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Will Federal Campaign Dollars Help Pat Buchanan Rise in the Polls?

Aired September 12, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET


MARY MATALIN, CO-HOST: Tonight: His campaign is $12.6 million richer. Will it help him get more than 1 percent this the polls?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Mary Matalin. In the CROSSFIRE: Reform Party presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan.

MATALIN: Good evening and welcome to CROSSFIRE.

He's back -- again. Pat Buchanan won a five-to-one -- a Federal Election Commission vote today on the Reform Party's disputed 12.6 million federal campaign dollars. But Reform Party rival, John Hagelin, immediately vowed to appeal to federal court, which, at a minimum, might delay release of the money.

Meanwhile, Buchanan is appealing to the Michigan Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to get on the ballot there, one of many contested state ballots. Reform Party state-ballot battles are making election history. Buchanan got on the Iowa ballot when officials pulled his name in a glass-bowl lottery.

Hagelin was the winner in a Montana film-can drawing. In California, Buchanan was pulled off after complaints from party officials, and then put back on. In response to new polls showing him at 1 percent, the battling Buchanan says: Vote for Lazarus.

So tonight, Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party: He may again, but can he do it by election day? And did the nomination chaos blow up his November chances? And in the meantime, have Bush, Gore and Nader divvied up his voters?

Sitting in for Bill Press tonight, Washington editor of the "Nation" magazine and intellectual: David Corn.

DAVID CORN, GUEST HOST: Thanks, I'll take that as a compliment.

Pat, congratulations, you're on your way to picking up a check for $12.6 million. But you're at 1 percent in the polls. You're not likely to get into the debates. You're mired in legal wrangling across the nation. You're not on the ballot in some states like Michigan.

Is your chance of becoming president actually about zero? PAT BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Quite frankly, it's very small. There's no doubt about it. We didn't know with the surge, it would take us four weeks. We did not know we would have to go four weeks without any campaign funds. I think we would have been up in -- at least in high single-digits by now, and I think, arguably -- and we have a strong court case to get into the debates.

But let's talk about Michigan. That's an example of Republican sabotage.

CORN: What happened in Michigan is...

BUCHANAN: The secretary -- well, let me tell you this -- the secretary of state, Candice Miller -- also happens to be a co-chair of George Bush's campaign in Michigan. Reform Party is on the ballot in Michigan. She said: Well, I don't know which of the two candidates is the actual candidate.

So they are going to leave the ballot empty. That's the kind of campaign sabotage they pulled on John McCain in New York. And if the Bush campaign continues it, we will make this an issue of fairness and freedom to fight an open battle right in the state of Michigan. And let me tell you something. It will not be to the advantage of George W. Bush.

CORN: But how do you do that? You have $12 million, but a lot of that is going to legal fees. You have to run a campaign of your own. You have just two months left in this campaign.

BUCHANAN: I'll tell you how.

CORN: You're as low in the polls as one can be. I mean, this has gone beyond, you know, a quest -- a chaotic quest for you.

BUCHANAN: But look, the other two candidates are dead-even: 46- 46, or whatever it is. I'll tell you what we're going to do. You can spend a million or two dollars on radio, which is a dramatic buy in the country. You can buy ads on virtually all the television 11:00 news shows, except for the big cities like New York, which are free- media markets, anyhow.

And then I need only a half-million or a million dollars to go around this country, to go on every single show I can get on: radio and TV. Look, I was at 5 percent ten weeks before the New Hampshire primary, on CROSSFIRE, when I challenged George Bush. And we almost beat the president of the United States in New Hampshire. This country is ready to be ignited McCain did it.

There is the possibility. Now, I give it to you, if we had had 12 weeks, it would be better than we have eight weeks.

MATALIN: Pat, the very first thing I have to know. Executive producer Jen Block (ph) says for as long as she has known you -- it's been many, many years -- she has never seen you in earth tones. Say it ain't so! Naomi Wolf is not on your campaign, is she? BUCHANAN: No, I -- look, I would wear blue and gray suits, my -- the Al Haig specials from the Nixon days -- but I decided to get something different for the summer. And we never got a chance to wear them, because summer is gone. I think it looks pretty good.

MATALIN: Well, it's very, very becoming, and very hip these days, too.

Now, let me pick up where David left off. As good as you are at this earned media, this free media -- running out, getting it -- the other two candidates -- major-party candidates -- have already put out -- even before they started -- $60 million. How much are you money are you going to just have -- a couple million left -- to bust through this cacophony? How much money do you have to put into all these lawsuits all over the place?

BUCHANAN: Well, to be candid -- I mean, you don't have a chance of being competitive unless I get in the national debates. If I can get into all three debates and stand up on the state with George Bush and Al Gore, and the American people will say: Wait a minute. There are three candidates here.

I have a dramatically different message. There is a huge vacuum in politics left by the Republican Party's -- frankly -- run to the center and to the left, and imitating Clinton, even as they denounce his character. And that vacuum, I think, I can fill in national debates. If we don't get into the debates, it is very, very tough. You do the best you can, going on every television, radio show you can.

At the same time, husband your resources and spend them as best you can. But look, Bush has got $250 million soft and hard money. We have got $12.5 million. That's 5 percent of what he has. I know the odds. I've been in this business before.

MATALIN: Let me go to some -- back to this process distraction. In Michigan, you said there was a Bush conspiracy. It's not.


MATALIN: But let me -- you also said in the "New York Times" today, that you believe Ross Perot is behind these -- the saboteur effort to get you -- keep you off these ballots and use up whatever money you are going to get from the federal election -- from the federal government.

What's you -- I believe he is loony as a toon -- but what's your proof that he's behind this ballot -- effort to get you off these ballots?

BUCHANAN: The principal operative who is behind it, Russ Verney, works for Ross Perot. Mr. Mangia, who is the most hostile man in the party -- and who left the party in California -- said that we have big money is going to finance our lawsuits.

Look, when we go out to -- we went out to our convention, we found that, even before they arrived, they had rented the convention to which they were going to walk out to. And how do you get money for 25 lawsuits? Also, Mr. Hagelin apparently filed a letter -- or Mr. Perot filed a letter today -- saying John Hagelin represents the direction the party ought to go.

So it is no accident, comrade, that all these things are happening.

MATALIN: It's weird to hear you call anybody comrade.

Can I have one more quick follow-up on that?

BUCHANAN: My Russians friends used to tell me...

MATALIN: What is left of the Reform Party, though, between this ridiculous process to get on the ballot, getting kicked off the ballot, this physical process we saw in Long Beach?

BUCHANAN: See -- but this is what -- this is what you're missing. If you step back from it, we are on the -- or the Reform Party -- is on all 50 ballots. They are getting -- they are filing suit to get my name kicked off. We have the new party. It is built. It is up and operating. And we have got these people holding onto us, trying to drag us down, who simply want to destroy the party.

If we can get that money, get into this campaign, you will see an entirely new Reform Party. It is united. We have organizations in every state.

CORN: Big ifs.


CORN: They seem to be very big ifs, Pat.

Let's talk to one of the newest members of the Reform Party. Let's talk about Ezola Foster, your running mate.


CORN: A 62-year-old, retired high school teacher who taught typing.

BUCHANAN: No, no, no, she taught everything.

CORN: OK, well...

BUCHANAN: ... and they have to teach typing, as well as English and history and all these other subjects.

CORN: And a -- and a recent member of the John Birch Society, a group that is even to the right of Mary Matalin.

MATALIN: Not much.

CORN: And can you tell us -- can you tell us in all seriousness that she is ready, day one, to assume the office of the presidency if anything happen to you, if you manage to pull off the stunning...

BUCHANAN: Day one -- as I said, in day one, she's not ready to assume the office in terms of foreign policy. Neither is George Bush. He's being tutored and home-schooled now by a nice lady named Ms. Condoleezza Rice, as you know. He has got no experience in foreign policy. Nor does she.

I'll tell you what she does have. She has got moxie and courage. She was raised in segregated Louisiana -- segregated schools. She went down into Watts and taught for 30 years and fought for traditional values and right to life, and denounced all the Watts riots, and denounced all these -- what a friend of mine calls poverty pimps -- and said: Look, we have got to stand up. And black people have got to stand on their feet.

She has got wonderful values. OK, so went to some meetings of the John Birch Society in 1997. They were very nice to her. And she said: These are good folks. I'm just going to join this.

Do you really think that there's something -- there's something wrong with her because she joined that?

CORN: Well, yes I do, actually. I think the John Birch Society is way off the mark, from back in the days...

BUCHANAN: It's way off the mark from the "Nation" magazine.

CORN: ... back to days when they thought -- when they said Eisenhower was a communist dupe. But let's talk about something. Let's talk about something else.

BUCHANAN: Back in those days, the "Nation" magazine was soft on J.V. Stalin.

CORN: I wasn't in the "Nation" magazine in those days.


CORN: I wasn't even born in those days, Pat, so don't saddle me with that.


CORN: Let's talk about what she does.


CORN: And after you picked her, it came out in this news that she had filed for a working comp disability at her high school. And she cited mental health problems as the reason.

BUCHANAN: But she...

CORN: And she collected payments. And now she says there were no mental health problems at the time. So isn't she somewhat of a welfare cheat here? BUCHANAN: Well -- no. Look, I don't know the details of all this. But my understanding is, because she took various stands during the Rodney King Case -- saying, in effect, that -- no, I'm sorry, it was Simi Valley thing -- and the Simi Valley jury and all that thing, the Los Angeles riots -- she said: They're wrong.

And she said -- she took a hard stand and she was harassed for everything, I know. But look, that is irrelevant. Why don't we talk about...

CORN: Why is -- you're talking about the character of the people running for office.

BUCHANAN: I think she's got...

CORN: If she lied on a working comp claim and took taxpayer money, why is that irrelevant?

BUCHANAN: First, I don't know that that's true. Secondly, look, can we get away from "Trivial Pursuit" like "RATS" and all this nonsense? What do you think about the fact that the OPEC cartel has Europe paralyzed right now? It's a criminal conspiracy, which has jacked up the price of oil, which could cause an international crisis, and it shows the dark underside of globalization and dependence on foreign countries.

Isn't that as important as you guys running around for some claim in California?

CORN: Oh, it's as important, and it would be nice if you gave us a straight answer on both questions, not just one.

BUCHANAN: I don't know the details or facts of this thing. All I know is this is a good lady, very tough, very courageous, and very loyal to me.

MATALIN: And Pat, you're right about OPEC. You only left off the fact that this administration does not have, has not had an energy possible.

When we come back, perfect segue to talk about issues, which we will, with the Reform Party candidate, newly rich Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan. Stay with us.


CORN: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. I'm David Corn of "The Nation" magazine sitting in on the left.

He's back. After weeks off the campaign trail, Pat Buchanan is campaigning again, and today the Federal Election Commission voted to release $12.6 million to his campaign. But even with this money, is it too late for Buchanan, who is having trouble breaking the 1 percent mark in the polls?

In other words, where have all the pitchforks gone? A good question for our guest tonight, Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan -- Mary.

MATALIN: Pat, first little question. You know, we're in the era of "Oprah" and all. This is a serious question. Your friends want to know.

You had a double gallbladder operation. You've been out for a month. How are you feeling?

BUCHANAN: I'm feeling very well. We've had a couple of complications from the surgery and we lost some weight, but I think we're gaining back our strength and energy, and hopefully, we can give it everything we've got for these last eight weeks. I'm feeling much better today than I did a week ago.

MATALIN: So you're -- you think you have enough of the stamina to run a Pat Buchanan campaign, because you said earlier, this is dependent on you running around doing what your famous for, 400 interviews a day. That takes a lot.

BUCHANAN: It's not only interviews. I think I can do those. The question is, can you get up on a platform and move a crowd, which is a very athletic exercise once you get going and once you get a campaign going. And I think we'll be able to do that. We're going to try that next week and we're going to see.


MATALIN: I just want to say, listen to your wife on this, OK.


Let me move to Gore, who's been running against -- he's actually trying to tap into your voters with some success. He's running for the people, against the powerful; Jimmy Hoffa, Teamsters, had endorsed him. He seems to be getting some union support.

How is he getting the same populist voters that originally were Pat Buchanan's?

BUCHANAN: Well, the truth is Al Gore is a fraud. Al Gore betrayed those workers with NAFTA. He sold them out with GATT. He sold them out with his China trade deal.

Mary, he sat there in the White House and made phone call after phone call in some rotten boiler-room operation shaking down corporate fat cats, who admitted they were being shaken down: 50,000 a pop, bring them into the White House and collect all that money. I mean, this is preposterous.

There's no doubt he's using this rhetoric. I'm sure it's been poll-tested, focus grouped, and everything: "I'm for the people, not the powerful." But under Bill Clinton and Al Gore, the Democratic Party -- excuse me -- has become as much a captive of K Street and Wall Street and big corporations, I regret to say, as has the Republican establishment. CORN: There's been a lot of talk in this political campaign about religion. Should faith be part of it? Should politicians discuss their own faith?

BUCHANAN: Let me say this: I'm on Lieberman's side on this. If Joe Lieberman wants to get up in a synagogue or a church every single day and speak his faith and heart and mind, that is how he campaigns. Let the American people decide these things. We don't need all these kibitzers telling us how he ought to campaign.

My problem with Joe Lieberman is he's an Orthodox Jew, and he's -- they're tremendously conservative on social issues, and yet he votes for partial birth abortion, which even Pat Moynihan said is infanticide. That is a way of killing an unborn child I would not use on Ted Bundy or Gacy for the death penalty.

How Joe Lieberman reconciles that I don't know, but that's what he ought to answer to. But if he wants to speak about his faith, let him speak about it.

CORN: And should we be free to ask questions of the candidates about their faith?

BUCHANAN: You should be free to ask about my faith or his faith, especially if he brings it up and makes it an issue.

CORN: Let me ask you one question there.


CORN: Is there only one true religion, or do you think all the major religions have a claim to the truth?

BUCHANAN: I think all major religions have part of the truth, clearly. Some have more than others. I think there is basically one holy Roman Catholic Church, which has the, in regards to the true faith, has a monopoly on absolute truth. Yes, I believe that. Otherwise, I wouldn't belong to it. Otherwise, why should people die for it if it's not the true faith?

I think other people believe their faith is true. I happen to believe this is.

CORN: And what do you think about George W. Bush a few years back when he said that he thought only Christians get to go to heaven?

BUCHANAN: Well, that's not my faith. I believe you can -- you can...

CORN: Only...

BUCHANAN: I mean, look, what is -- as Christ himself said, "Greater love than he hath no man than he lay down his life for his friend." People do that in all cultures, give their lives to their friends. I think those people have an internal desire to know God and do right, and we call that in Catholic faith the baptism of desire. MATALIN: Pat, you've been running and following, observing politics forever and ever. Let me follow up on...

BUCHANAN: Forever. Almost as long as Novak.


MATALIN: Almost. You're the queen of darkness here.



What is it about -- how can Lieberman talk -- and I -- we all agree with this. It's been a long time. We've been trying to -- conservatives have been trying to bring faith into the public arena. Why can Lieberman do it and everyone says it's wonderful, and you can hear from David's question that when conservatives doing it, it's jamming it down everyone's throats.


CORN: ... say that, Mary.

BUCHANAN: Because there -- because there is liberal hypocrisy in the media and there is a liberal hostility to conservative and traditionalist faith, especially evangelical Protestants.

My problem with the Republicans, Mary, they let the Democrats say you can't use those wedge issues and they've walked away from some of the strongest issues they've got. I mean, look at the Democratic convention. They booed and insulted the Boy Scouts. Why? Because they hold to their traditional values they've held to for a hundred years. Republicans won't even talk about this issue. They're frightened to death of their own convictions and beliefs.

And that's -- you've got to admit, you go up to that convention in Philadelphia. Where have all the conservatives gone?

MATALIN: But Pat -- Pat, really, when Cheney was getting skewered and demonized, Bush -- I'm a conservative, he's a conservative, we're proud conservatives. Some elections you have to go where the ducks are, and where the ducks are now is they care about Medicare, Social Security, education, prescription drugs, tax cuts. I mean...

BUCHANAN: You know, look, Mary, let me tell you something. George Bush has got himself in a box. He is in a bidding war with Al Gore using the surplus dollars to try to buy votes.

We can't -- not we. I'm Reform, OK? Republicans can't win that battle. Ford tried it. Every time you've nominated a moderate Republican, except when you've got Ronald Reagan's record on the line in '88, they lose. You can't beat the Democrats at their own game.

CORN: So should Bush be pushing abortion issues and things like that, social conservative issues?

BUCHANAN: Bush should be, I believe -- look, I'm not going to tell him what to do. I know what I -- the kind of party I want to build.

CORN: Are you going to run on the abortion issue?

BUCHANAN: I'm going to speak out on right to life as long as I live. I will only appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and judges who will respect the religious tradition of this country. And frankly, the folks down there at those Southern football games that are standing up and defying the Supreme Court, I say God bless them.

CORN: A personal question...


CORN: ... as a leader of the anti-abortion crusade.

BUCHANAN: Right-to-life crusade.

CORN: Whatever you want to call it. Why is it that you've never adopted to set an example for others?

BUCHANAN: Well, we made a decision, my wife and I, when we were growing up, et cetera, and I discovered I'd had a heart murmur and things like that. And we decided it was too late to do that. That was a wrong (ph) decision we made. You're right to ask that, but it's a personal and private decision.

MATALIN: He is back. Bigger, stronger, more...

CORN: In earth tones. Don't forget the earth tones.

MATALIN: That's right. OK. With only the earth tones to belie his -- well, Pat, we wish you luck. We appreciate you coming here.

BUCHANAN: Thank you very much. Some luck, I'm sure.

MATALIN: Some luck. Not that much luck.

CORN: Luck, but no success, yes.

BUCHANAN: Why did they throw the second team at me here, huh?

CORN: Ah...


MATALIN: David and I, David, a first-team intellectual, and I will be right back with our closing comments on CROSSFIRE. Stay with us.


CORN: You know, Mary, last year I think Pat Buchanan decided to play a game. It's called "Who Wants to be a $12 Million Presidential Candidate?" With dollar signs and stars in his eyes, he left the party and he went to the Reform Party, and he was hoping that he would get the money and get the people.

But he has the money, we see this week, but he hasn't gotten the movement behind him. It has not materialized. There's no Buchanan brigades coming over the hills either aiming at George W. Bush or Al Gore.

Doesn't it kind of feel like he's on his last hurrah here?

MATALIN: Listen, there is no stars in the eyes of Pat Buchanan. For decades, he has been a realist. He said today vote for Lazarus. He knows what his chances are.

He's a man of incredibly deep convictions on the downside. He has no party. Getting the party nomination resulted in the blowing up of the party.

On the upside, there's nobody better in politics to go get earned media, and if he has the stamina, his health holds up, he -- I don't doubt that he'll get back up in the polls with your boy Nader.

CORN: He's at 1 percent, and we game him a lot of earned media tonight, didn't we?


From the left, sitting in for Bill Press, I'm David Corn. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

MATALIN: And from the right, I'm Mary Matalin. Join us tomorrow for more CROSSFIRE.



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