Pat Buchanan – America First Long Before Trump

By John J. Duncan Jr.

I have had several heroes in my life – my Father, my Uncle Joe, Zane Daniel – and from a distance, Pat Buchanan.

I say from a distance because I never had the opportunity to get to know him in a close, personal way.

But I did get to know him through his columns, books, television appearances, and presidential campaigns.

The first time I met Pat Buchanan was unforgettable to me but certainly never even given a second thought by him.

It was the summer of 1967, and I was working full-time in the Nixon For President campaign in Washington, D.C., on my break from UT.

The campaigns were much smaller back then, and there were about 20 people working in the D.C. Headquarters, while Pat Buchanan and Rosemary Woods worked for Mr. Nixon at his law firm in New York.

No candidates had Secret Service protection at that point, and Mr. Nixon often flew alone on an Eastern Airlines shuttle between New York and Washington.

I was told to go to National Airport the next day – a Saturday – and pick up Mr. Nixon and drive him wherever he wanted to go.

I was very excited and nervous and got to the airport very early. However, much to my disappointment, Pat Buchanan came instead.

He gave me a huge stack of press releases with directions on where to deliver them, said almost nothing to me, and left.

Instead of getting to spend time with Mr. Nixon himself, I got to spend a whole Saturday driving around Washington, by myself, delivering press releases.

In spite of this, I became a very big fan and wrote an article in 2019 in the American Conservative Magazine about Pat Buchanan being one of my heroes.

Tim Alberta, writing in Politico Magazine in 2017, described Buchanan as “that patriot from ordinary stock whose life journey positioned him to witness, influence, and narrate the pivotal moments that shaped our modern world and changed the course of this country’s history.”

Diana Banister, who converted to Catholicism because of Pat Buchanan and who rode a bus from California to New Hampshire to campaign for him, said, “Pat seemed to understand conservatism better than anyone else. He was so articulate, so informed. He saw something before others saw it.”

Buchanan wrote in 1992: “Our resolve is to put America First again, and to keep America First. For 50 years we have liberated, defended, and aided nations all over the world. It was the right and just thing to do. But, now, we must begin to look out for the forgotten Americans right here in the United States. Our great manufacturing base needs to be re-tooled and restored; our economy needs to be revived; our society needs to be healed; and our people need to become one again.”

He wrote in 2002: “In half a lifetime, many Americans have seen their God destroyed, their heroes defiled, their culture polluted, their values assaulted, their country invaded, and themselves demonized as extremists and bigots for holding on to the belief Americans have held for generations.”

A few weeks ago, Pat Buchanan announced he was retiring his nationally syndicated column. This was a loss for me. It was a loss for the country.

Pat Buchanan was a fighter. He didn’t back down to anyone. Yet, even those he debated for years on television said he was one of the kindest, most likable men they knew.

I was thrilled when he spent an hour with me having lunch in the House Dining Room a few years ago.

I ended the article I wrote about him in the American Conservative by quoting from a short-lived television show called Grand. Its opening theme song had these words: “See, we’re all different drummers playing in the same big band, and if you’re going to play it, play it grand.”

Pat Buchanan played it grand. He lived his life in the arena, inspired millions all over this country, and was a hero to me.