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Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 1999 /21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Pat Buchanan,
kamikaze candidate -- PAT BUCHANAN is a World War II kamikaze pilot. He sits in the cockpit of his Zero, his white scarf tucked into his jacket, his beloved sister Bay tightening the last screw to his canopy.

His dreams now are of the high-in-the-water Republican battle cruiser that looms as both his target and his deliverance.

Yes, it is the GOP that Buchanan, this "divine wind" of the century's last election campaign, threatens with demolition. It is the party he served thrice (under Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew and Ronald Reagan) and has now thrice rejected him that this fiery fighter wants to explode with the same sacrificial genius as a kamikaze diving into a destroyer's smokestack.

As Pat will soon prove, the execution of this feat will be not nearly as difficult as its imagining. With Reform Party ideologue and 1996 VP nominee Pat Choate as his navigator, his hijacking of the third party's nomination should be a matter of reciting the Ross Perot rant -- attacking NAFTA every other paragraph is the gist of it -- while keeping a lid on the anti-abortion talk that so rankles the party's libertarian ranks, the hands-off-Hitler talk that rankles practically everyone.

The mere prospect of winning the Reform nomination should bring Buchanan additional publicity, driving his support beyond double digits. Duking it out with Donald Trump should deliver enough bonus points to carry him into the mid-teen level.

By next August, armed with the Reform Party candidacy, plus the outward backing of Perot, Pat can make a legitimate claim to a seat at the fall presidential debates.

What comes next is the stuff that political dreams -- or nightmares -- are made of. A pair of the contestants will arrive with their heads packed with things to say, things not to say. Gore, if he is the Democrat, will need to separate himself from Clinton firmly but also daintily. Bush, if he is the Republican, will have to tie himself to the old man's heroic war record in the South Pacific and Persian Gulf but not his flat-liner economic record of 1991 and 1992.

Buchanan, operating as the "divine wind," will have free run of the place. Where others must mix offense with defense, he will be in attack mode the full 90 minutes. Where the two others will speak in the dull, nimble notations of political correctness, he can zoom and thunder.

Worried about "American boys" fighting wars in places whose names we can't pronounce? Angry about "come right in!" immigration policies? About Goldman Sachs calling the shots on money policy, about the Rubin-Barshefsky trade policy? About the "cross-dressing" bunch crowding you off the sidewalk, penetrating your kid's school?

And when the debates are through, and the kamikaze has done his damage, the Reform Party's most celebrated prisoners-of-war will be those Reagan-loving, Clinton-hating, gut conservatives whom the Republicans had counted all these months as their 2000 margin of victory.

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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