Day of Rubbish


NOTE: A truism holds that some reviews tell you more about the reviewer than the material being reviewed. I’m sad to admit, this may be true of this article, and perhaps all my criticisms of Pat Buchanan’s works while I was Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine. In addition to believing the Bush administration about the Middle East, I was formulating or writing my Master’s thesis about ethnocentrism during this time. When I picked up Day of Reckoning, I came in looking for racial and conspiratorial “heresy” and, unsurprisingly, found that which I sought out. But my review hardly engages with the substance of his book, which contains a number of truths still ignored by the conservative movement and the GOP at large. Pre-emptive war is a new policy for the United States. Our armed forces are, indeed, overextended. Despite my criticisms, Pat makes clear in his introduction both that American blacks and whites long shared a “cultural unity” that strengthened our country and that his true enemy is the rise of “identity politics” that divide us, in Teddy Roosevelt’s words, into “a tangle of squabbling ethnicities.” Moreover, Pat acknowledges, “Wherever Islam rubs up against other civilizations, there is violence.” Pat Buchanan has been a prophetic voice for life, family, and the conservative movement for decades, and many of his insights — including some in this book — were prescient. There are other items I’ve written in this review that I would revisit six years later, as well. Both his writing and my level of intellectual engagement deserved better than this. — BJ.


In the process of writing his new book, Day of Reckoning, Pat Buchanan has accomplished something more significant than in his previous mediocre tomes: he hasproduced the most widely circulated racialist tract currently available at mainstream bookstores.

What is remarkable about this work is not Buchanan’s much-reported assertion that America is “committing suicide” and her “survival as one nation through midcentury is improbable – and impossible if America continues on her current course.”[i] Such sentiments have adorned sandwich-boards from time immemorial. What is remarkable is how – in addition to losing his moral focus since the end of the Cold War – Pat defines this national “suicide” in such overtly racial terms while spinning elaborate conspiracies out of possibly non-existent threats.

The thesis of Buchanan’s new book seems to be: We have nothing to fear but blacks and black helicopters.

Pat the Segregationist

The book’s omnipresent focus on “race and ethnicity” is most clearly expressed early in chapter six, “Deconstructing America.” Buchanan laments, “America and Britain have embraced ideas about the innate equality…and about the mixing of all tribes, races, and peoples, that are not only ahistorical, they are suicidal for America and the West.”[ii] (Emphasis added.) To be clear where he stands, he continues: “[W]e are not the same people we were in 1957…we now reject as repellent and ethnocentric that the British [N.B.: Not the British culture – BJ.] who founded our republic and created the British Empire were not only unique but superior to other peoples and civilizations.”[iii] (Emphases added.)

The focus is made sharper as Pat opens the chapter by contrasting two visits Queen Elizabeth II made to Jamestown fifty years apart: the first, in 1957, had been (in the words of an AP story he quotes favorably), “an all-white affair in a state whose government was in open defiance of a 1954 Supreme Court order to desegregate public schools.” In her return five decades later, the queen saluted her more diverse surroundings. “But,” writes Pat,” the most recent reminder of diversity in Virginia, to which the queen alluded, was the massacre of thirty-two students and teachers at Virginia Tech by an immigrant madman.”[iv] Actually, the most recent reminder of racial diversity came this week, when black Omaha police chief Thomas Warren promptly dispatched his entire police squad to save a mall full of white people from Caucasian madman Robert A. Hawkins. Even in the Virginia Tech tragedy, Pat could have noted the heroic actions of another immigrant, 76-year-old Liviu Librescu, who gave his life to save a classroom full of native-born American students. But that would not forward Pat’s longstanding narrative that judicial activism began with Brown v. the Board of Education.

Instead, Pitchfork Pat seems to exhort his fellow Americans to “be proud of what Jamestown was in 1607”[v]: when Africans “were segregated for a century” and whites “drove the pagan Indians westward.”[vi] He worries about “the real revolution that occurred” between Presidents Eisenhower and Bush II, one in which “[n]o longer does Richmond proudly call herself the Capital of the Confederacy,” “[t]he Confederate flag flies nowhere,” and black sports stars have statues alongside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.[vii] America became great, he surmises, “because [its founders] rejected diversity, equality, and democracy.”[viii] These stout Jamestown settlers fought minorities “with cannon, musket and sword. This was our land, not anybody’s else’s.”[ix] (Emphasis in original.) How things have changed. Californian “Anglos [are] headed back over the mountains whence their fathers came,”[x] and “White folks are now a minority in Texas and New Mexico.”[xi] “Our population is down to 67 percent European, and falling,”[xii] he writes.

His openly tribal appeal becomes yet cruder. Pat notes that America was once united “of common blood,”[xiii] and throughout the book, he begins his litany of problems leading America to “suicide” by listing “issues of race [and] ethnicity” – or, even more chilling, “blood and soil”[xiv] – showing his consistent priority. Openly deriding “an unattainable equality of all races and ethnic groups,”[xv] he opines America is committing suicide:

Every way a nation can.

The American majority is not reproducing itself. Its birthrate has been below replacement level for decades. Forty-five million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade, as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see.[xvi]

Lest anyone miss his intent, he targets not just the foreign-born. In his telling, the United States faces a simple problem: minorities are stupid, violent, lazy, and they’re having sex.

He mourns that fact that “[h]alf the children five and younger today are minority children.”[xvii] After relating the high incarceration rate of African-Americans and the low graduation rates of blacks and Hispanics, he notes:

by 2050 the number of African Americans and Hispanics will have almost doubled…[T]hese burgeoning scores of millions will not long accept second-class accommodations in the affluent society, where they are the emerging majority. The long hot summers of yesterday may be returning.[xviii]

More ominously, “a renewal of race conflict be dismissed.”[xix] This has been Buchanan’s consistent, ahistorical position for at least 36 years. In a 1971 memo to President Nixon, Pat penned, “it seems to me that a lot of what we are doing in terms of integration of blacks and whites…is less likely to result in accommodation than it is in perpetual friction, as the incapable are played [sic] consciously by government side by side with the capable.” No wonder Nixon once responded, “No good politics in PB’s extreme view: segregation forever.” As if growing self-conscious of his extremist rhetoric, Buchanan pivots, “This writer stood on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, a few feet away from Dr. King in 1963, when he declared, ‘I have a dream.’”[xx] But more than a decade after that speech, Buchanan had a dream of electing Ronald Reagan on a third party ticket – as George Wallace’s vice president.

These words alone force some to ask how he has managed to remain a “conservative” commentator on MSNBC, or promoted this book on other networks without having to explain his racialist positions. If he appears anywhere as a commentator, it should only be in full Klan regalia.

Unfortunately, his racialist, revisionist, and sometimes self-contradictory historical overview is only beginning.

Pat the Revisionist

Although black slaves were the victim, Buchanan blames them for the outbreak of the Civil War. “[R]acial diversity was behind the bloodiest war in U.S. history [the Civil War] and has been the most polarizing issue among us ever since.”[xxi] Yet just pages earlier, Pat wrote the Civil War was not about slavery: “The Union was the cause for which the Union fought…the Civil War was not fought for racial equality.”[xxii] And Confederates were fighters for “Southern independence” who were “accountable to their people.”[xxiii] Some of them.

Although Pat likens the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, to King George III[xxiv] and quotes with approval an author who proclaims the Gettysburg Address “the foundation for empire,”[xxv] Buchanan dismisses the threat posed by Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Tojo during the 1930s, because “America was free.”[xxvi] He then places Hitler on the side of the angels in Munich, saying he freed three million Germans from “alien rule,” and “self-determination” is “what Munich was all about.”[xxvii]

On the other hand, “In the Pacific, it was a war of race and revenge.”[xxviii] “America did not go to war against Japan because she was fascist, but because Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor”[xxix] However, Buchanan has written repeatedly that “FDR…sought war with Japan, as a back door to war with Nazi Germany.” Which, to be fair, he did. Because Germany, Italy, and Japan were fascist. He recognized the growing threat and took a series of provocative measures to lead the American people to dispatch the growing threat of totalitarianism in Europe, all or most of which Buchanan has opposed: instating the peacetime draft, the Lend-Lease Act, escorting military shipments, etc.

The perpetual candidate for president also reimagines the ends of the Big One. He writes that WWII was not fought to democratize Germany and Japan – yet that was precisely the war’s outcome as a result of a deliberate policy of the United States following V-E and V-J Days. “World War II was a just war, but” Pat protesteth, “America fought it, as we have fought all our wars, for national, not ideological ends.”[xxx] As noted, he appears not to believe this, as he hints FDR got us into a war for his own ideological ends – and, historians speculate, he would have involved us in World War II even if Pearl Harbor had never occurred. More to the point, “national” and “ideological” factors overlap. Some ideologies by their nature threaten our national interests, whether racial chauvinism as in the case of Nazism, or Communism, or a move by religious fanatics to reestablish a lost Caliphate and subject the Dar al-Harb (the infidel world) to an extremist interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law.

Buchanan believes, “The great goal of World War II…was to smash and carve up Germany so she would never rise again.”[xxxi] Neither the Americans nor the British ever wished to divide Germany between a democratic capitalist West and a Communist East; the end was imposed upon them by Stalin’s intransigence, over Churchill’s objections, and upon the advice of Alger Hiss. Yet Pat clings to the National Alliance party line on the war.

Peacenik Pat of the Sixties

Although Pat has recast the threat of fascism for nearly a decade, the great disappointment of this book is that he is now turning his eye to the Cold War he helped fight. During the Cold War, Pat writes, “We put moral clarity on the shelf.”[xxxii] He demonstrates his own lack of moral clarity by making an invidious comparison between President Bush and Nikita Krushchev, writing, “Why should not others react with anger when we tell them we are good and they are evil and we will not rest until their children live in a society more like ours and less like theirs?”[xxxiii] That was precisely Ronald Reagan’s message, when he said the Soviet Union – and all adherents of Marxism – were headed for “the ash heap of history,” a statement Pat quotes on page 237. He also seems to consider the formation of NATO a mistake with which “an American tradition since 1778” – non-intervention in European affairs – “came to an end.”[xxxiv] This from the man who once longed for President Reagan to name him Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, although he had zero military experience or knowledge. Talk about “hubris.”

The new Buchanan goes to extraordinary lengths to condemn every action of the United States, leading him into surreal arguments. He belittles our pledge to defend Taiwan, although it is a traditional plank of Cold War conservatism to defend free nations in danger of being swallowed up by Communist tyrannies.[xxxv] He even criticizes the United States for meeting with the president of Estonia after he removed “the statue of a Russian soldier and the remains of fourteen Red Army veterans” from a central to a peripheral cemetery,[xxxvi] although Pat once said on Crossfire that Communism won’t be dead until they “go into Lenin’s tomb and dynamite the little dummy to kingdom come.” (Elsewhere, he excoriates President George W. Bush for making such ridiculous assertions as, “Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military – so that governments respond to the will of the people, and not the will of an elite”;[xxxvii] they guarantee religious liberty and recognize women’s rights;[xxxviii] and they recognize that “Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place,” a proposition Culture Warrior Pat dismisses as “transparently…untrue.”)[xxxix]

While he compares Vladimir Putin’s oppression of political dissidents to America’s treatment of Martha Stewart,[xl] he mocks a statement George W. Bush made during a trip to Latvia, where he said, “our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others.” Responds Pat, “Latvia, where Bush was speaking, had lost its liberty in 1940 and did not regain it until 1991. Was the United States less free in those years?”[xli] Between 1940-1991, the wealth and manpower of Latvia was converted by its Soviet oppressors into a perpetual war effort that threatened to annihilate every American man, woman, and child in a nuclear holocaust. Pat once called defanging this threat “the great fight of my life.” Now it seems to have been a peripheral concern.

Having turned all modern history on its head,[xlii] he proceeds to the current War on Terror. Like all leftists, Pat cites the editorial that appeared in France’s Le Monde proclaiming, “We Are All Americans.” This proves “[s]o long as we were fighting the terrorists of 9/11, the world was with us.”[xliii] But the same editorial concluded, “America gave birth to this devil,” we brought 9/11 on ourselves, and within a week, a Le Monde writer opined that 9/11 was an inside job. Yet the theme fits Pat’s beliefs, expressed in this and previous books, that the 9/11 hijackers “were over here, because we were over there.”

The problem, according to Pat, is that we are imperialists.

We Are All Imperialists

“The Islamic way of war in the modern era has been to let the imperial power invade and then use guerrilla warfare to bleed the occupier…It is how Iraqi Sunnis and Afghan Taliban fight America.”[xliv] America is thus an imperialist power, not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, where President Bush would have left the Taliban unmolested in 2001 if they would have relinquished Osama bin Laden.

“Our situation is unsustainable, and retreat inevitable.”[xlv] Pat’s solution? “If we wish to remove the conditions that caused 9/11, we must remove our forces from the Middle East.”[xlvi] Pat notes Osama “gave the stationing of U.S. troops on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia as a principal reason for his declaration of war.”[xlvii] The Saudi bases were but one reason to wage jihad against the Great Satan. The bases are now gone; is the jihad over? Pat acknowledges the “Islamic terror threat will be with us as long as we maintain a military presence in the Middle East – and perhaps beyond.” The first two lines of his book read: “Nations pay a severe price for lost wars. So the last century taught us.” Indeed, part of the cost is emboldening bin Laden – his 1996 fatwa (and subsequentfatwas) indicates our retreats in Vietnam, Beirut, and Somalia did – most supported by Mr. Buchanan. Iraq, he writes, “has gotten more Americans killed than died on 9/11 and served as the number one recruiting cause for Al Qaeda.”[xlviii] It has also gotten a great number more terroristskilled than died on 9/11 and served as the number one internment spot for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden has since declared Iraq his top priority in fighting the infidel, and regardless of whether one supported the initial invasion, all military experts agree a retreat that allows al-Qaeda to claim victory will supercharge its recruiting efforts and likely lead it to step up terrorist attacks in the West. Indeed, Pat’s analysis is already outdated; he writes one of the costs of invading Iraq is “[a]n Al Qaeda base camp and training site in Anbar for assassins and suicide bombers whose next targets will be friendly Arab nations and the United States itself.”[xlix] However, that base – and all al-Qaeda bases – have been swept out of Anbar by the Surge strategy he opposed, the most eloquent refutation of his every foreign policy view: those Buchanan supports support al-Qaeda and those he opposes kill al-Qaeda.

Pat, the Ayatollah’s Willing Subject

The Nixonian uses his mental agility to defend Muslim religious bigotry. “The secular Western idea…is punishable heresy in the Islamic world. Can not we Americans, who once called ourselves a Christian country, understand that?”[l] Lost on Buchanan is the fact that “Christian America” differed from the Taliban – our heritage includes figures like Roger Williams, the Touro Synagogue, the Danbury Baptists…or even his own beloved Confederacy’s Judah Benjamin. Again, Pat has a solution: “if we wish to live in peace with Muslims, we had best not use our First Amendment freedoms to insult their deepest beliefs.”[li]

Having affirmed self-censorship, Reagan’s communications director asks himself, “Does militant Islam pose a mortal threat to America? In a word, no”[lii] – although he wrote just pages earlier, “Pakistan is one bullet away from an Islamist state of 170 million with an atomic bomb.”[liii] But not to worry; even if terrorists acquire WMDs, “[t]hey cannot destroy us and they cannot conquer us.” Besides, Islamist regimes “have all proven incapable of making social and economic progress or of meeting the needs and demands of their people.”[liv] This was precisely the Left’s line on the Soviet empire; what threat could they pose to the United States when they could not even feed the peasants of Leningrad and Kiev? It never occurred to them the Kremlin had higher priorities than its people’s welfare. It has not occurred to Pat about Islamist regimes.

Indeed, in his proposal for “A Grand Bargain with Iran,” he channels the most naïve press releases of Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party in an Islamist direction. “What does Iran seek?” Buchanan asks. He’s certain Tehran seeks merely “her full rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which means Iran will not give up her right to process nuclear fuel and operate nuclear power plants.” She also wants “an end to sanctions…to be treated with respect” and “a return of the billions the shah gave us for weapons that we did not deliver”! Of course, breaking the caps on our agreement to allow North Korea the “respect” to develop “nuclear power” was Pyongyang’s path to nuclear weapons – even as the “hermit kingdom” was the most isolated nation in the world and the object of worldwide economic sanctions. But Iran’s becoming “the dominant power in the Persian Gulf…is a certain eventuality.”[lv]

Returning to form, Pat writes the only real Muslim threat comes if “we open our borders” to unrestricted Muslim immigration.[lvi] As long as America is a pure white nation, the world can rest in peace.

Surveying our fraying national unity, Buchanan vouches, “we no longer have a great danger or great cause to unite us, as in the world war or the Cold War.”[lvii] This is manifestly untrue. Pat has simply opted out of it, like Jimmy Carter and Al Gore before him, opting instead to write book-length press releases for the enemy.

However, he does believe we face non-ethnic crises. Ominous ones.

Pat the Bircher

Jimmy Carter wrote in his bestseller Our Endangered Values, “the greatest challenge we face [in this millennium] is the growing chasm between the rich and poor people on earth.” Al Gore told the international media, “on a long-term global basis, global warming is the most serious problem we are facing.” In his new book, Pat Buchanan also has a nominee for “Most Pressing International Problem Not Involving a Doomsday Device”: international conspirators. “The real threat to the liberty and sovereignty of the United States comes from another quarter: Washington, D.C.” You see, “Of all the potential commitments of the United States, the most perilous to its survival as an independent republic is the North American Union.”[lviii]

What is the North American Union (NAU)? The far-Right’s equivalent of global warming: an undocumented threat many experts insist is non-existent. Pat insists it is a plot of nameless “transnational elites who seek to erase our borders and merge America, Mexico, and Canada into a North American Union – the penultimate step toward a World Federation of Nations and Peoples,” a vital part of “the New World Order”; the NAU is also “treason.”[lix] The first step will be the six-lane “NAFTA superhighway” from Mexico to Canada that Ron Paul recently warned about.[lx] Worse yet, “Americans will never be permitted to vote” on the NAU, and “President Bush may not want the border secured because he wishes to see it erased one day.”[lxi] Pat ends by quoting a poem that lent its title to one of the most far-fetched John Bircher screeds of the Cold War: None Dare Call it Treason, by John R. Stormer.[lxii] Echoing Bircher propaganda, Buchanan asks:

Whence comes this compulsion for America to involve herself in every quarrel and every war on every continent? As it does not serve America’s interest, whose interest does it serve? Cui bono? Who benefits from all these commitments, all these wars?”[lxiii]

He never answers his question. But rest assured, they’re out there.

Pat the Broken Clock

Not everything Pat writes in Day of Reckoning is off-base; no one who spent as many years taking the pulse of the conservative movement could be without a few redeeming pages. Yet they grow fewer with each book, and the condemning majority grows ever heavier. To be fair:

  • Pat is right that elections in the Middle East have favored extremists,[lxiv] but he again ties this to the race and ethnicity. “The character of Islamic peoples…called authoritarians to power…the character of the people will recreate the institutions we have torn down.”[lxv]
  • He is right in chapter four, “Imperial Overreach,” that our “assets” and “liabilities” – our military strength and our military commitments – are out of whack but presents the wrong solution. It is increasingly apparent that the United States needs additional materials simply to meet the obligations we have already imposed upon ourselves
  • He’s right that the number of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, is higher than the majority desires, that assimilation has broken down and too few speak English.[lxvi] He’s not only right that our “leaders are terrified of charges of racism, and lack moral courage,”[lxvii] but that they falsely level such charges themselves against those who dare oppose blanket amnesty. But he’s ridiculously off base in saying “what is happening on our Mexican border is a graver threat to our survival than anything happening in Iraq.”[lxviii]
  • He is right that the Serbian bombing campaign was misguided,[lxix] though he doesn’t say we helped the enemy in the process: a fanatical Islamist organization affiliated with Iran.
  • He offers a worthwhile analysis of China’s threats to the West, and its intended use of its current trade deficit.[lxx] What is elusive, both to him and everyone else in D.C., is how to cage a billion-man nation enjoying double-digit economic growth.
  • He spends two pages discussing the impending bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare, though without endorsing a single remedy.[lxxi]

Pat the Heresy-Hunter

Pat is at his most awkward when he is echoing Bush’s agnostic and atheist critics on the Left, who ironically paint Bush as insufficiently orthodox in his Christianity. Bush dared to say those who kill the innocent to subject the world to totalitarianism are evil. Writes Pat, “This division of the world into good and evil, angels of light against the angels of darkness in a struggle for the future of mankind, in which on must triumph and the other be extinguished, is the essence of the Manichaean [sic] heresy of the third century.”[lxxii] No: the Manichean heresy taught that warring good and evil forces were equal: catholic Christianity taught that good, embodied in God, will always triumph and crush the evil. Pat Buchanan also writes the two forces are unequal, and he bets on the wrong side.

But as this book makes clear, Pat has expended enormous energy dividing the world into black and white.
[i] p. 8

[ii] p. 173

[iii] p. 174

[iv] pp. 169-170

[v] pp. 172-3

[vi] p. 171

[vii] p. 172

[viii] p. 173

[ix] p. 173

[x] p. 8

[xi] p. 9

[xii] p. 181

[xiii] pp. 179-180

[xiv] p. 187

[xv] p. 10

[xvi] p. 8

[xvii] p. 8

[xviii] p. 10

[xix] p. 166

[xx] p.9

[xxi] p. 183

[xxii] pp. 63-4

[xxiii] p. 102

[xxiv] p. 64

[xxv] p. 65

[xxvi] p. 90

[xxvii] p. 101

[xxviii] p. 68

[xxix] pp. 68-9

[xxx] p. 69

[xxxi] p. 70

[xxxii] p. 78

[xxxiii] p. 78

[xxxiv] p. 116

[xxxv] p. 118

[xxxvi] p. 123

[xxxvii] p. 81

[xxxviii] p. 82

[xxxix] p. 75

[xl] p. 124

[xli] p. 92

[xlii] Buchanan wrote in Right from the Beginning that while he would study history forever, he chose to read English in college, for fear he’d never get the chance again. The effects of choice are most conspicuous.

[xliii] p. 35

[xliv] p. 146

[xlv] p. 129

[xlvi] p. 97

[xlvii] p. 127

[xlviii] p. 102

[xlix] p. 249

[l] p. 76

[li] p. 77

[lii] p. 147

[liii] p. 138

[liv] p. 148

[lv] pp. 254-5

[lvi] p. 149

[lvii] p. 12

[lviii] p. 160

[lix] p. 11

[lx] p. 161

[lxi] pp. 161-2

[lxii] p. 163

[lxiii] p. 252

[lxiv] pp. 96-9

[lxv] p. 105

[lxvi] p. 9

[lxvii] p.11

[lxviii] p. 244

[lxix] p. 122

[lxx] pp. 149-55

[lxxi] pp. 239-240

[lxxii] p. 74

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine.

This article originally appeared on Friday, December 7, 2007, on FrontPage Magazine.