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Only in the Reform party could Buchanan's be a big tent. His would-be candidacy has already won the support of New York far-leftie Lenora Fulani, who is militantly pro-choice and pro-gay rights but told CNN she thinks she can come to terms with Buchanan, the man who is currently embroiled in a war of words with fellow Reform flirter Donald Trump over whether the U.S. should have gotten involved in World War II (Pat seems more than a little against it). According to Fulani, Buchanan "can play a role as a unifier, bring everybody together." Come again? Fulani herself ran for president in 1988 and 1992 on the New Alliance ticket, but this year has thrown in her lot with the Reform party in New York. She is a supporter of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and has been criticized for a statement she made saying that some blacks seem willing to "pander to Jews" (Fulani is black). Buchanan, meanwhile, is a virulent protectionist and anti-immigrationist (and ex-Nixon speechwriter) who never met a panderer he didn't like (though not to the Jews — he once called Congress "Israeli-occupied territory"). Just the fact that Pitchfork Pat can make this type of alliance should warn the Reform party away from him.
It's a Vision Thing
And it's not as though Buchanan and Fulani's far-out philosophies are filling a particular vacuum — Ventura has lit a clear way ahead. He has got Minnesota's Democrats and Republicans talking, and its legislature functioning. Despite the chuckles, Ventura has not disgraced himself, and he has lent his party what must be considered a legitimate — and respectable — intellectual identity. He is for a small government that loves tough, and that ordinary folk get to participate in — namely, for campaign finance reform. He is for fiscal conservatism (a balanced budget and low taxes) and social libertarianism. He has based a so-far-successful governorship on the idea that government can be better, smarter, smaller and more accessible — that it can be reformed. And he has the credibility that any reformer needs; at a time when globalization has made America and its citizens the richest and most powerful nation in the world, Ventura is a free-trader who will not court the protectionists for easy votes. At a time when the morality hawks are looking desperately for a Faust, Ventura is resolutely pro-choice. He also knows that in the eyes of the larger electorate, Perot and Buchanan are men to stand apart from. He does not want them taking control of his party and relegating him to the Valley of the Cranks.
But Ventura is also intent on staying in his Minnesota laboratory awhile, and so he is looking for a front man. His initial candidate for the 2000 nod was former Connecticut senator and governor Lowell P. Weicker, a thoughtful type who was the kind of maverick, reformist governor Ventura tries to be (except that Weicker is several dollars short on charisma). Weicker uses the R-word a lot, and means it; as a liberal Northeast Republican, he is a conservatives' answer to Bill Bradley (maybe he would have really caught on had he been better at basketball...). More recently, Ventura has been prodding New York real estate mogul (and tabloid fixture) Donald Trump to step forward. The Donald has the celebrity and the brains to be a businessman's Ventura, a perfect placeholder for The Body because he's unencumbered by a demanding constituency or ideology, and might at least grab enough press to keep the dream alive until 2004. Then there were whisperings about Warren Beatty. If he ran as single-issue gadfly (campaign finance reform) and not as an ultra-liberal, his star power could light up a few election booths. But the actor, a long-time Democrat, didn't respond to calls.