosovo. I am unalterably opposed.
This war is an historic blunder that may yet prove the ruin of the most successful alliance in history. It is an illegal and unconstitutional war launched without the authorization of the Congress of the United States. There is not now and there has never been any vital American interest in whose flag flies over Pristina to justify the loss of a single platoon of United States Marines.
Now let us review — (applause). I believe truly this war is the product of a hubris and an arrogance that has marked American foreign policy since our triumph in the Cold War and against which I have been warning since the end of that Cold War.
Let me review the balance sheet of Bill Clinton’s Balkan misadventure. Our goals, he said, were to punish Milosevic, get Serb troops out of Kosovo, protect the Albanians there and stabilize the Balkans. But Serbia today is even more united behind Milosevic, and there are more Serb troops in Kosovo today than there were 10 weeks ago. Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania have all been destabilized. And the Kosovar people we went to protect have gone through a human rights hell, with almost the entire population displaced, uprooted, and thousands dead.
Who has benefited, save Milosevic? The Serbs have seen their country smashed by the Americans they once admired. The Kosovars have suffered a catastrophe. NATO has been defied by a tiny nation and seen its credibility diminished. The U.S. has seen its superpower status and reputation for decency tarnished by the merciless pounding of a little country that never threatened us. Our relations with Moscow and Beijing have been set back to Cold War levels. Is there anyone who would not prefer the Balkans of 10 weeks ago to the Balkans of today?
With Mr. Clinton’s original goals lost, NATO is now bombing Serbia to ruins to recapture its lost credibility and to restore a status quo ante that existed before the bombing began. But it is neither just nor is it moral for a superpower to ravage the civilian economy of a country for refusing to give up sacred land that has belonged to Serbia for generations.
Women and children and those in hospitals and homes for the elderly are the principal victims when the electricity is shut off, the lights go out, the heat cuts off and the water supply is contaminated because the pumping stations no longer work. How are these innocent people supposed to force Milosevic to give up Kosovo? And if they cannot, why, in the name of decency, are we destroying the critical utilities on which they depend for survival?
John McCain says that even if the decision to go to war was unwise, now that we’re in it, we must win. Wrong, John. If a war is unjust or unwise or unwinnable except at exorbitant cost, you do not send 200,000 soldiers to rectify the blunders of those who launched it and restore their reputations. You seek an armistice and end it, as Eisenhower did in Korea, DeGaulle did in Algeria, Reagan did in Lebanon, and Gorbachev did in Afghanistan, and let the blunderers go off and write their memoirs. (Applause.)
As for my friend Steve Forbes’ suggestion that we arm the KLA, that would ensure an Afghanistan-style guerrilla war between Muslims and Christians in the underbelly of Europe. Were the KLA to triumph, a regime would come to power in Kosovo that would seek to unite with its kinsmen in Macedonia and Albania, and the true nightmare scenario of the Balkans would unfold. How would that advance peace and stability in Europe?
Let me turn now to a second issue where I strongly disagree with Governor Bush, Mrs. Dole, Senator McCain and Mr. Forbes. All four of them favor the Clinton-Gore policy of continuing China’s privileged MFN trade status under which Beijing has piled up no less than $274 billion in surpluses with the United States over this decade. But the Clinton China policy of constructive engagement has revealed itself to be a triumph of hope over experience. At best, it is willful self- delusion. At worst it is willful appeasement.
Senator McCain says, and I quote, “Risks to the security of our vital interests or egregious offenses to our most cherished political values should disqualify a nation from entering into a free trade agreement with us.” But Beijing persecutes dissidents, Christians and Tibetans. It forces married women to undergo abortions and be sterilized for the criminal act of having a second child. Do these barbarous practices not represent an egregious offense to our cherished values?
The horde of hard currency China has piled up from its trade surpluses is being used for the greatest military buildup in Asia since the 1930s. Since 1996, Beijing has increased five-fold its missiles that are targeted on Taiwan. It is mock-test-firing missiles at U.S. bases in Asia, and it is even targeting ICBMs on the United States of America. Does that not present, quote, “risks to the security of our interests”?
With its missile buildup and its missile transfers, Beijing today threatens U.S. interests in ways Belgrade never could and Belgrade never did. Yet we bomb Belgrade and appease Beijing. Why do we continue to feed this tiger? Does the Business Roundtable now speak louder in the corridors of power than the national interests of the United States? Perhaps too much money makes for — too much soft money makes for too many soft heads. (Applause.)
Speaking as one of 10 surviving members of the official U.S. delegation that opened up the People’s Republic with Mr. Nixon in 1972, let me say I do not want a hot war with China or a cold war with China or a confrontation with China, nor do I desire to, quote, “contain” China against the natural growth of its influence in Asia. China is a great nation, and the Chinese are a great people. But we, too, must demand respect and reciprocity.
When China manifests its hostility to our values and interests, it is craven and foolish to treat China as a partner and friend. Just as Beijing imposes stiff taxes on U.S. imports, we should impose the same taxes on Chinese goods entering the United States of America. One-sided concessions only earn China’s contempt. And as we have agreed to pay for the damage done to its embassy by our accidental bombing in Belgrade, China should pay the cost of repairing our embassy in Beijing, which was trashed at the instigation of that regime. It is time the kowtowing came to an end.
Let me return to my friends and rivals, Mssrs. Bush, McCain, Forbes and Mrs. Dole. All four supported NAFTA and GATT. All four support fast-track authority for Mr. Clinton. All four backed U.S. entry into a World Trade Organization that operates on a one-nation, one-vote rule where America has no veto power. All four endorse the trade policies of Clinton, Barshefsky, Kantor and Gore which have given us a merchandise trade deficit this year far in excess of $300 billion, or 4 percent of GDP.
On trade, the Establishment Republicans offer America not a choice but an echo. For Congress to vote fast-track authority would surrender its constitutional power to the least competent negotiators since the czar’s agent sold Alaska to Seward for $7 million. As for U.S. accession to the WTO, that was a unilateral surrender of our national sovereignty. For what? We control the greatest market on earth. We do not need international bureaucrats to defend America’s interests in trade negotiations. We can look out for ourselves. Why should we accept a single vote in a WTO where Europe has two dozen?
Under NAFTA and GATT, thousands of factories have been shut down in America. Millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost, 400,000 last year alone, in what was a good year for the rest of us. Our dependence on foreign nations for the vital necessities of life has grown to levels unseen in the 20th century. We are surrendering our economic independence and squandering the birth right of future generations for the instant gratification of today’s consumers.
There is a rising danger in our growing dependence on foreign regimes for the necessities of our national life. Look back to history. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because it was starved for oil, and the U.S. fleet could block its path to the East Indies. America went to war in the Gulf for o-i-l, as Secretary of State Baker put it at the time. Yet our dependence on foreign oil today is greater than it was in 1990. It is greater than it has ever been in American history.
An even more insidious danger lurks that my rivals refuse to acknowledge or perhaps cannot see. Any free trade zone will call into existence a political regime to rule over that free trade zone. The free trade zone adopted by the 13 states at Philadelphia from 1787 to 1789 went hand-in-hand with creation of a central government that grew supreme. The European Common Market called into being a European Union that is moving to take control of the currencies, the tax policies, the immigration policies and today we read even the defense policies of the once-independent nations of Europe.
The dynamiters and deconstructionists of all barriers to trade know that a global economy must call into existence a global government. And globalism is at war with patriotism. So-called free trade conservatives are not really conservatives at all, but the unwitting masons of a one-world government.
The final payment for any global free trade zone is an end to American sovereignty and the loss of American independence, and that would be a betrayal of our heritage.
No matter who seeks to lead us there, we will not go gentle into that good night. As America cross over into the new millennium, we deserve a choice of politics, policies, philosophies, and destinies. Yet on the extension of permanent U.S. war guarantees to the Baltic and the Balkan states on war in Kosovo, on MFN for China, on the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, foreign aid, open borders immigration, Bush, Dole, McCain, and Forbes are virtually xerox copies of Clinton and Gore.
If one of these wins the nomination — the GOP nomination — we risk a replay of 1992 and 1996, where both major parties will agree on most major issues and a pillow fight will ensue over some dinky tax cut. (Laughter.) This will satisfy the national establishment, but it will cheat Middle America.
Tens of millions of Americans will not vote again. Millions more will again cast protest votes for the Reform Party, the Taxpayers’ Party, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. America deserves better than a politics of inconsequentiality, where the presidential choice is between two free trade globalists, two compulsive interventionists, two open borders, one-worlders enthralled by a utopian vision of a different America or seized by the allure of some new world order.
My vision is of an America independent and free, her full sovereignty restored; of a constitutional republic that is wholly self-sufficient, where elected leaders, not U.N. officials or NATO bureaucrats or the ancient commitments of Cold War statesmen determine where, whether, and when we go to war. I’m not a citizen — (applause) — I am not a citizen of the world, I am a citizen of the United States, and I am not running for president of the world. I am running for president of the United States.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION AND ANSWER PERIOD
MR. LIPMAN: We have a number of questions here. I will try to get to as many as possible, and I’ll probably group some in together. You obviously mentioned you were against the war. So are Quayle, Kasich, Senator Smith, also agree with you on a number of issues. And you left out Gary Bauer. What’s your niche on the right, and did you intentionally leave out Gary Bauer?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no, as you mentioned yourself, Larry, I had not mentioned Mr. Quayle or Mr. Smith or Mr. Kasich or Mr. Keyes or Mr. Bauer, because I — I didn’t mention Quayle for the reason that I believe he does agree with me on Kosovo, and I believe the others do.
The point is of the Establishment candidates — the four I mentioned — all of them fundamentally agree with the party line of what I would call a bipartisan establishment in this city: a Republicrat establishment which on trade and on foreign policy and on immigration holds to a single position. and since they are the only four who are near where I am in the national polls and in the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, I’ve referred to them for that reason. Because the others — Senator Smith, for example — pretty much agrees with Pat Buchanan on almost everything. He’s a very wise Senator. (Laughter.)
MR. LIPMAN: In your last two presidential bids, the polls showed you trailing badly for the nomination and they were right. The polls show the same thing. Why are you running? And given your position in the polls, do you really believe you have a chance for the GOP nomination? And if you don’t get the nomination, will you continue to become a perennial Republican candidate?
MR. BUCHANAN: There’s a very friendly question. (Laughter.) I think God put pollsters and pundits on this earth for the amusement of mankind, to be candid. (Laughter.)
It is true the last time — Time magazine, which has me I think at 50 to one, had me at 250 to one the last time at this time in the race . But I’ll tell you, after the New Hampshire primary, they were trying to cover a lot of bets. (Laughter.)
I feel this, that we are much stronger than we were. Let me say this. In 1992, we came off a television talk show, and almost upset the president of the United States in 10 weeks of campaigning, which astonished not only the nation but a lot of folks around the world. It certainly astonished President Bush.
In 1996, I started at about 5 percent and Bob Dole was at about 55 percent. But I beat him in Alaska. He didn’t play in Louisiana that I won. I came within three points of him in Iowa, and I beat him in New Hampshire, and I came within a few points in Arizona. And I beat the three United States Senators and the governor of California and altogether about nine distinguished other Republicans, and we lost only to Senator Dole.
So as the defending champion of the New Hampshire primary — (laughter) — I think I belong in this race. And all we need is a little more umphh! If we go over the top in Arizona, and I don’t hold up all those guns, we’ll do just fine. (Laughs.)
MR. LIPMAN: Let me follow up on the poll questions. Do you think the low poll ratings reflect that your views are out of step with the public’s, or that there is a lack of interest in issues out there?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, I do believe this. I would not be running if I did not believe I had an excellent chance to win this nomination to be president of the United States. But let me say on — let’s take two issues, this issue of economic patriotism, and the issue of an “America First” foreign policy that keeps us out of wars that are none of our business.
These are issues that I argued in 1992, and I concede our support was very small within the party, even at the grass roots. Today economic patriotism is the dominant point of view at the grass roots of the Republican Party. It is increasingly the dominant view of the younger Republicans in the House.
And as you can see from our victory on fast track, and our victory on the steel dumping quotas, on a foreign policy that puts America first and keeps us out of wars that are none of our business, the elites — the neo-conservative elite, the Republican elite, the liberal- Democratic elite, led by Clinton and Gore, all disagree with us.
But if you take a look at Middle America, and you take a look at grass roots conservatives, and you take a look at the people I talk to out there in town meetings, there is no support for this war in the Balkans. No one truly believes it’s in our vital interest. They want this war ended. They don’t want American ground troops going in. They don’t want occupation troops. They want to bring American troops home to the United States, rebuild, refurbish, rearm our military, so that they can defend threats to this country, and not to some new world order. So we are moving. And I believe that even if Buchanan doesn’t prevail, the ideas called “Buchananism” are coming into their own, and they will prevail in this country. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: Let me follow up on that. You continued running in 1992 and ’96 after the nomination had long been decided. Will you do the same in 2000, and will you rule running out as a third- party candidate if you’re not the nominee? What do you think of the suggestion received by New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith that conservatives should leave the GOP and form a third party?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, let me say that, you know, Bob Smith is truthfully — and I was kidding — is as fine a man and is as good a Senator as we have. And he’s very courageous and independent, and I hope to have him on my team.
But on his idea bout a third-party run, because I believe we are gaining ground — and these victories take time. Ronald Reagan, whom Lyn Nofziger worked with back in 1966 and ’67 — that to me was before Reagan’s time. I’m not sure that if he had beaten Richard Nixon, whom I worked for, he could have won then.
By 1980, it was Reagan’s time. People were saying “You know, maybe Reagan is right.” And I believe the ideas that I’ve enunciated — this “America First” foreign policy, a trade policy that restores our manufacturing base and makes it self-sufficient again — these ideas are taking root, taking hold and growing.
So I would urge Bob not to walk away from the Republican Party yet, because if we can win that Republican nomination, if we put it together with the Reform Party — which is the reason we have lost twice so badly, is they’ve gone — if these ideas will bring them back and bring the Taxpayers Party back and part of the Libertarian Party back, I think the way to go is to get that Republican nomination.
But I do believe this. If the Republican Party goes down the road as another echo of globalism and internationalism and foreign aid and global free trade and all this other nonsense, then it risks the same fate we had the last two times. We’ve got to remember: the Republican Party did not nominate Pat Buchanan in ’92 and 1996. It nominated two Establishment conservatives. I mean, it nominated two Establishment figures: Mr. Dole and Mr. Bush. And as I’ve told folks, in ’92, they told me I had to beat President Bush, and almost did. In ’96, I beat Senator Dole — and I did beat him in New Hampshire. And now they tell me I have to beat Bush and Dole. (Laughter.) (Scattered applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: If Milosevic capitulates and accepts NATO conditions, would that not be a major foreign policy victory for President Clinton?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I hope my country’s not considering it great victories when the greatest superpower on earth and the greatest alliance in human history after 10 or 12 weeks of bombing and smashing a tiny country, get it to agree to its conditions. If that’s the kind of victories we’re winning, I don’t want ‘em. But let me say this. (Applause.)
Let me say this. I genuinely love this country. It’s been very good to me and my family and everybody I know. But I’ve never come closer to being ashamed of my country than when I see us bombing — bombing the utilities and things upon which the civilians of this country depend.
Milosevic is a thug, and everything they say he is. But to me, this bombing of Serbia is not justified in what we’re doing. Let me say that I hope it ends, and if Milosevic will give way and you bring in NATO troops in the south and Russians and others into the north, that will not bother me in the least.
But I’ll tell you this. I will resist the idea of putting American occupation troops into Kosovo because of after what we’ve done to the Serb nation and people, many of those Americans will be shot in the back in revenge. And we have no vital interest.
It is time the Europeans, whom we’ve defended and defended and defended — (applause) — stood up, and took responsibility in their own backyard.
MR. LIPMAN: Several conservative leaders, Paul Weyrich and others, have stated recently that there is no Moral Majority now, and that the battles for values have been lost. Do you agree?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, I can understand the attitude. But I don’t believe in defeatism. There’s no doubt that we lost — those of us who believe that what Mr. Clinton did on a personal level, and how he prevaricated about it to everyone under sight and everybody under oath justified his removal from office. And Mr. President Nixon or Mr. Reagan, had they done so, would have been gone. There’s no doubt about that.
But I don’t believe in giving up, because I believe what I called in a fairly well-known speech back in 1992 “this cultural war for the soul of this country”: it’s about who we are and what we believe and what we stand for as a people and what children are going to be taught about right and wrong and the history of their country.
And that is not a conflict from which we can walk away. We can’t defect, we can’t go over the hill. And maybe we’re not going to win. But we’ve got an obligation, in my judgment, to keep at it, to keep fighting. And I truly believe that just as in the Cold War, which Weyrich thought we were losing in 1979, in 1980, and suddenly we got this fella comin’ in on a horse out of the West, we won that Cold War, I think we can win this cultural war for the soul of America, and we’re not going to quit. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: This question touches a little bit on what you were just saying. What, as president, would you do to address the type of violence that occurred in Littleton? The killers asked two of the students, “Do you believe in God?” and when they said “Yes,” killed them. Do you see more hostility against Christians?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, there’s — I think it’s undeniable that Christian-bashing has become a popular sport of the American establishment and the Hollywood elite. And that’s undeniable. You take the kind of movies they used to make in the 40s, of “Going My Way” or “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” and how they treated for example Catholic priests in those days, and how they’re treated in films today, you can see a clear sense of moving away from respect, toward mockery and ridicule. But that’s the lot of Christians in this particular day and age.
What would I do about Littleton? I think Littleton — it is naive to believe that when these fellas violated 18 gun and explosive laws and plotted for a year to massacre their classmates and shot girls in the face when they said they were Christians, that somehow passing a 19th or 20th gun law would have prevented what happened.
We’ve got to ask ourselves some simple questions. Who put the poisonous ideas, the hate in the minds and hearts of these kids that they thought that would be, quote, “a good way to go out.”?
And I think that’s not — you don’t need to look to the National Rifle association and hold them accountable for that. You an probably look to our culture, our media, Hollywood, the expulsion of God and the Ten Commandments and all religious instruction from your public schools, because these kids were empty vessels into which all the poison of our society was poured. And it absorbed and it took.
And so I think that’s where we’ve got to address our concerns. And that I think is what is behind what happened at Littleton and what is happening too often across this country.
MR. LIPMAN: Let me follow up that comment about the guns. Do you believe there is room for any additional gun laws, or do you believe that any of the current gun laws should be repealed?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I said in New Hampshire in ’92 — they asked me what my position on gun control was. And I said “My view is if you need a trailer hitch to pull it, you’re going to have to register it.”
But my view today is basically this. Look, there are 40,000 gun laws in America. And adding 40,001 or 40,002 or 40,003 I don’t think’s going to do a thing.
In New Hampshire, which I’m fairly familiar with, they have relative what some people would call “laxity” on gun laws. But there is far less gun violence against individuals up there than there has been in Washington, D.C., which has the strictest gun law in the world.
Now in Washington, D.C. for example, I don’t believe you’re even allowed to own a handgun in the city. And my view would be in Washington, D.C., if you’re 21 years old, you’ve never been arrested, you’ve never used drugs or been caught in something like that, and you fear for your home or your safety of your family, in some of these areas of the city where crime is very high, it seems to me an individual ought to have a right to have a gun in the home for self- protection.
I think there are areas where all of us can agree: school kids shouldn’t be carrying guns to school, or knives to school, or switchblades, or anything like that. And all of us would agree that it ought to be stopped.
But my view is the best laws to deal with those kinds of things are not some federal law passed by a bunch of Congressmen. It is local ordinances that will deal with that, local folks. I mean, the federal government cannot stop something in Littleton, Colorado, a town most Americans never heard of. I think these things have got to be stopped and the answers have got to come from the local level.
MR. LIPMAN: The character issue would seem to be a natural for a straight shooter like yourself. Why haven’t you made more of it?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, I think Clinton already got a lot of press on that last year. (Laughter.) (Laughs.) I don’t know. I’m not sure — I mean, is there something that Clinton did that I’ve missed out on or haven’t mentioned in my campaign? (Laughs.)
Look, let me say this. I did spend one year — I went one year of “Monica Hell” on “Crossfire” and “The McLaughlin Group,” and I must tell you I was sick unto death of the issue, and I’m glad it is over and ended.
And I think the behavior of the president was appalling, I think he probably thinks it was appalling by now. But I don’t think any of the individuals running for office — and I would include in this Vice President Al Gore — would engage in that kind of behavior. And I don’t know why I should be critical of him when I don’t believe he would. And —
Look, to me, this election should be about the future of our country. I got into this race for a lot of the ideas that I mentioned today. And it’s to advance that agenda and those ideas. As I told someone, “If someone else had been out there articulating these ideas with a real chance of winning, I would have considered not running.”
So I’m not in here to attack Bill Clinton for what he’s done in the past. My agenda is about America’s future in the 21st century, about keeping us out of wars that are none of our business, about rebuilding the industrial base of this country, about recreating the kinds of manufacturing jobs that used to enable when I was growing up working fellows going out of high school would be making more money than I was when I was 25, and I was white-collar and they were blue- collar.
That’s the kind of good society I’d like to see. And I think a republic that endures for generations and not to follow the path of the British Empire and some of these other great nations, which were on a par with us at the beginning of this century and all of whom lost it all because of wars that were none of their business. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: You stated that America’s bombing a quote, “poor little country,” unquote, that, quote, “is not a threat to America.” Was America’s decision to go to war against North Korea and against North Vietnam a mistake for the same reason?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, North Korea on June 25th, 1950, attacked the South. And within hours, they were overrunning and killing American troops of the 24th Division. The United States was occupying South Korea as a result of our victory in World War II. Mr. Truman basically started fighting back when we had been attacked.
With regard to South Vietnam, that became a sort of de facto ally of the United States when it was invaded by North Vietnam and its proxies, the Viet Cong. Both of those were part of a Cold War in which the central enemy of the United States and its adjunct, the Communist China, had declared America to be their enemy.
The Cold War was our war. It was the war of our generation. Korea and Vietnam were hot-war aspects of it. But I don’t think Milosevic has in mind ultimately bringing down the United States of America. I don’t think Milosevic is a threat to the United States of America. Kosovo belongs to Serbia — it always has.
Our interest there was not strategic, it was humanitarian. In the last year, 2,000 people died before the bombing started in Kosovo. And that was one in every 1,000 in Kosovo had died in a civil war — which is the same death rate as we had in Washington, D.C. during the height of the Marion Barry administration. (Scattered laughter.)
Now, that is not a war that justifies the United States launching the greatest air strikes since Desert Storm. So, What I’m saying is North Korea — or Korea and Vietnam were America’s wars, and this is not. This is Europe’s war. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: You spoke of the Chinese military threat to Taiwan and to the United States. Is there a danger that a military incident surrounding Taiwan could escalate rapidly into a U.S.- Chinese nuclear confrontation? And what should we do about the Chinese missiles targeted on the United States?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, that is probably the most difficult question that’s going to face — or one of the most difficult that will face a president.
There’s no doubt that China had — and my sources on this are both the Pentagon and the Washington Times — had 30 to 50 missiles targeted on Taiwan in 1995-96, when we had the confrontation in the Taiwan Straits. They now have 200 missiles, and they’re building to a force of 650 on Taiwan. They’re mock test-firing on American bases in Asia. They have the ability now to inflict some damage on the American fleet because of their advanced aircraft anti-ship missiles, some of which they got from Russia. And they’re targeting ICBMs on us.
I think we’re headed down the road toward a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis, where China will threaten Taiwan not with invasion but with blockade by missiles, and maybe fire missiles in the vicinity of Taiwan and perhaps at Taiwan. And at that point, the United States is going to have to decide what it’s going to do.
If China has nuclear weapons targeted on us, clearly nuclear weapons are going to be off the table. And then you come down to the conventional balance of power out there. And I’m not sure the conventional balance of power now is — now it’s fairly even. But it would seem to me — we’ve only got one carrier there, and that one’s gone. It would seem to me it could come down to a balance of power, where the United States Seventh Fleet and our bases there are no match for the Communist Chinese and their bases opposite Taiwan.
So that’s the question that’s going to come. My view is that the president should have called in Zhu Rongji now, when we had the diplomatic leverage. China’s sales to us are responsible for 7 percent of its gross national product. Its entire growth — all of its hard currency. All you’ve got to do is put the same tariffs on them they put on us, their currency goes down into the dumpster and their economy with it.
I would have called Zhu Rongji in and said “You’ve got to start building down these missiles, and if you don’t, I’m going to favor lifting MFN for you myself. I’m going to lead Congress to do it. And you won’t be able to sell a stuffed Panda bear at Tyson’s Corner.
And if you don’t — and if you don’t, you know as well as I what will happen to your economy. We don’t want to do that, but you are moving toward a military showdown here that we don’t want. And we are not going to provide the funds for you to do it. Now, that would have been a very tough meeting, but I’ll tell you it’s not as tough as the one that is coming down the road. (Applause.)
QUESTION: What are your views on North Korea and former Secretary Perry’s recent visit to bring about a reconciliation?
MR. BUCHANAN: I’m very much in favor of what Secretary Perry is trying to do. In my judgment — again, let me go back to — and I don’t believe we should withdraw our troops right now from Korea, because there is this tension there, but I argued eight or nine years ago that with the Cold War over and no tensions on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea, which has an economy about 20 times now the size of North Korea and twice as many people, and access to the latest weaponry in the United States, South Korea should have moved its troops into the positions held by American soldiers and Marines, and we should have moved our troops off shore and kept our Navy there and our Air Force there, and not have Americans be in the first to die in a second Korean War. I don’t think you can move out now when you’ve got the crisis as it is now. But I am very much in support of what Secretary Perry is trying to do. He doesn’t want a war there, and neither do I. And at the same time you don’t want to continue giving the North Koreans a lot of benefits when they are not complying with their agreements. So — but I support in general what the secretary is trying to do.
MR. LIPMAN: Sticking with foreign relations, what is your vision of the U.S.-Russian relations in the 21st century? What step will you take to improve them?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think the greatest achievement of Ronald Reagan is not only to have led America to the precipice of victory in the Cold War, but to have turned the Russians from people who are increasing generally an evil empire in 1981 to friends who are congratulating Ronald Reagan on calling it an evil empire as he walked through Red Square in 1988 with Gorbachev. He turned the Russians from a hostile power, the core of a hostile power, into friends of the American people.
I think anti-Americanism is now rampant in Washington, and part of the responsibility rests on this administration — I think for pushing NATO right into their faces, moving it eastward, telling them we’re going to bring in the Baltic republics — we’re going to bring in all these countries — and even maybe Ukraine, which has 10 million Russians — into NATO — this is insanity.
I think repairing the relations between the United States and especially the Russian people and the government will be a first priority — should be a first priority in the next administration. And I don’t think there’s many higher priorities in foreign policy, because they’ve still got something like 30,000 nuclear weapons. And I think the Russian relationship and keeping Russia out of any kind of concert with China should be the highest foreign policy objective of the next president. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: The word “China” appears in the next question, but has nothing to do with China. Do you still think that we should build a China wall between the United States and Canada, like you said in New Hampshire during the 1996 primaries?
MR. BUCHANAN: I think they got the wrong spot for the wall. No, I don’t think — (laughs) — we ought to have a wall with Canada.
No, I’ll tell you what I did say in 1992. I said we needed a security fence, a triple-line security fence between the United States and Mexico along the crossing point at San Diego, where thousands were walking into the United States of America on the weekends.
Sometimes 5,000 would just run across, and you had a few Border Patrol people who would just try to tackle a few, and the rest of them would run right by and disappear right into the sort of villages right there along the border. And I was denounced for the Buchanan fence — a dreadful thing. I went out there in 1996, and the fence has been built — (laughter) — only now it is the Clinton-Feinstein fence. (Laughter.) So again — again we are ahead of our time. So I mean I’ll take credit for that.
Frankly what I would do is I would move that similar structure along the place now — it’s very terrible along — in Douglas, Arizona, for example, where people are coming in by the thousands and ranchers are starting to arm themselves, and they’re running across the roofs and they’re killing livestock, and it’s awful because they come in in great numbers there, and the Border Patrol can’t handle it. And I think in the urban areas — there’s about six crossing points in the urban areas — we ought to have the same kind of fence that you got — you can see going on Route 50 going to Ocean City. What in heaven’s name is wrong with that?
Robert Frost said good fences make good neighbors, for heaven’s sakes. (Laughter.) And in my judgment the United States has a right to protect its borders from people coming into our country and breaking in illegally and breaking our laws. As Ronald Reagan said, a country that can’t protect its borders isn’t even a country anymore. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: Your opposition to affirmative action preference programs and even proactive diversity efforts have led many to label you a racist. Does that bother you, and how can you change it?
MR. BUCHANAN: First, let me suggest that someone who opposes racial quotas and racial preferences, which advance and hold people back on the basis of race, that that racism is utter nonsense. I’ll tell you what is racist, is a policy of a federal government which says if you are a white male you can somehow be discriminated against. But it would seem to me that is as wrong as the old discrimination that it has replaced.
In my judgment you ought to have equal justice for all and special privilege for none. I would root out of the federal government — root and branch all these preferential treatments, all these racial quotas or ethnic quotas, and get to a point where we move away from hyphenated-Americanism and move to a point where we are all proud to be simply Americans, and we are all judged on the basis of our ability, our excellence and our merit, and not on where our grandfathers or great-grandfathers came from. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: Devaluing human life at conception is not being strongly addressed by the other candidates. Why have not the other candidates come out strongly to a point of pro-life justice as you have?
MR. BUCHANAN: Well, again, I think there are several candidates that have spoken out very strongly on pro life. Many of the social conservatives have spoken out strongly. I have seen them in Iowa. Look, there is a feeling among some Republicans that let’s sort of drop this issue — let’s take it out of the platform, and then people who don’t love us will now love us. To me this is utter nonsense.
That plank was put in there in 1980 by President Reagan, and the Republican Party won three straight landslides carrying that plank. We did not lose in ’92 and ’96 because we were pro-life; we lost in ’92 and ’96 because we lost the Reagan Democrats to Ross Perot over issues of jobs and economic equity and involvement in wars that are none of our business. Those are the key people we have got to bring back. If we should drop this right-to-life plank out of the Republican platform, you would have a walk-out of the Republican Party by some of its most devoted people, dedicated people, and best people. And we really could hold our next Republican convention at a country club if we do that.
So I will unalterably oppose that, as I did in ’92 and ’96. And I can tell you in the year 2000 the Republican Party will be a pro-life party, or it won’t be my party. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: You have been criticized as being an isolationist. Is that a fair description of your foreign policy? If not, why not?
MR. BUCHANAN: No, it’s not. The term “isolationist” is a pejorative term that is used to describe anyone who does not favor the latest idea for using America’s wealth and power or blood for their particular cause. I believe that the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth, should trade with all nations. Americans should travel to all nations. We should have diplomatic contact with all nations, regular commerce and cultural exchanges with all nations. I just don’t think we ought to fight foreign countries’ wars, and I don’t think we ought to pay foreign countries’ bills. And that is not isolationism, that is patriotism and that is Americanism. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: Mr. Buchanan, I would like to thank you for coming today, and present you with a certificate of appreciation, suitable for framing, and the much-coveted National Press Club mug.
And our final question: What do you think about everyone eating the American flag on today’s dessert? (Laughter.)
MR. BUCHANAN: If they would pass that constitutional amendment we wouldn’t have this problem. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. LIPMAN: Thank you for coming today, Mr. Buchanan. I would also like to thank National Press Club staff members Leigh Ann Boren, Pat Nelson, Melanie Abdow-Dermott and Howard Rothman for organizing today’s lunch. Also thanks to the National Press Club Library for their research. We are adjourned. (Sounds gavel.)