It was 45 years ago today that Richard Nixon resigned the presidency amid the Watergate scandal. As with every year around this time, there will be stories rehashing the drama that led to this historic event—the first and only time a U.S. president has relinquished the highest office in the middle of his term.
Most of those who were closest to Mr. Nixon had their careers destroyed or at least greatly damaged, and several went to jail. Nixon was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford, his former vice president.
Amazingly, the man who at times was Nixon’s closest aide—Pat Buchanan—not only survived, but his career prospered and influence grew.
Many years ago, columnist and historian Roger McGrath wrote that the first commandment of the politically correct is: “Thou shalt not portray a white male in an heroic light.”
In obvious violation of that commandment, I want to pay honor to one of my heroes, columnist Pat Buchanan.
For many years, Buchanan has been leading the charge in support of traditional American values and in opposition to unending war. He has done this both in and out of the White House, in presidential campaigns, in print media, and over the nation’s airwaves.
He has inspired me and countless others.
And while I refer to him as a hero today, our first meeting was very disappointing (though still unforgettable to me).
It was the summer of 1967, and I was a college student working at the headquarters of the Nixon for President campaign in Washington.
Pat Buchanan worked with Mr. Nixon at the Nixon law firm in New York City. Campaigns were much smaller back then, and Mr. Nixon sometimes flew by himself on the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle between New York and Washington.
One day, I was told to go to National Airport the following morning—a Saturday—to pick up Mr. Nixon and drive him wherever he wanted to go. I was very excited.
The next morning, I got to the airport very early and very nervous. Much to my disappointment, Mr. Nixon did not get off the plane. Pat Buchanan came in his stead.
He walked over and said very little to me, instead handing me a huge pile of press releases with instructions to deliver them to what were then the three Washington papers, all the local TV and radio stations, and several other news organizations.
Instead of driving Mr. Nixon around, I got to spend an entire Saturday driving by myself.
Very few people know my name outside my congressional district, even though I served in Congress for 30 years. But Pat Buchanan is a household name, having developed a huge following over the last several decades through his columns, books, and radio and TV appearances.
In The Crusader, author Timothy Stanley quotes Diane Banister, who converted to Catholicism because of Pat Buchanan and rode a bus from California to New Hampshire to campaign for him. Ms. Banister, who now runs a political communications firm just outside the nation’s capital, said, “Pat seemed to understand conservatism better than anyone else. He was so articulate, so informed. He saw something before others saw it.”
Tim Alberta, writing in Politico Magazine in 2017, described Buchanan as “that patriot from ordinary stock whose life journey positioned him to witness, influence, and narrate the pivotal moments that shaped our modern world and changed the course of this country’s history.”
Joseph Scotchie, in his new book Writing On the Southern Front, describes Buchanan as “America’s preeminent prophet of an America First platform.” Scotchie also refers to him as the “last Conservative,” meaning one who believes what conservatives used to before the neocons took control with their big government and permanent war.
Buchanan has taken too many courageous (and politically incorrect) positions over the years to list them all, so a few will have to suffice.
He has opposed the open borders, unlimited immigration, free trade agenda supported by the big business interests that control the votes of too many in Congress.
He has criticized the brainwashed college students and weak-kneed city councils that have taken down monuments of Confederate heroes.
He wrote a book calling World War II “the unnecessary war” and questioned the hero-worship of Winston Churchill at a time (after the 9/11 attacks) when the chickenhawk neocons were all channeling their inner Churchills.
He publicly defended the brilliant but very controversial columnists Sam Francis and Joseph Sobran, sticking with his friends when other conservatives were ducking and running.
He even dared to criticize Israel, probably the most politically incorrect thing one can do, showing it’s possible to separate the Jewish people from the Israeli nation as it tries to influence U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
While members of Congress and others in power have done anything to get in the good graces of The Washington Post and New York Times, Pat Buchanan has never been afraid to take on the liberal establishment.
Many years ago, I got a degree in journalism, taught for a year, and even worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper. I read once that minister and Guideposts founder Norman Vincent Peale said that if you want people to read what you write, you should write short sentences and short paragraphs.
I doubt that Pat got his writing lessons from Peale, but that’s his style, too. His columns are the most well-written, readable, and historically informative of any writer today.
When I think of the life Pat Buchanan has led, I remember a TV show several years ago called Grand. Its opening theme song, which you can hear on YouTube, had the words: “See we’re all different drummers playing in the same big band, and if you’re going to play it, play it Grand.”
Pat Buchanan has played it grand, and we have benefited from the life he has led and the work he has done.
He is a hero to me and many, many others.
John “Jimmy” Duncan recently retired after 30 years representing Tennessee in the House of Representatives.