Stanley Fish Misses Pat Buchanan…so do I.
It has been a long time since I heard the stinging commentary of Patrick J. Buchanan. His vicious, but classy observations about the political scene was rare. Buchanan was a protectionist. I have little sympathy for protectionism. But Buchanan taught me– more so than most political commentators– to develop a healthy distaste for government action…especially abroad. Pat knew that the republic was in danger. Our foreign wars are fought with brave troops, but with cowardly politicians behind the scene. Buchanan’s vivid denunciations of the Iraq war still remain as an accurate assessment of a war we continue to pay. I will miss Patrick Buchanan’s back and forth with liberal queen, Rachel Maddow. Maddow rarely knew how to respond to Buchanan’s wit. Fox News, or anyone else, will be highly esteemed in my eyes if they take Buchanan. Let the bidding begin.
My own disappointment at Buchanan’s departure goes in another direction — in fact in two. First, Buchanan is an extraordinarily acute observer of the political scene. His knowledge of past campaigns — including knowledge of what went on behind the scenes — is encyclopedic. No one is more skilled at contextualizing a present moment in our political drama so that viewers can understand the history informing a decision or action that appears on its surface to be inexplicable, even zany. When Buchanan offers that kind of analysis, his pugnacious junkyard-dog persona falls away and is replaced by a precision that is almost professorial. It is a pleasure to watch, just as it is a pleasure to watch some coaches-turned-analyst who can explain what is going on in an athletic contest because they have been there.
Buchanan has also been there. That is the second thing I will miss: the contributions of someone who is not only reporting on history in the making, but has been part of that history himself. On “Morning Joe” and “Hardball With Chris Matthews” fellow broadcasters would regularly turn to Buchanan for insights that could come only from someone who has been in the arena and experienced the ups and downs of the election year roller coaster. What other regularly appearing political commentator has won four primaries, scared the daylights out of a sitting president and represented an entire wing of a major party? It is as if Barry Goldwater or Eugene McCarthy or George Wallace or Estes Kefauver were turning up nightly to offer their takes on the current presidential race. Those four have departed this life, but Buchanan has not, and it is a pity that MSNBC has decided to deprive its viewers not only of a dissenting voice but of a voice that has in its time stirred millions.