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The Night Pat Buchanan Came to Dinner
by Isabel Lyman
12 May 2000

Isabel Lyman 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 Guthrie.

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 White House.

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.
Click here for an index of other Isabel Lyman columns.
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