GOP'S MORNING-AFTER HANGOVER

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Campaign headline: "BUCHANAN WANTS SCOPES MONKEY TRIAL REOPENED. HAS NEW EVIDENCE, HE CLAIMS."

I guess Imus got it pretty much right the morning after the New Hampshire primary when he announced from the High Five restaurant in Manchester, "Is this a great country or what? Snoop gets off and Buchanan wins."

When we start acquitting guys like Snoop Doggy Dog and electing a walking Dead Sea Scroll like Pat, it's time to resume smoking, have yourself a martini straight up, and stop worrying about the cholesterol. Because there ain't that much time left, folks. The neanderthals are out of the cave.

When one of the most decent men and finest senators ever to serve New Hampshire, Warren Rudman, a lifelong Republican, declares that if Buchanan is the GOP candidate this fall, he (Rudman) will vote for a Democrat, it kind of informs you what's happening to the Grand Old Party. What all of this means long term, except that it's going to be lousy politics but great theater, and will probably re-elect Bill Clinton, it's too early to say.

And, by the way, that ol' Contract with America didn't last very long, did it?

Four years ago Advertising Age sent me to cover the conventions and I was in Houston when the Republicans nominated George Bush for a second term. I've been around elections since Ike's second term run in 1956 and except for the disgraceful 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, I've never seen anything quite like Houston where Buchanan and the other Pat, Robertson, delivered two of the meanest stump speeches I can recall. While bands of Young Republicans roamed the bowels of the Astrodome hooting at reporters as if they, and not Democrats, were the enemy.

And that was when an officer and gentleman and Old Yalie named Bush was heading the ticket.

I don't really care who wrote "Primary Colors" but I do care about who runs the country, so I have been following with interest the Republican race and am astonished at several things. Bob Dole's extraordinary meltdown, for one. He is a man who got awful old, awful fast. Then there was the fact that four years ago Buchanan (yes, the very same) won 37% of the New Hampshire primary vote; this time he got only 27% and still beat Dole. The other amazing thing is how Lamar Alexander once put up a dollar and then scored shortly thereafter a windfall profit of more than $600,000 as governor of Tennessee.

Considering some of the stuff Bill and Hillary were pulling down there in neighboring Arkansas when he (Clinton) was Guv, you begin to suspect the answer to a question which has puzzled me since the time of Huey Long:

Why do we have Southern states? Answer, so their favorite sons can loot them.

Buchanan's surge, such as it is, based largely on his appeal to the more primitive among us, calls inevitably to mind the Know-Nothings, a party of American super-patriots that sprang up in the 1840s and was primarily opposed to immigration and to Roman Catholics. Their nickname derived from instructions given their members, that if anyone inquired what they were up to, they should respond that they knew nothing.

With Pat Buchanan, a Roman Catholic opposed to immigration, we have a more contemporary super-patriot (in his case I think it was a bad knee that kept him from the battlefields) who prides himself on knowing, if not nothing, then very little about this country we have here, a good and decent place men like Bob Dole fought to keep free.

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