Candidate Buchanan's 'multi-cultural landfill' On Politics Today


December 18, 1991|By Jack W. Germond & Jules Witcover

Washington WHEN columnist and television commentator Patrick Buchanan declared his candidacy for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination in New Hampshire last week, most attention was drawn to his views on foreign policy.

While the Democratic challengers were focusing on President Bush's disinclination to address economic woes at home, Buchanan took dead aim on his espousal of a New World Order abroad.

Warning that the country "must not trade in our sovereignty for a cushioned seat at the head table of anybody's New World Order," he called "for a new patriotism, where Americans begin VTC to put the needs of Americans first . . ."

A few moments later, tucked into the announcement speech, was this sentence: "When we say we will put America first, we mean also that our Judeo-Christian values are going to be preserved, and our Western heritage is going to be handed down to future generations, and not dumped onto some landfill called multi-culturalism."

Buchanan has already faced criticism from William F. Buckley and other leading Republican conservatives suggesting that his outspoken views on the influence of the pro-Israel lobby before Congress amounts to anti-Semitism. Buchanan denied the charge and made a vigorous defense of his position recently on the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour.

Nevertheless, the anti-Semitism charge is likely to cling to him, but in the long run he may face a more difficult political situation coming out of his remark about "some landfill called multi-culturalism."

Buchanan is an advocate of a more restrictive immigration policy for non-Europeans, on grounds that they threaten to erode the essentially Western culture on which the country was founded. He drew attention to the point in an interview on the David Brinkley show when he observed: "I think God made all people good, but if we had to take a million immigrants in, say, Zulus next year or Englishmen, and put them in Virginia, what group would be easier to assimilate and would cause less problems for the people of Virginia? There is nothing wrong with us sitting down and arguing the issue that we are a European country, English-speaking country."

Asked about this remark on the MacNeil-Lehrer show, Buchanan argued that while God created "all men equal in their basic natural rights . . . He did not create them all equally assimilable in an English-speaking society which has . . . British institutions and has basically a Euro-American culture." American Indians still have not been assimilated, he noted, "whereas the Dutch who came over are totally assimilated." In light of ethnic tensions and rivalries, he went on, "I think when you decide on legal immigration that matters of culture, of language, or religion, of ethnicity have got to be taken into consideration . . . ."

Buchanan went on to cite incidents in New York City in which racial violence has erupted, arguing that "our institutions of assimilation -- public schools, churches, families and the rest -- are collapsing all around us at the same time there are flood tides of immigration into the country, and I think this contributes to some of the social problems we've got in America."

He discussed how difficult efforts have been to assimilate "10 or 12 percent of Americans who are African-Americans" and he disagreed with statehood for Puerto Rico, suggesting granting it would create "the same problem Canada has with Quebec . . . [which] now wants to go its separate way. All over the world ethnic identity is becoming more and more important. In Yugoslavia, Slovakia. We are not immune to that."

But whatever happened to the United States as a great melting pot? Buchanan seems to be arguing that the stew has to have a European flavor or the mix that is known as American will be contaminated. Not only is this a misreading of what this country is supposed to be about; it indicates a willingness to risk wholesale loss of Asian, Hispanic, black and other non-European ethnic voters with views that may seduce voters of European origin.

The use of the word "landfill" regarding multi-culturalism may only be another example of the noted Buchanan hyperbole. But there is an ugliness to it -- the suggestion that certain people are garbage -- that indicates Buchanan may not appreciate the difference between being a provocative columnist who likes to play with words and being a responsible candidate for the presidency.

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