CSPAN Booknotes Interview – June 24, 1998
BRIAN LAMB, host: Pat Buchanan, author of “The Great Betrayal.”
LAMB: Who are Uncle Bob and Aunt Honey?
Mr. BUCHANAN (Author, “The Great Betrayal”): They’re my mother’s youngest sister and my uncle, and they live up in the Mon Valley of western Pennsylvania. He had a farm, and I used to go up there in the summers back in the 1940s. And Uncle Bob and Aunt Honey are home folks from up there. Uncle Bob is the individual who sort of awoke me to the idea that maybe free trade wasn’t good for the Mon Valley, where my mom grew up.
And at the 1976 convention, he mentioned it to me. As I mention in the book, he said, `Why are you for this free trade? It’s killing the Mon Valley.’ And my mom and her seven brothers and sisters had grown up there; it’s a very depressed area. All the industry is gone. It’s up on the Monongahela River in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. And it caused me to begin thinking about free trade and what it was doing to our country. And I, of course, was a militant–a Milton Friedman free trader at the time.
LAMB: When did these kind of discussions start that got your attention with your uncle and your aunt?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, that was at the Republican convention in Kansas City, which was a delightful convention out there.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. BUCHANAN: The Ford-Reagan convention of 1976. I was not involved in it, but I was very strong for President Reagan–future President Reagan. And I saw him out there; he was an alternate delegate from the great state of Pennsylvania. And I heard this guy drop–I saw this guy drop an ice on me from up top, and I looked up one floor, and there was Uncle Bob.
LAMB: What’d he tell you? What was…
Mr. BUCHANAN: He said — ‘The Mon Valley is dying. Everybody is leaving.’ When I used to go up there in the late 1940s, they had the steel mills. My Uncle Jim was — four of my mother’s brothers were veterans; they all fought in the ETO, the European theater of operations. And when I was a little kid, my mother would send me up there for several weeks each summer. And my uncles would take me down to the Max Club and they’d drink beer with their veteran buddies. The place was a thriving industrial heartland of America. And the Mon Valley became a synonym for the Rust Belt, for industrial decline in America.
And I go up there now, and it’s very green and it’s very beautiful, but the industry’s gone. Everybody leaves. And there are a lot of old folks up there. But they still like me up there. It’s the one place in Pennsylvania where it’s very Democratic, where they can get Democrats to come to hear me speak.
LAMB: This book is called “The Great Betrayal.” Why the title?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, I’ve come to believe that free trade is basically a betrayal of the country as it was structured by Washington and Hamilton and Madison and the other great Americans, through Lincoln and the Republicans up until the Great Depression. They had put together an economic nationalist system, a free market inside the United States, protected by tariffs, because of their tremendous reaction to what the British had done to them with the blockades, with not allowing the colonies to manufacture, with basically cheating the colonies out of the value of their products, their tobacco and whatever. And they devised this system, Hamilton in particular, to make America economically independent forever of all nations.
And that economic nationalism enabled this country from the Civil War to World War I to become the economic marvel of the world, where we produced more than all the other countries in the world combined. We went from 13 colonies, Brian, to the greatest industrial nation the world had ever seen in about seven or–excuse me, about 10 decades because of this policy. I see us abandoning it now, and I think it is gonna bring about the economic decline of this country, its loss of national sovereignty and its loss of independence. And I think it’s gonna pull us further and further apart, because we’re becoming two nations.
LAMB: What does it mean when you say `free trade’?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Free trade is basically an idea that goes back to the 19th century, the classical liberals who believed that all barriers to trade between nations should be broken down and that, as a result of this, universal peace and happiness would come about. It’s a deep philosophical strain, and it’s in American history, and it comes up through Woodrow Wilson, Cordell Hall, the great hero of American liberalism, and Franklin Roosevelt, and it is a great tradition, but it’s not a conservative tradition, and that’s what I argue in this book. And I think it’s utopian in terms of what it believes it can attain and achieve.
LAMB: You dedicated the book to Catherine E. Buchanan…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm.
LAMB: …and to William B. Buchanan. Who are they?
Mr. BUCHANAN: It’s my mom and dad. Both are dead now. My mother died in 1995, in September, and my father died in 1988.
LAMB: What would they think today if they knew you were no longer a free trader?
Mr. BUCHANAN: My father would probably be delighted because he said–at one point to one of my brothers when I was doing pretty well in the Nixon White House and after that as a columnist, he said, `Pat’s a very smart guy, but he doesn’t know a damn thing about economics.’ My father was a CPA and had his own accounting firm, and I think he would agree with this economic nationalism because what it argues is we’ve got to put the country ahead of the economy, we’ve got to put people ahead of abstract things, and that we have to put America first. And this is my disagreement with the free traders. They put the idea of the global economy and what’s best for that ahead of what’s best for America. And that’s the theme or subtheme of the book.
LAMB: You write some about your politicking. You get Fruit of the Loom in here early on in this book.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Right.
LAMB: What was that experience?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, we went down to Rayne, Louisiana, and it’s up beyond–you go up through New Orleans, through Baton Rouge and over to Acadiana, which is where the Acadian folks and the Cajun folks are. And in Rayne, Louisiana–it’s a very small town there–I went to a Fruit of the Loom plant that had just shut down, and 500 women were being laid off. It was a very sad affair. And you found out that Fruit of the Loom had built two almost identical plants in Mexico. And these women who were making $6 to $8 an hour simply could not compete with Mexican women who were being paid 50 cents an hour. And after the peso was devalued, of course, their pay was cut. And so all these jobs were going to Mexico.
And, Brian, again and again and again, I’ve been around the country and seen these plants and manufacturing plants shut down and these people lose their jobs. And you know, we say, `Well, they’ll go out and make computers.’ They’re not going out and making computers. The women there–probably some of them will be waitresses; some of them will have to move maybe out of the county to get another job.
And this is what I see as the deindustrialization of America. Fewer and fewer of the things we consume here and manufactured goods are produced here, and we’re becoming two countries. Those of us who have the 401(k) plans and the IRAs and the pension profit-sharing plans because our moneys are in the stocks of these corporations which are profiting mightily by getting rid of their American workers–we’re doing fine; we’re doing better than fine, far better than we ever expected.
But there’s another part of America for whom the standard of living is falling or being maintained only because the wives are going out to work. One statistic in there–you know, when you and I were probably college age, 1960, 18 percent of women with kids under six were in the labor force. It’s now 65 percent. Let’s ask ourselves what kind of society are we creating when that’s considered progress? In the 19th century, progress–the idea was that women are gonna be able to stay home and raise the kids, and the breadwinner, the man in the family, then, alone could support, as my father did–he could support nine kids on one income out in northwest Washington in a nice home and educate us all in parochial schools. And I’ve got brothers who are probably making more money than my father did who can’t do that.
LAMB: What’s the makeup of the family, the–the kids now?
Mr. BUCHANAN: There’s nine of us. One of us died.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. BUCHANAN: He died–my brother Bill died in 1985, and he was mentioned in my other book, and there’s eight of us–eight of us left, and–and there’s six brothers. And a matter of fact, all the brothers are gonna have their picture taken today for Esquire magazine, which has a picture series on brothers.
LAMB: On the cover of this book is a picture of you.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Right.
LAMB: Where is–where was that taken?
Mr. BUCHANAN: My guess is that’s Iowa on an ill-fated bus tour to 33 towns that was not as well-advanced as we had hoped. And in some of those towns, Brian, I would speak to three and four people in a city park in front of a microphone.
Mr. BUCHANAN: But it was–it was the Iowa caucuses in 1996, where we did very well, eventually.
Mr. BUCHANAN: That looks like a summer picture, so my guess is that that was probably taken in the summer or the spring in Iowa, and so that would be a year before the actual caucuses took place.
LAMB: What do you do on all those bus rides?
Mr. BUCHANAN: You got friends, my friends, like Greg Mueller, and you talk. And some of the things you do are you get your cell phone and you call radio stations and do interviews, you bring press along and you do interviews on the bus, and sometimes you just enjoy yourself.
LAMB: Can you read on the bus?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I can’t read very well on the bus. You can read newspapers but not books.
LAMB: What do you think of the whole business? How many campaigns have you been in now?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, I’ve run two of my own, presidential campaigns, and I joined Richard Nixon in 1966 and we ran in that great off-year election, where Republicans did well. And so I worked and did his strategy in four campaigns, ’66, ’68, ’70 and ’72. And I don’t think I was involved in the Reagan campaigns, only peripherally. I worked in Reagan’s White House. I guess we’ve done six campaigns, if you include two of my own.
LAMB: Wh–what have you learned about–just the whole business of being out there, dealing with people, that we don’t see when you’re watching on television?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, you see a lot on the C-SPAN nowadays. You know, as a matter of fact, I must say I was out in the ’92 campaign and I would come home and–you know, and you thought your …(unintelligible) people would say, `You gave a great speech up there in such-and-such.’ I said, `What are you talking about?’ `We saw it on C-SPAN.’ What do you learn? It’s a beautiful country. It’s a magnificent country. There are places that you would never otherwise see, running a presidential campaign, especially now, when it’s a yearlong effort.
I mean, you go up in the high country of Arizona, go through the Apache Reservation. I went over there to a place called Sholo, and I was in Pioneer Day parade, deep into Arizona. And we were in this parade–Pioneer Day’s when all the Mormons came down and apparently settled in that part of Arizona. And I went through town on the buckboard, and I looked over and this fellow had a longneck Budweiser beer, and he was in his yard and just watching the parade. And he held it up and he said, `Hey, Pat, welcome to the United States of America.’ I figured I would bring that story home to DC because I don’t think this fellow thought back East was really part of the country.
LAMB: What do they want from you as a candidate, though, on a one-to-one basis when you see them?
Mr. BUCHANAN: On a one-to-one–well, the people who come out to see you, other than these small fund-raisers you do at night from 6 to 8 or who come out to the small rallies that you do early on, basically they are sympathetic to you or very interested in you, they want to hear your speech and then they want a Q and A session usually. And a lot of them are very, very friendly. I think what they want is a certain sense of knowledge and intimacy with a candidate. And because I’ve been on television a lot, it’s very fortunate, people don’t call me Mr. Buchanan, as you would, probably. But because they’ve seen you so many times and you’re sitting there in their living room so often on “Crossfire” or “The McLaughlin Group” or some other show, it’s, `Hey, Pat.’ People are very, very friendly.
And up in Alaska, for example, a place I really came to like. We did the Alaska caucuses. We go into the Captain Cook Hotel or one of the others, and even the bellhops, `Hey, Pat, welcome back,’ you know. Very frontier-oriented. And I think if you say, politically, `What do they want?’ I think there’s a sense out there on the part of people, and it’s part of that book, that they’re losing the country they grew up in, a country of neighborhoods and communities where they knew each other and there was a sharing of common values and convictions and beliefs, whether you were Democratic or Republican. And there’s a tremendous sense of alienation from what’s going on in the country and from what they see on television and from what is in the culture.
And if you had to name a single sentiment that they really want back, what they see slipping away and in economic terms, they don’t see the sense of security. There’s a real sense of anxiety. Even if they have jobs, is it gonna be there tomorrow? I think this is one of the problems of conservatism, because what we had was a conservatism of community, of neighborhood, of town. I mean, I grew up in northwest Washington and guys I grew up with still live here. But more and more, these places are like the Mon Valley, where they’re being ripped up by global free trade and people are having to move out and move on to these cities where they don’t know folks, and move on again.
LAMB: What’s the thought now about the year 2000? You gonna do this again?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I don’t know. I’m not gonna do anything in ’98. I’ve done that three years running, the off-year elections. I guess you could say I was involved in those campaigns. I’m gonna wait until after the election and my guess is there’s gonna be about four or five major candidates out there, and I’ll take a look at it probably around the first of the year.
LAMB: What would be the reason to do it again?
Mr. BUCHANAN: The one reason to do it again would be that if I felt I could win, and I think it is wide open this time because there is no establishment candidate to beat you, the way the establishment rallied around Dole after his loss to me in New Hampshire, and the establishment will be split four or five ways, and so they will not be able to move fast enough. Secondly, if you have a unique idea and a unique message and a unique vision that the others don’t have, and I think my ideas of economic nationalism and that the battle of the future in country after country will be between those who want to save the nation-state and the country vs. those who want to see it all sort of being an amalgam of a global economy and lose it, the way they’re losing the European nations in the EU. I think that’s the great struggle of our time after the Cold War, one of them, and I think I’m the only one that represents, really, the nation state, a nationalist as opposed to a globalist idea. That’s economic policy.
On foreign policy, I think we need a post-Cold War retrenchment from these global commitments. The idea that we would go to war with Russia over some boundaries in Eastern Europe that were drawn by Joseph Stalin I find appalling. And I don’t think the American people would support it. And if no one else is advocating these ideas inside the Republican Party, I would really take a serious look at it.
LAMB: Do you know of anybody else that would write a book like this in the Republican Party?
Mr. BUCHANAN: On economic nationalism, no. On foreign policy nationalism, we are making gains among younger Republicans. There’s no doubt about it. That’s how we beat fast-track. I was in Europe then and all these Brits were telling me, `What is going on in America?’ I told them, `You better watch what’s going on, my friend, because Americans are recapturing control of their economic destiny and global free trade even though it is still the–the ideology and philosophy of the political establishment, is not the philosophy of the grass roots. We have defeated the free-trade ideology at the grass roots, post-NAFTA, post-GATT, post-WTO. That’s the only way we could win fast-track or defeat the president on that and defeat Newt Gingrich on that.
And so there are younger Republicans, I would say about 70 out of the 225, who are clearly economic nationalists and conservatives of the heart, as opposed to free traders who are dominant there. In the Democratic Party, we got them all almost.
LAMB: Well, what about other countries? I–first of all, how much have you traveled overseas?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I’ve not traveled too much recently, but I’ve traveled a pretty good amount. I was with Nixon to China and the Soviet Union, and I took that tour of Africa with Nixon when–back in 1967. I’ve been to London a lot and to Paris a lot and that’s about it, I guess.
LAMB: Are there any other countries in the world that you’ve ever seen that are free traders?
Mr. BUCHANAN: No country’s ever become great as a free trade nation. In Asia, the only real free trade entity in Asia, truly free trade, the way the libertarians would love it, was Hong Kong and, of course, that’s been absorbed in Communist China. The two great powers in Asia, Japan and China, are economic nationalists. Quite frankly, they’re doing to us exactly what we and the Germans in the 19th century did to the British Empire. We basically put 40 percent, 50 percent tariffs on our markets, which were growing, and kept those markets to ourselves, and the British were free trade, so we invaded the British markets in the empire and the British market at home. Bismarck, as I point out there, saw what the Americans were doing to the British, and how we were growing by leaps and bounds, including exports, and the British were relatively declining. And so the Germans adopted the American system.
And there’s a cartoon in there. It’s got a little kaiser following Uncle Sam and American labor and Joe Chamberlain, who friends tell me was the Buchananite of his era, was in Britain telling Great Britain, `For heaven sakes, we embrace this ideology,’ around 1860 and with the Corn Laws in 1846, `and look at our relative decline and our growing dependency.’ And what happened to Britain? World War I, they had been so dependent on the Americans that they were almost starved to death by a handful of submarines. And in my view, and I think the truth is, no great nation has ever become great through free trade. The Europeans are free trade to the degree that the Americans are now, a little less so. But they’re paying for it in 12, percent, 13 percent unemployment.
LAMB: You make a statement in here that Abraham Lincoln had a richer understanding of economics than any politician today.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. He’s an amazing figure. He was an economic nationalist. His idol was Henry Clay, who’s the father of, quote, “the American system.” And in the battle of Jackson and–and Clay in 1832, Lincoln admitted–he said, `This is–this is my politics. I am a free trader’–I mean–excuse me–`I am an economic nationalist. I don’t believe in this free trade. And I believe that–that tariffs can make us the greatest nation on Earth.’ The whole–I call Lincoln the great protectionist. He won his nomination by basically convincing the Pennsylvanians who wanted tariffs on steel and coal that he was one of them and he would write notes to all these editors and say, `Look, I was with Henry Clay, I fought for the tariff in the 1830s and ’40s. I’m with you. But don’t let the word out to the free traders in the Republican Party.’ And he won that way and, of course, in the Civil War, they imposed the Morrill Tariffs, 10 times taken them up–up above 40 percent, and that was the economic nationalism that became the philosophy of the Republican Party all the way–all the way through Herbert Hoover.
LAMB: When did you get interested in doing this book?
Mr. BUCHANAN: It was during the campaign, when we were called–`Buchanan–well, he’s just a protectionist, and that failed, and that’s all Smoot-Holley nonsense.’ And I said, `Look, this is a far richer tradition than they’re saying and it needs a defense.’ And I’ve got to explain myself and what I believe. And secondly, the book is–clearly, I’d like it–to get out to the younger conservatives so that they’ll know what their tradition actually is. I think there’s a lot of conservatives out there today who are not true conservatives. I mean, they come out of a tradition, they think it’s conservative, but its roots are in Wilson, Hall and FDR.
LAMB: Now I know this will sound like an insult of a question, but did you write this book?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I wrote every word of that book. I tell you what I did do this time, is I sent it out to Professor Robert Ferrell, who you’ve had on your show, and I sent it out to Pat Choate, I’ve sent it out to eight or 10 people, and I said, `I want you to critique this book and tell me what the holes are in it’–and Ward Allen, who worked with me in the White House, who I think you knew– to make sure that we get out of here anything–any sort of Buchananite provocative statement that’s liable to detract from the fundamental power of the argument and get me into some side quarrel.’ And so–but I wrote every word of it, and we’ve got another one in the word processor that’s on foreign policy that’s a defense of the tradition that’s been denounced as isolationism. And America’s never been isolationists and I hope to demonstrate that with the same series of anecdotes, stories and all the rest.
LAMB: How did you write it? What’s your daily routine on something like this?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, after I lost in the primaries, after I came home after California, I think it was about April, I had from then all the way through about February of the next year when basically I didn’t have a job, and so I went down in my basement and I got all these books on tariffs, trade, economic nationalism, philosophy and history from a libertarian standpoint and a conservative standpoint, and read all those and read an immense number of magazine articles and started working on that. And then I got all these books on diplomatic history –to counter the argument that America was an isolationist nation. And so I’ve got about two shelves, I would guess, about 70 or 80 books there that were the primary sources in addition to all these magazine articles.
And what you do is you get up and you write in the morning, and then on each chapter, I have a file and I would xerox the page or the book and put it in the file, and I’ve got these thick files for each chapter in that book and each chapter in the isolationist book. And I’ve got John Maroney, who’s a young writer–I got him to double-check all my footnotes and then to go back to the original sources, because most of my sources were popular or textbooks–go back to the original documents of Clay and all the others, make sure they’re accurate. And he found materials that would substantiate and strengthen the argument. He’d give me those and I’d read those and see if you wanted to include them. It’s got about 800 to 1,000 footnotes in there.
LAMB: Now is this the case where you used to be a free trader.
Mr. BUCHANAN: I was a very strong free trader in Reagan’s White House.
LAMB: And you flipped in ’87.
Mr. BUCHANAN: I didn’t flip.
LAMB: That’s what…
Mr. BUCHANAN: That’s a term they use for folks on the Hill.
LAMB: But in any…
Mr. BUCHANAN: I evolved, Brian. I was a free trader, no doubt about it, and there were a number of incidents that occurred and one of them was the Toshiba case, where Toshiba was selling, you know, secret submarine technology to the Soviet Union, putting at risk Americans in the 7th Fleet, and I thought that was appalling, and then I find friends of mine up there lobbying for Toshiba saying, you know, `Free trade,’ all the rest of it, `and–and we shouldn’t punish them.’ So one of the things that came to me here is we conservatives have become–a lot of us have become, I think, very materialistic. They’re interested in money, they’re folks who lobby for foreign countries and foreign companies who had jobs of distinction in the United States, which I find appalling. And there’s no idea of economic patriotism. I mean, recently, we saw–we see Rolls-Royce is sold to a German company. I mean, Rolls-Royce…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Rolls-Royce is as you know, as English as beef and kidney pie and they’re selling these national assets off. And how do you identify a separate people in a separate nation? I think that one of the great issues coming in the 21st century is going to be the national question: How do we preserve a distinct American identity and nation and language and culture and institutions and economy whose principal beneficiary should be the working men and women of the country, which should be economically independent, independent in manufacturing especially, independent in the things that are needed for armaments? And it goes straight back–you can get the words of the great Alexander Hamilton, and that’s exactly what he says.
LAMB: How many hours a day do you write?
Mr. BUCHANAN: In that book, when I was working on it, I was doing probably 10 hours a day on the two books. It came out as one book and my editor Freddie Friedman said, `Pat, this is 190,000 words. Nobody’s gonna take it on an airplane.’ So what I did was take the economic nationalist book out on trade tariffs and then what I was left with, I thought, was a good book on defending against the charge of isolationism. So I got two books for the price of one.
LAMB: Now how did you write a book that you thought anybody–I mean, I made a list of all the letters–NAFTA, GATT, WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: …all those things. How do you write a book that the average person will read and understand?
Mr. BUCHANAN: That’s the objective I’ve got, if you read the stories and anecdotes, is to make it as readable and understandable as possible to someone, frankly, who can be a high school graduate who’s just interested in history. And I did that deliberately to make it non-textbooklike, and again, to make it clear and simple and understandable, yet at the same time persuasive. And I guess if I’ve got any skills as a columnist, that’s what you try to use them for.
LAMB: Now I know you don’t like the term, but old John Maynard Keynes even flipped in his day, didn’t he?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Keynes is an amazing figure. He was in Cambridge, he headed up the free trade union and he said, `We must stay with free trade,’ when he was a young man, `even if it means damage to the country.’ And that shows what an ideology in religious faith it’s become. But in 1930 and 1931, he looked at what was happening to Great Britain and he said, `We gotta preserve our’–I mean, `The–the idea that we’re buying American cars and things like that is hurting British industry,’ and he came out for a tariff. And he is the fellow in there that’s the great apostate and he converted to economic nationalism and so did Thomas Jefferson, who was a free trader in his youth, very militant free trader. So did John Adams and so did James Madison. All had this flirtation with free trade. You notice the ones who are intellectuals rather than soldiers–Hamilton, people forget, led the bayonet charge at Yorktown. This was a tough customer, and he was an economic nationalist and they ridiculed Jefferson. So did Washington with–very much with Hamilton. But Jefferson, Madison and Adams–after the War of 1812, when the British started dumping all this products into the United States to kill the industries that had grown up during the war, they came out and powerfully defended the tariff of 1816, which is the first truly protective tariff in American history.
LAMB: You point out in your book that there was a surplus with the budget from 1866 to 1893.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. Then came Cleveland’s depression, the panic of ’93.
LAMB: How did they keep a surplus?
Mr. BUCHANAN: They kept a surplus with tariff revenues. What happened was Morrill had put these high tariffs, 40 percent tariffs, on during the Civil War, and the Republicans let them sit on and they got rid of their income tax that had been during the Civil War, which was phased out around 1872. But because US trade was so great, trade was still growing and the United States was growing so enormously and people wanted to get into this market that the tariffs themselves financed what was a very tiny federal government. And they would use the tariff revenue to build railroads, to finance railroads, canals, bridges, the so-called internal improvements policy, which was Republican policy, and it would–now, I guess, would be the highway bill. But the Republicans always believed in that. And the revenues were so great, frankly, that Cleveland got in a battle with the Republicans and they both decided that they had to stop these terrible surpluses, that they didn’t know what to do with all this money that was pouring into the federal government.
LAMB: Today if you had to assemble a group of people in history that would think the most like you, forefathers.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, it would be fairly simple–in American history. You would take Washington and Hamilton and Madison and Clay and Webster, the older Webster. Calhoun flipped on us. He was a economic nationalist and became a free trader because he was a Southerner. You would add Lincoln. I think McKinley was a great president. He would certainly be in there. Theodore Roosevelt said, `I thank God I am not a free trader.’ Harding and Coolidge and Hoover, quite naturally, and once you get to post-World War II, there are very few. Prescott Bush, George Bush’s father, was one of the last economic nationalists. He was one of the nine–he and Barry Goldwater and Strom Thurmond, the nine in the Senate to vote against the Trade Expansion Act of Jack Kennedy in 1962, which was an act that a young editorial writer in St. Louis was cheering his head off about, namely me. I’m cutting my editorials cheering Kennedy’s Trade Expansion Act and saying, you know, `We gotta rid of these McKinleyites in the Republican Party.’
LAMB: When did you start writing editorials? What was the first year?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I started writing in August of 1962, about two months after I got out of journalism school.
LAMB: How long did you stay in St. Louis?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I stayed till December of 1966, when I ran into twice-defeated Richard Milhous Nixon at a party in Belleville, Illinois, and approached him in the kitchen and told him if he were gonna run in 1968, I wanted to get aboard.
LAMB: Now Belleville, Illinois, right across the river from St. Louis.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Fifteen miles from St. Louis. The air base is there, yeah.
LAMB: What was he doing there?
Mr. BUCHANAN: He was filling in for Everett Dirksen in a speech Dirksen couldn’t make and it was December 1965, excuse me, December 9th, I believe, and Nixon talked to me and then he talked to Don Hessey, who was a cartoonist at the Globe Democrat. And then he called up people in New York; I found out later one of them was Victor Lasky, and said, `Victor, check this young fellow out. I’m impressed.’ And so Nixon invited me to New York around Christmas of 1965 and we had a three-hour interview-discussion in his office. And it was fascinating.
LAMB: How old were you?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I was 26 at the time–26 or 27–I’d just turned 27, I believe. And he hired me on the spot and called my publisher and said, `I want to bring this boy on for a year.’ And so I got a year’s leave of absence and we ran in the campaign of 1966. I’d been brought on to write a column for Nixon–or with him, and to handle his correspondence. And we did the campaign of ’66 together, he and I and Rose Mary Woods and John Sears, and a couple of others. And, of course, Nixon–it was a triumph. We carried 47 new House seats, I think six or eight in the Senate, six governorships. After the Goldwater debacle, it was the great Republican comeback and Nixon said, `Stick around a while. We might do this again.’
LAMB: Now in that meeting in Belleville, Illinois, was that the first time you’d ever met him?
Mr. BUCHANAN: No. I caddied for Richard Nixon–and he hadn’t remembered it–when I was 14 years old. I caddied at the Burning Tree Country Club.
LAMB: Here in Washington.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Yes. Me and another fella–we integrated it; we were the only two white guys on the caddie bench out here at Burning Tree.
LAMB: Had you remembered him?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure, I remembered him. I’d known him–of course you would. The vice president of the United States came there one afternoon, and I almost dropped–I was one of the last guys on that–we were the two last guys on the caddie bench because we didn’t have any seniority; we were only 14. And so Nixon shows up, and somebody said, `That’s Nixon.’ And ’cause they brought out his golf bag. These other caddies recognized the golf bag.
And so the caddie master, I think it was Don Sailor then, said–you know, he looked, `Good heavens, look who we’re gonna send out with the vice president of the United States–`Come on over.’ And so he said, you know, `Make sure you shoulder the bag right when you go out with him.’ You have to pick it up a certain way and throw it over your shoulder. And so I went out, and we caddied–it was Nixon and one other, and me and my buddy went out and carried their bags.
LAMB: What do you remember about him, that first meeting?
Mr. BUCHANAN: He was a dismal golfer. He had a very choppy swing. And the fella that was with him, you would have thought he was Arnold Palmer. He would dribble them down the fairway and, you know, it was everything you could do not to–you just turned away so you wouldn’t be smiling at it. And then he hit one, it was just sort of a big pop-up. And I remember this general said, `Great shot, Dick. Your game is really improving.’ I said, `What must have it been like?’
I’ll tell you what else you remember. Stu Symington was–the language they used astonished me. It was a little rough. It was–you know, I mean, because he was vice president of the United States, you know. My father didn’t use language like that. And all these politicians out there I would caddie for–Les Aarons and Charlie Hallick–they would come out–I remember I carried both their bags around 18 holes, and I’m convinced these fellas were drinking heavily the entire time because they were sweating like horses and I was, too, but they come out there about 3:00 and come in about 7 or something like that.
And it was very, very interesting, though, because I knew who all these people were. I used to read–you know, I read about Joe McCarthy. And I remember Nixon yelled–he said, `Hey, Stu, there’s a vote up on the Hill’–he yelled across another fairway. And Symington yells back, `Tell them to sho’–you know, and–and so I said, `My good heavens, that’s sanctimonious Stu, who Joe McCarthy’s attacking.’ It was Stu Symington, you know. And McCarthy had used that phrase. So I knew who all these people were, and I don’t think they knew I knew who they were.
LAMB: Did you ever takes notes–by the way, how many years did you spend around Richard Nixon?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I spent nine years almost, and my wife was with him in 1959. She went with him right out of college.
LAMB: And when did you meet her?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I met her in–she came back to Nixon–Nixon would call her back whenever he ran again or went out with Goldwater. She worked on and off, and she came back in 1967; that’s when I met her, when she came back to the Nixon shop in New York at the law firm. And that’s when we met.
LAMB: And when…
Mr. BUCHANAN: She was his receptionist there.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. And she was a receptionist in the White House, the West Wing.
LAMB: And what year did you marry?
Mr. BUCHANAN: 1971 right out here in Northwest. And Richard Nixon and Mrs. Nixon were there.
LAMB: You’ve never–correct me if I’m wrong. You’ve never written a book about your time around Richard Nixon.
Mr. BUCHANAN: No, I’ve not. I’ve got–I wrote a book about growing up in DC called “Right from the Beginning.” And I hope one day–Lord willing, to be able to write about the stories about Nixon and about Reagan and about the conservative movement and include my own two little efforts.
LAMB: Did you ever keep notes about all the things you saw over the years–all those nine years?
Mr. BUCHANAN: No. I have a very good memory. I kept some notes on the–like, I kept notes on the week that Nixon resigned. And I kept notes–I was there the night of the–the afternoon of the Saturday Night Massacre. I was there–right there when Nixon–he called me over, and we discussed whether he was gonna do it. And he told me why he was doing it. And I said, `Well, I think you ought to do it.’
Mr. BUCHANAN: Richardson and…
Mr. BUCHANAN: …the whole gang. And so he said, `Well, Richardson’s coming in. Matter of fact, he’ll be in here in a minute. He’s right out there.’ So I said, `Why don’t I go out this other door?’ And I said, `I don’t want to see him, particularly.’ And I went out the wrong door, and I ran into Elliot coming in with Al Haig.
And I understood why Nixon did it. Nixon said, `Look, we thought we had an arrangement with Richardson, and we were told we had an arrangement.’ And Nixon said, `Look, I can’t let him buffalo me. We’ve got this Middle East crisis. What’s Brezhnev gonna think if I let the attorney general of the United States buffalo us now?’
Mr. BUCHANAN: `He’s got to go.’
LAMB: How many years you work for Ronald Reagan?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I worked for Reagan for two years, from 1985 to 1987, and I knew Governor Reagan, though. In 1976, I supported him. And we were very friendly. I was his second during the famous Panama Canal debate with William F. Buckley. And he used to write me often or call about columns and things. So we were–we were very friendly. And we’re not close, as I was to Nixon, but I worked for him for two years. Very proud of it.
LAMB: What would we see about the two men up close that we–we’ve never seen either in print or in books that we’ve read…
Mr. BUCHANAN: With Reagan…
LAMB: …that you–that you saw?
Mr. BUCHANAN: With Reagan, what you see is what you get. Reagan’s a tough man to get close to. I mean, if you sit down with him for lunch in the Oval Office, he’ll bring up the stories about Jimmy Stewart — wonderful stories. But he’s tough to approach, and I certainly was not deep–really close to him the way I was to Nixon.
But the Nixon–personal Nixon is infinitely different than the public Nixon. And with Nixon–we just were on the same wavelength. I could talk to him for five hours, arguing back and forth, his mind was a vacuum cleaner. He would argue, talk, argue back and forth, until you find out after five hours, you’re almost in the position he started with and he’s on your side. And Nixon–extremely intelligent, extremely interested. I mean, one time he said, `Buchanan, what is this war going on, and the right between the neoconservatives and the conservatives and this and that? Send me up some material on it. What is it all about? What are the issues they’re fighting on? What’s the genesis of it?’
And even though he was not in that battle at all, he was very interested in it and–because there was something going on in society and politics. I’ve never seen someone who was more consumed with–with politics and issues and ideas and personality and gossip. He loved gossip. `Tell me about this, Buchanan. What is–what’s happening? What do you hear there?’ And he would come down this–this hotel here in Washington–a matter of fact, I talked to him–I called him up and I said, `I haven’t seen you in a long time, sir.’ And I hadn’t; hadn’t been out there. And he said, `Well, look, I’m coming…’
LAMB: What year are we talking about?
Mr. BUCHANAN: We’re talking about the week he died. And he said, `I’m coming down to the square’–over in Washington Square, this little hotel. And he would call me up and I would go in there and be in there for an hour or 90 minutes, and he would come in and he would exhaust all the information you had about what’s going on in the White House, who’s up, who’s down. `What–what are they doing here? What do the conservatives think?’ And I called him up there, and he said, `Let’s do it again. I’m gonna be down soon, I think in about a month.’ And it was either that day or the next day that I heard he had a stroke.
LAMB: Now how did you get through all that–those Nixon years? You were right in the middle of the activity, very political, and they never touched you.
Mr. BUCHANAN: You know, I was fortunate in one thing. I was not in the line–the people that got in real trouble were the people who were in the line of communication from CRP, Committee to Re-elect the President, which got in trouble in the Watergate break-in. They came right back and went to Magruder and Mitchell, etc. They came right into the White House screaming for help, and, of course, they came up through Haldeman’s office and right into the Oval Office. I was not in that chain of command.
And so when they started making decisions that amounted to cover-up, I wasn’t in that chain of command. Secondly, I was offered the head of the Plumbers, and I just said, `I’m not gonna take it. I don’t want to do it. It’s a waste of time chasing this Ellsberg character. The–95 percent of the country thinks he’s a traitor. We can’t improve on that. These documents have nothing to do with us. And I don’t want to run an operation.’
LAMB: And who got to be head of the Plumbers?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Bud Krogh. Bud Krogh went to jail. He’s–Bud Krogh’s a good man, but they had that break-in at the Ellsberg thing. And I guess they came and told him, and he didn’t know it had happened. But they told him. And then I think they told Ehrlichman. And so here they had knowledge after the fact and…
LAMB: At what point did you say no to being head of the Plumbers?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, as soon as they–I was the first one that was chosen. I went over to meet all these guys, and they had all these guys from various agencies; I think it was CIA and Justice and all these investigative characters. It was quite a interesting crew over there. And–and they all had stories about Ellsberg’s personal life. And I remember one of them, they were saying he was involved in all these–with group sex or something like that. I said, `We can’t let that get out, you guys, because he’ll go up in the polls higher than he is.’ But I said, `What has this got to do with us?’ You know? `And I just don’t want to do this. I don’t want to run this.’
You know, I had things that I wanted to do when I was in the White House. I wanted to influence decisions over Supreme Court justices. You wanted to get certain legislation vetoed. You want to get certain candidates promoted. And this was what I was interested in. It wasn’t in worrying about what Daniel Ellsberg or these people were doing, and to me, it was just a massive distraction from what I was concerned about. And so I just said to Haldeman, `I don’t want to do it. I’m not gonna do it.’
LAMB: From what you saw up close in the White House during the Nixon years or during the Reagan years, if you ever became president–ever were elected president…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: …what are the–some of the things you would definitely not do, or you would–what would you institute in the way of managing the whole operation that wouldn’t–that’d keep you out of trouble?
Mr. BUCHANAN: The truth is Haldeman was a tremendous chief of staff. Many conflicts I had with him, he was outstanding. He made the trains run on time. He structured the staff the way Nixon wanted it structured. Nixon wanted to deal with a small group of people and then, through them, have his people report through them. And I dealt with Nixon by memo mostly–a tremendous number of memos. But Nixon liked big people. He liked Kissinger, even though Kissinger wasn’t with him. Moynihan was not with us, and he brought him in. John Connally had taken Texas from us in 1968; he brought him in. Ray Price had not been a conservative, and he brought him in.
Nixon reached out for very talented people, and I think the quality of his staff was as good as any staff I’ve ever seen. And so I would certainly try to emulate Nixon in the quality of his staff. One thing I would not do–one thing Clinton does well: He gets out in the city. This is the hometown of the president of the United States. I mean, Nixon–it was rare. He would rarely go over to that–the Chinese place down at the Statler–old Statler Hilton. What is it? What’d they call that?
LAMB: Trader Vic’s.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Trader Vic’s, exactly. But rarely be out in the city. And I think you ought to get out, and I think you ought to have more meetings–informal meetings with people who are knowledgeable in foreign policy so you can get their ideas and their information. You–you would have trouble because–in terms of putting together a Cabinet of people who believe as I do, who’ve had a lot of experience in government because most of the Republican establishment doesn’t agree with me. But I’ve worked in the White House eight years, and I think I know how to put together a White House staff.
LAMB: Do you want it?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I think I would have been an excellent–or would be an excellent president, really. I think–I have one ability I think that some of my colleagues don’t have. I’ve got an ability to communicate with words –whether it’s writing or communicate through television because of my experience. I’ve had more time on television I think than any candidate who’s ever run. And I’ve seen presidents at their best, and I know what works with Ronald Reagan.
What Reagan did so well was focus on four or five great things, hire people like Cap Weinberger, tell Weinberger, `We want the–the most powerful military on Earth. I don’t care what it costs. And I want the highest quality military. I want the morale restored. You do it.’ And you get a really able guy like Cap Weinberger, who believes as you do, and let him take charge of it.
So I think what you do is you delegate to really strong people who understand the four or five major things you want done and who are loyal to you, and you have a strong Cabinet. At the same time, you have a very strong White House staff as well, because many Cabinet officers, they go over there and, as we say, they go native and they come back explaining to you what the bureaucracy wants done. And so I think you would get about four or five, as Reagan did, great things you want to do and get those done and say, as Reagan did–I mean, he often would say, I think internally, `Look, I believe in this. This is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna confront the Soviets. I’m gonna cut taxes because I think it’s gonna work. I’m gonna rebuild the military. I’m gonna restore the country’s morale, and I’m going to give it the best I can. And if it doesn’t work, I’m gonna go out to the ranch and I’m gonna enjoy myself chopping wood.’
And that attitude is the right attitude to have, and I think it’s the secret of his success.
LAMB: Who are the most principled people you’ve met over the years in this town?
Mr. BUCHANAN: The most principled people?
LAMB: People you really admire as individuals and who’ve–you know, it doesn’t matter what–whether they’ve been in the Cabinet or whatever up on the Hill or in the White House that you…
Mr. BUCHANAN: I’ll tell you one I admire is Jesse Helms. I–of course, I admire Ronald Reagan tremendously. But Jesse Helms has stayed the course. He doesn’t care. He does not care what the media say about him.
LAMB: Do you?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I don’t care a great deal. I care what the Manchester Union Leader says about me. They’re the best friends I’ve got in journalism. But, no, I don’t care a great deal what the media say about me. It’s a good thing. Ronald Reagan did not care. President Nixon was wounded by a lot of these attacks, I think. Reagan would come down–and I got on the helicopter with him once. Matter of fact, it was the day we did the attack on Libya. And he got on the helicopter, and I think The Washington Times had just leveled him in an editorial. And he’s there–sitting there reading this thing on the helicopter, and he blew up.
And–he had a temper. It was a good, healthy Irish temper. It would go up and explode, and then about 15 minutes later, he was Ronald Reagan again. That’s what happened at Reykjavik in his confrontation with Gorbachev. He just exploded.
LAMB: Everything you read and everything you hear is that the president, Clinton, does not watch television news…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: …does not watch a lot of television, neither does Mrs. Clinton. Then they don’t get into the daily activities. Is that a healthy thing?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Nixon–Nixon watched some and said he watched none, and he got it all through his news summary, which Mort Allin prepared in the morning.
LAMB: Worked for you?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mort Allin worked with me, yeah. And he was the one that basically invented the presidential news summary. But we would put that on Nixon’s desk in the morning, and he would go through that and issue orders on the basis of that. And it really got to him what they were saying. And matter of fact, that was almost the tool of government, that news summary. Is it good to watch television?
LAMB: Or good to, you know, get into the newspapers and read all the stuff they’re–the negative stuff they’re saying about you?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I don’t know if it is or not. I mean, I had a reaction myself when I saw somebody on television during the primary that I was very–and I reacted to hostilely. And I went right out and made a statement I probably shouldn’t have made. No, it’s probably better to get it secondhand, I think, in some cases. You should not be addicted certainly to the media. But it’s probably better to get people come in and say, `Mr. President, they’re taking us apart on this. And even your friends are saying this, that and the other,’ rather than to be–sit down there and focus on it and–and, as Nixon said, `You know, it’s–you get to rub on your sores and stuff like that.’ And it’s not healthy.
LAMB: In this book–and we need to talk more about your book here…
Mr. BUCHANAN: OK.
LAMB: Here’s the cover: Patrick J. Buchanan. Right below it, it says “The–The Great Betrayal.” But this is a–a book about how you’ve changed your mind where…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mm-hmm. It is–it starts off and–and–says how and why I’ve changed my mind.
LAMB: But what–let me just ask you…
Mr. BUCHANAN: Sure.
LAMB: The–the question I wanted to ask about changing your mind in a town like this: Can you get away with completely changing your mind, from being a free trader to being a protectionist? And can you do this on other issues? Say, for instance, the issue of abortion, which is so important to the Republican Party.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, the issue of abortion, to me, is a question of morality, of right and wrong. And, no, I don’t think you can change your view on that without saying that –I mean, you cannot say it–something was morally wrong and now it’s morally right, unless you’re a moral relativist. And I’m not that. And I don’t think, politically, you can do that.
LAMB: But what…
Mr. BUCHANAN: But this issue…
LAMB: What issues could you not change your opinion on?
Mr. BUCHANAN: You can’t change your position on moral issues and on right and wrong. But let’s take foreign policy. You can change your issue if the situation changes. I mean, I was a Cold Warrior, and it was the battle against the Soviet empire that got me into journalism. I wanted to be a columnist. And it got me into politics. It was the number-one issue–why I supported Nixon over Romney and Reagan over Ford.
But the Cold War’s over, Brian. And the problem with Republicans, I think, is they’re caught in a Cold War mindset. They’re trying to make Russia into a new enemy, like the Soviet Union, and it is not. And they refuse to see when the war is over, policies that date to the Cold War, institutions that are rooted in that Cold War, can be reviewed based upon conservative principles and ideas. And many neoconservatives and conservatives are now–I mean, they want to set up alliances to have the United States fighting in parts of the country–parts of the world where this country has never fought before–Eisenhower, Patton never went that far east–and where there is no conceivable, vital interest of the United States of America. And they’re helping lead this country into some very serious problems.
LAMB: I have a review of your book by Peter Brimelow, who you actually sent copies to.
Mr. BUCHANAN: I asked him to take a look at it, right. And he mentioned that this sounds like Joe Chamberlain, who was, I think, a great British leader who had a stroke at–just as he was coming to power in the party.
LAMB: But Peter Brimelow read it before it came out, and then he reviewed it for American Spectator.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Yes, and he put the caveat in there that, `I’ve seen this before.’
LAMB: Well, he–it–it s–it says–here’s some of the things he says: `And, nevertheless, the standard arguments trained on Buchanan’s line of attack are so formidable that even the dimmest-witted free trader can hardly miss and will certainly not look twice before hauling on the lanyard. It is hard to read this book without wincing in anticipation of the carnage.’
Mr. BUCHANAN: I think that’s right. Let me say that the only way I’m gonna–we’re gonna win this battle–we haven’t won it, though. Let me contradict him in this sense. We have won the battle at the grass roots of America. Republicans now do not think NAFTA is a good idea. They don’t want it extended. They don’t want any more sovereignty compromised or lost in the World Trade Organization or elsewhere. We defeated the president on fast-track.
So we cannot beat the establishment in the media–in the print media. But what we’re doing right now is through television, and I’m gonna try to do as much television and radio as I can. We can, I think, convince more and more of the country to come our way: the younger Republicans, some of the Democrats. This is a seven-year struggle I’ve been involved in, and we are certainly–you know, Fred Barnes, who I’m sure you know, said when I first ran that, `Buchanan’s not a wing of the Republican Party. Buchanan isn’t–isn’t even a feather on a wing of the Republican Party.’
But certainly, economic nationalism now and, basically, an `America first’ foreign policy now have extraordinary resonance in the country, and I think it’s the majority opinion at the grass roots. So we’re gonna get hammered in the print reviews, I’m sure, and by free traders and by the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation and National Review and all the rest. But I truly believe this message is gonna get through. And since I believe the battle’s between nationalism and globalism, I think ultimately the patriotism of conservatism is gonna come through. And they’re gonna see that patriotism and free trade are utterly inconsistent.
LAMB: He also writes, `Part of the problem is that Buchanan is basically a literary intellectual who has essentially taught himself economics later in life.’
Mr. BUCHANAN: I don’t disagree with that. I did write all the–I was an economic writing fellow at Columbia. I don’t have a degree in economics. And I wrote a lot of editorials on economics. But I’ll tell you this: I think the economists–first, a lot of them, I don’t think, write well. Secondly, they’re all addicted to free trade for a variety of reasons. Intellectually, they’ve all followed that–that line. But, secondly, economists don’t lose anything because of free trade. They tend to be in the academy. They don’t lose their jobs because foreign products come into the country. They’re like politicians and foundation-fed scholars. They’re not like factory workers and autoworkers.
And I’ve got a quote in there by Matthew Wald, who says, in effect, `You know, these people are scribblers, and they don’t stand to lose anything. And it’s very, very cheap and easy for them to do that.’ So I don’t–the fact that I’m not an economist, I think, is probably–you know, you were not indoctrinated in this ideology.
LAMB: Do you always buy America?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I’ve started since I sold my Mercedes, Brian. It’s–you know, when I was–I bought that back in 1985, I guess, or something like that. And–and it became an issue in the–in the Michigan primary.
LAMB: Who–who made it an issue?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Mr. Bush did. He–I remember he went to the Gridiron dinner, and he said, `The greatest sound bite that came out of the Michigan primary was Pat Buchanan’s “Ich bin ein Mercedes owner.”‘
LAMB: But as you know, there’s a Mercedes plant in this country.
Mr. BUCHANAN: This…
LAMB: There’s a–there’s a BMW plant in Spartanburg.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, this is exactly my idea of a solution. Put a 15 percent tariff on imported Mercedes, imported BMWs. And what will happen is–what is happening now is the Germans will move their Mercedes and BMW plants into the United States. I favor that. I favor Toyota plants in the United States, Lexus plants in the United States. And a simple tariff on their imported auto parts and imported cars, they will move inside the tariff wall and build their factories here the way we’ve always built them–GM has always built its factories in Europe. Ford builds in Europe. And that’s what we want. We want the jobs and the technology brought here and used to train American workers.
LAMB: How many copies of this did they print for the first run? Do you know?
Mr. BUCHANAN: I do not know. I do not know.
LAMB: And we only have a–90 seconds left. It’s not fair to ask you this question at the end. But in the end, what did you really think of Richard Nixon?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, Nixon–Richard Nixon was a great friend of mine. I think he’s a historic figure. I think he’s a fundamentally good, decent man, a good father. I think he did some–I saw a review of Nixon’s presidency. It said you can’t say he’s one of the worst. What is it: He’s a near-great president who was also a failure because of Watergate.
LAMB: We’re out of time. This is what the book looks like again. There, you can see Mr. BUCHANAN on the bus somewhere in Iowa. It’s called “The Great Betrayal.” Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Thank you.