Bush asks Buchanan to remain a Republican; Remarks spark split in party over role of conservative commentator


WASHINGTON -- After days of roiling party strife over Pat Buchanan, Gov. George W. Bush asked the renegade Republican to stick with the party, saying yesterday, "I'm going to need every vote I can get among Republicans to win the election."

Bush's comments showed him to be making an effort as the party's presumptive front-runner to hold together the Republican coalition after a strange week in which Buchanan has drawn the Republicans into a consuming debate over the merits of the Western response to Hitler.

But Bush's remarks, made in an interview with editors and reporters of the Associated Press, simply sparked new controversy. They put him squarely at odds with rival John McCain and a growing band of Republican critics of Buchanan who said he had gone so far from the American mainstream in his foreign policy views that the party should bid him farewell and let him seek the Reform Party nomination.

Bush's call for Buchanan to remain in the party comes just two days after the Texas governor told an array of Jewish groups and Jewish Republicans at a private meeting in Austin, the state capital, that he was not joining the roiling public debate over Buchanan's views. He told them that he thought he would inflame the discussion and simply draw more attention to Buchanan, according to several people familiar with the meeting.

His stand yesterday drew some instant criticism. "I think McCain is right and Bush is wrong," said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine. He said the governor's stand "will ultimately backfire" when the Democratic nominee turns to Bush in a debate and "says Pat Buchanan said 'A-B-C' and you want him in your party and want his support."

Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who attended the Wednesday meeting with Bush, said the governor had "unfortunately put politics over principle." He said Bush should show "leadership and say a Pat Buchanan, with those views, should belong in no party."

Buchanan accused Republican critics who have taken sharp issue with his book of "opportunistically piling on me." The book, "A Republic, Not an Empire," includes passages questioning whether Hitler chose to wage war with the West or was driven to it by Britain and France's promise to declare war on Germany if the Nazis invaded Poland. In addition, he argues that in 1941 Hitler was preoccupied on the Russian front and did not represent a threat to the United States.

"Do those attacking me realize they are defending the policies that produced World War II and virtual annihilation of the Jewish population of Europe?" Buchanan asked in a statement released yesterday by his campaign. "While the West is busy erecting Holocaust museums, it has failed to study the history that produced it."

He said, "Today, the United States is handing out war guarantees all over Eastern Europe, guarantees a future generation of Americans may refuse to honor, guarantees that are driving a defeated, demoralized, divided and democratic Russia, with 20,000 nuclear weapons, straight into the arms of a Chinese Communist."

Buchanan's flirtation with the Reform Party has caused a schism among Republicans over how the conservative commentator should be dealt with, with some vilifying him as being far outside the party mainstream and others still trying to keep him and his followers in the fold.

On Wednesday, McCain, an Arizona senator, became the first Republican presidential candidate to call for Buchanan to be ushered out of the party.

McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said Republicans should stand "on principle" against Buchanan because he considered Buchanan's views of World War II "so far outside of the philosophy of what America is all about that it's unacceptable."

A day later, Elizabeth Hanford Dole stopped short of asking Buchanan to leave the party. But she said, "I am appalled by Pat Buchanan's comments. I not only disagree strongly with his analysis of history; I believe his comments are grossly insensitive to those Americans who gave their lives and those veterans who fought and suffered greatly to preserve freedom."

Jonathan Baron, a spokesman for former Vice President Dan Quayle, said, "Pat Buchanan is a good man and should not be driven out of the Republican Party for things he may not have even said and written."

Gary Bauer, another Republican presidential candidate, said yesterday that he did not think Buchanan should be forced from the party.

Pub Date: 9/25/99

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