The Night Pat Buchanan Came to Dinner
by Isabel Lyman
12 May 2000
Remember Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
The 1960s comedy featured a freespirited young woman who shocked her white,
liberal parents by returning home with a fiancee - a black doctor.
At the new millennium, the way to scandalize family and friends is not to
announce plans for an interracial marriage or even a gay civil union.
Try this: A freedom-loving, Ph.D.-toting, Hispanic woman, with a die-hard
Kennedy-worshipping, Democrat father and country-club Republican neighbors,
brings home a third-party presidential candidate who brags: I have never
been afraid to speak my mind.
Hard to fathom? Well, that’s what transpired when my husband and I welcomed
Reform Party presidential hopeful Patrick J. Buchanan and his wife, Shelley,
into our casa during his recent campaign swing through central Oklahoma.
On the same Wednesday that Texas governor George W. Bush was speaking to the
party faithful in Washington, D.C. (schmoozing at a ritzy gala that featured
laser lights and a disco band), Pat was eating a plate of grilled chicken on
my scuffed kitchen table and chatting with my next-door neighbor Kathy
Costello, a homeschooling mother of five.
While Dubya was greeting guests clothed in black-tie and sequins, Pat was
shaking hands with ol' Charlie Meadows, an overall-wearing window washer from
While Dubya was taking center stage promising to restore civility and
respect to national politics, Buchanan held court in my living room and
condemned Attorney General Janet Reno for that raid in little Havana that
he likened to the actions of communist tyrants.
While Dubya was cracking corny no new tuxes jokes, Pat sarcastically noted
that if Ohio’s motto had been Friedrich Nietzsche's ‘If God is dead, all things are permissible’
instead of ‘With God All Things Are Possible,’ a
Federal appellate court would not have declared it unconstitutional.
While the Republicans raised over $21 million at the shindig in the nation’s
capital, my forty guests and I collected, oh, about twelve hundred bucks to
donate to Pat’s coffers.
In addition to the limitations of stumping for votes among the grass roots in
middle-America, Candidate Buchanan also has to face friendly crossfire. Even
fans are sometimes perplexed by the road less traveled he is taking to the
At my home in Edmond, he was asked the following: What’s a patriot like you
doing with a Marxist like Lenora Fulani? Is it true that you said you would
appoint Teamster President James Hoffa to your cabinet? And, just what would
be your first act upon arriving at the Oval Office?
Pitchfork Pat’s answers never disappoint. For it’s his punchy, fun speaking
style that makes him not the dinner guest from hell, but the life of the
party. Buchanan isn’t going to bore any audience with wonkish discussions
about health care reform, as Vice-president Al Gore does. Nor will he
pander to the soccer-mom vote by promising that he will rescue children from
failure, as Governor Bush does.
Instead, he patiently explained that Dr. Fulani, a leader in the Reform
Party, had endorsed him. That, no, he'd never said he’d appoint Jimmy Hoffa to the
Cabinet, but that Hoffa sure would be a better fella to have negotiating
trade agreements with the Red Chinese than Charlene Barshefsky, the current
U.S. trade representative. And his first action upon taking office? Tell Bill
Clinton that he has the right to remain silent.
Loud applause followed each answer. The Buchanan Brigades are reassured that
the ‘old troll under the bridge’ - as Pat calls himself - is still a
conservative of the heart, after all.
Indeed, Pat Buchanan has that Winston Churchill
never-never-never-never-give-in thing going for him. It’s a quality that
causes ivory tower elites to verbally pummel him, yet ignites the grass roots
support he needs.
As long as he continues to broadcast his ‘America First’ message - and
hopefully the Commission on Presidential Debates will allow him to
participate in the debates this fall - he will reinvigorate his old base and
win new converts in the process. No doubt a scary scenario for those who want
him to remain as relevant as a silent film star.
Go, Pat, Go!
Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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