Pat Buchanan runs out of arguments

After failing to devalue Colin Powell's Obama endorsement on "Hardball," the GOP veteran played the race card, unconvincingly.

Published October 21, 2008 3:53AM (EDT)

I worry a lot that doing television distorts my worldview. Lately, I worry that it's making me overconfident that Barack Obama will be our next president, because lately, I sense the conservatives I'm debating on television have lost their way. In just the past two weeks I've been up against Karen Hughes, Terry Holt, Bay Buchanan, Kevin Madden, Michelle Bernard, Stephen Hayes and, on Sunday, Pat Buchanan, all of them trying to defend John McCain, and, well, they've mostly failed. But it's not me, it's them. Their hearts just aren't fully into it. They appear to know they've got the losing hand.

But Buchanan on "Hardball" Sunday was a special kind of lost. A skilled and talented lost, but lost nonetheless. He opened his attack on Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, paradoxically, with praise. He admired the same thing Glenn Greenwald and I did: Powell's moving assertion that while of course Obama isn't a Muslim, there would be nothing wrong if he were. It was downhill from there, though. Buchanan hit Powell high, he hit him low, but he never landed a real punch. First he came at him as too liberal: Why should Powell care about John McCain's Supreme Court appointees if he's really a Republican? Then he dismissed Powell as an ingrate and an opportunist, for hitting McCain when he's down and probably out. Then he said Powell was overreacting to morons like Rep. Michelle Bachmann, who backed a media inquiry into how many members of Congress are anti-American on "Hardball" last Friday. Chris Matthews and I both made the case that Powell had been driven by many, many ugly Bachmann-like moments by McCain and his supporters in the last few weeks.

Finally, when neither Matthews nor I was convinced by any of his arguments, Buchanan played the race card, insisting Powell would never have endorsed Obama if he were white. It's all over YouTube; you can watch below. A lot of people are telling me I was too nice when I told Buchanan "that's beneath you," but I like to think Pat Buchanan doesn't have to be the worst caricature of himself. He just couldn't manage to be better than that on Sunday. But this is all the GOP has now: To slime one of their most popular heroes for endorsing Obama out of racial solidarity and tribalism. You'll be hearing a lot more of this Monday, but I don't expect it to work.

By Joan Walsh

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2008 Elections