WASHINGTON -- Patrick Buchanan is either a breath of fresh air or a cold chill down the back of your neck.
Unlike some other Republican candidates for president, Buchanan is not trying to shape his message in order to attract widespread support.
Instead, he is sticking to his bedrock positions and inviting people either to join him or remain the children of Satan.
Take foreign aid.
Ask any of the four Republican senators now running for president why they have voted for foreign aid in the past and they will give you lengthy justifications.
Pat Buchanan doesn't care. He's against foreign aid. All foreign aid.
And if other Republicans disagree with him, that's because other Republicans are wrong.
"On foreign aid, I think the Republican Party is about to make a terrible mistake and a major blunder in signing on to $100 billion in foreign aid over the next seven years," Buchanan said yesterday.
"I think rather than do that, the Republican Party should phase out foreign aid completely over the next three years."
One of the chief reasons we give aid to other countries, however, is to make sure they remain friendly to the United States.
But that reason is no longer good enough for Buchanan. The true world struggle these days is about economic control, he says. And why give money to countries that compete with us in the world marketplace? Even if they are our friends?
"The regular transfers of America's wealth to foreign governments will come to an end if I am elected president," he said.
Which is a position that resonates with ordinary voters all over America, though many may not have given much thought to what a policy of isolationism might do to American interests around the world.
But Pat Buchanan is an isolationist, even if many Republicans are not. And he is a protectionist, even if many Republicans are for free trade.
And he is not going to change his opinions in order to embrace voters.
If voters want to change their opinions in order to embrace him, however, that would be swell.
But if he is elected president, he wants everyone to know up front that certain changes are going to be made. Around the world.
"I would end the most-favored nation treatment of China," he said. "I believe that Communist China is engaged right now in the greatest military buildup in Asia since Japan in the 1930s."
And don't get him going on Japan!
"I have nothing against the Japanese; they are efficient, hard working, dedicated, they sacrifice, they save," Buchanan said, stopping just short of saying that some of his best friends are Japanese.
But the trouble with Japan, he said, is that it doesn't play fair.
"We've got 1 percent of their auto market and they've got 25 percent of ours," Buchanan said. "I would impose 10 percent across-the-board tariffs on Japanese imports to begin with; 20 percent on Chinese goods coming into the country."
If not everyone sees the wisdom of Buchanan's policies, he believes it's because they are shortsighted.
"In the 1980s, they engineered or voted for the largest tax increases in the history of the Republic," Buchanan said. "They voted in 1991 for racial quotas. They voted for NAFTA. They voted for GATT."
Further, they are "waffling" on the right to life, according to Buchanan.
And if the Republicans as a party don't start drawing lines in the sand over what they believe in and what they do not, "there will be no real differences or distinction between the parties."
Which means the Republicans will open "a gap for a potential third party, populist, nationalist, conservative, traditionalist, to step into the breach."
Buchanan does not want to lead such a third party, he has said. He wants to lead the Republican Party.
But it must be a Republican Party where there is no fuzzy thinking.
"The American people want clarity of leadership," Buchanan said. "They don't want the old politics of compromise and consensus. They want a new politics of conviction and populist conservatism. And I think these are the reasons why we are doing far better than some predicted."