One of the more infamous moments of recent presidential conventions occurred at the Republican gathering in Houston in 1992, when commentator Patrick Buchanan, who had unsuccessfully challenged President George H.W. Bush in the GOP primaries, took to the stage in prime time and delivered a thunderous address declaring the United States was in the midst of a "cultural war." He was in full firebrand:
Friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so to the Buchanan Brigades out there, we have to come home and stand beside George Bush.
The electrifying speech was a sensation...for the right. Many political commentators, though, considered it weighty baggage for the Bush-Quayle ticket, hurting Bush with moderate voters. Molly Ivins quipped, the speech "probably sounded better in the original German."
So with the Republican Party now skewed far to the right, is the hero of its culture-war troopers present in Tampa to rally once again the true believers? No, Pat Buchanan, who was recently dropped by MSNBC, is skipping the festivities. He is, instead, at the Delaware shore, toiling away on his latest book, according to his sister, Bay Buchanan, a prominent emissary to social conservatives for Mitt Romney.
Buchanan's new work is on Richard Nixon, his one-time boss. And it could be a doozy of a book, for Buchanan has a trove of insider stories about the Old Man. Buchanan, who has hailed Nixon as a brilliant fellow, witnessed Nixon at his best and his worst, and, back in the day, Buchanan was always eager to suggest or implement political war plans for the Nixon White White. If he can produce a book that honestly confronts Nixon's dark side, Buchanan might do a service for history. And he may be helping Romney by steering clear of Tampa.