Buchanan-Trump Embrace Recalls 2000 Reform Party Race

In 1999, Saturday Night Live parodied the battle between paleoconservative icon Pat Buchanan and entrepreneur Donald Trump for control of Ross Perot’s Reform Party.  Social issues dominated the debate as Trump and Buchanan both sought the party’s presidential nomination.  Today, more than 15 years later, the two are finding common ground as Trump mounts a Republican presidential campaign that may ultimately lead to an Independent run.

In July 1999, Newsweek Magazine ran an article reporting that an unnamed “close friend” of Trump claimed that Trump was “toying” with the idea of starting a presidential campaign, allegedly in response to rumors that the party’s duly elected Governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, was courting former Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker, Jr. to run for the party’s presidential nomination.  Trump purportedly held a grudge against Weicker for blocking his plans to build a casino in Bridgeport in 1994, and for a war of words between the two that saw Weicker label Trump a “dirt bag” and Trump refer to Weicker as “a fat slob who couldn’t get elected dog catcher.”  Eventually, Weicker decided not to seek the party’s nomination citing infighting.  Thereafter, Ventura reportedly encouraged Trump to run.

Trump did not publicly move toward a run until September 1999, when Buchanan, then a Republican presidential candidate, himself confirmed interest in the Reform Party nomination during an interview on Larry King Live.   Trump derisively labeled Buchanan’s socially conservative views as “prehistoric” and said that he may mount a campaign out of respect for Ventura.

The next month, just before Buchanan was to announce his switch to the Reform Party, Trump announced that he had left the Republican Party and formed an exploratory committee to run for the Reform Party’s presidential nomination.  Roger Stone served as the committee’s director.  Commenting on the party switches, the CSMonitor observed:

The irony in the possible Buchanan-Trump matchup is that both men left the Republican Party to get away from the likes of each other. Buchanan says he left because the party had lost its way on core principles, such as the abortion issue.  Trump says he quit because “the Republicans are just too crazy right,” a comment that he could easily have been aiming at the Buchananites . . .

During this period, Trump embarked on a media tour.  He touted Oprah Winfrey as his ideal running mate.  Referring to Buchanan’s hypothesis that Nazi Germany posed no direct threat to the United States, he said:

Look, he’s a Hitler lover. I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays. it’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy.

In response, Buchanan said he would not engage in name-calling exchanges, but made a thinly veiled attack against Trump, saying, “I don’t believe the Reform Party nomination can be bought, and I don’t believe the Presidency can be bought.”  Pat Choate, the 1996 Reform Party vice presidential nominee came to Buchanan’s defense over the “Hitler lover” comments, arguing that Trump:

needs to learn not to delegate his reading and thinking, because Pat Buchanan never said that and doesn’t hold those positions.

During Trump’s exploratory period, he released a book of his political positions entitled The America We Deserve.  Those positions were largely adverse to Buchanan, including a pro-choice stance on abortion, tough prosecution of hate crimes against gays, support for bans on assault rifles, a substantial tax on the assets of the wealthy to pay off the national debt, and universal health care.  However, for the most part, it shared Buchanan’s views on fair trade, constraints on immigration, and increased military spending.

Trump dropped his candidacy after Jesse Ventura left the party in February 2000 due to the unseating of pro-Ventura chairman Jack Gargan.  Trump commented that the party was too divided to be successful.  Buchanan would go on to win the party’s presidential nomination over Natural Law Party nominee John Hagelin. whom the Perot faction ultimately backed.  Buchanan appeared on the ballot in 49 states and received 0.43% of the popular vote on Election Day.

Since Trump’s presidential announcement last month including controversial comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico, Buchanan has written two editorials on his website lauding Trump’s efforts.

On June 19, he published The Anti-Politician, in which he wrote:

Though he has been a hugely successful builder-businessman, far more successful than, say, Carly Fiorina, who has been received respectfully, our resident elites resolutely refuse to take Trump seriously.

They should. Not because he will be nominated, but because the Trump constituency will represent a vote of no confidence in the Beltway ruling class of politicians and press.

Votes for Trump will be votes to repudiate that class, whole and entire, and dump it onto the ash heap of history.

Votes for Trump will be votes to reject a regime run by Bushes and Clintons that plunged us into unnecessary wars, cannot secure our borders, and negotiates trade deals that produced the largest trade deficits known to man and gutted a manufacturing base that was once “the great arsenal of democracy” and envy of mankind.

A vote for Trump is a vote to say that both parties have failed America and none of the current crop of candidates offers real hope of a better future.

On July 7, he published Trump and the GOP Border War, commenting:

Trump’s success comes from the issues he has seized upon — illegal immigration and trade deals that deindustrialized America — and brazen defiance of Republican elites and a media establishment.

By now the whole world has heard Trump’s declaration:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Politically incorrect? You betcha.

Yet, is Trump not raising a valid issue? Is there not truth in what he said? Is not illegal immigration, and criminals crossing our Southern border, an issue of national import, indeed, of national security?

. . .

The reaction to Trump’s comments has been instructive. NBC and Univision dropped his Miss USA and Miss Universe contests.

Macy’s has dropped the Trump clothing line. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is talking of terminating city contracts with Trump.

The reaction of Trump’s Republican rivals has been even more instructive. Initially, it was muted. But when major media began to demand that GOP candidates either denounce Trump or come under suspicion or racism themselves, the panic and pile-on began.

. . .

What Trump has done, and [Ted] Cruz sees it, is to have elevated the illegal immigration issue, taken a tough line, and is now attacking GOP rivals who have dithered or done nothing to deal with it.

Trump intends to exploit the illegal immigration issue, and the trade issue, where majorities of middle-class Americans oppose the elites. And he is going to ride them as far as he can in the Republican primaries.

In the coming debates, look for Trump to take the populist and popular side of them both. And for Cruz to stand by him on illegal immigration.

Americans are fed up with words; they want action. Trump is moving in the polls because, whatever else he may be, he is a man of action.

Trump later retweeted and thanked a follower who cited to Buchanan’s labeling of Trump as “a man of action.”

26 thoughts on “Buchanan-Trump Embrace Recalls 2000 Reform Party Race

  1. Sean Scallon

    A very interesting read. One wonders if Trump is being sincere or the same opportunist he’s always been. Like any successful businessman, he knows how to make a sales pitch to his “target audience.”

    A history of the Reform Party, especially in the 1990s up through middle of the last decade would also be interesting read. Say what you will about the RP but it’s the only non-major party in the last 20 years to both elect a governor and have Presidential candidate gain nearly 30 million votes. That’s not irrelevant and certainly represents political views which still relevant today. I would love to write it.

  2. Jill Pyeatt

    What Trump said about undocumented immigrants was despicable. If he’d qualified it all, by saying “a small percent are “(rapists and murderers), or even used “some of the undocumented” I could get past it, but his words were ugly, untrue, and he deserves to be villified for what he said.

    I hope this current bit of attention just lets him expose more of his unsutability for higher office.

  3. langa

    I’m not surprised that Buchanan would embrace his fellow pseudo-populist demagogue. After all, Trump’s big issues (anti-immigration and pro-protectionism) are straight out of Buchanan’s playbook, seeking to exploit the xenophobia and economic illiteracy of the average voter. The only real differences between the two are on social issues, where Trump is slightly better than Buchanan, and on foreign policy, where Trump is far worse.

  4. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    The politics of the 2000 Reform Party certainly were diverse. Hagelin, Buchanan, Fulani, Ventura, as well as Trump.

    This diversity mirrored the atmosphere of 80s-90s third politics, as can be observed in this bizzarre 1992 debate event.

  5. Andy

    “Green_w_o_Adjectives

    July 13, 2015 at 1:12 am

    The politics of the 2000 Reform Party certainly were diverse. Hagelin, Buchanan, Fulani, Ventura, as well as Trump.”

    This is main reason that the Reform Party collapsed, and that is that they had no clear cut ideology. They were all people who said that they wanted “reform,” but they all had a different idea of what kinds of reform they wanted.

  6. Andy Craig

    I think Trump’s 2000 platform was clearly a lot closer to Perot’s, on the issues, than the paleo-social-conservative message Buchanan was running on. That could quite easily have been because Trump was simply aping Perot, though.

  7. paulie

    As Will Williams explained it at Occidental Dissent:

    “Hunter’s” nonsense hasn’t gone unnoticed by me.

    He likes to run down Dr. Pierce and his National Alliance as “alienated vanguardist hicks” disinclined and incapable of influencing electoral politics. He mentioned Ron Paul’s presidential bid in 2008. I, “Hunter’s” prototypical “vanguardist hick,” easily reached out to the mainstream electorate during Dr. Paul’s campaign, was in charge of my county, even received nearly 12,000 votes in the statewide Tennessee Republican primary to be a delegate at the Republican convention. How can that possibly be? That doesn’t fit “Hunter’s” model at all. http://adamholland.blogspot.com/2008/03/ap-reports-on-neo-nazi-ron-paul.html

    I have a Washington Post clipping around here somewhere from 2000 that laments how Dr. Pierce’s so-called “vanguardist” National Alliance members were seeing success in ensuring that Pat Buchanan’s Reform Party be “White-friendly.” I’ll find that and post it here to further debunk “Hunter’s” false “vanguardist v. mainstreamer” blather.

    Here’s the follow-up link to the WP article I’d promised: http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/9342/washpostbuchananarticle.jpg

    One would be hard-pressed to find that clipping on the ‘Net, but it’s a good example of how White loyalists can infiltrate “mainstream” political campaigns and radicalize them to some extent.

    There’s no date on that WP clipping, but a good researcher would discover that soon after that appeared Pat Buchanan tagged the Negress Ebola Foster to be his Reform Party running mate, which, incidentally, thoroughly demoralized his base and torpedoed his campaign. Was that backpeddling blunder of Pat’s a reaction to the “mainstreamers’” hue and cry that he was associating with “Nazis?” Some would say yes. So much for the mainstreamers.

    And from the same source at VNN Forum:

    BTW, I was working with the Reform Party in NC in 2000 for Pat Buchanan as a National Alliance Regional Coordinator for NC. I had Dr. Pierce’s full approval to do this as it was an opportunity to get our ideas before a sympathetic subgroup of conservative patriot types. I nominated the man who took over as Chairman of the state Reform Party and nominated a former VNNer as Vice-Chairman. He was narrowly defeated. Buchanan picked Ebola Foster as his running mate after a feature article in the Washington Post about his “neo-nazi” ties with the National Alliance, providing a quote by me that it was my intention to make the Reform Party “more White friendly.” This artical was written by Thomas Edsall and the quote provided to him by me was from Morris Dees, who monitors this discussion board like a hawk. This is the same Tom Edsall who called me a couple of months ago, tipped again by Morris Dees that “Williams is supporting Ron Paul.” So, Edsall wrote another article, this time for the Huffington Post, quoting me from a VNNF post I’d made, and went about trying to link Dr. Paul to “neo-nazis” as he had done before with Pat Buchanan (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/jonah072700.asp). That’s his job; that’s what worms like Edsall and the one spreading the rumor of a nigger vp for RP do. Edsall’s smear article didn’t work; it backfired. Dr. Paul is not Pat Buchanan and didn’t capitulate to Jew demands.

  8. Andy Craig

    Foster wasn’t Buchanan’s first pick for VP. He was reportedly rejected by many others, including Jimmy Hoffa’s son, because somehow that made sense to Pat.

  9. Andy Craig

    Didn’t seem to help.

    When I got my first issue of YAL’s magazine, and saw that the cover article was a puff-piece on “Pitchfork Pat” and his “place in the revolution.” – I knew YAL had already started to go down the wrong road.

    I will say this: as a pundit and commentator on MSNBC, Pat wasn’t half bad. Even when wrong, he was relatively thoughtful and made for good viewing. Not like anything you’d get coming out of Trump’s blowhole.

    It is a bit of a shame he got the boot, though that was predictable. He never could totally give up on the white-resentment stuff, and it’s inevitable he’d once again fail to toe the line between that and outright racism. It’s a shame, because if it wasn’t for that stuff he really would be the kind of paleoconservative I could mostly get along with. Not one I could vote for, but I feel like an intelligent conversation could be had with him with some important areas of agreement. Then again, maybe that impression of him is just colored by me seeing his Morning Joe years, and less his electoral campaigns that were before my time.

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