The Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchananby Timothy Stanley
The Crusader tells the fascinating life story of Pat Buchanan, the three-time presidential candidate, Nixon confidant, White House communications director during Iran-Contra, pundit, and bestselling author.
Buchanan is one of America's most controversial conservative rebels. After serving Nixon and Reagan, he led a revolt against the Republican/p>/i>
The Crusader tells the fascinating life story of Pat Buchanan, the three-time presidential candidate, Nixon confidant, White House communications director during Iran-Contra, pundit, and bestselling author.
Buchanan is one of America's most controversial conservative rebels. After serving Nixon and Reagan, he led a revolt against the Republican establishment that was a forerunner for the Tea Party. In 1992 he tried to take away his party's nomination from the incumbent president, George H. W. Bush. Although he lost, Buchanan set the tone for political debate for the next two decades when he declared a "cultural war" against liberalism and a jihad on Republican moderates. Throughout the 1990s, his radical, rollicking presidential campaigns tore apart the GOP and articulated the hopes and fears of a new generation of Middle American conservatives.
This balanced, and often funny, biography explores the highs and lows of Buchanan's career, from his stunning victory in the 1996 New Hampshire primary to his humiliating "grudge match" against Donald Trump in the 2000 Reform Party contest.
At its heart is a man who embodies the contradictions of the conservative movement: a wealthy bookworm who branded himself as an everyman reactionary, a Republican insider who became a populist outsider, a patriarch whose campaigns were directed by his sister, a socially unacceptable ideologue who won the affection of liberals and conservatives alike—Rachel Maddow, Ralph Nader, Eugene McCarthy, Ron Paul, even Mel Gibson.
Timothy Stanley tells the intimate story of the man who defined the culture war for a generation of Americans with outrage and wit; the man who, when asked what he thought about gun control, replied, "I think it's important to have a steady aim."
“Patrick Buchanan, an ardent voice of conservatism, Washington insider, columnist, and presidential candidate, deserves a good biography. This is it. Timothy Stanley, a young English scholar and himself a former candidate for Parliament, brings a fresh, outsider's eye to the remarkable career of Pat Buchanan.” Donald T. Critchlow, Barry Goldwater Chair of American Institutions, Arizona State University
“Stanley's biography of Pat Buchanan combines meticulous research, including the fruits of multiple interviews, with highly accessible prose and judicious judgments.” Paul Gottfried, author of Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right
“The life story of Pat Buchanan offers a new and fascinating angle on the rise of the conservative Right. Stanley's eye for both the telling detail and the big story insures that The Crusader is not only fascinating biography, it is also very important history.” Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America
“For more than three decades, Pat Buchanan has lived a fascinating, aggressive life swimming in the crosscurrents of conservative revolt. He has articulated the cause, not as a sideline commentator but as a gladiator in the arena. He has been often written off, but as a writer, moralist, candidate, and talking head, Buchanan keeps bouncing back. In The Crusader, Timothy Stanley has written a compelling, important history of this durable man and his colorful times.” Adam Clymer, author of Edward M. Kennedy: A Biography
“An engrossing look inside an ultra-conservative mind.” Kirkus Reviews
“Drawing on interviews with Buchanan's friends, colleagues, and adversaries and with Buchanan himself, Stanley highlights the strongly held beliefs that helped launch the culture wars that sharply contrast the visions of religious, Republican conservatives and secularist, Democratic liberals. Stanley details Buchanan's career trajectory, his rambunctious candidacies, frustration with the Republican Party, and enduring influence on a new generation of conservative Republicans.” Booklist
“Stanley interviewed Buchanan extensively, which allowed him to produce a cooperative, but unauthorized biography. ... Stanley does a good job introducing Buchanan to non-movement Conservatives. For the uninitiated, The Crusader serves as a very good greatest hits album. For the initiated, there are plenty of deep tracks, too.” Human Events
“The reader of Timothy Stanley's biography, The Crusader, cannot help being impressed by the durability of Buchanan's career.” The Washington Post
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The CrusaderThe Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan
By Timothy Stanley
Thomas Dunne BooksCopyright © 2012 Timothy Stanley
All right reserved.
The Georgetown Gang
Politics is biography. Many conservatives became conservatives by reading Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman at college. Not so Pat Buchanan. He learned his philosophy at the dinner table and in the playground, and he felt it before he defined it and could put a name to it.
Pat’s conservatism is full of the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C., in the 1950s, where he grew up. Reading his memoir Right from the Beginning, you can almost smell the incense and home cooking; almost hear the school bell call the boys to prayer and the soft click-click-click of rosary beads as they run through fingers at nighttime prayer. His was a nonpartisan, “street-corner conservatism.” A conservatism that came, wrote Buchanan:
of absorbing the attitudes and values my mother learnt in a German–Catholic family of eight, which she left as a girl of seventeen to become a nurse in southeast Washington. It was the conservatism that came from being raised alongside eight brothers and sisters by a Scotch-Irish and Irish father, an Al Smith Democrat, whose trinity of political heroes consisted of Douglas MacArthur, General Franco, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin they called Tail Gunner Joe … Not until my twenties did I learn to conscript the intellectual arguments of the sages to reinforce the embattled arguments of the heart. When a boy approaches manhood, he gives or denies his assent to what he has learned in home and school and church … To me the lessons of those years, however uncomplicatedly they were taught, retain the ring of truth.1
Patrick Joseph Buchanan was born into a family of Confederates, Catholics, and rascals on All Souls’ Day, November 2, 1938.2 His father, William Baldwin Buchanan, was a successful accountant and his mother, Catherine Elizabeth Crum, was a former nurse. They lived in Georgetown, a mixed German and Irish neighborhood, fanning out east and north from Georgetown University and Holy Trinity Catholic parish. Pat had six brothers and two sisters: William Baldwin Buchanan Jr. (born in 1936), Henry (Hank) Martin (1937), Jimmy (1940), Kathleen Theresa (1941), Jonathan Edward (1947), Angela Marie (1948), Brian Damien (1950), and Thomas Matthew (1953). The youngest girl, Angela Marie, was nicknamed “Bay”—the boys’ gibberish version of “baby.”3 Pat was called “Paddy Joe” and was a troublemaker from birth. When his older brothers were toddlers, on their knees at the foot of each cot praying the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, baby Pat would shout impatiently from his pen, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, amen!” One night, the brothers had enough of being upstaged. After lights out, Pop heard screams coming from their bedroom. He ran upstairs and found Pat covered in milk and blood. After he had interrupted his brothers’ prayers yet again, Hank had stolen Pat’s glass milk bottle and smashed it over his head.4
Children in the 1940s and 1950s were expected to sustain a few cuts and bruises. The Buchanan boys played at war in the streets and Pop put up a punching bag in the basement. The boys “hit the bag” for four sessions each week, 100 times with the left, 100 times with the right, and 200 times with the “old one-two.” Pop also set up a boxing ring in the hope that one of the boys would get into a fight with a neighbor and he could referee it. It was Hank, a natural athlete, who delivered. One summer’s day, Pop Buchanan looked out of the window and saw Hank being chased up the road by a bigger boy. Not five minutes had passed before he had them both in the ring, the family gathered around, as he shouted “Keep your right up!” to his golden son. Hank was doing badly until he delivered a hard right; his opponent cracked his head against an exposed iron girder and his knees bent. Hank saw the opening and thumped him to the floor. Satisfied, father declared a knockout. He proudly christened his son “Hammering Hank.”5
Gangs of boys divided Georgetown into different neighborhoods. They conducted wars for land and cigarette cards, wars fought with bows and arrows and imitation guns wielded like sticks. In this urban jungle, infant Pat was at a disadvantage. He was an odd-looking kid—tall, gangly, and “walleyed” (both his eyes stared away from the nose at strange angles). Pat longed to become a pilot, but was told early on that he would never make it because he had trouble judging distances. The doctors operated on his eyes and forced him to wear enormous glasses.6 He was a magnet for bullies. One day he was assaulted by a boy three years older than he. Poor walleyed Pat ran screaming to a kid called Jimmy Fegan. He told him what had happened and asked for protection. Fegan went to see the culprit and messed him up with his belt. The kid got the message and backed off. Pat offered Fegan his loyalty in the never-ending war for the streets. He later reflected: “I learned the importance of good friends and the difference between being tough and being mean. That [bully] was mean, and Jimmy Fegan was truly tough. In politics, the same distinctions exist.”7
* * *
Like all good Catholics, Pat went to a parochial elementary school. In first grade, over a hundred children squeezed into two small rooms. All attended a daily Mass at 8:30 a.m.; first confession came upon reaching the “age of reason” in the second grade. When the boys entered the sixth grade, they had the opportunity to be altar boys. This meant serving at three separate weekday Masses, usually at 6:30 in the morning. On Sunday there were six Masses to choose from (6, 7, 8, 10, 11 a.m., and noon). Senior servers assisted at Benediction on Monday night, when five altar boys helped adore the Host.8 Little Pat’s world was full of mystery and devotion.9 One night, he was woken by his father and taken to the Sacred Heart Church on 16th Street. There the Nocturnal Adoration Society met to pray before the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the early morning hours (because, according to the parish magazine, “so many of the worst sins are committed at night”). “The protection that God offers is similar to that which I give you,” Pop Buchanan whispered to his son. Life is full of suffering and pain; that is as it should be. But with moral and spiritual training every bit as rigorous as “hitting the bag” in the Buchanan basement, walleyed Pat might just make it through.10
By the age of thirteen, most of the Buchanan boys were smoking in alleys and fighting in the schoolyard. That’s when the nuns handed them over to the Jesuits, lest their souls be lost forever. The Jesuit-run high school, Gonzaga, was housed in a squalid neighborhood. There was a whorehouse on the other side of the street. During the Latin class, the boys translated Virgil while watching the ladies across the road come out and take a cigarette between clients. Gonzaga was a good school but many of its pupils harbored a sense of exclusion, as if—in the words of one student—they were “being educated downstairs.”11 That made the boys competitive and touchy. Pat was taught (to a very high standard) logic and reason, but with the sole aim of defending the faith in argument with snobby Protestants.12
The Gonzaga boys learned a strict interpretation of the Catholic dogma that “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” Beyond the “one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” there was only Hell and death. Their singular salvation gave American Catholics a big stake in the Cold War.13 Pat was taught about the 1917 visions at Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three Portuguese children and delivered three prophetic “secrets.” The second secret warned that Armageddon was inevitable unless Russia converted to Catholicism. Entrusted with this insight into the will of God, American Catholics felt a personal calling to fight Russian Bolshevism. The persecution of the Church in Eastern Europe and the end of missionary activity in Red China confirmed the atheistic evil of communism. Many anticommunists were driven by real politick, or a fear that the Soviets would crush temporal freedoms.14 The boys at Gonzaga thought the Soviets were literally Satanic.
There was no legitimate alternative to “the Gospel truth,” only lies. While the rest of American society struggled to deal with the tough questions posed by sex, Beat poetry, rock and roll, sociology, psychiatry, James Dean, and the Civil Rights Movement, the Gonzaga boys had a magnetic self-confidence. To emphasize the clarity of choice between Catholicism and everything else, Pop Buchanan would grab one of his boys’ hands and hold a lighted match against the palm. He would say: “See how that feels; now imagine that for all eternity.”15
In Pat’s world, pain was a given, maybe even a blessing. He learned to revere St. Lawrence, who was roasted on a spit when he tried to bring the Good News to the Romans. “Turn me over,” he said to his executioners with a beatific smile. “I’m done on this side.”16
* * *
As Pat entered his adolescence in the 1950s, America was a land of plenty. The Greatest Generation—the men and women who lived through the Depression and the Second World War—had built their country into a superpower. As the empires of Europe crumbled, only the Soviet Union could rival its military and political clout. American products were in demand across the world, and U.S. dollars flooded into Europe by way of Marshall Aid. Industry boomed, churning out Chevys and Fords that ended up on the streets of Paris, Havana, and Tokyo. Average wages were high and the economy could sustain near-full employment.17 The cost of living was low enough that a single working man, like Pop Buchanan, could keep a housewife and a family of nine, his grandmother, and an African American servant under one roof. In 1951, he moved his clan to a huge house on Utah Avenue, where the boys had a whole acre of garden to play in. The Buchanan family’s rise from the working class to the middle class in one generation was emblematic of America’s leap to greatness.18
The mansion on Utah Avenue wasn’t big enough to contain the Buchanan boys, though. As they grew bigger and tougher, they became a menace on the streets. Maureen Dowd, who later worked as a journalist for The New York Times, lived in the neighborhood. Her brother, Michael, fled the night that he was asked by the Buchanans to help throw a motorbike over a wall. Michael recalled that “We regarded the Buchanan boys with the same awe and fear that Romanian peasants spoke of vampires.” Maureen claimed that Pat “and his brawling brothers were the scourge of Washington’s Catholic community. Boys at parochial schools all over the city would huddle on Monday mornings to whisper about the latest Buchanan hooliganism. Did you hear how they crashed a party and beat everyone up? Did you hear how they stuffed a hapless drunk in Ocean City into a garbage can and rolled him into the sea?” The Fifties were great for men like Buchanan, Dowd argued, because white “boys were gods.” But for African Americans, girls, and weaklings, it was terrifying. The Buchanans were titans. “Some bullies are cowards,” said Michael Dowd. “But the Buchanans were not. They were extremely intelligent and a little crazy. You knew if you got in a fight with them, you’d better be ready to fight.”19
The fights were usually over one of two things: beer and girls. Steal a beer and you were guaranteed a sucker punch. Steal a girl and you might never walk again. By the time he was fifteen, Pat drank every Friday and Saturday night. A six-pack would usually suffice; you could get half a dozen Gunthers for a dollar. The bigger the boy, the bigger the intake. The Kadow twins were notorious for starting every evening with at least twelve cans inside each of them. At parties, the Kadows and the Buchanans had “chugging” matches to see who could put away the most. Keg parties were held most weeks. A keg could be purchased for $14 and during the summer the Buchanans and Kadows would take over Aerlie Playground and sit around in their underpants getting drunk. When the police showed up they split into the trees.20
Drink, girls, and gangs all led to a nightly routine of fistfights and bloody noses.21 A favorite pastime of the Buchanans and the Kadows was crashing private parties. A network of informants let them know when and where one was taking place. Pat turned up on the doorstep at 8 p.m., dressed in a suit and tie. The father of the house opened the door and Pat pretended to be a friend of his son. In a Brahmin accent he implied that he attended one of the local private schools (Landon or St. Albans) or was doing premed at Princeton. Bowled over, the father welcomed him in. By the time Pat made it downstairs his cover was blown—but it was too late. He opened up the basement doors and in walked the Kadow brothers with a keg of beer over their shoulders, followed by the entire pack of Buchanans. The atmosphere grew tense; one by one the girls left. By midnight all that was left was the cobelligerents. “And then,” recalled Pat, “the action would begin.” By the time the police were called, the basement was awash with booze and blood.22
It was impossible to run away from a fight. If one boy was scrapping, then everyone else had to get involved—whether he was innocent or not. Buchanan wrote: “That somebody stood by friends in trouble … was, in those days, about the highest compliment you could pay; and virtually the worst term that could be used about anyone was that he was ‘chicken,’ someone who, when fighting started, ran out on friends.”23 Loyalty was repaid with a night in a cell or a heavy fine. But that was all right. The keg parties and the policeman’s baton were all part of the chaotic cycle of sin and redemption. The Buchanan boys respected the cops who busted up their parties and chased them into the trees, and the next morning the gang lined up outside the confessional to lay it all before God. Pat Buchanan was mischievous, but he was no anarchist.24
* * *
Adolescent Pat’s loyalty to the faith, family, and the system that raised him made him strong and self-confident. But it sometimes left him insensitive to the perspectives and feelings of others. The fact that Washington, D.C., was segregated passed him by. Pat wrote in his memoir: “In the late 1940s, and early ’50s … race was never a preoccupation with us; we rarely thought about it … The Negroes of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds, and churches; and we had ours. Neither community could have been called rich.”25
There is anecdotal evidence that, like most kids of their generation, the Buchanan boys were ethnic chauvinists.26 Their next-door neighbors on Utah Avenue were a Jewish family called the Bernsteins. One night in 1958, Bill and Hank invited a crowd of local hoods to the Buchanan place to watch a football game and get drunk. When it finished, they went out onto the front lawn at midnight and improvised their own game. They woke the Bernsteins up with their noise, so Harry Bernstein got into his car and drove up to the Buchanans’ front door to complain. The boys swarmed around his vehicle and tried to tip it over. Bernstein swore he heard cries of “Get the Jews!” He reversed home and called the cops. When they showed up, Hank told them to get lost and slammed the door in their face. Later that night, beer bottles rained down on the Bernstein rooftop.
Harry’s daughter, Karen, couldn’t confirm if her father had correctly heard the Buchanan boys say, “Get the Jews!,” but she was sure of one thing: “They didn’t like the Jews. There’s no question about it. I don’t think they woke up every morning with a prayer, saying ‘Thank you God for not making me a woman and a Jew,’ but they didn’t like ’em. They would call us dirty Jew. I don’t necessarily know that Pat Buchanan himself said those words … He was thirteen years older than me. It was just understood how the Buchanans felt about us.”
Years later, Pat said this was “nonsense.” He pointed out that his father had two Jewish clients who were treated like family; one attended Pat’s wedding. And when Bay became U.S. Treasurer, she mailed the Bernsteins a commemorative dollar. Karen conceded that the Bernstein boys gave as good as they got with ethnic jibes and fights: in one spat the Buchanans threw watermelon rinds over the garden wall, and the Bernsteins sprayed seltzer water back.27
Whatever the truth about his racial views, throughout his career Pat refused to express guilt for any offense he may have caused minorities. “Racism is the obsessive preoccupation with the subject of race,” he wrote in his memoir. “The racist sees everything in life, education and politics, from the standpoint of race.” Pat was satisfied that this definition didn’t describe him. The Buchanan family didn’t wear white robes and burn crosses, so what was there to apologize for? Life in segregated Washington bred in Pat Buchanan a fatal blind spot on race.28
* * *
Pat’s earliest political influence was his father. Pop Buchanan told his son that he used to be a Democrat, but that the Democrats had let him down on the biggest issue of the day: communism.29 One of Pop’s heroes was Gen. Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator. Pop was furious with how American liberals had joined forces with Marxists to try to overthrow him. The general had kicked the Reds out of Spain and, despite whatever his secret police may have done, he was still a friend to the Catholic Church. Only a “chicken” wouldn’t support a friend in a fight, said Pop.
Many parts of the Democratic Party and the American left supported the Spanish republican opposition to Franco—the popular front alliance of liberals, anarchists, and communists. American sympathizers ignored reports of republican atrocities against the Church that occurred during the Spanish Civil War. But Gonzaga was awash with stories of relics, churches, and monasteries being looted and defiled. Thousands of clergy were murdered. Nuns were raped. In Ciudad Real, a priest was castrated and suffocated with his own sexual organs. The parish priest of Navalmoral was put through a parody of the Crucifixion—whipped and crowned with thorns—and then shot. Synagogues were burned down as well. To the Buchanans, the Spanish republicans were devils and Franco a veritable St. Michael. They struggled to understand why Roosevelt gave away so much land to the communist monsters at Yalta, and why Truman failed to stop China going Red in 1949. Either these men were fools or complicit.30
Pop Buchanan said that the one man in politics who understood the problem was Republican senator Joe McCarthy. On February 9, 1950, McCarthy gave a speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, that claimed to expose the extent of the Marxist infiltration of American society. Holding a piece of paper aloft, he said: “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205 … names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.” The accusation rang true with a public that was terrified by Soviet expansion overseas. Committees to investigate un-American activities sprang up across the country. In the Senate, McCarthy and his allies tore into those accused of aiding and abetting the enemy. Some accusations were hysterical, some unveiled genuine security threats.31
Teenage Pat Buchanan saw spies everywhere. He decided that the Democratic administration of Harry Truman was soft and infiltrated by traitors. News of atrocities in Korea, where Americans were fighting the communists for control of the country, upset him. “I was reading horrible reports of American trucks driving over the bodies of wounded American troops … ‘Why doesn’t Truman drop the atomic bomb on the attacking Chinese armies who are killing thousands of Americans?’ I recall asking myself. Five years before, he had dropped it on two defenseless Japanese cities … Maybe Pop is right about Truman, I concluded.”32 American voters agreed. Korea and McCarthy helped elect the Republican ticket of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in 1952.33
McCarthy’s reputation today is poor. He picked a fight with the army and was censured in the Senate. His career faded and he died of an alcohol-related illness in 1957.34 But the Buchanans adored Joe McCarthy. What mattered to them, said Pat, was not “precisely what he said,” but “what they understood him to be saying.” They understood him to be saying that the American establishment—both Democrat and Republican—had betrayed the men who fought at Normandy and Iwo Jima. The establishment seemed to have handed a third of the world over to communism and created cozy jobs for themselves in a massive bureaucracy that was out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans. McCarthy was a populist. His fans raged against the domination of society by privileged elites. Like all populists, he proposed simple solutions to complex problems—solutions that typically involved toppling the powerful. Every question could be answered by trusting the people. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: “A little rebellion now and again is a good thing.”35
The Buchanans held strong opinions on most subjects but they couldn’t vote. Washington, D.C., only permitted voting in presidential elections in 1961 and the mayor was appointed. There was no local politics. Bay recalled: “Our local newspaper was The Washington Post and the headlines were all national. So we didn’t talk about stuff like the little leagues. Foreign policy and communism were local politics to us … I guess that’s why it mattered so much.” National politics was debated at the dinner table. Bay’s place was beside her mother and she watched in awe as her brothers shouted each other down, her father refereeing from the sidelines.36
Pat recalled: “Every one of us was opinionated and we were all taught not to back down. Whatever our positions lost in logic might be recovered in invective. If you never quit an argument, presumably you never lost. To make oneself heard as the argument got intense, we got louder and louder. The only one who could halt the uproar was my father.”37
It was “Crossfire in training,” observed Bay, although she felt it did have some intellectual value. “Everything you said was torn apart, so you had to be careful about what you said. You needed to have facts to back up a point. No one would let you get away with saying something stupid that couldn’t be supported … I went to college and was surprised to meet liberals who couldn’t sustain an argument. Everything we believed had run the test of that dinner table.”38
Nothing in those family debates, besides the agreed weakness of liberals on fighting communism, suggested Pat Buchanan would grow up a partisan Republican. His friend, the philosopher Paul Gottfried, was surprised that he did: “There was little in his background to suggest that he was GOP … His father had been a Democrat, they were all urban Catholics. And there were many, many labor people who felt the same way about communism that Pat did … Perhaps if he had been born a little earlier [before FDR gave away Eastern Europe and Truman ‘lost’ China] then he might have been a Hubert Humphrey Democrat.”39 The Kennedys loved Joe McCarthy as much as the Buchanans. Joe dated their sisters and was a regular guest at their home in Hyannis Port.40
But there were conservative lessons in Pat’s childhood. Growing up in rough, Catholic Washington convinced Pat that life was an earthly anarchy overseen by a celestial order. It was wrong, as the liberals tried, to legislate away the anarchy and usurp the order. But it was also wrong, as the free market fundamentalists tried, to pretend that the anarchy is pleasant and the order doesn’t exist. One must accept the anarchy and submit to the order, with an active determination to survive and be saved.41
And there was one thing that the Republicans had that the Democrats didn’t: red-blooded Red-baiters like Richard Milhous Nixon.
* * *
Every summer, the children of D.C. went touting for work. One year, Pat and his friend Millard Crouch landed a job at the Burning Tree golf club in Montgomery County. The labor was dumb and boring. The boys spent hours sitting on the caddy log drinking Cokes, waiting for a customer. Then they would carry their bags across the eighteen-hole golf course in the burning sun for $2.50, sometimes a 50-cent tip. Several times Pat sat and watched as President Eisenhower went out to play. His Secret Service men trailed behind with fake golf bags containing rifles, picking through the rough for snipers.
Besides Pat and two others, all the other caddies were black. The African Americans had seniority, so always took the first players to arrive; but then this was their full-time occupation. They got two or three jobs a day, made $10 or $15 with tips, and left the white boys to stew on the log. Pat’s best bet was to land a late-afternoon tee-off when the veterans were already out on the course. One afternoon, when Pat and his buddy Pete Cook were the last two on the log, Buchanan saw the club pro bring out the tartan bag that belonged to the Vice President of the United States. A little while later, a black limousine pulled up to the clubhouse and Richard Nixon stepped out. Pat was picked to be his caddy.
Nixon was in his forties and enjoying himself as Vice President. He had power and money, and a great deal of respect. He was Vice President of the number one world superpower and perhaps the most influential anticommunist of his generation—the man who exposed Hiss as a Red agent and who beat liberal Helen Douglas out of a Senate seat, by telling voters that she was “Pink right down to her underwear.” Pat was in awe of him. Nixon was tall—taller than Buchanan expected—gravelly voiced, and tanned. He was also a lousy golfer. Nixon was a klutz, a man uncomfortable in his own skin who fought a running battle not to put a foot through a window or staple his own tie to the desk. His shots were “stiff and jerky.” He took a long time to size up the ball, aim the club, retract the arm in a short, sharp snatch, and then—inevitably—send it flying into the woods. “Tough break, Dick,” said the other players every other hole.
Nixon might have been a poor golfer, yet—recalls Buchanan—“from the comments his fellow players made, you would have thought we had the young Palmer out there.” Nixon slunk a ball 150 yards down the fairway in something that was almost a straight line and someone said, “Great shot, Dick, a real beauty!”
“Your game is really improving, Dick,” added a general, which made Pat wonder what it had been like a year ago. When the ball dribbled off the fairway or rolled into the sand, Pat spotted a shared look of pain on the other players’ faces. “Tough break, Dick,” they would say. Nixon whacked one into the middle of the forest and it took them ages to finally find it “three shots from civilization.”
Back at the hole, the general cupped his hands to his lips and shouted, “Take one, Dick, and put it on the fairway!” People needed to get home for dinner.
But Nixon looked happy. He told jokes and laughed a lot. Nixon might not have had the other fellows’ breeding or education, but he made up for that by playing at buddies and talking the language of the power elite. The lexicon was colorful. At one point on the tee he jerked around and shouted out, “Those fucking Democrats have cut our cocks every chance they get!” Later, they came upon Sen. Stu Symington of Missouri—the man who had questioned Joe McCarthy’s honor and finished his career. Nixon greeted him like an old friend. “Hey, Stu, they’re voting up on the Hill; why aren’t you there?” the Vice President shouted. “Tell ’em to shove it,” Symington hollered back.
This looked like the Greatest Generation at play. Here, in a man’s playground, partisan differences counted for nothing. Money and influence was what bought you a stake in the game. Democrats, liberals, Republicans, conservatives—all were equal on the golf course. That day, Pat learned firsthand how alike elites often were; how they shared a language and a macho camaraderie that outlasted whatever they might say in front of the camera. At one point, Nixon took a break from demolishing the tee to relieve himself in the bushes. Buchanan joined him. The two men stood side by side peeing into the grass; the caddy from Georgetown and the Vice President from Yorba Linda. Neither knew how close they were destined to become.42
Copyright © 2012 by Timothy Stanley
Excerpted from The Crusader by Timothy Stanley Copyright © 2012 by Timothy Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Timothy Stanley is a historian of the United States at Oxford University. He blogs on American politics for the London Daily Telegraph and has written for The Atlantic, Dissent, and National Review.
Timothy Stanley is a historian of the United States at Oxford University. He blogs on American politics for the London Daily Telegraph and has written for The Atlantic, Dissent, and National Review. He is co-author of The End of Politics: Triangulation, Realignment, and the Battle for the Center Ground and co-editor of Making Change Happen: Twentieth Century Liberal Reformism in America.
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