Who does Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan want you to vote for? Pat Buchanan, of course. But since Buchanan isn’t running in today’s New Hampshire primary, his Web site has instructed the faithful to cast a tactical vote for George W. Bush, son of the man Buchanan scorned as “King George” during his 1992 bid for the Republican nomination. (That was the year Buchanan won the expectations game in New Hampshire by getting 37 percent against Bush père. Click here to read Chatterbox’s seminal Buchanan profile last fall in George.) A vote for Bush fils is good for Buchanan, the Web site said, because George W.’s internationalism will make him an excellent foil for Reform Party candidate Buchanan in the fall.
Interestingly, the advice doesn’t come from Buchanan himself, who in presidential off-years makes his living as a political columnist. It comes from Scott McConnell, a former editorial-page editor of the New York Post (he succeeded the late Eric Breindel). McConnell is now a “senior policy adviser” (i.e., speechwriter; yes, Buchanan has one) to the Buchanan campaign, and for the last several months he’s been writing a not-quite-daily column on the columnist-turned-political candidate’s campaign Web site. McConnell seems to be a kind of ideological food-taster for Buchanan; he will chew publicly on this or that topic, and if he doesn’t upset the body politic (thus far he doesn’t seem to have), his opinions can safely be presented as those of the candidate. “I try to write things that he wouldn’t disagree with,” McConnell told Chatterbox, though he confessed that in his dispatches from riot-torn Seattle during the World Trade Organization meeting (click here and here and here), “I allowed myself more enthusiasm for the protesters than he did.” McConnell seems to have a little more leeway to make outrageous statements than Buchanan has. For instance, he recently posted an indignant column about John Rocker and the “thought police” that would probably have raised a few eyebrows had it been written by Buchanan himself. (Rocker, McConnell wrote, shouldn’t be subjected to Soviet-style re-education for having “let loose a bunch of over-the-top vulgarisms of the sort that can be heard regularly in any bar in America. Apparently in today’s United States, this is a thought crime, or a speech crime or something.”)
Interestingly, McConnell’s tactical endorsement of George W. in New Hampshire disappeared from the Buchanan home page this afternoon, and doesn’t appear to have been archived. (You can still read it, though, by clicking here.) McConnell said there’s nothing fishy about this; only about one-third of his postings get archived on the site, he said. He insisted that he was not instructed by Buchanan or anyone else in the campaign to spike the endorsement. “It wasn’t, obviously, any campaign official statement,” McConnell told Chatterbox. (Then what was it doing on the campaign’s official site?) McConnell explained that he had the W. endorsement taken down because “it was really written kind of hastily.” He added: “I’m not sure it was a good idea for me to post it. … Nobody has told me that it wasn’t a good idea, but I have my own doubts about that.”