- The Washington Times - Monday, October 4, 2004

WHERE THE RIGHT WENT WRONG: HOW NEOCONSERVATIVES SUBVERTED THE REAGAN REVOLUTION AND HIJACKED THE BUSH PRESIDENCY

By Patrick J. Buchanan

St. Martin’s, $24.95,

262 pages

Pat Buchanan is one of the clearest, most concise writers around today — and one of the bluntest and most opinionated. But what makes his opinions worth considering is that he backs them up with facts, selective, to be sure, but facts nevertheless.

These, in turn, he backs up (where appropriate) with quotes from earlier of his own writings that have turned out to be prescient, as well as from historical figures who must be right because they agree with him. Such is the case with Mr. Buchanan’s latest attack on everyone and everything he thinks is leading America down the primrose path to its eventual destruction.

Though a conservative, the author is his own breed of conservative.He is not a “neocon” or a traditional conservative. And he is surely not a compassionate conservative. He is best described as a Buchanan conservative: That is, a conservative who is always right no matter who disagrees with him.

Mr. Buchanan, of course, is more than a writer, albeit an effective one.In earlier years, after a stint as an editorial writer on the old and lamented St. Louis Globe-Democrat, he was a key member of the staffs of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, closer personally to Mr. Nixon and philosophically to Mr. Reagan.

The presidency of George H.W. Bush changed Mr. Buchanan from a political columnist into a crusader, which is what he has been ever since, challenging the political and cultural status quo both by pen and in person. He is a true believer — in himself and in the rightness of his causes. He has tried three times, vainly, to rally the nation behind his leadership, running for president twice as a Republican and a third time as the candidate of the Reform Party.

These days he has gone back to what he does best: writing. His latest diatribe, “Where the Right Went Wrong,” is subtitled (do all books have subtitles these days?)”How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency.” In the book, he lays out where he’s coming from and eventually gets around to telling us the direction in which he thinks this country should go. That is, after he tells us in great detail what exactly has gone wrong and who is responsible.

By those responsible, he means just about everyone in a position of authority or influence, starting with the dreaded neocons, who, he asserts, are really not conservatives but “imposters and opportunists.” Their agenda, Mr. Buchanan charges — and not without some validity — is “open borders, amnesty for illegal aliens, free trade, an orderly retreat from the cultural wars, ‘Big Government Conservatism’ and Wilsonian interventions to reshape the world in America’s image.” Mr. Buchanan opposes all of these things.

He also opposes the idea of fighting militant Islam wherever it may be. The fault for instigating the war on terrorism he thinks is ours. He believes that if the United States would move lock, stock and oil barrel out of the Middle East, the bad guys would leave us alone.

This only scratches the surface of what Mr. Buchanan believes. He thinks free trade is bad and tariffs are good. He thinks our borders should be closed to immigration until we’ve had time to assimilate those aliens who are already here. He thinks Israel is largely to blame for its problems with the Palestinians. The list is long.

He has problems with Congress for abdicating its constitutional prerogatives to the courts and to the executive branch, and with the courts for usurping authority from both Congress and the executive.

And it disturbs him that Republican presidents act too much like Democrats, and Republicans, as a party, do much the same. Further, he notes, under the presidency of George W. Bush the era of big government is back, America is becoming an empire and the courts continue to impose an unwanted social revolution on the nation. None of this is good news to Mr. Buchanan; he predicts that eventually there will be “a civil war” for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Mr. Buchanan is surprisingly kind to the current President Bush, describing him as both a decent human being and a principled and patriotic leader, even though “conservative differences with him are many and serious.” And in the end, he predicts conservatives will support him because there is “simply nothing” the Democrats offer to the right.

In the end, Mr. Buchanan is probably correct. The neocons may have hijacked his Republican Party, but conservatives have no place else to go.

Lyn Nofziger, a Washington writer, was an adviser to President Ronald Reagan.

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