Pat Buchanan and me
Pat Buchanan doesn't know me from Adam. But very early in his career our professional paths crossed. Ever since, I have watched with fascination as he became a senior adviser to three Presidents, a Presidential candidate himself, a prominent author, editor and syndicated newspaper columnist, and a ubiquitous TV personality who pontificates on political affairs as a sort of high-brow Rush Limbaugh.
From 1963 through 1965, I was a Washington correspondent for the Newhouse newspaper chain, specializing in labor-management affairs and other social issues. One of the Newhouse papers was the now-defunct St.Louis Globe-Democrat. Shortly before I joined the Newhouse Washington Bureau, Pat Buchanan was hired by the Globe-Democrat as an editorial writer. He had just graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and was only 23. He was undoubtedly the nation's youngest editorial writer working for a major daily newspaper.
One of the major issues on my beat at that time was a bill being considered by Congress to amend the 1959 Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, also known as the Landrum-Griffin Act. The law imposed regulations on internal labor union affairs and other rules involving the relationship between unions and employers. The proposed amendment, which was eventually enacted in 1965, restricted union efforts to organize workers and to engage in political fund-raising.
The new Landrum-Griffin bill was highly controversial, and organized labor lobbied aggressively for its defeat. I wrote many articles about the bill. One was published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the more than dozen Newhouse newspapers, where it was obviously "sabotaged" by a union-member Linotype operator. The bill appeared in print as "Landrum-friggen."
Buchanan's paper, which was an arch-conservative publication, was strongly in favor of the proposed legislation. He wrote a string of editorials calling for its enactment. And all the while, he would periodically phone me in Washington, since I was responsible for covering the issue, to inquire about the progress of House and Senate committee hearings on the bill.
Buchanan and I developed a kind of telephone relationship, which I'm sure he has forgotten about. The only reason that I can remember it is because of his amazing career path after he quit the Globe-Democrat to work in the White House. I was highly impressed to watch him become a prominent figure in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and later a Presidential candidate himself.
Although he never did realize his Presidential aspirations, Buchanan is a hero for those whose political persuasion is to the extreme right. In 2000 he abandoned the Republican Party and ran for the Presidency on the Libertarian Party ticket. I think it is fair to say that he is now far removed from mainstream American conservatism.
Buchanan is now 68 years old. For me it has been interesting to observe how a guy I knew only as a youthful voice on the telephone so many decades ago has achieved enough importance to be a political hero for some people and a celebrated ideological ogre for others.