February 27, 2000: Still watching with amusement the press fascination with the idea of John McCain as a joint GOP/Reform Party candidate. There have been at least a dozen stories on it, including a lengthy one in Saturday`s New York Times, an 1800 wonder running off the front page. After tons of digging into the nooks and crannies of the relationship between McCain and Ross Perot, reporter Richard Oppel Jr. decided to speak to one real live Reform Party member, interim chairman Pat Choate, who was the RP`s vice presidential candidate in 1996. Choate happens to know that election law make it difficult or impossible in most states for a candidate to run on two party lines. New York allows fusion tickets along with about 9 others, but about 40 states prohibit it in one way or another. So if McCain somehow won the Reform nomination, he couldn`t receive votes on the Reform line in 40 out of 50 states – which would virtually guarantee that the Reform party would have no independent existence after November 2000. Would the Reform Party go for this? Not any of the members I know, certainly.
I felt sorry for the poor Times fellow – he had obviously put a great deal of leg work in pursuing his fantasy, and then at the end of his story came to realize it was just that. A New York political consultant I know wrote me an e-mail in which he said he thought the story would just conclude with the phrase “Never Mind.”
From what I can see, the press isn`t very interested in learning from their mistakes. A young man I know—a third year law student – wrote a very interesting op-ed delving into the historical background of cross-endorsement legislation, analyzing the recent Supreme Court decision which upheld the Minnesota anti-cross endorsement law–in short – just the sort of thing that would save reporters from repeating the wild goose chase Richard Oppel went on. As far as I know, he`s still searching for a newspaper to run it. Ignorance, editors have decided, is the way to go.
We`ve had some discussion in the Buchanan campaign about whether to put out a memo explaining American election law to the press. I`m in favor of it – I`m in politics for the sake of ideological clarity to begin with.
What a nightmare: another election that is virtually content free. Issue of the Day: what did you do during the Vietnam War daddy? Smoke dope in Saigon? Fly planes around Texas? Get shot down and suffer in a Hanoi prison camp? Interesting in a human sense, but isn`t democracy supposed to be – at least in part – about the resolution of political questions?
Anyway, the Buchanan camp has of yet made no effort to educate the press: our lawyer is busy with getting Buchanan on the ballot in the thirty states where the Reform Party isn`t already registered -a huge and complex effort. And perhaps it is right not to care. But as a journalist, I would have thought that at some point simple pride of profession would activate itself: journalists would just feel embarrassed about writing stuff that displayed their lack of homework. But except for the odd fellow who really does his homework -Tim Russert for instance – the dissemination of misinformation continues.
I was home in Manhattan when the Diallo verdict came in. After making very sure of my kids` schedules, so they wouldn`t be caught at any intersections in dicey parts of town, I settled down to watch the TV coverage. Like everyone else I feel sorry for the guy and his family. But is it really necessary to — as our Mayor does — to lard every sentence about him with boilerplate about immigrants. How many illegal African immigrants does the city actually want? I`m reminded of the Deng Xiao Ping`s remark to Carter, the opening of George Borjas` book, when he complained about China`s emigration restrictions. Mr. President, do you want 10 million Chinese or 20? Carter wisely shut up.
African peddlers have become a mainstay in our little neighborhood, and one major grocery now has a group young Africa men hanging about waiting for the chance to deliver groceries to your apartment. Its competitor hires Americans – blacks and Hispanics – and dresses them in sharp red, green and black uniforms. The colors are chosen, my wife is certain, because they are those of the Pan African flag. Anyway, that`s the store we shop at.
Sunday afternoon now, and before returning to Washington I`m off to the Columbia University library to look through some of De Gaulle`s writings and speeches. One is always looking for acceptable language to present modern day nationalist themes. So far as I know, the nation breakers haven`t yet managed to put De Gaulle on the black list, though his day will surely come. (Neo-Gaullist Jacques Chirac`s recent comments on the Mid East may serve as an excuse). Still, as Mr. Buchanan reminded me last week, we`ll have to be take some care in translating the Gaullist word “patrie.”