Pat Buchanan’s Place

One could not imagine too many things that would leave Pat Buchanan at a loss for a cogent opinion. But, along with the riverboat casinos in Mississippi and portions of the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, Hurricane Katrina appears to have also cast the conservative commentator’s thoughts adrift, one hopes, temporarily.

This is not to say that he has been silent. Actually, the Drowning of New Orleans has elicited two blistering articles from the erstwhile presidential aspirant. In his latest thoughts, published on his website, The American Cause, Buchanan employs the usual force of his eloquence and erudition to vent his fury.

Only, he seems in a tizzy upon whom to vent it.

While the general note among the opinion community has been one of shock and outrage, with varying degrees of emphasis on the lackadaisical holiday mood that was to the set the tone for the languorous response, Buchanan’s attention has been engaged by an entirely different aspect.

Reading Buchanan’s latest, it doesn’t appear that he is exercised over the serial tragedies of the cyclone, the poverty that forestalled evacuation, the breaking of the levees, the flooding, the starvation, the looting, the horrors in the Superdome and Convention Center, the admission by the FEMA and DHS chiefs that they knew nothing about the thousands assembled at these venues, or a President who seemed to be living in a different world.

Instead, what appears to rankle Buchanan is the charge of racism that has been raised against the Bush administration. It is to this that he devotes the bulk of his two articles on Katrina. Now he rails at Kanye West for saying George Bush doesn’t care about black people, now he tears into Nancy Pelosi calls Bush ‘oblivious, in denial, dangerous’ now he cries that Jesse Jackson and the Black Caucus are playing the race card. Even Hillary Clinton the Careful does not escape his scattershot of scorn.

For a moment there, he tells himself (and us), Bush’s presidency seemed threatened. Then the tide (no pun intended) turned. How does he conclude that? Because, he says, the chatter on the nation’s talk radio stations has turned from calls to send in the 82nd Airborne and outrage at FEMA to anger at the race-baiters. He exults that the nation saw how most of those looting were black, as were most being rescued, while most doing the rescuing were white. He draws draws solace from some statistics that only 13% of the country thinks Bush could be held responsible for New Orleans.

When he ran in 2000, Buchanan famously said that he did not leave the Republican Party, it had left him. But, as they say, you can take the lad out of the country but not the country out of the lad. Buchanan rallies instinctively circles the wagons in any major crisis, even as he did before the elections last November, after a year of brilliant criticism of Bush policies. One cannot blame Buchanan. Psychologists tell us that in times of confusion, we all revert to the things we know best. And Buchanan, like everyone else, is nonplussed by Katrina. The torrent has washed away all the nonsense about trickle down economics, starving big government, and worse, long-held beliefs of American omnipotence. Buchanan the political animal grasps that New Orleans spells curtains for the Republican Party next year (making the usual allowances for the Democratic genius for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory). He knows the incompetent in the White House has ruined it for a generation of Republicans.

The sheer pain of watching this unfold reduces Patrick J. Buchanan the lucid analyst to Pat Buchanan, puffy-eyed pugilist, throwing wild suggestions in every direction like a flailing boxer in a late round.

Here’s one of Pat’s suggestions: Don’t abandon Michael Brown to the wolves, he tells Bush. Don’t offer him up to the lynch mob (sic). The very next day, Brown was first moved and quit shortly after.

And then, in a sudden roundhouse swing that lands him in an entirely different ring, he turns on Bush’s nomination of John Roberts — saying he did it in a desperate attempt to shift attention from New Orleans. It is not Buchanan’s complaint that this would be playing politics, his problem is that Bush did not nominate Antonin Scalia. And in an exhibition of spite that would shame young William (the hero of Richmal Compton’s books), he sticks his tongue out one final time at the Democrats and advises Bush to nominate Michael Luttig or Edith Jones for Sandra Day O’Connor’s post, just to show ’em.

If further proof is needed of Pat Buchanan’s Katrina-induced concussion, just consider this: the Mexican Army is camping north of the border these days. Not one word about this in Buchanan’s articles. I rest my case.

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. He can be reached at His blog is at







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August 17, 2005


/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at