Washington -- Pat Buchanan sent me a letter the other day. Nothing personal. It was a form letter, seeking funds to continue his campaign to get George Bush back on track. I looked at the letter for a while and sighed, and thought of Patsy Cline. Patsy was one of the all-time great country singers.
She often sang a ballad, ''Why Can't He Be You?'' She might have been singing to George about Pat. To paraphrase the song, Pat promises to take conservatives where they used to go. Pat gives them love ''I never get from you.'' Pat's love is true. Aw, George, why can't Pat be you-oo?
The thing is that over on the right side of the political spectrum, Pat Buchanan makes many hearts go pitty-pat. If only he were not quite so truculent! If only he had some of Mr. Bush's encompassing experience! Mr. Buchanan goes too far, but clearly he heads in the right direction.
The Buchanan letter dwells upon 10 points that most Americans support. This is Mr. Buchanan's Point No. 1: ''Phase out foreign aid. Americans will always be first at the scene to help the victims of natural disaster, from Kurdistan to Peru. But the steady siphoning of $300 million in foreign aid -- every single week -- from a depleted U.S. Treasury, by Third World and socialist regimes, must end. Charity begins at home.'' What's so terribly wrong with that?
Point No. 2 deals with trade: ''We will demand reciprocity. Nations that adopt a closed-door policy to America's exports should not expect an open-door policy to America's markets.''
''Defend America first,'' says Pat Buchanan. ''It is time that rich and prosperous allies, like Germany and Japan, start paying bills for their own defense.'' I say hooray for Point No. 3.
Point 4 deals with the kind of tax cuts that will spur investment and create jobs. Point 5 is a promise to veto tax increases if the Congress approves them. Point 6 pinches a painful nerve: ''Freeze federal spending. Under George Bush, social spending has soared faster than at any time in 60 years, and America has run the largest deficits in her history.''
Mr. Buchanan's Point 7 goes to the need to keep America strong, not only in national defense but also in industry, manufacturing and standard of living.
Point 8 should be quoted in full: ''Equal justice for all. If discrimination is wrong when practiced against black men and women, it is wrong when practiced against any man or woman. All quotas in federal agencies and programs will be abolished -- lTC and the ideas of excellence and merit will be restored.''
In Point 9, Mr. Buchanan comes out for limiting the terms of members of Congress. His final point deals with the pollution of our culture by the sex and violence that permeates our movies, television programs and magazines. His platform hits a lick in favor of a constitutional amendment ''to restore voluntary prayer in the public schools.'' Pat will lead a fight against abortion.
I have problems with some of this. Mr. Buchanan is right-to-life; I am pro-choice. He wants a constitutional amendment on school prayer; I won't tinker with the Constitution. He is upset about cultural pollution; so am I, but I would be awfully careful about infringing upon freedom of expression.
On matters of foreign aid and trade policy, Mr. Buchanan is quite sound. Though much foreign aid comes back in purchases of arms and agricultural commodities, much of it is no more than a costly habit. I don't read Mr. Buchanan's Point No. 2 as all-out protectionism; any such trade policy would be indescribably stupid. But Mr. Buchanan is plainly right in insisting that our principal trading partners abide by the fair-play rule of quid pro quo.
Freeze federal spending? Not all federal programs, certainly, could be frozen, but hundreds of outlays, large and small, could be kept at current levels. Mr. Buchanan is not asking any more of the Congress than millions of American families ask of themselves. Hold the line! Learn to say no! The bloated budget for agriculture surely could be kept in line. Space exploration can wait. Increases for energy, environment and research do not have to be granted.
George Bush can't be made over into a friendlier Pat Buchanan. The president is no slugger, nor was meant to be, but his re-election hinges upon convincing disillusioned conservatives and independents that he loves us too. Bill Clinton is waiting upon the doorstep, and he has flowers in his arms.
James J. Kilpatrick is a syndicated columnist.
George Bush can't be made into a friendlier Pat Buchanan. No slugger, he still must win over frustrated conservatives.