“Pat was the pioneer of the vision that Trump ran on and won on,” says Greg Mueller, who served as Buchanan’s communications director on the 1992 and 1996 campaigns and remains a close friend. Michael Kinsley, the liberal former New Republic editor who co-hosted CNN’s “Crossfire” with Buchanan, likewise credits his old sparring partner with laying the intellectual groundwork for Trumpism: “It’s unclear where this Trump thing goes, but Pat deserves some of the credit.” He pauses. “Or some of the blame.”
Less memorably, the 2000 campaign also brought Buchanan into contact for the first time with Trump. The New York real estate tycoon and tabloid favorite was also mulling a run for the Reform Party’s nomination at the urging of Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler who had won Minnesota’s governorship on the third-party ticket in 1998. Trump never followed through, but true to the form he would display 16 years later, the future president took pleasure in brutalizing his potential competition. Trump devoted portions of a book to highlighting Buchanan’s alleged “intolerance” toward black and gay people, accused him of being “in love with Adolf Hitler” and denounced Buchanan while visiting a Holocaust museum, telling reporters, “We must recognize bigotry and prejudice and defeat it wherever it appears.”
The irony today is unmistakable.
(…) Buchanan has faced his share of critiques, but no one has hit him harder than Trump. In retrospect, it’s astounding that the man who used Buchanan’s playbook to win the White House had previously bashed him in the most ruthlessly ad hominem terms imaginable—yet Buchanan used his columns to cheerlead Trump’s 2016 candidacy from Day One. The explanation for this became clear once I accepted that Trump had done something entirely out of character: According to multiple sources, Trump called Buchanan out of the blue some five years ago, when the former candidate was a regular guest on “Morning Joe,” and apologized for all of the hurtful things he had said. “He made amends,” Bay Buchanan, Pat’s sister and former campaign manager, says of Trump. “Long before he got into the presidential [race], he reached out to Pat and apologized for what he’d done, realizing it had been wrong. … My brother is a very forgiving guy, and if someone asks for forgiveness, he’s going to deliver it.”
Buchanan will go to his grave believing exactly that. He swears he has no personal animus toward people who don’t look like him; in fact, he says, the immigrant groups he interacts with in northern Virginia are “always smiling” and seem like wonderful members of the community. “Obviously they love America,” Buchanan tells me. “The question is, what is it that holds us together? The neocons say we’re an ideological people bound together by what Lincoln said at Gettysburg and what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, and that’s what makes us one nation. But my tradition of conservatism says it’s not; it’s the idea of culture and faith and belief and history and heroes and holidays.”
He takes a long pause. “Can you have a nation that consists of all the people in the world—and be one people?”