Scott McConnell`s Buchanan Diary
Sunday, June 18, 2000
Last Thursday I went to bed in New York exhausted and simply awestruck at the stamina it takes to run for President. The day before PJB had spoken at the New Jersey Reform party convention http://www.salonmag.com/politics/feature/2000/06/15/reform/index.html. I flew in from D.C. that evening.
Thursday morning, met PJB at 8:30; we`re in a rented Chevy Suburban, we tool down to the Fox studios, for the Fox morning news show. While PJB is in make-up, I finish up the papers; the interns are all eagerly asking questions of the next guest, a young woman who was to be on “The Survivor.” I`ve heard of the hit show, but have never seen it, and don`t have a clue what to talk to her about.
Fox News is showing video of the Central Park Puerto Rican Day wilding episode. PJB links it to the orgy of liberal cop-bashing that has gone on for the last year. With an eye to what makes news, he mentions Hillary`s role in tearing down police morale. The Fox show is quick and well produced – as soon as the host brings up the lost Los Alamos computer drives and PJB mentions Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, they have a video of Richardson up on the screen. He has twelve minutes, time to touch on the Central Park wilding, Clinton-Gore, national security and Los Alamos, and the Vice-President story put out by former press aide Neil Bernstein. Everyone wants to know about Dr. Laura, who had come up in some casual staff bull session about possible high profile Veeps. PJB says there is no short list, if there was one she wouldn`t be on it, but he admires her anyway.
Back to the hotel, where PJB breakfasts privately with a well-known power-broker in one of the state`s minor parties. I interrupt the meeting once to show PJB a draft of statement he wrote the day before on the kulturkampf against Confederate symbols; he okays it and out it goes.
How did campaigns manage before cell phones, I wonder. I wonder as well whether the new press aide, Brian Doherty, a former Fox producer, made his plane. An hour earlier he had told me he took a wrong turn on the way to Reagan National and was now in downtown D.C., trying to make a U-turn during rush hour. The weather reports have fog beginning to close in – and he has a press conference to set up by 2 p.m.
Before noon, we head to Manhattan fundraiser at Robert Emmet`s off Times Square. The New York crew has arranged a great event – lots of new faces. The enigmatic Lenora Fulani is there, and receives a warm hand from this right-wing crowd when she is introduced. Pat tells me later he sees one of the photographers working hard for an angle to get him and Lenora in the same frame; I`m not sure he succeeded.
Lynn Samuels, the liberal WABC radio host is present as well. A veteran bleeding-heart with 60`s roots, sincere and honest in her views, Lynn discovered a few years ago that her heart could bleed as well for the American workers who are getting screwed by the New World Order. She`s done at least one major interview with Pat, and talks about him – mostly favorably – all the time. During the Q&A she asks Pat about who is under consideration for cabinet slots. “What position would you like, Lynn?” he replies, before saying that he will go beyond the usual normal Beltway elites and there are tons of very talented people all over the country with new ideas and energy to contribute.
I eat lunch with two of them – bright young guys from an education foundation, full of interesting ideas about reform that are not the usual voucher pap. They will get a hearing.
After a great introduction by Bowen Smith, Pat speaks for fifteen minutes, takes questions for another fifteen. Reform party tactics, the Veep question, Alan Keyes, the New York reception. He tells a story from 1996, after he won New Hampshire, still wasn`t getting much press coverage. The Mountain will have to go to Muhammad, he told his driver, and we`ll have to do some events in New York. “Give me a few days to prepare the armored car, sir” was the reply. But today Manhattan is hardly hostile territory.
We head across town to the press conference – thankfully, Doherty did make his plane, and the plane made it into La Guardia. We have a room at the UN Plaza Hotel. The press presence is spotty, but the New York Times` Adam Nagourney perks up when Pat mentions Hillary and cop-bashing in the same sentence and scribbles quickly.
No one is much interested in the ostensible reason for the press conference – to denounce a bid to give the World Court the right to try American soldiers for war crimes.
PJB does forty minutes of TV interviews with New York One`s Dominick Carter and several ladies from Serb television; the latter are delighted that there is one American politician who believes the US shouldn`t be destroying the Serb people for fighting a civil war on their own legally-recognized territory.
He had hoped to find an hour for a short work-out in the hotel gym, but there isn`t. Back in the Suburban for rush hour trip out to Huntington Long Island, for another fundraiser. After nearly two hours in bumper to bumper traffic, we arrive at a pleasant roadside restaurant off the Northern State Parkway; the crowd is older, more Catholic. Pat does an interview with a local conservative cable host. The host and organizer is absent, so we don`t have the guest list. His wife, it turns out, is giving birth the very day. Carol Buchanan (the campaign treasurer, married to one of Pat`s brothers) and I struggle to take down names, addresses, occupations of attendees. Sadly all too many people pay their $200 in cash, which is useless for matching funds – the lifeblood of all populist campaigns.
When he speaks, PJB describes at some length the Theresa Murray story – the woman in Arizona whose home and property is being overrun by illegal aliens using it for transit while the federal government does next to nothing. I`m not sure the Long Island crowd has heard much of this story, or about the immigration issue in general, – but they respond with long applause when PJB says that he would pay more attention to America`s borders than those of Kosovo and Bosnia. One guy warms my heart by telling me I was his favorite NY Post columnist, and that the Post – having lost me, Hilton Kramer, Breindel, and Buchanan – really doesn`t offer much any more. Thank goodness for the Internet, I think. Project USA`s Craig Nelson http://www.projectusa.org/ introduces himself, and I greet him warmly.
After PJB`s talk and a lengthy Q&A – he is on his feet at the mike for at least 45 minutes – we are back in the Suburban headed for Fox again; he will do Hannity and Colmes at 9:30 p.m. In the studio an hour later, Shelly, Carol and I watch more wilding footage while PJB is in make-up.
The videos show again footage of young women dressed in haltertops being pushed about by the black and Puerto Rican crowd, high on pot and beer. (The New York Times story describing how several middle-aged women and women on the way to work were sexually assaulted on the streets south of Central Park as well hadn`t yet been published.)
I mention to Shelly and Carol that my wife has often said there was a good reason that, for the past 4000 years or so, women in civilized societies who weren`t practicing the oldest profession dressed modestly. I hoped my daughters would have the good sense not to walk into a middle of a crowd of drunken young men while wearing haltertops. Shelly and Carol seemed to agree. We were wondering whether to bring this up to PJB when he emerged from make-up. He laughs, saying “Yeah, that would sure make some headlines: `They asked for it`— Buchanan.”
The half hour with Hannity and Colmes goes wonderfully. PJB is dead tired but they are friendly and the show comes across like friends having a great time together. In the course of being asked about the “Dr. Laura for Veep” rumor half a dozen times that day, Pat has fashioned an effective point, which goes something like this: “No there is no shortlist, and she wouldn`t be on it, but she is speaking from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and isn`t it interesting that while Hollywood is still weeping over the blacklisting of Stalinists fifty years ago, it is ready to kowtow to an attempt to black list her.”
At about 10:30 p.m. we repair to Due, an Italian bistro in my neighborhood. PJB will fly to Michigan tomorrow, and then the day after that to North Carolina, for key Reform Party conventions. I will make some calls and try to fashion some talking points for an address to an American Muslim convention the next Friday. I have done little more than talk to PJB, talk to guests, and make cell phone calls all day. But I am completely exhausted. More tired than he is – who had open-heart surgery six years ago and is fourteen years my senior. Like I say, these days you have to have stamina to be a presidential candidate.