Pat Buchanan could win the Reform Party nomination if he gets the solid backing of the Perot faction. But it won’t come free. “We estimate that we will need to raise approximately $4 to $6 million to win the nomination, which, although it is a lot of money, is frankly far less than we needed to be competitive in the GOP race,” Buchanan told sup porters on Monday in Falls Church, Virginia.
Buchanan will have to wage guerrilla war against both parties, which he characterized as “two wings of the same bird of prey.” Donald Trump may prove a feisty opponent, but it will be hard—even with all of his money and Jesse Ventura’s backing—for the, uh, “working man’s candidate” to overcome Buchanan’s “peasant army,” as the candidate likes to call his gung-ho supporters, who now have com bat experience in two presidential elections. Buchanan, whose “populist” bid is sure to recall the America First campaigns of Father Coughlin in the 1930s and those of George Wallace in 1968 and 1972, will try to pull together the left-right coalition that has begun to evolve over the last four years. It includes such disparate allies as consumer advocate Ralph Nader and conservative textile magnate Roger Miliken, small business interests, labor rank and file, members of the congressional Progressive Caucus like Bernie Sanders and Peter DeFazio, and conservative backbenchers like Bob Barr, Dana Rohrbacher, and Duncan Hunter.
Ross Perot’s original party recruited Reagan Democrats, and Buchanan—a Reagan adviser and speechwriter—has a chance to attract this swing vote on the trade issue. But social issues are another matter. Buchanan is more of an old line right-wing Christian than the crazy libertarian loners who hung around the edges of the Doubletree Hotel in Falls Church, bellowing, “We love you, Pat!” when the candidate slammed the IRS and promised to “rip this weed out by its roots.” Buchanan wants education left to the states. He promises “to throw off the tyranny of judges and let America be America again,” and warns the Supreme Court to respect states’ rights.
The libertarian right wants the government off its back. Buchanan’s Christian right envisions a re public under God with a strong government to effect social change (for example, to ban abortion). It wants a tightly controlled economy with high quotas on imported goods and a moratorium on immigration. The widespread criticism of Buchanan’s views on World War II in his book A Republic, Not an Empire has hurt him, and while he made a plea for racial inclusion on Monday, he talks about a Christian republic, which can be taken to imply an ethnic and religious divide.
Buchanan’s real impact will be on the trade issue, which, with labor’s nudging, is beginning to include calls for restrictions on immigration. It’s an explosive issue, which can bring out the conservative side of the Republican Party and split working Democrats down the middle. If Buchanan gets into debates with Gush and Bore, watch out.
Bill’s Birthday Gift
Wooing Wall Street for Hillary
By tweaking his image to look more liberal while cutting deals with Wall Street, Clinton last week reinforced his wife’s looming Senate campaign in New York with voters as well as with the key finance sector. On Friday, after a nighttime phone call from Citigroup’s cochair Sanford I. Weill, the president signed on to a plan to dramatically change U.S. banking laws—the second most important act of his administration (the first being NAFTA, which divided the Democratic Party). Now Wall Street can have no doubt of the Clintons’ loyalty.
The legislation—which Wall Street has been seeking by pumping money into Washington for 20 years—would allow commercial banks to join with insurance and investment companies to forge huge combines along the lines of the Morgan Trust, which ruled Wall Street at the turn of the century. The bill was deadlocked until Senate banking chair Phil Gramm ordered Citigroup lobbyist Robert Levy to get Weill on the phone with the White House or “I’ll kill the bill.” Gramm later said that Levy “had done his job” and that the White House was moving.
This was a big defeat for the little depositor—leaving in place outrageously high ATM fees and undercutting rules on redlining in poor neighbor hoods; in short, a rollback of the piddling reforms made against big banks since the late ’70s. According to a recent study by the Public Interest Research Group, it now costs an average of $217 a year to maintain a regular checking account. Big banks are concocting all sorts of schemes to rack up even higher profits, including higher fees for bounced checks and more money if you get stuck with a bounced check. Fewer banks are offering free checking, with the result that more than 12 million families cannot now afford to have a bank account, according to the PIRG study. And New York is the most expensive state to bank in.
On Saturday, Clinton announced he was drop ping his plan to permit the government to invest Social Security in the stock market—a step that will gain support from retirees who are rightly frightened of seeing their savings go down the drain. Sooner or later, Social Security probably will end up in the market, but Clinton’s shift on the issue postpones the inevitable. With Fed chief Greenspan warning of overvaluation, this is hardly the moment to dump Social Security into the market.
Keeping Poor Nations on the Dole
Washington is about to mangle any hope that desperately poor nations will be forgiven their debts. The administration is preparing to sign on to a bill by House banking chair Jim Leach to relieve the debt of nations that accept the IMF’s structural adjustment programs: mendacious schemes that force the curbing of social welfare programs and cuts in public employment, along with movement toward market economies. This leads to increased sales of raw commodities in the world market at lower prices, which benefits multinationals and industrial importers.
An alternative plan proposed by a coalition headed by liberal Democrat Dennis Kucinich and conservative Jim Saxton would require the IMF to eliminate the debt of poor countries, while also restricting the agency’s ability to impose structural adjustments on them. Failure to do so would result in the withholding of U.S. funds for IMF operations and a ban on the agency’s plans to sell off part of its gold reserves.
Onward Christian Assassins
Against the background of a Columbine teenager’s threat last week to “finish the job started by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold,” The Arizona Republic reported that a game called Assassins—which involves stalking fellow students, then surprising them, and opening fire on them—has become extremely popular at Grand Canyon University, a small Christian school west of Phoenix. Nerf dart guns are used, and the activity is viewed as good clean fun and “community building.” But it worries some, since Grand Canyon alum Sydney Browning was one of seven people killed by a gunman at a Fort Worth church recently.
The game was started last year by a Bible studies major. Participants are divided into three-person teams. Each player gets a card with the names of three opposing members. The object is to “tag” them with a dart. Players are also encouraged to hug the people they shoot. Senior Kevin Bell, who played Assassins last year, reflected that it was fun. “It gets people involved,” he said, adding that it breaks down barriers between Christians and non-Christians.
“I’m very upset by this,” said sophomore Shauna Talboys. “A Christian school encouraging the Assassins game? It’s ironic, isn’t it?” However, other members of the 1400-person student body say critics should lighten up. “It’s not like we’re using real guns,” freshman Sara Hudson said. “People who are against it are uptight.” However, when Assassins made news, college officials called a press conference and announced that they were canceling the game.
Baptists to the Rescue
Hope for Hindus
Evangelical Christians continue to do their damnedest to save souls worldwide. The controversial conservative Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, is publishing 30,000 booklets aimed at the conversion of Hindus, who are currently celebrating their Festival of Lights. The texts lament “those who worship gods which are not God” and are “lost in the hopeless darkness of Hinduism.” Previously, the Southern Baptists have angered Jews and Muslims by publishing booklets aimed at their conversions. Umaa Mysorekar, president of a Hindu temple in Flushing, New York, and secretary-treasurer of the Council of Hindu Temples, said the timing of the publication is insulting, and added that the thoughts conveyed are “not only absurd but also ignorant. I don’t think Jesus himself would have said not to respect other religions.”
Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi