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Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 1999 / 21 Tishrei, 5759

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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Go, Pat! Just go! -- IDENTIFY THIS left-wing politician:

He railed against the Gulf War, predicting that ''a US ground assault would be a bloodbath'' and warning that ''America would find herself in a Korea-style meat grinder.''

He opposes free trade and casts himself as the workingman's champion. ''The globalists in Washington ... believe that all Americans are riding a wave of Wall Street prosperity,'' he told the Independent Steelworkers Union in July. ''But I have seen factories closed and towns destroyed by illegal steel dumping.''

He favors a massive tax increase on consumer imports. He has called for a 10 percent tariff on Japanese imports, a 20 percent tariff on Chinese imports, and a ''social tariff on Third World manufactured goods.'' These tariffs would mean billions in new federal revenues, all of it siphoned from the pockets of American consumers.

He denounces America's leading corporations as ''amoral behemoths,'' whose ''loyalty is only to the bottom line.'' He warns: ''If they shut down factories here to open overseas, they will pay a price for the readmission of their goods into America's market.''

Rush Limbaugh, the well-known conservative radio commentator, says that this politician ''wants to engage in policies that expand the role of government in people's lives.'' Indeed, says Limbaugh, what Hillary Clinton tried to do to health care, this political figure would replicate, ''only in the area of jobs.''

He endorsed Yasser Arafat's goal of becoming ''the first president of a Palestinian state'' long before the PLO chieftain agreed to renounce terrorism and seek peace with Israel. Did he really want to see an international criminal as a chief of state? ''There are a lot of repulsive guys running government around the world,'' he replied.

He has joined forces on occasion with Ralph Nader, who he identifies as his ''most admired contemporary liberal.''

The name of this left-leaning American politician?

Patrick J. Buchanan.

In preparing to leave the Republican Party and seek his fortune on the Reform ticket, Buchanan claims to be acting from the highest loyalty to Republican principles. On ''Meet the Press'' last week, he complained that the Republican Party ''at the national level has become a Xerox copy, basically, of the Democratic Party.'' But the truth is that on issue after issue, it is Buchanan's positions that have become Xerox copies, basically, of the Democrats' positions. Against the Gulf War, against free trade, hostile to business, quick to play up class resentment - that isn't the way a Republican talks. It's the way Dick Gephardt talks.

Mickey Edwards, the former Oklahoma congressman who now lectures at Harvard, makes the case that Buchanan's signature positions - high-tariff protectionism and America-First isolationism - are rooted in the worst nostrums of the radical left. In opposing NAFTA, Edwards has written, ''Buchanan seems to have concluded that the global economy is a pie of pre-ordained size: One more slice for Canada means one less slice for us. Like the Victor Reuthers of labor's old leftist fringe, Pat Buchanan apparently believes that if one man eats, another must starve.''

Likewise Buchanan's hostility to deploying US troops in aid of oppressed peoples overseas. ''Buchanan is decidedly neutral in the struggle between freedom and oppression,'' writes Edwards. ''Amazingly, he attempts now to convince us that this disinterest in the cause of human liberty is somehow a conservative point of view. Nonsense. It is George McGovern all over again. We heard it about Vietnam. We heard it about Nicaragua. Wherever people took up arms to resist communism, the left demanded that the US mind its own business.''

To be sure, there is more to Buchanan than protectionism and isolationism. For example, there is xenophobia.

Increasingly, Buchanan is known as an enemy of immigration, especially immigration from below the Rio Grande. He wants a triple fence, heavily policed, to keep Mexicans out of the United States. He calls illegal immigration - not Russia's nukes, not North Korea's missiles, not Saddam's dreams of mass destruction, but immigration - ''America's most pressing foreign policy crisis.'' On this issue, it must be said, he does not sound like a liberal. Nor does he sound like a conservative - at least, not like a Reagan conservative. When the Gipper spoke of America's immigrants, it was not out of fear and loathing but with admiration and appreciation.

Buchanan is correct about his future with the GOP. He doesn't belong in the House that Reagan Built. And Republicans know it. Buchanan's support in every opinion poll is in the low single digits. At the straw poll in Iowa, he eked out just 7 percent, less even than Gary Bauer. He may have won the New Hampshire primary in 1996, but three-fourths of the votes went to other candidates. And even in winning, Buchanan pulled 8,000 fewer votes than in his New Hampshire defeat to George Bush four years earlier.

The message is hard to miss: Republicans aren't buying what Pat Buchanan is selling. Maybe that's because the more this supposed conservative talks, the more he sounds like a liberal crank. Let him bolt the GOP. The GOP will be better off without him.

JWR contributor Jeff Jacoby may be reached by clicking here.

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