Concord, N.H. PATRICK J. BUCHANAN as a news commentator has never been one to call a spade a dirt-digging device, and his declaration of candidacy for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination here Tuesday indicates he doesn't intend to start now.
Taking dead aim on President Bush's focus on foreign policy as well as accusing him of a lack of focus on domestic affairs, Buchanan made clear in the most direct terms he will go after Bush's strengths as well as his weaknesses.
Buchanan's call for "a new patriotism where Americans begin to put the needs of Americans first," and "a new nationalism" of hardball trading and other negotiations abroad, is the most pointed attack yet launched by any challenger, Democratic or Republican, on Bush's concept of the United States as the lead partner in a "new world order."
A conservative who originally opposed Bush's use of force in the Persian Gulf but backed American troops once committed, Buchanan is anchoring his candidacy in the growing view among many right-wingers that the United States has overcommitted itself abroad while neglecting domestic needs.
Bush, Buchanan said, "is a globalist and we are nationalists. He believes in some Pax Universalis; we believe in the old Republic. He would put America's wealth and power at the service of some vague 'new world order'; we put America first."
In so doing, Buchanan said, he would continue true disaster assistance but otherwise "phase out foreign aid and start looking out for the forgotten Americans right here in the United States."
In rhetoric familiar to his wide television audience, he declared "it is time to end these routinized annual transfers of our national wealth to global bureaucrats who ship it off to regimes who pay us back in compound ingratitude."
Buchanan also said he would demand that the Europeans and Japanese pay for their own defense and served notice he would take on the challenges to American economic dominance in the 20th century by the new European Community and Japan. Regarding the EC, he said, "we must not trade our sovereignty for a cushioned seat at the head table of anyone's new world order."
Buchanan's emphasis on foreign policy here was somewhat of a surprise in that most unhappiness with Bush in New Hampshire has centered on the state's dismal economy and the president's disinclination to take any remedial action now. Buchanan merely chided Bush for going back on his no-new-taxes pledge and entering "a seedy back-room budget deal" with the Democrats in Congress.
In his only reference to this state's economic plight, Buchanan asked: "What is the White House answer to the recession caused by its own breach of faith? It is to deny we even have a recesssion. Well, let them come to New Hampshire."
Buchanan has made it clear that his chances for success rest largely here in the New Hampshire primary, where two Democratic presidencies -- of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson -- were put on the skids with strong showings by then Sens. Estes Kefauver in 1952 and Eugene McCarthy in 1968. He says that while it would be most difficult to beat Bush outright at the GOP convention, by showing his weakness in the Feb. 18 primary and later tests, he might be able to force him out of the race, as happened with Truman and Johnson.
Buchanan says, however, that he is well aware of Bush's political tenacity and the odds against him ever throwing in the sponge. In any event, he says, his own strong belief that Bush has "walked away" from conservative principles dictates his challenge to the incumbent.
Although Buchanan has a reputation as a political street fighter, he makes clear he respects and likes Bush as an individual. The other night, he recalled fondly to reporters how, when he and his wife moved into Bush's Washington neighborhood in 1974, Bush showed up on his doorstep with a welcoming bottle of champagne.
"This race will not be about personality and this campaign will not get into personalities," Buchanan said in concluding his speech. "George Bush served bravely in America's great war; he is a man of graciousness, honor and integrity, who has given half a lifetime to his nation's service. But the differences between us are now too deep. He is yesterday and we are tomorrow."