The Great Trump Debate: Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader

On Super Bowl weekend, we’ve lined up a couple of hall of fame political players who run outside Establishment lines to help us watch the game that’s unfolding so far in the Trump White House.  Pat Buchanan was the pit-bull strategist in Richard Nixon’s White House; he’s a Latin-Mass Catholic, a cultural conservative and America First nationalist who’s turned sharply anti-Empire, calmly post-Cold War with Russia and flat-out anti-war in the Middle East.  Ralph Nader was Mr. Citizen as auto-safety crusader, then first among the relentless Raiders against corporate power, and a prickly third-party candidate in three presidential campaigns.

It was this left-right pair that practically called the game for Trump way back in August 2015. Both said that a man backed by his own billionaire funds and showbiz glam could run the ball all the way to the White House.

Buchanan and Nader on NBC’s Meet the Press, October 1, 2000.

After the election, though, both men are turning their eyes to the man who may be quarterbacking the presidency: Steve Bannon.

Buchanan—a “paleoconservative” who coined the term “America First,” essentially drafting the Bannon playbook—now hopes that Trump doesn’t drop the ball after his executive order blitz. “Republicans have waited a long time for this,” Buchanan says. “[Trump] ought to keep moving on ahead, take the hits he’s gonna take.” If he keeps it up, Bannon might bring the political right “very close to a political revolution.”

Nader, as a green-tinted independent on the left, understands the enthusiasm that his longtime sparring partner has for Trumpism. Yet he also sees the contradictions and challenges Trump presents, not only for Buchanan’s vision of America, but also for Nader’s own: Both men share a strong, anti-corporate stance and are worried about the  Goldman Sachs and Wall Street executives Trumped has packed his cabinet with. What Buchanan and Nader fear most is that a thin-skinned president, egged on by his hawkish advisors, could spark a war with Iran if provoked.

Illustration by Susan Coyne.

Strategically, Nader thinks the Republican team does have the chemistry they need to pull of their so-called political revolution: “You’re gonna get very very serious early-year conflicts here that are going to be very, very destabilizing,” he says. “Republicans on the hill they don’t know what the hell is coming.”

And everyone on the sidelines worries – if the Trump’s team fumbles, who will be there to pick up the ball?

Guest List
Ralph Nader
consumer advocate, lawyer, and five-time candidate for the presidency of the United States.
Pat Buchanan
conservative strategist, veteran of the Nixon administration, and former Reform Party candidate for president in 2000.

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  • Gordon Adams

    I’m sure this looked like a great idea for a show on paper, to have Buchanan and Nader discuss the new administration. I found myself waiting for Chris to step in more and keep the discussion moving. Buchanan kept repeating himself and talking over everyone.

  • Billy McBride

    I was reading Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina today, and then I listened to the show with Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader while agreeing with Tolstoy’s and the two politicians’ views on anti-violence and anti-war. Yet, I think Tolstoy has put even more emphasis on loss, what it means to know when it is one’s time to give up, or not to fight, as also in War and Peace after Napoleon’s army burns down Moscow. I think his authentic concern for the suffering, even when they lose their rights, I wish was actualized more because his thoughts on surrender as a kind of blessing in disguise because one may find the solitude, or if not solitude, at least an inwardness which perhaps is spiritual. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Genius is religious,” comes to my mind when I think about dissolving rather than solving problems, especially when the solution is violent. Yet, Emerson’s “religious” Genius is not social, since she or he forever seems to make a separation between private and public, or between a growing solitude and everyday sisterhood and brotherhood with others. In the realm of solitude war is absent.

    • ‎NX-74205

      You sound incredibly well read, yours is probably one of the more profound comment’s I’ve seen on NPR (more common on ROS). But I have not read any of the books you’re referring to. I can infer what you are getting at with the reference to Napoleon burning down Moscow and turning inwards, but I do not understand your references with Emerson’s “Genius is Religious”. What do you mean by dissolving rather than solving problems? Can you give an example?

      • Billy McBride

        Thanks, NX-74205. I live in the South, in Texas, but I am perhaps the only one here who does not hate Emerson. Emerson’s successor William James, I believe, once made the statement that religion is how one spends one solitude. This kind of nurturing of the self, I think is just as equally valuable as our public responsibilities to do something about helping individuals out there who are vicitms of schizophrenia, cancer, AIDs, rape and other horrors. When I think of dissolving problems rather than solving them, I am thinking of other problems which dissolving would help give us more freedom to dream about and become who we want to be. Where can we find hope in a violently visual society? I myself, like many people, sometimes avoid the drama of the picture world by finding harmony in music, or reading. This is where I find the use for Emerson’s “God within,” and the dignity of his idea of self-reliance, to do things your way (or Frank Sinatra’s). I was going to add this before to my previous comment about surrendering but I also was thinking of the poet, Vergil when he describes the fall of Troy in his Aeneid, Book 2: “Then at last I saw it all, all Ilium settling into her embers, Neptune’s Troy, toppling over now from her roots like a proud, veteran ash on its mountain summit, chopped by stroke after stroke of the iron axe as woodmen fight to bring it down, and over and over it threatens to fall, its boughs shudder, its leafy crown quakes back and forth it sways till overwhelmed by its wounds, with a last groan it goes- torn up from its heights it crashes down in ruins from its ridge…(p.96 Translator Robert Fagles)”.

  • dirkinomaha

    Pat Buchanan was Bannon before Bannon (read his speeches on demographics, race,”culture” etc), when people talk about normalizing Trump they need to wrestle with Pat’s place in the commentariat.

  • 16VLilly

    Hey, that ought to be great!

  • Potter

    I thought it was a good pairing, Buchanan and Nader… at first. Second listen, maybe I still do but Nader made a lot more sense and was much sharper. Buchanan made me want to sing “High Hopes” (“he’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes” .. that is, if I were in a singing mood.

  • Joe Blair

    Buchanan’s voice getting all high makes me question how sound his mind is. He’s coming off like a winy child.

    Also, his laughter and light attitude was upsetting.

    To suggest we shouldn’t be upset because Trump’s evil isn’t as extreme a situation as the “3rd reich” is minimizing and dangerous. Ridiculous comparison; Trump’s Lucifer incarnate. Wake up!

  • Daryl Johnson

    My favorite Buchanan quote: “We’re going to fight until hell freezes over, then we’ll fight ’em on the ice”.

  • Day5

    Great show, Chris. I wish these guys would work together for a better country. Please ask them about the H1B visa program, which is one of the largest corp welfare programs and the most destructive to American jobs.

  • RRE

    I wish someone would explain how Trump’s refugee vetting would differ from what we have now. Buchanan says “what’s wrong with holding them up another month?” It takes 18 to 24 months now. I’d say time is not the problem or the solution

  • Zbig

    So why did Trump call Buchanan a Hitler lover? Which Catholics did Buchanan refer to? – Not the ones who actually listen to Vatican’s calls to embrace refugees and asylees. This conversation reminded me the times when I had to listen to Rush Limbough at work because of my co-workers. The joys of normalization.

  • J__o__h__n

    This was a good discussion, but Buchanan shouldn’t have been able to claim that his party was against segregation. Nixon’s Southern Strategy was racist.

  • Lawrence George

    “As long as people can’t afford to shop at Walmart for anything more than the bare essentials of existence, Pat Buchanan will find people ready to vote him.” —Alexander Cockburn, A Colossal Wreck, February 28, 1996

  • edward stengel

    These are 2 of the smartest guys around, and they’re absolutely right that the republican party doesn’t know what they’re in for. I can’t wait to see Donald Trump start a “New Deal” and the republican party start calling itself the “party of the people.” The democrats wont know which way to turn, and the republicans are going to start hating their own party.

  • Potter

    I have a problem with Buchanan’s avoidance of Trump’s character and unsuitability for the presidency-what a divisive, lying, self promoting unpredictable downright poor example of what the leader of a “so-called” great nation should be. Buchanan who played a role back then reminds me that it was Nixon who revived and played to our divisions. It was and has been been so mean-spirited since with those people more tribal and power hungry with time. Now it’s turned more overtly religious in character with Bannon (“Buchanan’s kid brother”) pushing, pulling a pliable irreligious Trump who only wants attention however he can get it. And he does get it. Ostensibly nobody can buy him but I think he can be bought monetarily, but Trump is vulnerable, and can be bought in other ways because he shows himself to be very needy. We are in a dangerous time.

    E.J.Dionne Steve Bannon vs. Pope Francis?

    I heard Kelly on the radio this morning apologizing (falling on his sword) and nicely explaining away this odious Muslim ban, being reasonable about it..or trying to appeal to reason. Buchanan calls it hysteria, people out there resisting and demonstrating. Trump says these people are being paid to demonstrate.

    Buchanan also misses the point regarding Crimea.. you know,international law. I don’t want to go on.

  • zax2000

    Thanks for this wonderful program! Please do more of these types of shows with learned, experienced people from different ends of the spectrum of ideas. It’s fantastic to hear them debate their sharp differences, but the fact that they can agree on some pints is what’s most important. America needs to hear more ideological opponents actually agreeing on some things, even though they may disagree on most points.