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Bush 41 was 'an American closer,' says GOP rival Buchanan

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Could former President George H. W. Bush have defeated current President Donald Trump? In a way, it already happened -- in 1992 -- although nobody would have known it at the time.

Trump did not run in that year's Republican primaries, but his ideas did. You can hear them in the fiery speeches of Patrick J. Buchanan, the conservative author, columnist, television commentator and senior adviser to three Republican presidents who waged a primary challenge to Bush's re-election campaign from the far right.

Wordsmith Buchanan declared a "new nationalism" to enlist the "forgotten Americans" into the "Buchanan brigades" and rescue them from foreign meddling, rip-off trade deals and "open-border" immigration policies.

He called for a moratorium on immigration until the policy could be re-examined and, yes, a wall on the Mexican border, which he called "the Buchanan fence" in his effort to "Make America First Again," borrowing a phrase from his former boss Ronald Reagan's campaign slogan "Let's Make America Great Again," which also was adopted later by you-know-who.

"The ideas made it," Buchanan told Politico reporter Tim Alberta last year with a laugh, "but I didn't."

With that in mind on the morning after President Bush passed away last week at age 94, I asked Buchanan for his reaction to the news after we taped the latest YouTube reboot of The McLaughlin Group. He showed no desire to speak ill of the dead.

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"I'm sure he'll be extraordinarily well remembered by the entire country because he was a patriot" with "a great family," Buchanan said. "He served his country his entire life, (including) some of the highest offices and the highest office in the land... with distinction and honor."

"We had our differences," he continued. "We had our serious differences. But from 1966 to 1991 we were good friends and I was proud to have him as a friend."

Of course, after 1991 was a different story. During their campaign, he skewered Bush as a "globalist" who was helping "bureaucrats in Brussels" to pursue a "European super-state" and undermine national identity.

Now he praised Bush as "the American closer in the Cold War," a core issue for America's conservative movement.

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(c) 2018 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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