March 7, 1996 in City

Arizona Sticks A Fork In Buchanan

David Leibowitz Cox News Service
 
Tags:column

The country will be rid of him soon, and for that congratulations are in order. He will not vanish without more verbal napalm, to be sure, but Pat Buchanan and his White House quest are done.

Cooked.

Toast.

The story of the Republican presidential campaign will metamorphose now, changing to a chronicle of the Buchanan slide. And Arizona has its moment in the national spotlight our state’s Republican leaders so crave.

How deliciously odd that it was Arizona to put the first nail in his coffin.

You never would have expected it, of course. Buchanan played this state’s nearly 1 million Republicans like a one-man band, pounding out a daily medley of his greatest hits. No backwater too small for a visit, no issue too insignificant to twist into something ugly. Pose after pose, costumes hewn from material and ideas.

There was Gila Bend, and a shouting match with a Hispanic man, a young fellow who dared mouth off about that fence Pat had planned for the Mexican border.

“This is my country,” Buchanan fired back. “And when I’m president, I’ll enforce its laws.”

In Camp Verde he railed against gun control, which he told the throng meant having “a steady aim.”

In the Valley we saw Buchanan the rabid pro-lifer, Buchanan the Endangered Species Act basher, and Buchanan the enemy of corporate greed. But mostly we just saw him and saw him and saw him. He was everywhere, a Buchanan buffet, and Arizonans seemed to down it in heaping gulps.

That figured, of course. We are a Republican bunch here, by a 3-to-2 margin, and a state with a hard-right bent. The electors of Evan Mecham, naysayers to Martin Luther King’s holiday, with a Republican governor, two Republican senators, a Republican congressional delegation and a Republican-tilted state Legislature. Buchanan had to know this state was ripe for the taking, that, after his New Hampshire win, momentum and the gene pool were on his side. So he wooed us, connived and cajoled, staked his lot to this state.

And he lost.

Not by much - and most likely not to the eventual Republican nominee - but it was surely enough to end this pathetic charade. Declining momentum and the East Coast primaries will make sure of that, but we were first.

Arizona saw through him, the code words and the hate, the racism and the fear. Our 39 presidential delegates will not go to a man who calls Adolf Hitler “a soldier’s soldier,” women “momma birds” who “build the nest,” and the Holocaust “group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics.”

No more fence between Arizona and Mexico. No more huge tariffs on Japan and China, taxes so big that retaliation against American exporters would have been certain.

And, best of all, no more Beltway insider masquerading as one of us, no more millionaire journalist playing the common man, no more D.C. native with a South American maid and stock in AT&T; pretending to be Joe Sixpack.

We saw through the garbage. It’s a fact that says something good about this state, and says something about the worth of our first-ever primary. And it forces me to admit something.

I was wrong.

I once planned to rail against our primary election and its $2.5 million cost, and against a party that would send its support Pat Buchanan’s way. I planned to tell you about last Tuesday’s 22-percent turnout, and dazzle you with some long division - the fact that last week’s primary cost the state’s taxpayers about 12 bucks a vote.

Instead, I’ll say only this on the subject.

It was worth every penny.

The right guy lost.

We are not some Left Coast New Hampshire, it turns out, small-minded and afraid, not some collection of 4 million crank cases. Arizona had its say in the Battle of Feb. 27th, and rapped the schoolyard bully squarely in the chops.

Good for us. You know what they say.

“Go, Pat, go.”

Far away.

xxxx

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