DATE October 13, 2004 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Howard Dean discusses presidential politics and his
new book, "You Have the Power"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
After losing in the presidential primary to John Kerry, Howard Dean has been
working hard to get out the vote for his former rival. But Dean remains
critical of how his party has responded to the Bush administration. He
explains why in his new book, "You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our
Country and Restore Democracy in America." A little later former Republican
presidential candidate Pat Buchanan will explain why he's voting for President
Bush even though he's been critical of the Bush administration.
Howard Dean served as governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003. He's now
honorary chairman of Democracy for America, an organization dedicated to
building a grassroots network for the Democratic Party.
You're right that when you were running in the primary, that Democrats said
that you were dangerously far from the mainstream. And your Democratic rivals
had created a secret pact to go after you in Iowa, and they were spending a
million dollars running negative attack ads against you. You say, `This is
the kind of tactic that Democrats and Republicans routinely use on each other,
but I'd never seen Democrats doing it to one another, and I was furious.' And
then you say it made you wonder why should you still be a Democrat after all
this. So why are you?
Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Democrat, Former Vermont Governor): Well, I think that in
the long run, this has to be about the country, not about me. And as Al Gore
told me in the part of the book that follows up on that story, this really is
about the country. And there was no way that a third-party person could
possibly win this election. All a third-party person was going to do on the
Democratic Party side was to take votes away from John Kerry.
George Bush is a national disaster, in my view. He's the least-competent
president we've had since Warren Harding, and he's an activist incompetent
president, which makes him more dangerous. So I really wanted to do
everything I could to make sure that John Kerry won. And, you know, as I got
to know John Kerry, after the primaries were over, I came to respect him. I
think he's a bright, thoughtful person who understands the issues. He's
inquisitive, and he marshals the evidence before he acts, and that's really
important in a president.
GROSS: Looking at the campaign now, are you surprised at the role the Vietnam
War has played?
Dr. DEAN: No. I think John Kerry made it a central issue because he wanted
to describe who he was, and I think it has a lot to do with who he was.
Actually I think it has a lot to do with why I think he's going to win. All
the time we were beating him, I kept thinking to myself, `You know, this is a
guy who served in combat in Vietnam. Where is that inner core that I know he
has to have? How come he's not reaching it?' And, of course, he did in the
end, and he did what he had to do and he won, and that's why I think he's
going to win in this one.
When you go to combat and you serve in Vietnam--and I know a lot of people
who've done that--there is something different about you than the people who
didn't go, like me. And you don't ever come back the same person that you did
when you left; nobody does. And there's something special about the people
who went to Vietnam, and Kerry is one of those people. And he has a very deep
core; it's part of his personality, even though he doesn't talk about it. He
talks about it in a more political way, but it's there and it's going to make
a difference in the race.
GROSS: What has your reaction been watching the Swift Boat campaign against
Kerry? I know it looks like a movie by the group that mounted that Swift Boat
campaign is going to be showing before the election on Sinclair Broadcast
Dr. DEAN: Well, it's the repulsive side of American life. There's some
people who aren't very good Americans. I'd say the people who run Sinclair
aren't; I'd say the people who run the Swift Boat, who are doing this, aren't.
You know, negativism and the kind of lying and using corporate influence,
that's just the unattractive part of American life, and that's what you've got
to overcome in order to have us be a strong country. If those people really
continue to run the country, we're going to have a very weak country after a
while. And they can't possibly respect themselves at their core, and
therefore other people won't respect them. And so that's one of the
influences I'd like to see get out of the country. It's why I don't think
corporations should have as much power in the media as they do, because you
get people like that or people like Rupert Murdoch with political agendas.
They don't serve the country well, even though they serve their own ideology
GROSS: Are you afraid at all that this election is so close that it will be
contested in a way similar to the 2000 race?
Dr. DEAN: I think it's likely. I mean, you know, the Republicans are already
trying to suppress African-American votes, they're trying to suppress student
GROSS: What do you mean by that?
Dr. DEAN: Making it difficult for students who have the right legally to
register in college towns--making it difficult for them to do that.
Secretaries of States, like the secretary of State in Ohio, who came out with
a ruling that said provisional ballots had to be printed on 80-pound test
paper. I mean, these are things that make it harder to vote, not easier to
vote. And I don't think that's what we ought to be doing in a democracy.
You know, then we have the problem of the touch-screen machines, which we
know, even without malevolent intention, are not very good. There was a great
story about Allamakee County in Iowa, which, of course, I spent plenty of time
in, and there were 300 votes cast, and the machine tallied four million. And
the problem is there's no way of going back and finding out what went wrong.
All you can do is stare at the counter six times, and that's your recount. I
mean, these are--so the problems in this election are far greater than they
were in the last election because the technology has spread around the rest of
the country, and it's bad technology and it's technology fraught with huge
problems. And I do think that unless there's a landslide one way or another,
there's going to be huge problems.
GROSS: Do you think the election will be as close as it's predicted to be
now? Do you think the polls are accurate in registering, you know, a
virtually neck-in-neck race?
Dr. DEAN: Yeah, I think it's pretty neck-in-neck. I really do. And the
reason I think so is actually good for us, for the Democrats. The people have
already decided they prefer not to have George Bush re-elected. And in a year
like this or in 1996, the first threshold is: Do you want to rehire the guy
you've already got? In 1996, Bill Clinton passed that test, and Bob Dole
never got in the race. This time every poll, even the ones after the
Republican convention when the president was doing well--every poll showed
that people thought the country was going in the wrong direction. That means
they'd like to give a pink slip to the chief executive.
The threshold question then becomes: Can John Kerry fill those shoes? And
that is why it's close. A small number of people still haven't made up their
mind yet. I think it's why John did so much better after the debates when,
finally, people could see in another direct candidate-to-voter exchange that
he was capable of being president of the United States. And I think in a coin
toss, the benefit goes to the challenger in a case like this. It's why the
president's spending so much time on fear--I'm talking about terrorism, I'm
talking about gay marriage and all these kinds of things--because he wants to
try to scare those undecided people who know that he should not be rehired but
haven't made up their mind about John Kerry. He's trying to scare them into
his camp. I think in the end that's a losing strategy, and we're going to
find that out in about three weeks.
GROSS: But you say in your book that you were predisposed to like George W.
Bush when he was elected president and that you expected him to be more
Dr. DEAN: I did. And I don't dislike the president personally. I think he's
a fine father. But he just has a penchant for not saying what the facts are
to the American people, and he has an agenda that I'm horrified by. You
cannot run up a $1/2 trillion deficits on a regular basis and expect to have
good quality jobs and a standard of living in this country. You cannot send
troops to Iraq without giving us a reason why that actually turns out to be
true. You cannot denigrate and destroy the environmental legislation, such as
he has done. You cannot give our taxpayers' money away to the biggest
corporations in the country. This bill that passed this week is just an
appalling example of that. It started out as a $6 billion trade adjustment
bill, which was reasonable, and it ended up as $145 billion give-away to
tobacco companies, oil companies and so forth. That is ridiculous, and the
Democrats voted for it. What are--you know, we got to get going and stand up
for an America that's not dominated by corporations but that is--actually
serves ordinary Americans.
GROSS: What impact do you think your presidential primary campaign had on the
Dr. DEAN: Well, it certainly energized enormous numbers of people, a lot of
them young people but a lot of them my age, who had given up on the process.
I mean, we see huge interest in this race, and it's, I think partly, because
our campaign reached out to people and empowered them and made them understand
that they really could have a role in changing America.
GROSS: Well, what specifically do you think you did in your campaign that was
different from the way other Democrats were behaving in terms of their
criticisms of the president or their stand on the war...
Dr. DEAN: Well, we went after the president right away. I mean, it's
actually interesting. My view of politics is very similar to the Republicans'
view of politics. You get your base out. You don't worry so much about the
swing votes because they're going to come towards you when they see enthusiasm
and a solid platform. And you have to have a real policy that differentiates
you from the other side. I think a lot of people in this country in the past
have not voted because they couldn't tell the difference between the
Republicans and the Democrats because a conscious choice on the Democrats'
part was to be like the Republicans, so nobody would notice there was too much
of a difference and that somehow we would win that way. Well, I think that's
a prescription for losing, and there's a lot of that in the book.
GROSS: You write, `The Democrats weren't standing up to President Bush.' You
write, `Democrats were sweet-talked, they were bamboozled and they were
afraid. They thought that by accommodating the administration, they were
somehow going to be OK. In doing so, they helped the Republican Party pass
its far right-wing agenda.' Give me an example of what you mean there about
the Democrats being bamboozled or accommodating the administration.
Dr. DEAN: Well, I again, No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. The
president, you know, put out this lovely titled bill with promises of lots of
money for Title 1 schools. Even Ted Kennedy went along with that. But it
turned out the president, as usual, did not keep his word, underfunded the
bill by $23 billion, and it's a horrendous bureaucratic mess at the local
school system, which has raised local taxes because it's an unfunded mandate.
That's an example of being bamboozled and sweet-talked by a president who is
not a truthful person. The tax bill was another one, $3.3 trillion ultimately
in tax cuts. There, I think the Democrats were just afraid.
Dr. DEAN: They were afraid to stand up--of their own voters. They didn't
have enough faith in the voters. The voters understand that if you give tax
cuts, that's nice, but our children end up paying the bill. And the Democrats
just would not say, `Well, wait a minute now. You know, first of all, a third
of these tax cuts are going to people who make $1 million or more. Secondly,
what about the budget deficits? We just got through balancing the budget when
Bill Clinton was president. Now we have a $1/2 trillion budget deficit every
year? Wait a minute. That's not--we can't make that work.' And nobody would
I think now, you know--I think that we have affected the race because I think
a lot of people now understand that the way to beat this president is to take
him on; that his apparent strengths are really gross weaknesses. We're not
safer than we were two years ago or three years ago. We're certainly a lot
broker than we were, and our kids are going to pay the credit card bill for
that. This is the borrow-and-spend administration that puts everything on a
credit card. Somebody has to stand up and say that at some point.
GROSS: Now you think that the Democrats drew the wrong lessons from President
Dr. DEAN: I do.
GROSS: Yeah. And if you would explain what you mean and then also apply it
to the criticism that you've had of the party--of how they were too
accommodating of President Bush.
Dr. DEAN: Well, Bill Clinton has more political talent that we're going to
see again in our generation, more extraordinary, exceptional skills and
charisma, more so than, I think, anybody in the White House since Franklin
Roosevelt. Even Jack Kennedy had enormous charisma but not the political
skills of Bill Clinton. So this is a once-in-a-lifetime person.
And much was made by the Democratic Leadership Council and other sort of
Washington types that, `Oh, Bill Clinton rescued the party because he moved to
the middle.' Well, Bill Clinton moved to the middle, but Bill Clinton didn't
win because he moved to the middle. Bill Clinton won because he was Bill
Clinton. He had an enormous amount of empathy at a time when were going
through a bad recession. He came up against a president who, actually, I
thought was a decent president, George Bush Sr., but did not have the kind of
political skills and was somewhat out of touch and was held a little hostage
by the right wing of his own party.
And so the Democrats in Washington made the mistake of thinking that the way
you become president is to accommodate and move to the center instead of to
stand up for what you believe in because Bill Clinton--it didn't matter what
Bill Clinton said, Bill Clinton was going to win that election because he was
Bill Clinton and he had Bill Clinton's exceptional and extraordinary skills.
That was the wrong lesson to learn from the Clinton presidency.
GROSS: My guest is Howard Dean. He's written a new book called "You Have the
Power." It's a political critique based, in part, on his experiences running
in the Democratic presidential primary. We'll talk more after a break. This
is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Howard Dean. And he, by the
way, has a new book called "You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country
and Restore Democracy in America."
Did you feel that there was a lot of pressure in the primary or that there's a
lot of pressure now for a candidate to discuss religion?
Dr. DEAN: I think that's OK. I mean, I struggle with that a little bit. I
struggled with that during the campaign. But, you know, a lot of Americans
really are deeply religious, and they do talk about it, which is unusual in my
part of the country, in John Kerry's part of the country. But, you know, I
have a religious philosophy, John Kerry has a religious philosophy. And I
think it's a little odd for us to talk about it from New England because we
don't do that here. But I think it's fine to talk about it. But I hope that
people who are used to talking about it every day in Southern states and so
forth will cut us a little slack as--those of us from New England who have a
different approach to religious matters and consider them to be very private.
GROSS: Your state, Vermont, now has legal civil unions, so gay and lesbian
couples can now have legal civil unions in Vermont. Go ahead.
Dr. DEAN: Right, which means they have the same legal rights as anybody who's
married. I think that, you know, that was kind of a compromise between people
who wanted to do marriage and people who didn't want to do anything at all,
which were quite a large number of people in Vermont. At the time this was a
breakthrough issue. And so the middle ground was everybody--as far as the
state's concerned, the state doesn't pronounce judgment on who can get married
or not. But the state does have to pronounce judgment on equal rights for
everybody, so we found a way to give gay and lesbian couples the same rights
as everybody else.
GROSS: Do you think it's political suicide in the country right now for any
politician to say, `I support gay marriage'?
Dr. DEAN: I think it probably is if you're running for president. It may not
be if you're running for Senate in Massachusetts. But I think that, you know,
it's clear that an enormous number of Americans are deeply concerned about the
issue of marriage. That is a very complicated issue. It's a complicated
issue when we try to deal with a court decision in Vermont, and that's why we
didn't do marriage. I don't think marriage would have passed, and then people
would have ended up with nothing. But marriage raises a lot of very deep
Look, there's two sets of issues that are of concern. One is the sort of the
homophobia that's always below the surface, particularly in men. And you've
got to deal with that. You've just got to finally realize that the gay
community is not a threat to the state, community, and, really, you just got
to get over it. The next issue is a deeper and more complicated one, and that
is the relationship of religion to the state. And that is why I think that
marriage is so much more problematic than civil unions, because marriage was
originally a religious concept which became a quasi-civil and religious
concept as the state began to recognize marriages. You know, in the Middle
Ages, marriage was just a church issue. The church married people, the church
sanctified the relationship, and there was no state sanctification of
marriage. And that's all changed.
And so marriage is an incredibly difficult concept for a lot of different
denominations. But I think underneath that, the homophobia--we've got to get
through that, and that's where the opposition to civil rights comes from.
GROSS: When you're running for office, you kind of have to come up with the
official version of who you are...
Dr. DEAN: (Laughs)
GROSS: ...like your official biography, you know, with the personality
characteristics and the biographical facts that you're going to really put
forward to the public. And that becomes the official version of who you are.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of figuring out who that official
Howard Dean was going to be?
Dr. DEAN: Well, that was one of the shortcomings of our campaign. I never
did it. I just figured I'd go out and be who I was, and people would figure
it out. And that was not true. It might--you know, I'm pretty
spin-resistant. I mean, I just basically do what I think is--I ought to do,
and I don't worry about the fine print. And, you know, in presidential
politics you're supposed to spin, and you're supposed to create persona that
aren't there. And, you know, everybody told me I should have talked more
about myself. Well, I don't like talking about myself all that much. I like
policy, and I like changing things, and I like, you know, fixing other
people's problems. That's what I do in life.
So I don't think we, as a campaign, did a very good job, but I can't blame the
staff for that. I was pretty resistant to doing it. So we never really did
creative persona, so therefore the press got to invent one. And that did not
serve us particularly well.
GROSS: What do you think the difference is between the persona that the press
invented for you and how you see yourself?
Dr. DEAN: Oh, I think there's an enormous difference. I did not run around
the country angry most of the time. I have a lot of--sense of humor, which is
very dry and occasionally biting. We used to have great card games in the
press plane, which, of course, were off the record mostly because of the
language we used. You know, I have a very strong sense of who I am, so stuff
like the Iowa `scream speech' I just--you know, I didn't pay any attention to
that. I figured it wasn't true and eventually it'd blow over. It wasn't true
in the sense of the way the cable networks dealt with it. I figured since
it--I also have a huge faith that the truth will eventually come out. So I
wasn't very upset about that. I didn't pay much attention to it. I laugh
about it, of course. And I've seen some of the video remixes, which are
really funny. I also care deeply about stuff, and I think that you did see.
And I think that's helped us continue the organization after the campaign was
GROSS: During your primary campaign, your wife wanted to continue her medical
practice; she's a doctor. And she was criticized by some people for not being
more visible and for not being a more active part of the campaign. Do you
think that the role of the first lady needs to be re-examined?
Dr. DEAN: Actually, that was one of my big regrets in the campaign. I wish
that I had asked her to come out earlier, not because I think it would have
helped us, although I think it would have. But we got so many letters from
American women saying, `This is just great. Finally, a normal person who is
going to be the first lady or who could be the first lady, a person who isn't
dependent on her husband for her own validation or her husband's career, a
person who has her own life, has her own career, loves it.' You know, the
reason that Judy didn't come out is because I didn't ask her until January.
Now, you know, you could argue I should have earlier, but I didn't care about
what the press wrote, you know, because they didn't know what they were
writing or anything about the subject. But I did care enormously about the
reaction that American women had to someone coming out on the press trail
who's just a normal person.
Judy's just a regular person. She's a very successful person. She's a
physician. She's very good at what she does. And neither one of us thought
that she needed to give up her career because I wanted to be president. I
would not change that decision today if I had to do it all over again. But I
would have asked her to come out earlier just because of what it meant to so
many American women.
GROSS: Were there discussions on the campaign, like, `Does she need a
makeover? Do we need to give her a more first lady-ish kind of haircut or,
you know, different clothing?'
Dr. DEAN: I'm sure if there, they were all behind my back because nobody dare
would talk like that in front of me because the answer was going to be no. I
mean, we are who are are, both Judy and I. That's who we are. What you see
is what you get, and we just weren't going to pretend we were something
different than what we were.
GROSS: So, finally, you don't know if you're going back into politics or
maybe medicine? Would you ever go back to medicine again?
Dr. DEAN: Well, I am in politics. I mean, you know, I had a group of
Dr. DEAN: ...people called Democracy for America. We have a thousand
candidates running across the country. You know, we've actually made some
good progress in trying to change both the Democratic Party and the country
even since I dropped out of the presidential race. And I expect to stay very
active in politics in one way or another for a long time.
GROSS: Well, Howard Dean, thank you so much for talking with us.
Dr. DEAN: Thanks for having me on.
GROSS: Howard Dean's new book is called "You Have the Power: How to Take
Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America."
I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Pat Buchanan, a political pundit and former presidential candidate for
the Republican and Reform parties, is predicting a civil war within the
Republican Party. Coming up, we talk with Buchanan about that and more. His
new book, "How The Right Went Wrong," is critical of the president, but
Buchanan is voting for his re-election.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Pat Buchanan discusses conservative politics and his
book "How the Right Went Wrong"
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Patrick Buchanan describes himself as a populist conservative. He says that
conservatives have lost their way. His new book, "How the Right Went Wrong,"
is about, quote, "how it came to be that a Republican-controlled capital city,
whose leaders daily profess their conservatism, could preside over the largest
fiscal and trade deficits in our history and have us mired in a Wilsonian
imperial war to remake the Arab Middle East in the image of the American
Middle West," unquote.
Buchanan ran in the Republican presidential primaries twice and in 2000 was
the Reform Party's presidential candidate. He's been an adviser to three
presidents and is a longtime political commentator. He's currently with
MSNBC. He also edits the new magazine The American Conservative.
You write in your new book, `A crunch is coming and a civil war is going to
break out inside the Republican Party along the old trench lines of the
Goldwater-Rockefeller wars of the '60s, a war for the heart and soul and
future of the party for the new century.' Where's the dividing line there?
Mr. PAT BUCHANAN (Author, "Where the Right Went Wrong"): I think there are
four issues on which the Republicans are deeply divided. First is fiscal
policy, where the president has run up an enormous amount of domestic social
spending in a time of war, which is unprecedented, and failed to veto a single
bill. If there's one thing that unites conservatism and conservatives, it is
the idea of balanced budgets and small government. And the president has been
a big-government conservative, as defined by The Weekly Standard. Second
would be his failure to defend America's borders from an illegal invasion of
millions of aliens from Mexico every year and his offer of amnesty. Third, I
believe, will be trade policies. The president's endorsement of NAFTA, GATT
and the Free Trade Association of the Americas, many conservatives object to
them because they believe these trade deals are responsible for the loss of
2.7 million manufacturing jobs since Mr. Bush took office. He has lost one in
every six manufacturing jobs in this country since he took office.
Now while the Republican Party is free trade today, historically it has been a
party of economic nationalism or economic patriotism that argued that the
industrialization of America was vital and that we should have the highest
standard of living in the world. And many wage earners have seen their wages
fall because these good manufacturing jobs have gone abroad, as well as now
white-collar jobs are being outsourced.
And fourth would be this idea that the United States should launch a world
democratic revolution, or what Norman Podhoretz calls World War IV, to use
American military power and wealth to attempt to democratize nations all over
the world but especially in the Arab and Islamic world. I think many
conservatives are taking a second look at this policy. While I was one of the
few to oppose war as a conservative, there were others, like Robert Novak and
Doug Bandow--now we see George Will and William F. Buckley and Tucker Carlson
and Henry Hyde and others expressing skepticism about the whole idea of war
cum nation building. And so I think that is another issue on which the
Republican Party will be divided, foreign policy.
GROSS: OK. So you're predicting a civil war within the Republican Party, and
you just mentioned the names of a few prominent conservatives who agree with
you on some of these issues. But a few people doesn't amount to a civil war.
How divided do you think the party really is right now?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, let me interrupt you there. Let's take the issue of
immigration. A majority of the country is opposed to open-borders
immigration. A majority of the country wants illegal immigration halted cold.
A majority want illegal aliens sent back to the countries they came from.
This is true at the grassroots of the Republican Party, and so I think that is
now a majority position.
A majority of the country now believes Iraq was a mistake, and they agree with
us. It may not be true inside the Republican Party, but there's a growing
minority. On the issue of jobs and manufacturing, when the president's head
of his Council of Economic Advisers said outsourcing is good for America, he
was forced to back down from that statement by members of the Congress of the
United States, led by the speaker.
So on all of these issues, what you have is either powerful minorities inside
the Republican Party or a clear majority. So I think the president is being
supported because he is president, because Republicans are loyal to their
leader and to their president, because this is a close election and because
George Bush is infinitely preferable to John Kerry. But I would not take that
for full assent to all of the Bush policies. Across the Republican spectrum,
there is an enormous amount of grumbling and dissent about where the president
has been leading the country.
GROSS: Now do you think that some of the people who share your opinion don't
want to say so publicly because it would sound divisive?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Of course. That's correct. I think the president's going to
get the support probably--I've seen some polls--of 97 percent of conservatives
and Republicans because of the apprehension that if he does not get those
votes, then the presidency will go to John Kerry, whom they believe correctly
is a Massachusetts liberal with almost a 100 percent liberal voting record and
whose performance when he came back from Vietnam they truly abhor. So they're
standing behind the president now.
And, frankly, inside the Democratic Party, there are many Dean supporters who
are backing John Kerry who probably are grinding their teeth as he says that
he will win this war. So I think inside both parties, the coalitions who are
standing behind their man in this election do not necessarily agree with their
man in this election.
GROSS: Do you consider yourself a Republican now? I mean, you ran on the
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, I would consider myself an Independent conservative who
clearly is leaning to President Bush for the reason that I think the president
has been very good on the issues of taxes, on conservative judges, on values
and on the defense of America's sovereignty with his opposition the Kyoto
protocol and the International Criminal Court. But where the president agrees
with Kerry, which is on trade, on immigration policy, on Iraq and on other
policies, I disagree with the president.
GROSS: Now you've become a forceful opponent of the war in Iraq and a
forceful critic of President Bush on how he's conducted that war and his
reasons for starting that war. And, in that sense, are you finding that
you're on the same team as a lot of people who you've always opposed, i.e.
Mr. BUCHANAN: I think that's very true. Most of the opposition to the war in
Iraq probably came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, although
there was a significant contingent of Republican--I mean, excuse me,
conservative writers--and I've already mentioned Robert Novak and Pat Buchanan
and Sam Francis and Joe Sobran and Paul Craig Roberts and Charley Reese and
others--whose columns appear regularly in conservative chronicle who also
oppose the war.
There is a significant movement inside the Republican Party to return to an
`America first' foreign policy, which fundamentally would argue that the
United States ought not to go to war unless our interests or our citizens are
threatened or imperiled and that we ought not to fight other countries' wars
and we assuredly ought not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy and
develop our own Pax Americana or American empire, which is the objective of
the group known as the neoconservatives. And this is the battle line inside
the Republican Party.
GROSS: Now I'm interested in another issue about how you decided who to vote
for, and it sounds like you're voting for President Bush. You said, on the
one hand, you oppose the war in Iraq and how the president has conducted it.
You also oppose his spending policies, including the war, which have led to
record deficits. In the positive side, you support Bush on values, on his
judicial selections, on his opposition to joining the International Criminal
Court. You feel so strongly about the war and so strongly about the deficit,
why have values and judicial appointments won over Bush's conduct over the
budget and the war?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, as I've told folks, I disagree with the president on
foreign and fiscal policy and on immigration and trade policy. But other than
that, he's been a real good president. And they say, `What else is there?'
And there are other things, as you have mentioned and I have mentioned.
There's taxes, there's judges, there's values and there's sovereignty. And I
do not know why--in my judgment, it is a non-sequitur to say that because I
disagree with the president so vehemently on a war that he started and John
Kerry voted for, I should therefore support John Kerry, with whom I disagree
Secondly, as I mentioned, I believe a civil war is going to break out inside
the Republican Party. And if one wants to play a role in that conflict, I
think you have to be there. You cannot be AWOL when the great and decisive
battle for the presidency is engaged on November 2nd.
GROSS: I think John Kerry would say he didn't vote for the war. He voted to
authorize the president to lead us into war if it became necessary.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, in my judgment, Madison gave the Congress the power to
declare war for a reason. He did not want the commander in chief, who would
have to fight the war, the president, to also be deciding whether we went to
war. That's one of the reasons we rejected the king of England. And so I
think what Mr. Kerry did and what many of those Democrats who do not believe
or did not really believe in this war did was they abdicated their
constitutional responsibility to demand that the president of the United
States make a far better case for war than he had made. And they did it in
the fall of 2002. And I admire some of the Democrats who stood up in that
patriotic moment and said, `No, the case hasn't been made. And even though it
may affect our party in this election, we're not going to vote that authority
as of now.'
GROSS: My guest is Patrick Buchanan. His new book is called "How the Right
Went Wrong." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Pat Buchanan is my guest. He has a new book called "Where the Right
This presidential race is so close now, a lot of people are wondering if it's
going to go to the courts again--you know, if the election will end up in the
courts, which leads me to 2000 when you ran on the Reform Party ticket for
president. And some people think that your presence on the ballot in Florida
helped to decide the race in one of two ways: One is that you got over 3,400
votes, so if those votes--if you weren't on the ticket and those votes were
divided between Gore and Bush, one of them might have had a decisive victory
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well...
GROSS: Other possibility is--and this is the other thing--is that, you know,
the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County--some people say it was so
confusing. In fact, there was a lawsuit that said that people inadvertently,
mistakenly voted for you when they meant to vote for somebody else because the
ballot was so confusing. And it was assumed that many of the people who voted
for you, if they, in fact, intended to vote for somebody else, that that
somebody else would have been Gore. So that's another way that your presence
on the ballot might have been a decisive factor in the Florida election. Have
you been thinking about that much, and do you give credence to any of that?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, yeah. I think that--the butterfly ballot was not my idea,
but the very fact that the butterfly ballot was there--and I not only got, I
think, some 3,000 votes in Palm Beach County alone, but there were, I think,
10 or 11,000 spoil ballots, where the voters voted for both Buchanan and Gore.
Of the latter votes, I think probably 95 percent of them were Al Gore's. And
probably of the 3,000 or so, I would guess 75 percent of them were Al Gore's.
So it is clear that if you took Palm Beach County alone, I think I denied--my
presence on the ballot or the fact that there was a butterfly ballot and that
second hole in the butterfly ballot was beside my name and not Al Gore's and
folks did not recognize that, that cost Al Gore the state of Florida.
But on the other hand, in four states--I believe it was Minnesota, Iowa, New
Mexico and Oregon--my votes alone would have given George Bush victory in all
four states. So if I hadn't been on the ballot, I don't know the exact
outcome--where those votes would have gone because the president came within a
fraction of 1 percent in those four states, and I got over that fraction of 1
GROSS: I'm going to take you back to something I know you've been asked about
a lot, and it's your now-famous statement about the culture wars at the 1992
convention, in which you said that there was a religious war and a cultural
war under way for the soul of the country. And you said that Clinton was on
the other side with an agenda of radical feminism, abortion on demand and
homosexual rights. Now a lot of political analysts said that your comments
helped George Bush lose that election. Do you see it that way?
Mr. BUCHANAN: No, and neither does Bill Clinton. In his memoirs, he writes
that he thought my approach and my attack along that avenue was probably the
best course that the Republicans could take because Mr. Bush's record on the
economy was so dismal that Carville was telling one and all, `It's the
economy, stupid. We've got to stay focused on the economy.' And I wanted to
get the president off the economy, onto the social, cultural and moral issues,
where Clinton was extraordinarily vulnerable, where 70 percent of the country
agreed with President Bush, not Bill Clinton. But the Republican Party was
panicked, I think, by the counterattack by Clinton and the national media when
we raised these issues.
But the truth is there is a cultural war going on in this country, and it is,
at root, a religious war, as we now know from the division of the nation into
red and blue states. And we learned that the major point on which people
agree and disagree between the red and blue states is if you go to church once
a week or more, you vote Republican, and if you go to church once a month or
less or you're an agnostic or an atheist, you will vote almost 2:1 Democratic.
So I think religion is at the core of the culture war in this country, and the
culture war is what is dividing America into red and blue states.
GROSS: Let me ask you a question, though, about that expression `culture
war.' You could argue that it's one thing to say there are many divisions in
America between Republicans and Democrats and between people who support gay
rights and people who don't. But once you put it in terms of culture wars,
then it makes it sound like people in America are having some kind of civil
war, and whichever side you're on, it's a war and it's your job to win. And,
you know, when you're at war, you use every tactic that you can to vanquish
your opponent. And so you can argue that language like `culture wars' creates
a nastier climate in the United States...
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, look...
GROSS: ...a climate not of acceptance but of, like, battling with other
people so that you can win for your side's values.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, let me--let's take the issue of right to life. To people
who believe that every life is sacred and that an unborn child is a human
being at the moment of conception, we are talking about the mass slaughter of
over 40 million unborn children since Roe V. Wade. Now I think that's a far
more serious matter than whether someone describes the conflict over an issue
like that as a cultural struggle, a culture war. And as I say, scholars and
academicians and journalists now use the term routinely, and it's an accurate
depiction of what's going on. So I think it'd be a terrible mistake for us to
really circumscribe our language and submit to the dictates of political
correctness rather than tell the truth.
GROSS: Let me mention some other issues that the cultural wars are used to
describe, and that would include gay rights, religion vs. being secular. I
mean, do you think that there should be a war against secularism or a war
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, there's a war against Christianity going on in America.
I mean, it is--the drive by militant secularists to expunge all
representations, symbols of Christianity from public schools--why is there no
right to even--many of us grew up, there was the Lord's Prayer in public
schools, there were Christmas carols, there were Easter pageants. All of this
has been expunged.
GROSS: So what some people would interpret as interpretations of the
separation of church and state you see as attacks against Christians.
Mr. BUCHANAN: No, I think these things should be decided democratically. In
other words, if a school in Lower Manhattan decided it didn't want an Easter
pageant because most of its students were secular and Jewish, I have no
problem with that, as long as it's made democratically. The problem with our
society is that the Supreme Court has established itself as a dictatorship,
and we wait for the fall and for October to hear the word from on high about
how we may be able to govern ourselves. And when 70, 80 and 90 percent of the
people want voluntary prayer in the public schools and voluntary Bible reading
and the court says you can't have it, that, to me, is a dictatorship.
We have no recourse. You cannot fire them. You cannot throw them out of
office. They serve for life; they're anointed. And they do as they please.
And what they have done is hijacked the Constitution and used it to impose
their views and values on what used to be a democratic republic.
GROSS: My guest is political analyst Patrick Buchanan. His new book is
called "How The Right Went Wrong." We'll talk more after a break. This is
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Patrick Buchanan. His new book is called "How The Right
Went Wrong." When we left off, we were talking about the culture wars.
On the issue of gay rights and gay marriage, your position is?
Mr. BUCHANAN: My position is this. I do agree with the point that this ought
to be decided--marriage is an issue that should be left to the states. But,
once again, it should be left to the representatives of the people,
legislators and executives. My objection to what happened in Massachusetts is
two: First, this judge, Justice Margaret Marshall, simply declared that there
was, in the Massachusetts Constitution, the right of homosexuals to marry,
which is preposterous. And if I were Governor Romney, I would have ignored
her court order and said, `I read the Constitution, too, and I'm sworn to
uphold it. And there's no such thing in the Constitution, and I'm not going
to obey your order. Now do what you wish, but the Legislature and I are not
passing the legislation you demand.' And that would have re-established the
superior authority of elected leaders over unelected judges.
Secondly, my concern about Massachusetts is that under the Full Faith and
Credit clause of the Constitution, gay couples are now leaving Massachusetts
after having been married there, so to speak, and going to other states and
demanding that these, quote, "marriages," unquote, be recognized. And the
Supreme Court is going to make the final decision there. So in that case, I
have recommended and the Congress and the House is pursuing legislation which
would strip the US Supreme Court and all federal courts of any jurisdiction
over the issue of marriage. And I think that would be a good thing. Under
Article III, the Congress has the power to restrict the jurisdiction of the US
Supreme Court, and it's an unused power, and it still lies there in the
Constitution. And I'm hoping to see it applied.
GROSS: Is the bottom line for you that you just oppose homosexuality?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, I just think it's unnatural and immoral and wrong. And I
think it's ruinous to body, soul and nation alike, especially if it's
pandemic. I think, even though folks won't say it, it's probably the position
of the great majority of Americans.
GROSS: Do you really think so? I mean, let me ask you, like--Dick Cheney's
daughter is a lesbian. Newt Gingrich's sister is a lesbian. There are so
many people in America who have either a lesbian or a gay person in their
family. I'm not even counting people who are lesbian or gay, but they have
somebody who's lesbian or gay in their family, their next-door neighbor, their
associate at work, their friend, their cousin, etc. I mean, don't you think
that that's kind of changing a lot of opinion?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, you know, in terms of how people should be treated, I
mean, I think people should be treated with respect. And, you know, I'm not
for gay-bashing of any kind, but I do think that so-called lifestyle is not
moral and it's not right. And I think ultimately it's going to be destructive
of society. With regard to homosexuality, I think it's unnatural and wrong.
And I will say this: My guess is--and I don't speak for these individuals,
but if the parents of a lovely gal who comes to them and announces that she's
a lesbian, their heart probably sinks when they hear the news because it's
very much in human nature that this is not natural.
GROSS: OK. Well, you are very clear on your position on that. I have a
question for you that I think has nothing to do with presidential politics,
and that is this. You were a guest on the "Ali G Show." (Laughs)
Mr. BUCHANAN: Right.
GROSS: And I really need to know, did you know the show before you went on?
And Ali G is--it's a persona of a comic. It's a show that started in England
and now airs here on HBO. It's very funny. And he's in the kind of persona
of a young, hiphop kind of guy who interviews people in power and always asks
the most intentionally ludicrous questions. So did you--like, what did they
tell you in advance?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Well, you're sent a formal letter, and it was a--it looked like
a perfectly legitimate letter. And it was--it said it was doing a program
that was aimed at 18- to 24-year-olds, and it was to educate them in England
on American politics and culture. And I was being asked as one of those who
would comment on American politics and the workings of the American system in
the time of a presidential election. And I said, `Come on over.' And they
came on over. They did not indicate who the host would be. And when they set
up in my living room--or in my den, I was told that the host was a rap singer
and that he had especially excellent rapport with the young people of England.
And so I said, `Fine.' I've done all manner of shows and--Jon Stewart and
other shows. So I said, `Fine. I'll do my best.'
And so when he came in and--but I knew it was a spoof in the sense he was much
brighter than he was behaving. When I would make some comments which were,
I thought, ironic and--he would smile, and you knew he was picking up on it.
And so he was putting on a bit of an act, and so I went along with the whole
program. And when he said, `Did Saddam had any BLTs?' and I said, `No BLTs
and no mustard.'
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BUCHANAN: So I went along with it. I thought I'd just, you know, play it
straight. And I told my wife, `That fellow knows a lot more than he's putting
GROSS: So there was a turning point where you figured out it was a spoof?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure, sure, I mean, because he was--you know, it was fairly
early--because he was very bright.
GROSS: Uh-huh. Are you glad you did it?
Mr. BUCHANAN: Oh, sure. I mean, I've never gotten so much comment on a show
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BUCHANAN: I can remember people--I was walking to the Madison Square
Garden convention, and people were yelling, `You were great on the "Ali G
GROSS: Patrick Buchanan, thank you so much for talking with us.
Mr. BUCHANAN: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Patrick Buchanan's new book is called "How The Right Went Wrong."
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
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