Buchanan and Press in rare agreement! Sort of

By Bill Press

In an effort to be fair and balanced, I admit that conservatives aren’t always wrong about everything. Once in a rare while, even a conservative can get something right. Take Pat Buchanan.

Yes, for the last seven years – on radio and television, on CNN and MSNBC, in front of countless public audiences – Buchanan and I have made a living by disagreeing with each other. Usually, but not always, civilly. He and I each have strong opinions. He’s a conservative, I’m a liberal, and never the twain shall meet.

Or so I thought … until I picked up Pat’s latest book. It’s called “How the Right Went Wrong,” and it’s a blistering criticism of the policies of George W. Bush. You think I’m hard on Bush? Read Pat’s book. He’s so tough on Bush I almost felt sorry for the guy, even though I’d never vote for him.

Here’s Pat Buchanan on the war in Iraq: “In 2003, the United States invaded a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us, and did not want war with us, to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have. … Those of us who were called unpatriotic for opposing an invasion of Iraq and who warned we would inherit our own Lebanon of 25 million Iraqis were proven right.” The war in Iraq, he says, is “the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years.” Hey, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Here’s Pat Buchanan on the economy: “The U.S. budget deficit is above 4 percent of GDP. One in six manufacturing jobs has disappeared since President Bush took the oath. By mid-2004, the president had failed to abolish a single significant agency, program or department of a Leviathan government that consumes a fifth of our economy. Nor had he vetoed a single bill. As custodian of the national economy, George W. Bush has compiled a fiscal record of startling recklessness.” Ouch! What ever happened to the party of fiscal responsibility?

Here’s Pat Buchanan on one of Bush’s signature initiatives, giving federal funds to so-called faith-based institutions: “Where LBJ funded poverty groups to build a power base in the cities, independent of mayors, George W. Bush plans to fund God’s Pork for ‘faith-based’ groups to enable Republicans to get a foot in the church door by making the pastor dependent on federal dollars.” It’s nothing, he asserts, but “faith-based pork cooked up in the kitchen of Karl Rove to bribe the Religious Right.” I have made that same point in earlier columns, though not so colorfully.

But Pat Buchanan is never more right than when he talks about the war on terror. This is Bush’s No. 1 issue. The main reason, we are told, Bush should be re-elected. Not so, Buchanan argues.

On September 11, Buchanan reminds us, the terrorists attacked us here because of the presence of American troops over there, in the Middle East. How did we respond? By sending even more troops. Which prompts Buchanan to ask: “Is a huge U.S. military presence in the Arab and Islamic world the way to win the war Arab and Islamic terrorists have launched against us — or is that a principal cause of the war?” The result of our war on terror so far, he points out: “Never has America been more resented and reviled in an Islamic world of a billion people.” That doesn’t sound like success in the war on terror to me.

Don’t get me wrong. Pat doesn’t get everything right. He’s just as wrong about immigration policy as he’s ever been, insisting that most Americans would support sealing our borders with troops and sending all undocumented workers back home. On this point, at least, President Bush is more realistic.

But Buchanan is blindly wrong when he concludes that, despite Bush’s many faults, conservatives should still stick with the president. Why? Only because, given the opportunity, Bush is more likely to appoint more Supreme Court justices like Scalia and Thomas — who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

And therein lies the fatal flaw of social conservatives. No matter how destructive George W. Bush’s fiscal, domestic and foreign policies, they will stick with him only because, some day, he might make it possible once again to deny American women the right to control their own bodies. What a narrow worldview. How could Buchanan be so right, and yet so wrong?