Monday, July 20, 2020

Buchanan, China, and US Politics

Buchanan, China, and US Politics
Peter Schultz

            Buchanan’s responses to Nixon’s decision to visit and thereby recognize Communist China as China makes for interesting reading, as those responses underline how his principles do not affect his politics. That is, ultimately his principles provided little guidance or limits to his political activities.

            On the one hand, Buchanan was appalled by Nixon’s opening to China because it meant consorting with and even praising the Chinese Communists who had “played the leading role in killing 33,000 Americans in Korea [as well as] brainwashing our POWs.” And in China itself, the communists proved themselves to be mass murderers because “After the triumph of their revolution in 1949, they had slaughtered millions.” [241] And given what Buchanan calls the sellout of the Shanghai Communiqué that was jointly issued at the end of Nixon’s trip to China, Buchanan was “angry, disgusted, and ashamed.” [241] In the end, Buchanan had “made up [his] mind . . . to resign.” [245]

            On other hand, Buchanan began “to have second thoughts , , , because [he] wanted to see [Nixon] reelected. . . .” [246] As Haldeman reported in his diary after talking with Buchanan that he, Buchanan, “now realized . . . that there was no need . . . to express [his dissent] any more publicly . . . and that he could do more good by being on the inside . . . and therefore he decided to stay on.” [247] In Buchanan’s own words, he had decided that had he resigned “I would have made a great mistake.” [247]

            So, despite asking, “When all is said and done, what did we gain from the China trip?” and answering in essence not much, Buchanan did not resign. Apparently, despite principles that made Buchanan feel “angry, disgusted, and ashamed,” those principles did not guide Buchanan’s actions. Rather, what guided his actions were calculations about the need to go public or about the advantages of being on the inside rather than the outside. In brief, Buchanan chose power over principle, illustrating how his principles provided no guidance, no limits to his pursuit of power. Politically, his principles were empty and were overridden by Buchanan’s desire to retain his power, much as Nixon had frequently decided to compromise his principles in order to fortify his power as president. As Buchanan wrote: “I wanted to see [Nixon] reelected and had been working toward that goal for a year.” [246]

            Power, successfully pursuing and acquiring power, is what US politics is all about. And this means, even for Buchanan, that power is to be sought, acquired, and preserve by any means necessary. As in the case of Nixon’s China trip, this meant betraying “flag-waving, God-and-Country patriots.” So despite Buchanan’s criticisms of the “liberal intellectuals [who] sneer at denunciations of ‘godless communists’ and ‘atheistic communists’,” he was prepared to betray those who believed “we were on God’s side” and who believed that the US had “a moral mission in the world.” [246]

            For Buchanan, as for Nixon and other “pragmatists,” calculations about power trump principles. So when push comes to shove, as it always does, politics is nothing more than cunningly seeking, fortifying, and maintaining power, personally as well as nationally. Principles serve to disguise this reality, that is, disguise what are “cunning shits” struggling for power. Should more than this be expected, disappointment is guaranteed.

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