'Day of Reckoning': ideology vs. eclecticism
Immigration fears that Pat Buchanan's new book voices don't define a total world view.
By Claude R. Marx, Special to the Times
Published December 16, 2007
Day of Reckoning
By Patrick J. Buchanan
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press,294 pages, $25.95
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It is all too tempting for political observers to talk about ideologues of the left or right in shorthand. While relying on generalizations may be easy, it does not always do justice to the person. To some extent, that's the case with conservative commentator and sometime activist Patrick J. Buchanan.
To be sure, his views on immigration and the role of the United States in the world place him on the far-right end of an extremely conservative Republican Party. Yet many of his positions on the negative impact of free trade and the country's wealth disparity have been uttered by some Democrats in Congress and seeking the White House.
This mix of issue positions - coupled with Buchanan's lively, if occasionally didactic, style - makes Day of Reckoning more interesting than most political screeds. Buchanan, a columnist, former aide to presidents Nixon and Reagan and unsuccessful presidential candidate, comes across as a prophet of doom, albeit one with whom you'd enjoy having a drink.
His inflammatory language - he uses a military metaphor to talk about immigrants as a major threat to the character and prosperity of America - provides aid and comfort to those who share his views, but may do little to sway the opinions of others.
On other issues, Buchanan uses historical evidence to corroborate warnings about what he sees as too aggressive a foreign policy and the net negative effect of trade on all but the wealthiest Americans - thoughts that have also come from the lips of such mainstream Democrats as John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Treating Buchanan asa conservative crank isn't effective. Day of Reckoning certainly shows him to be a man of the populist far right. But maybe it is better to think of him as a stopped clock, right at least twice a day.
Claude R. Marx is an award-winning journalist and author of a chapter on media and politics in "The Sixth-Year Itch," edited by Larry Sabato.