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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

During the 1992 Republican National Convention, conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan created a firestorm. In what would later come to be known as his “culture war” speech, Buchanan excoriated the country’s supposed moral decline, calling for an evangelical victory in the “religious war going on … for the soul of America.”

Buchanan—perhaps more than anyone else—should have known that the ascendance of someone like Donald to the nomination would only be a matter of time. The inflammatory, nationalist rhetoric Trump spewed during the Republican primaries can be traced back to Buchanan’s 1992 challenge against George H.W. Bush.

On the campaign trail, Buchanan linked the Los Angeles riots to immigration problems and suggested that Zulu immigrants would create more problems than British ones. At his convention speech, he railed against “environmental extremists who put insects, rats and birds ahead of families, workers and jobs.” Buchanan proposed building “structures” along the U.S.-Mexico border while Trump was still building skyscrapers in Manhattan.

This time, though, these ideas are actually working: While Buchanan’s diatribes against free trade and immigration only saw the former Nixon speechwriter pushed to the fringes by the Republican establishment, they have now allowed Trump to hijack the GOP.

“The people who like the Donald remember America as it was and don’t really like what it’s become,” he told The Daily Beast in June. “If you think America was a good country you grew up in and you prefer it to now, a lot of people think you’re racist, homophobic, and bigoted. By now we’ve been called lots of names. These are the cuss words of a dying establishment.”

Trump’s success capitalized on the fears of the white-working class, who resent the country’s growing multiculturalism and stagnating industry. While Buchanan focused on abortion and gay rights—two issues on which Trump is arguably less of a demagogue—the central tenets of his political views have always been anti-trade and anti-immigration.

In an opinion column last December, Buchanan wrote “Trump’s success tells us that the American people really do not celebrate ‘globalization.’ […] They want people here illegally to be sent back, the borders secured and a moratorium imposed on Muslim immigration until we fix the broken system.”

Interestingly enough, though, Buchanan’s recent political history also shows that Trump wasn’t the most likely candidate to take over his throne of white nationalism.

After coming in a distant second to Bush in ’92 and then Bob Dole in ’96, Buchanan also competed with none other than Donald Trump for the Reform Party nomination in 2000. But true to his reputation for shifting political identities over the years, The Donald was not quite on board with Buchanan’s nativist orthodoxies back then.

Trump spoke about the virtues of “appreciating different cultures” and went after Buchanan for his hateful remarks against nearly every marginalized group in the country. At the time, he even compared Buchanan to “Attila the Hun” and called him a “neo-Nazi.” (Buchanan’s platform then is nearly identical to Trump’s platform now, BuzzFeed has reported.)

As a result, “I was relatively astonished when he came out against trade and immigration—and to Make America First—that’s on my hats,” Buchanan said, according to The Daily Beast. 

Despite his astonishment, Buchanan probably couldn’t be happier: Whereas his 1992 speech was a conciliatory gesture for a primary loser, a racist will finally close out a Republican convention—only a quarter-century later.

Who cares if Donald plagiarized his style?


Photo: Pat Buchanan via Wikimedia Commons

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.