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An imprint of St. Martins Press.


Copyright 2012 by Timothy Stanley. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of

America. For information, address St. Martins Press, 175 Fift h Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.


Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Stanley, Timothy.
The crusader : the life and tumultuous times of Pat Buchanan / Timothy Stanley.1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978- 0-312-58174-9 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-4299-4128-0 (e-book)
1. Buchanan, Patrick J. (Patrick Joseph), 1938

2. United StatesPolitics and government20th

3. ConservatismUnited StatesHistory20th century.

Milhouse), 19141994Friends and associates.

5. Reagan, RonaldFriends and associates.

6. Political consultantsUnited StatesBiography.


4. Nixon, Richard M. (Richard

7. Presidential candidatesUnited States

8. JournalistsUnited StatesBiography.

I. Title.

E840.8.B83S73 2012


First Edition: February 2012



The Georgetown Gang

olitics is biography. Many conservatives became conservatives by

reading Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman at college. Not so Pat Buchanan.
He learned his philosophy at the dinner table and in the playground,
and he felt it before he defined it and could put a name to it.
Pats conservatism is full of the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C., in
the 1950s, where he grew up. Reading his memoir Right from the Beginning,
you can almost smell the incense and home cooking; almost hear the school
bell call the boys to prayer and the soft click-click-click of rosary beads as they
run through fingers at nighttime prayer. His was a nonpartisan, street-corner
conservatism. A conservatism that came, wrote Buchanan:
of absorbing the attitudes and values my mother learnt in a German
Catholic family of eight, which she left as a girl of seventeen to become a nurse in southeast Washington. It was the conservatism
that came from being raised alongside eight brothers and sisters by
a Scotch-Irish and Irish father, an Al Smith Democrat, whose trinity of political heroes consisted of Douglas MacArthur, General
Franco, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin they called Tail
Gunner Joe . . . Not until my twenties did I learn to conscript the
intellectual arguments of the sages to reinforce the embattled arguments of the heart. When a boy approaches manhood, he gives



or denies his assent to what he has learned in home and school and
church . . . To me the lessons of those years, however uncomplicatedly they were taught, retain the ring of truth.1
Patrick Joseph Buchanan was born into a family of Confederates, Catholics, and rascals on All Souls Day, November 2, 1938.2 His father, William
Baldwin Buchanan, was a successful accountant and his mother, Catherine
Elizabeth Crum, was a former nurse. They lived in Georgetown, a mixed German and Irish neighborhood, fanning out east and north from Georgetown
University and Holy Trinity Catholic parish. Pat had six brothers and two
sisters: William Baldwin Buchanan Jr. (born in 1936), Henry (Hank) Martin
(1937), Jimmy (1940), Kathleen Theresa (1941), Jonathan Edward (1947), Angela Marie (1948), Brian Damien (1950), and Thomas Matthew (1953). The
youngest girl, Angela Marie, was nicknamed Baythe boys gibberish version of baby.3 Pat was called Paddy Joe and was a troublemaker from birth.
When his older brothers were toddlers, on their knees at the foot of each cot
praying the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, baby Pat would
shout impatiently from his pen, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, amen! One night, the brothers had
enough of being upstaged. After lights out, Pop heard screams coming from
their bedroom. He ran upstairs and found Pat covered in milk and blood.
After he had interrupted his brothers prayers yet again, Hank had stolen Pats
glass milk bottle and smashed it over his head.4
Children in the 1940s and 1950s were expected to sustain a few cuts and
bruises. The Buchanan boys played at war in the streets and Pop put up a
punching bag in the basement. The boys hit the bag for four sessions each
week, 100 times with the left, 100 times with the right, and 200 times with the
old one-two. Pop also set up a boxing ring in the hope that one of the boys
would get into a fight with a neighbor and he could referee it. It was Hank, a
natural athlete, who delivered. One summers day, Pop Buchanan looked out
of the window and saw Hank being chased up the road by a bigger boy. Not
five minutes had passed before he had them both in the ring, the family gathered around, as he shouted Keep your right up! to his golden son. Hank was
doing badly until he delivered a hard right; his opponent cracked his head



against an exposed iron girder and his knees bent. Hank saw the opening and
thumped him to the floor. Satisfied, father declared a knockout. He proudly
christened his son Hammering Hank.5
Gangs of boys divided Georgetown into different neighborhoods. They
conducted wars for land and cigarette cards, wars fought with bows and arrows and imitation guns wielded like sticks. In this urban jungle, infant Pat
was at a disadvantage. He was an odd-looking kidtall, gangly, and walleyed (both his eyes stared away from the nose at strange angles). Pat longed
to become a pilot, but was told early on that he would never make it because he
had trouble judging distances. The doctors operated on his eyes and forced
him to wear enormous glasses.6 He was a magnet for bullies. One day he was
assaulted by a boy three years older than he. Poor walleyed Pat ran screaming
to a kid called Jimmy Fegan. He told him what had happened and asked for
protection. Fegan went to see the culprit and messed him up with his belt. The
kid got the message and backed off. Pat offered Fegan his loyalty in the neverending war for the streets. He later reflected: I learned the importance of good
friends and the difference between being tough and being mean. That [bully]
was mean, and Jimmy Fegan was truly tough. In politics, the same distinctions

ike all good Catholics, Pat went to a parochial elementary school. In first
grade, over a hundred children squeezed into two small rooms. All attended a daily Mass at 8:30 a.m.; first confession came upon reaching the age
of reason in the second grade. When the boys entered the sixth grade, they
had the opportunity to be altar boys. This meant serving at three separate
weekday Masses, usually at 6:30 in the morning. On Sunday there were six
Masses to choose from (6, 7, 8, 10, 11 a.m., and noon). Senior servers assisted
at Benediction on Monday night, when five altar boys helped adore the Host.8
Little Pats world was full of mystery and devotion.9 One night, he was woken
by his father and taken to the Sacred Heart Church on 16th Street. There the
Nocturnal Adoration Society met to pray before the exposed Blessed Sacrament in the early morning hours (because, according to the parish magazine,
so many of the worst sins are committed at night). The protection that God



offers is similar to that which I give you, Pop Buchanan whispered to his son.
Life is full of suffering and pain; that is as it should be. But with moral and
spiritual training every bit as rigorous as hitting the bag in the Buchanan
basement, walleyed Pat might just make it through.10
By the age of thirteen, most of the Buchanan boys were smoking in alleys
and fighting in the schoolyard. Thats when the nuns handed them over to the
Jesuits, lest their souls be lost forever. The Jesuit-run high school, Gonzaga, was
housed in a squalid neighborhood. There was a whorehouse on the other side
of the street. During the Latin class, the boys translated Virgil while watching
the ladies across the road come out and take a cigarette between clients. Gonzaga was a good school but many of its pupils harbored a sense of exclusion, as
ifin the words of one studentthey were being educated downstairs.11
That made the boys competitive and touchy. Pat was taught (to a very high
standard) logic and reason, but with the sole aim of defending the faith in argument with snobby Protestants.12
The Gonzaga boys learned a strict interpretation of the Catholic dogma
that Outside the Church there is no salvation. Beyond the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church there was only Hell and death. Their singular salvation gave American Catholics a big stake in the Cold War.13 Pat was taught
about the 1917 visions at Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three
Portuguese children and delivered three prophetic secrets. The second secret
warned that Armageddon was inevitable unless Russia converted to Catholicism. Entrusted with this insight into the will of God, American Catholics felt
a personal calling to fight Russian Bolshevism. The persecution of the Church
in Eastern Europe and the end of missionary activity in Red China confirmed
the atheistic evil of communism. Many anticommunists were driven by real
politick, or a fear that the Soviets would crush temporal freedoms.14 The boys
at Gonzaga thought the Soviets were literally Satanic.
There was no legitimate alternative to the Gospel truth, only lies. While
the rest of American society struggled to deal with the tough questions posed
by sex, Beat poetry, rock and roll, sociology, psychiatry, James Dean, and the
Civil Rights Movement, the Gonzaga boys had a magnetic self-confidence.
To emphasize the clarity of choice between Catholicism and everything else,
Pop Buchanan would grab one of his boys hands and hold a lighted match



against the palm. He would say: See how that feels; now imagine that for all
In Pats world, pain was a given, maybe even a blessing. He learned to revere
St. Lawrence, who was roasted on a spit when he tried to bring the Good News
to the Romans. Turn me over, he said to his executioners with a beatific smile.
Im done on this side.16

s Pat entered his adolescence in the 1950s, America was a land of plenty.
The Greatest Generationthe men and women who lived through the
Depression and the Second World Warhad built their country into a superpower. As the empires of Europe crumbled, only the Soviet Union could rival
its military and political clout. American products were in demand across the
world, and U.S. dollars flooded into Europe by way of Marshall Aid. Industry
boomed, churning out Chevys and Fords that ended up on the streets of Paris,
Havana, and Tokyo. Average wages were high and the economy could sustain
near-full employment.17 The cost of living was low enough that a single working man, like Pop Buchanan, could keep a housewife and a family of nine, his
grandmother, and an African American servant under one roof. In 1951, he
moved his clan to a huge house on Utah Avenue, where the boys had a whole
acre of garden to play in. The Buchanan familys rise from the working class to
the middle class in one generation was emblematic of Americas leap to greatness.18
The mansion on Utah Avenue wasnt big enough to contain the Buchanan
boys, though. As they grew bigger and tougher, they became a menace on the
streets. Maureen Dowd, who later worked as a journalist for The New York
Times, lived in the neighborhood. Her brother, Michael, fled the night that he
was asked by the Buchanans to help throw a motorbike over a wall. Michael
recalled that We regarded the Buchanan boys with the same awe and fear
that Romanian peasants spoke of vampires. Maureen claimed that Pat and
his brawling brothers were the scourge of Washingtons Catholic community.
Boys at parochial schools all over the city would huddle on Monday mornings
to whisper about the latest Buchanan hooliganism. Did you hear how they
crashed a party and beat everyone up? Did you hear how they stuffed a hapless



drunk in Ocean City into a garbage can and rolled him into the sea? The Fifties
were great for men like Buchanan, Dowd argued, because white boys were
gods. But for African Americans, girls, and weaklings, it was terrifying. The
Buchanans were titans. Some bullies are cowards, said Michael Dowd. But
the Buchanans were not. They were extremely intelligent and a little crazy.
You knew if you got in a fight with them, youd better be ready to fight.19
The fights were usually over one of two things: beer and girls. Steal a beer
and you were guaranteed a sucker punch. Steal a girl and you might never walk
again. By the time he was fifteen, Pat drank every Friday and Saturday night.
A six-pack would usually suffice; you could get half a dozen Gunthers for a dollar.
The bigger the boy, the bigger the intake. The Kadow twins were notorious for
starting every evening with at least twelve cans inside each of them. At parties,
the Kadows and the Buchanans had chugging matches to see who could put
away the most. Keg parties were held most weeks. A keg could be purchased
for $14 and during the summer the Buchanans and Kadows would take over
Aerlie Playground and sit around in their underpants getting drunk. When
the police showed up they split into the trees.20
Drink, girls, and gangs all led to a nightly routine of fistfights and bloody
noses.21 A favorite pastime of the Buchanans and the Kadows was crashing
private parties. A network of informants let them know when and where one
was taking place. Pat turned up on the doorstep at 8 p.m., dressed in a suit and
tie. The father of the house opened the door and Pat pretended to be a friend of
his son. In a Brahmin accent he implied that he attended one of the local private schools (Landon or St. Albans) or was doing premed at Princeton. Bowled
over, the father welcomed him in. By the time Pat made it downstairs his cover
was blownbut it was too late. He opened up the basement doors and in
walked the Kadow brothers with a keg of beer over their shoulders, followed
by the entire pack of Buchanans. The atmosphere grew tense; one by one the girls
left. By midnight all that was left was the cobelligerents. And then, recalled
Pat, the action would begin. By the time the police were called, the basement
was awash with booze and blood.22
It was impossible to run away from a fight. If one boy was scrapping, then
everyone else had to get involvedwhether he was innocent or not. Buchanan
wrote: That somebody stood by friends in trouble . . . was, in those days,



about the highest compliment you could pay; and virtually the worst term that
could be used about anyone was that he was chicken, someone who, when
fighting started, ran out on friends.23 Loyalty was repaid with a night in a cell
or a heavy fine. But that was all right. The keg parties and the policemans baton were all part of the chaotic cycle of sin and redemption. The Buchanan
boys respected the cops who busted up their parties and chased them into the
trees, and the next morning the gang lined up outside the confessional to lay it
all before God. Pat Buchanan was mischievous, but he was no anarchist.24

dolescent Pats loyalty to the faith, family, and the system that raised him
made him strong and self-confident. But it sometimes left him insensitive to the perspectives and feelings of others. The fact that Washington, D.C.,
was segregated passed him by. Pat wrote in his memoir: In the late 1940s, and
early 50s . . . race was never a preoccupation with us; we rarely thought about
it . . . The Negroes of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars,
movie houses, playgrounds, and churches; and we had ours. Neither community could have been called rich.25
There is anecdotal evidence that, like most kids of their generation, the
Buchanan boys were ethnic chauvinists.26 Their next-door neighbors on Utah
Avenue were a Jewish family called the Bernsteins. One night in 1958, Bill and
Hank invited a crowd of local hoods to the Buchanan place to watch a football
game and get drunk. When it finished, they went out onto the front lawn at
midnight and improvised their own game. They woke the Bernsteins up with
their noise, so Harry Bernstein got into his car and drove up to the Buchanans
front door to complain. The boys swarmed around his vehicle and tried to tip
it over. Bernstein swore he heard cries of Get the Jews! He reversed home and
called the cops. When they showed up, Hank told them to get lost and slammed
the door in their face. Later that night, beer bottles rained down on the Bernstein rooftop.
Harrys daughter, Karen, couldnt confirm if her father had correctly heard
the Buchanan boys say, Get the Jews!, but she was sure of one thing: They
didnt like the Jews. Theres no question about it. I dont think they woke up every
morning with a prayer, saying Thank you God for not making me a woman



and a Jew, but they didnt like em. They would call us dirty Jew. I dont necessarily know that Pat Buchanan himself said those words . . . He was thirteen
years older than me. It was just understood how the Buchanans felt about us.
Years later, Pat said this was nonsense. He pointed out that his father had
two Jewish clients who were treated like family; one attended Pats wedding.
And when Bay became U.S. Treasurer, she mailed the Bernsteins a commemorative dollar. Karen conceded that the Bernstein boys gave as good as they got
with ethnic jibes and fights: in one spat the Buchanans threw watermelon
rinds over the garden wall, and the Bernsteins sprayed seltzer water back.27
Whatever the truth about his racial views, throughout his career Pat refused to express guilt for any offense he may have caused minorities. Racism
is the obsessive preoccupation with the subject of race, he wrote in his memoir. The racist sees everything in life, education and politics, from the standpoint of race. Pat was satisfied that this definition didnt describe him. The
Buchanan family didnt wear white robes and burn crosses, so what was there
to apologize for? Life in segregated Washington bred in Pat Buchanan a fatal
blind spot on race.28

ats earliest political influence was his father. Pop Buchanan told his son
that he used to be a Democrat, but that the Democrats had let him down
on the biggest issue of the day: communism.29 One of Pops heroes was Gen.
Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator. Pop was furious with how American
liberals had joined forces with Marxists to try to overthrow him. The general
had kicked the Reds out of Spain and, despite whatever his secret police may
have done, he was still a friend to the Catholic Church. Only a chicken
wouldnt support a friend in a fight, said Pop.
Many parts of the Democratic Party and the American left supported the
Spanish republican opposition to Francothe popular front alliance of liberals, anarchists, and communists. American sympathizers ignored reports of
republican atrocities against the Church that occurred during the Spanish
Civil War. But Gonzaga was awash with stories of relics, churches, and monasteries being looted and defiled. Thousands of clergy were murdered. Nuns
were raped. In Ciudad Real, a priest was castrated and suffocated with his own



sexual organs. The parish priest of Navalmoral was put through a parody of the
Crucifixionwhipped and crowned with thornsand then shot. Synagogues
were burned down as well. To the Buchanans, the Spanish republicans were
devils and Franco a veritable St. Michael. They struggled to understand why
Roosevelt gave away so much land to the communist monsters at Yalta, and
why Truman failed to stop China going Red in 1949. Either these men were
fools or complicit.30
Pop Buchanan said that the one man in politics who understood the problem was Republican senator Joe McCarthy. On February 9, 1950, McCarthy
gave a speech at Wheeling, West Virginia, that claimed to expose the extent of
the Marxist infiltration of American society. Holding a piece of paper aloft, he
said: The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my
hand a list of 205 . . . names that were made known to the Secretary of State as
being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working
and shaping policy in the State Department. The accusation rang true with a
public that was terrified by Soviet expansion overseas. Committees to investigate
un-American activities sprang up across the country. In the Senate, McCarthy
and his allies tore into those accused of aiding and abetting the enemy. Some
accusations were hysterical, some unveiled genuine security threats.31
Teenage Pat Buchanan saw spies everywhere. He decided that the Democratic
administration of Harry Truman was soft and infiltrated by traitors. News
of atrocities in Korea, where Americans were fighting the communists for
control of the country, upset him. I was reading horrible reports of American
trucks driving over the bodies of wounded American troops . . . Why doesnt
Truman drop the atomic bomb on the attacking Chinese armies who are
killing thousands of Americans? I recall asking myself. Five years before, he
had dropped it on two defenseless Japanese cities . . . Maybe Pop is right about
Truman, I concluded.32 American voters agreed. Korea and McCarthy helped
elect the Republican ticket of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon in
McCarthys reputation today is poor. He picked a fight with the army and
was censured in the Senate. His career faded and he died of an alcohol-related
illness in 1957.34 But the Buchanans adored Joe McCarthy. What mattered to
them, said Pat, was not precisely what he said, but what they understood



him to be saying. They understood him to be saying that the American

establishmentboth Democrat and Republicanhad betrayed the men who
fought at Normandy and Iwo Jima. The establishment seemed to have handed
a third of the world over to communism and created cozy jobs for themselves
in a massive bureaucracy that was out of touch with the concerns of ordinary
Americans. McCarthy was a populist. His fans raged against the domination
of society by privileged elites. Like all populists, he proposed simple solutions
to complex problemssolutions that typically involved toppling the powerful. Every question could be answered by trusting the people. As Thomas Jefferson wrote: A little rebellion now and again is a good thing.35
The Buchanans held strong opinions on most subjects but they couldnt
vote. Washington, D.C., only permitted voting in presidential elections in
1961 and the mayor was appointed. There was no local politics. Bay recalled:
Our local newspaper was The Washington Post and the headlines were all
national. So we didnt talk about stuff like the little leagues. Foreign policy and
communism were local politics to us . . . I guess thats why it mattered so
much. National politics was debated at the dinner table. Bays place was beside her mother and she watched in awe as her brothers shouted each other
down, her father refereeing from the sidelines.36
Pat recalled: Every one of us was opinionated and we were all taught not
to back down. Whatever our positions lost in logic might be recovered in invective. If you never quit an argument, presumably you never lost. To make oneself
heard as the argument got intense, we got louder and louder. The only one who
could halt the uproar was my father.37
It was Crossfire in training, observed Bay, although she felt it did have
some intellectual value. Everything you said was torn apart, so you had to
be careful about what you said. You needed to have facts to back up a point.
No one would let you get away with saying something stupid that couldnt be
supported . . . I went to college and was surprised to meet liberals who couldnt
sustain an argument. Everything we believed had run the test of that dinner