Commentator, journalist, and presidential candidate Patrick Joseph Buchanan (born 1938) represented the hard-line conservative wing of the Republican Party.
Patrick Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C., on November 2, 1938. His father, William Baldwin Buchanan, was a partner in a Washington, D.C., accounting firm. His mother, Catherine Elizabeth (Crum) Buchanan, was a nurse, an active mother, and a homemaker.
Buchanan traced his father's family as coming from Scotland and Ireland and settling in the southern region of America in the late 1700s. He related how some of his ancestors fought for the Confederacy, while another family branch lived in the North. His mother's side of the family were of German immigrant heritage and had settled in the Midwest.
Buchanan grew up in an energetic household. He was the third of nine children. He had six brothers and two sisters. He learned his combatative personality from his father. The elder Buchanan encouraged good manners, debates, sibling rivalries, and fisticuffs.
As did all his siblings, he attended a local Catholic elementary school. He went on to Jesuit-run Gonzaga High School, following in the steps of his father and brothers. Deciding to stay in Washington and to continue at a Catholic school, he enrolled in Georgetown University in 1956 on a scholarship. While there, Buchanan majored in English, lived at home, and had an active social life. He joined intramural boxing and tore the cartilage in his knee during a fight. The damage was later to keep him out of military service.
In his senior year he received a traffic violation. Believing that his ticket was wrongfully given, he verbally and physically assaulted the police. He was arrested, fined, and had a minor police record. The incident had a marked effect on his life. The university suspended him for a year. During that period he learned accounting and took a serious look at his future. He decided on a career in journalism and returned to complete his undergraduate education with a more mature attitude. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, in 1961.
Buchanan entered the journalism school at Columbia University with a fellowship. He enjoyed writing, but disliked studying the technical side of newspaper publishing. He earned his Master of Science degree in 1962.
The future media personality began his career as a reporter with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He quickly became an editorial writer for this conservative Midwest newspaper. He was appointed the paper's assistant editorial editor in 1964. Thinking it would be years before he could become an editor, and wanting some challenges in his life, he thought about a new career direction.
In 1966 he arranged a meeting with Richard Nixon, whom he impressed with his conservative outlook and aggressive political style. Nixon hired him as an assistant. At that time the former vice-president (1953-1961) was a partner in a New York City law firm, was involved in Republican Party activities, and was anticipating a run for the 1968 presidential nomination. Buchanan assisted Nixon on his speeches, newspaper articles, study tours, and campaign.
Following Nixon's 1968 election, Buchanan joined the new presidential administration as a special assistant. He wrote speeches for Nixon and for Vice President Spiro Agnew. He helped plan strategies for the 1972 reelection campaign. During this time he met Shelly Ann Scarney, who was a receptionist at the White House. They married in 1971.
In 1973 Buchanan was appointed a special consultant to President Nixon. He devoted his attention to the Watergate crisis, which revolved around political sabotage in the 1972 presidential campaign. He testified before the Senate Watergate Committee later that year. Although he was not accused of any wrongdoing by the committee members, Buchanan denied suggesting or using any illegal or unethical tactics.
After Nixon's resignation from office in August 1974, Buchanan stayed on for several months as an adviser to President Gerald Ford. Buchanan then left the White House and became a syndicated columnist and lecturer. He later worked as a radio and television commentator on political and social issues. With his style and viewpoints, he became nationally known as a spokesman for a right-wing conservative philosophy.
He returned to the White House in 1985 as director of communications at the start of President Ronald Reagan's second term. His sister, Angela Marie Buchanan-Jackson, had served as treasurer of the United States in Reagan's first term. Buchanan took a major loss of income in his switch back to public service. He stayed only two years, then went back to broadcasting, writing, and lecturing.
In 1992 Buchanan declared his candidacy for the Republican Party presidential nomination. His campaign against President George Bush, who sought reelection, was designed to position himself as an "outsider" and to promote a strong conservative program. He ran with an "American First" theme, arguing that the country should limit its obligations abroad in the post-Cold War decade.
Buchanan attracted attention from a public facing an economic recession, lay-offs of workers, depressed real estate values, increased taxes, and general frustration with government. He spoke against abortion on demand, homosexual rights, women in combat, pornography, racial quotas, free trade, and an activist U.S. Supreme Court. He spoke for aid to religious schools, prayer in public schools, and curbs on illegal immigrants. Buchanan called his political beliefs "street corner" conservatism, which he learned at the dinner table, soaked up in parochial schools, and picked up on the street corners of his youth.
In the early 1992 New Hampshire primary he won 37 percent of the votes. That was his highest percentage of support. The figure dropped in each succeeding primary. In some primaries where Republican voters could vote uncommitted, "uncommitted" finished ahead of Buchanan. He found it difficult to maintain a campaign organization and to raise funds, but he pressed on through the spring and summer.
Buchanan vied for the White House a second time in 1995, basing his campaign on conservatism. However, he lost once again. Buchanan also founded and directs The American Cause, an educational foundation that emphasizes his political beliefs.
Further Reading on Patrick Joseph Buchanan
Buchanan has written a lively autobiography, Right from the Beginning (1988), which describes the life and times of growing up in Washington, D.C., and attending Catholic schools in the mid-to-late 20th century. His conservative call to arms is colorfully written in his book Conservative Votes, Liberal Victories: Why the Right Has Failed (1975). The 1992 election campaign can be reviewed in the 1992 Congressional Quarterly weekly reports. Many facts about Buchanan can be obtained from his Web site entitled "The Buchanan Brigade" available at < http://www.buchanan.org>.