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Buchanan on Ventura Turf
By Martin Kaste
October 28, 1999
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Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan paid his first visit to the home state of Jesse Ventura since announcing his switch to Ventura's Reform Party. Buchanan continues to be diplomatic toward the governor, saying he respects Ventura's importance in the party. Still, Buchanan was unable to get a personal meeting with Ventura during this visit to Minnesota, and his presence here has highlighted a growing rift inside the state Reform Party.
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Pat Buchanan came to Minnesota to sign books, raise money and, as he sees it, try to dispel some myths. First of all, he says his book, "A Republic, Not An Empire," has been misinterpreted, and that it is not pro-Nazi. In it, he calls Adolf Hitler "a monster." Second, on a matter of more contemporary politics, he says his critics are wrong to say that he doesn't really believe in the ideals of his adopted party.
Buchanan: On the issue of trade, for example, I think I'm a very close fit with the Reform Party. I fought against NAFTA and GATT as hard as anyone, fought alongside Ross Perot. On the issue of stopping illegal immigration into this country, cold, the Reform Party agrees with me, and I agree with it. On the issue of keeping out of foreign wars that are none of our business, the Reform Party agrees with me. On the issue of change and opening up the political system, I agree with the Reform Party.
Of course, the Reform Party platform does not share Buchanan's opposition to legalized abortion, but Buchanan says that's not a problem either, because the party chooses not to make a choice on abortion, leaving it up to individual candidates.

Whether or not Buchanan's politics can be called "Reform," they seem to draw interest from both ends of the political spectrum. Standing in line to meet Buchanan was David Bjorkland, wearing a "My governor can beat up your governor" T-shirt.
Bjorkland: I like him as far as foreign policy, I like I believe that America should stay out of other countries' business you know unless it threatens us directly. But he's a little too conservative on social issues such as abortion.
Milt Boyat also showed up early to get Buchanan's autograph.
Boyat: I'm very pro-life and he's one of the most outspoken people on that issue, and I really respect him on that and support him on that.
Many political pundits would say Buchanan's base of support is too broad - and too contradictory - to hold together. But the Reform Party leaders who showed up to welcome Buchanan say that kind of political thinking, which divides the electorate up into left versus right, is outdated. Alan Shilepsky is chairman of the party's platform committee.
Shilepsky: You gotta remember we're a populist party, we're the only populist party. The Democrats and Republicans are controlled by interest groups and policy elites. They don't want us to talk to this guy.
And Shilepsky says it's also a mistake to assume that everyone inside the Minnesota Reform Party shares Governor Ventura's opposition to Buchanan.
Shilepsky: Unfortunately, the media tends to talk to two or three people in the Reform Party, and they think that's the Reform Party.
Shilepsky is also dismissive of the efforts by Ventura's inner circle, mainly Planning Director Dean Barkley, to recruit presidential candidates Ventura would like better, such as Lowell Weicker or Donald Trump.
Shilepsky: Frankly, they don't have the type of experience, such as that White House experience I mentioned, that this gentleman has. When someone comes to us, with that level of experience, why don't we talk to them? And see if we can't find common ground?
Ventura, for the time being, says he's not interested in talking to Buchanan. At the start of the day, he even seemed indifferent to the fact that Buchanan was in town.
Ventura: He's not on my schedule at all. That's all I can tell you, I'm a very scheduled person, you can look right on there, and there's nothing that says him on there.
But Ventura also seems to be toning down some of his earlier criticism of Buchanan, saying he welcomes the competition he'll bring to the nomination. The governor may be picking up on the fact that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Buchanan may have some real traction among Minnesota Reformers, as well as the potential to split it into two camps. The first real test of Buchanan's popularity may come soon: the candidate is encouraging his "Buchanan Brigade" to show up at the Minnesota Reform Party's statewide convention on November 13, and make its presence felt.