Pat Buchanan really pisses me off.

Not because of his frankly 1950s out­look or his fre­quent back­slides into out­ra­geous big­otry — but because there are times, not many but a few, when he’s able to make a lucid, valid and rel­e­vant point, and I find myself, against all my best judg­ment, agree­ing with him.

He rails pretty reg­u­larly against Bush and the Iraq inva­sion, and comes up with lit­tle gems such as this:

Iraq today appears as an exposed salient, a bridge too far, a war against a dis­pos­sessed Sunni minor­ity, that we can nei­ther win nor walk away from with­out its becom­ing the haven for ter­ror­ists it never was before we invaded. Half our army is now either in Iraq, has been through Iraq or is on the way. U.S. Reserve and Guard units, which have pro­vided 40 per­cent of the troops for the war, are no longer meet­ing recruit­ment goals.

This is a very nice piece of arti­clate, clear polemic, and it makes me feel respect­ful. But then he comes up with stuff like this, and it makes my skin crawl:

The Mexican gov­ern­ment is con­sciously push­ing the[ir] peo­ple into the United States to get rid of their poor and unem­ployed and have the Americans take care of them and the Americans employ them.” As Media Matters for America recently noted, Buchanan has said he “think[s] that the Mexican gov­ern­ment has a direct pro­gram basi­cally to push its poor, unem­ployed, and une­d­u­cated into the United States for a vari­ety of pur­poses,” adding that the “recon­quista,” a term asso­ci­ated with the move­ment to recap­ture the south­west­ern United States for Mexico, “is well underway.”

This was tran­scripted (and ampli­fied) from a recent Buchanan appear­ance on Neil Cavuto’s bully pul­pit by Media Matters, a non-​​Fox friendly web­site, but I saw Patty Boy make almost pre­cisely the same com­ments on Joe Scarborough last night. To his credit, Scarborough ques­tioned a lot of Buchanan’s asser­tions. The video’s worth watch­ing (“Immigration: A State of Emergency?”), though it’s not work safe.

Not work safe” in the sense that it might make you shout things you shouldn’t say in a pub­lic place. Things about Buchanan’s parent­age, and actions he might or might not per­form with pas­toral ungu­lates.

On Scarborough Buchanan actu­ally made the claim that the Mexican gov­ern­ment was aware of and com­plicit in ille­gal bor­der cross­ings. Further claims were made that there is a theme park where vis­i­tors can pre­tend to cross a bor­der wall ille­gally, com­plete with sim­u­lated gun­fire and masked men rep­re­sent­ing “la Migra”.

Buchanan is of the opin­ion that ille­gal immi­gra­tion is almost more impor­tant to most Americans than Iraq, which may be true — and if it is, it’s a shame­ful mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of focus. Buchanan alleges that by 2050 there will be “100 mil­lion” Mexican immi­grants in the US, most of them cen­tered in the south­west­ern US, and seems to think Americans should some­how find this alarming.

In order to make it alarm­ing he brings up anec­do­tal claims of “machete mur­ders” or the stat — sub­stan­ti­ated in no clear way — that “1 in 12″ ille­gal immi­grants has a crim­i­nal record, pre­sum­ably in Mexico. (The stats for extremely poor peo­ple in the US are actu­ally much worse, yet no one seems to be declar­ing a war on poverty.)

But Buchanan started his piece with Scarborough by claim­ing the US is an empire in decline, just as Rome once was. And, damn it, I ended up agree­ing with that state­ment — but not the rea­son­ing. According to Pat, the rea­son Rome fell was unde­fended borders.

Wrong, dead wrong.

Rome’s down­fall was actu­ally brought about by infil­tra­tion of the Roman gov­ern­ment by Christians, who pre­tended to be non-​​Christian long enough to gain power, then gut­ted the empire from within. That’s what killed Rome. And that’s what will kill the US, if the right-​​wing loonies have their way.

I don’t want an impe­r­ial America (though we seem to be stuck with it for now); but I also wouldn’t like to see the US col­lapse into degra­da­tion and chaos as Rome did. What Buchanan fails to under­stand is that it’s the very capac­ity the US has to absorb immi­grants and syn­the­size their cul­tures into a great and cohe­sive whole that is its strength. The real dan­ger lies in lis­ten­ing to those who yearn for a past that sim­ply never existed, the past fic­tion­ally depicted in all-​​white and accent-​​free TV series such as Leave it to Beaver and Dick van Dyke. (I Love Lucy is an excep­tion since it fea­tured an immi­grant — though, strictly speak­ing, you could call Arnaz a Cuban exile, and as we learned with Elian Gonzalez, there’s noth­ing the US loves more than a pho­to­genic Cuban exile.)

In clos­ing, Buchanan also made the claim that the US was built up “with­out immi­grant labor” — which should show pre­cisely how out of touch he actu­ally is with the real­i­ties of his­tory. In 1620, for instance, the nascent US was being estab­lished by noth­ing but immigrants.

I’m not say­ing let’s open the bor­ders to every­one, but I am sug­gest­ing this teapot tem­pest is get­ting a lit­tle out of hand. Settle down, Pat. There are still plenty of all-​​white gated com­mu­ni­ties for you and yours to with­draw into, and I’m sure your pool boy and house­keep­ing staff will all have green cards.

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