The somewhat unfortunately-named Charles Krauthammer has just published yet another column telling the Republicans that they don't have to worry about Pat Buchanan. (Washington Post 7/7/2000 – currently here.)
It's odd that someone you don't have to worry about still requires such extensive denunciation. But Krauthammer is certainly telling a lot of Republicans what they want to hear. This will no doubt make up for the fact that his record is no good.
I've only met Krauthammer once, at a conference in 1994 organized by John O'Sullivan in the days when we were both writing for National Review. (See item above). Krauthammer is often described as a Canadian (he grew up in Montreal although he was born in Uruguay) so I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought of Quebec separatism. He grandly assured me it was dead. This was of course the conventional Canadian establishment view–very much like the conventional Washington view of Pat Buchanan today. Krauthammer didn't ask my opinion, as I recall, and I didn't tell him that I had written a book arguing the direct opposite. (The Patriot Game; Canada and the Canadian Question Revisited, 1986. You can get the gist here. )
But I did go on to give a presentation based on my forthcoming immigration book, Alien Nation. Krauthammer didn't seem very happy about it. He didn't speak to me again but told O'Sullivan something to the effect that my arguments needed to be expressed in a different "language." Spanish maybe?
The point of this story is that the following year Parti Quebecois held a referendum in Quebec on separation and came within an ace of winning. The shock was devastating. In its wake, numerous prominent Canadians – for example, Conrad Black, proprietor of the National Post – finally began to say the unsayable: Quebec's separation is only a matter of time.
Among them was, guess who, Charles Krauthammer. Even more telling, in the November 3 1995 Washington Post he actually bemoaned that Canada should break up over "an issue as relatively trivial as language."
An issue as relatively trivial as language. I don't blame Krauthammer for being wrong about Quebec. (Well, I do wonder how he can continue to sound so cocksure about everything). He was, after all, just reflecting the conventional wisdom. But he was indeed wrong, spectacularly, and for a characteristic reason: he cannot or will not appreciate the reality, and the utility, of the national community to the peoples among whom he lives.
It's a fatal blind spot. To Krauthammer, it is literally inconceivable that anyone should question (as he put in on July 7) "the great post-World War II multilateral institutions (such as the World Bank [!!!] and the World Trade Organization…)" Or immigration, about which as far as I can see he remains invincibly ignorant - in any language. I wouldn't even trust his opinion on Uruguay.
So, Republicans, don't be surprised when you find yourself standing in the cold listening to Pat Buchanan take the Oath of Office, accompanied by an honor guard of Arizona ranchers, native-born computer programmers, black janitors and assorted patriots. You'll be able to read how it was all inevitable (and probably your fault) in another Washington Post column by that brilliant Charles Yankhammer.