T Nation

New Buchanan Book Rips Bush

Another voice claiming that George Bush’s war in Iraq is a disaster, and that Bush is not really a conservative, only this time it’s coming from the Right:

In New Book, Buchanan Chastises Another Bush
August 22, 2004

Patrick J. Buchanan, the conservative commentator whose Republican primary challenge and divisive convention speech weakened the first President Bush’s campaign for re-election in 1992, is publishing a book excoriating the second President Bush over the invasion of Iraq, just in time to grab a share of the limelight at another Republican convention.

The arguments in the book, “Where the Right Went Wrong,” which was released late last week, may be familiar, at least to readers of his magazine, The American Conservative, which was founded as a forum for opposition from the right to the invasion of Iraq. Calling the invasion “the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years, a mistake more costly than Vietnam,” Mr. Buchanan writes, “If prudence is the mark of a conservative, Mr. Bush has ceased to be a conservative.”

But the release of the book, which coincides with the Republican National Convention, gives Mr. Buchanan a new occasion to lay out his case on television and in book promotions just as the Bush campaign seeks to project an image of unity, reviving unhappy memories of the disruptive role he has played in the past.

“He has a following in conservative circles,” said Paul Weyrich, a veteran conservative organizer. “It is not what it once was just because the religious right is not particularly enamored with him. But it is going to have an effect. In a very close election, criticism from anybody who is credible is going to have an effect.”

In an interview, however, Mr. Buchanan said publishing a book during the campaign was the best way he knew to inject what he considers important ideas into the debate. “The reason I wanted it out now is, it addresses big issues that are not being addressed in this campaign: the massive and growing deficit, the disintegration of the culture and a Wilsonian foreign policy that means war ad infinitum,” he said.

On war, trade and immigration, "both Kerry and Bush have agreed on the positions that are producing this,’’ he said. “True conservatives are not getting a hearing.”

Mr. Buchanan also stood by his address at the 1992 Republican convention, which alarmed many moderates with talk of a "culture war,’’ saying that if the first President Bush had heeded the speech he might have won re-election.

“Was I not right? When you take a look at how everybody says there is a dividing line between red states and blue states, and the dividing line is between people who go to church at least once a week and people who don’t, there is a culture war going on in this country,” he said. Moral and social issues were winners for the Republicans, Mr. Buchanan argued, which is why the Democrats tried to keep the focus on the economy in 1992.

His new book reprises some of the themes of his 1992 speech, likening the task facing cultural conservatives to that of soldiers sweeping black neighborhoods after riots.

But in the main Mr. Buchanan’s book may be the most thorough exposition yet of the conservative case against the invasion of Iraq. He notes that American conservatives have traditionally opposed foreign interventions, and that Mr. Bush campaigned against “nation building.” But after Sept. 11, he argues, Mr. Bush embraced the views of a group of neoconservative thinkers who Mr. Buchanan contends had been looking to justify a march on Baghdad since the end of the gulf war.

He aims some of his fiercest attacks at Mr. Bush’s frequent statement that perceptions of weakness, not the use of force, invite terrorist attacks. Mr. Buchanan contends that containment has often proven an effective strategy, while intervention sows the seeds of terrorism.

Noting that he criticized the first President Bush for the first gulf war, Mr. Buchanan quotes himself campaigning as the Reform Party candidate in 2000. “How can all our meddling not fail to spark some horrible retribution?” he said then. “Have we not suffered enough - from Pan Am 103 to the World Trade Center [bombing of 1993] to the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam - not to know that interventionism is the incubator of terrorism? Or will it take some cataclysmic atrocity on U.S. soil to awaken our global gamesmen to the going price of empire?”

Still, Mr. Buchanan said he could not bring himself to support another candidate. “Conservative differences with a party led by John Kerry are monumental and legion,” he wrote. In the interview, Mr. Buchanan said of the antiwar candidacy of Ralph Nader: " I like Ralph very much. He has been enormously courageous on trade issues and on the war issue, but I am right-to-life all the way."

David Frum, a supporter of the war who wrote a much-discussed cover article in The National Review last year criticizing Mr. Buchanan and his allies as “unpatriotic conservatives,” said that ambivalence betrayed inconsistency.

“If Pat Buchanan supports President Bush for re-election, that shows a guy who in the end is unwilling to follow his logic where it leads him,” Mr. Frum said. “Pat Buchanan said that the United States brought the 9/11 attacks on itself - he said that within a week of 9/11. It is not surprising that a man who believes in negotiating with terrorists - wooing them, trying to find what they want and giving it to them - is going to be unsatisfied in George Bush’s Republican Party.”

About Mr. Frum’s criticism, Mr. Buchanan said, “I take that as vindication that we were right in speaking out at a time when everybody else was going along with the war.”