The young British journalist knows his timing is good. Timothy Stanley is at Politics and Prose, a trendy independent bookstore in northwest D.C., to promote his new tome The Crusader: The Tumultuous Life and Times of Pat Buchanan. Yet he possesses the modesty to realize that few people came out on a Friday night to see him. The overflow crowd was there to greet his subject, on hand just a day after his separation from the network for which he worked for ten years became common knowledge. Standing next to Buchanan, Stanley quipped, "MSNBC's loss is my gain."
To his critics, Buchanan is a vile hatemonger who must be hounded from the airwaves to purify the public debate. His biographer reaches a different conclusion. "Whatever you think of Pat Buchanan's politics, he was always motivated by two things: duty and love," Stanley said at the end of his remarks. "And that's rare among politicians today."
So rare that those who knew Buchanan personally could see it across the political divide."Pat sticks up for his people like nobody I know," Chris Matthews reminded MSNBC viewers. "He'll laugh with you about the frailties and foibles of those he served but he never, ever quits being loyal to them."
Democratic consultant Peter Fenn told Politico, "I greatly respect Pat's intellect, his honesty and his decency." He lamented that Buchanan was sacked to make way for ideologically segregated "niche TV." Even as Andrew Sullivan labeled Buchanan "a reactionary who flirted at times with what only can be called neo-fascism," he defended the conservative commentator as "a compassionate and decent man in private and an honest intellectual in public."
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, called Buchanan "a sincere, colorful and opinionated personality, and a decent man who deserved better."
Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller, a conservative writer without the "paleo" prefix, observed, "Philosophy aside, if you were to poll the makeup artists, camera techs, and drivers, Pat Buchanan is one of the best-liked pundits in the biz."
Buchanan could have measurably improved both his political career and his standing as a media personality if he suppressed his most controversial views and discarded his more troublesome friends. He had ascended to the top of the Washington power structure alongside Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. But that is not his way.
The man's loyalty has probably been questioned by only two associates: George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, both on the night of the New Hampshire primary. Perhaps they got the last laugh in 2000, when Buchanan's opponents were Jesse Ventura, Donald Trump, Ross Perot, and people who believed they could fly.
Echoes of Buchanan can nevertheless be heard throughout the Republican presidential field: the no-holds-barred social conservatism of Rick Santorum, the skepticism of post-Cold War military adventures of Ron Paul, the 1990s "Republican revolution" aura of Newt Gingrich. His sister Bay Buchanan is a Mitt Romney supporter.
The casus belli of Buchanan's ouster was his most recent book, Suicide of a Superpower. It contains ideas, MSNBC president Phil Griffin told reporters, unfit for "national dialogue, much less on MSNBC."
Remaining on the network is Al Sharpton, whose denunciations of "white interlopers" and "diamond merchants" helped provoke violence against Freddy's Fashion Mart and the Jewish communities of Crown Heights. You will search Buchanan's oeuvre in vain for anything approaching Sharpton at his most hateful.
Many of the demographic claims made in Buchanan's book aren't particularly controversial. He borrowed the chapter titles about the end of Christian America and white America from cover stories in Newsweek and the Atlantic, respectively. His tone is generally wistful, not angry. His thesis is less that diversity is inherently undesirable than that it is difficult to manage without other bonds, values, or experiences that bring countrymen together.
Buchanan hasn't always succeeded in bringing his countrymen together either, often using words that wound people of colors and creeds who don't feel welcome in his vision of America. Despite that real shortcoming, he is a patriot who has consistently believed that his views are open to debate. Do his critics?
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