For Former Crossfire Pundits: One More Round

In the spirit of bipartisanship ahead of the presidential election, weekends on All Things Considered Guy Raz reunites Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley, two pundits who last faced off nearly two decades ago from the political right and left on CNN's Crossfire.

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Let's get into the Crossfire.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "CROSSFIRE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: From Washington, "Crossfire." On the left, Mike Kinsley. On the right, Pat Buchanan.

RAZ: Does that make you guys a little nostalgic when you hear that?

PAT BUCHANAN: Well, indeed, it does.

MICHAEL KINSLEY: A lot.

BUCHANAN: It takes me back, I guess, to 19 - well, Michael left around 1996. And I think I came back and did it with Bill Press for a couple years before I made my third and last run for the Oval Office.

RAZ: That is, of course, Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley. Back in the day, they represented the political right and the left on CNN's "Crossfire." And in the spirit of bipartisanship the weekend before the election, we've reunited them for the first time in some 16 years, right?

BUCHANAN: Yup.

KINSLEY: Pat came out to Seattle once in order to be refused admission to the state Republican Convention, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

KINSLEY: And we had a great dinner. And I have not seen Pat since then.

BUCHANAN: No.

RAZ: All right. Well, we have some important news to discuss because, of course, there is something happening on Tuesday, an election. And I want to start with you, Pat Buchanan. Spell out what you believe the stakes are in this election.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think we disagree with each other much more profoundly. And I do believe in - the country's got to decentralize to a greater and greater degree. And I think Mitt Romney offers the greatest hope, basically, of bringing the federal government under control, the spending, moving back power and control to states and cities and communities.

And I think that's essential because I think this idea of the disintegration of peoples is taking place all over the world. You can take a look at Europe. Take Scotland wants to break away from England. Catalonia is trying to break away from Spain. So I think that's the future, and I think a decentralized America is a better America to deal with.

RAZ: Michael Kinsley, you support the president's re-election. What, in your view, would a second Obama term look like?

KINSLEY: Well, I don't know, but he certainly put out as much of an agenda as George W. when he ran for re-election or Bill Clinton. His main thing is he's going to bring the deficit under control, and he's got to see how Obamacare plays out. And I think the Republicans who oppose it today will look in history absurd, like the Republicans who opposed Medicare in the '60s.

I think he did financial reform, which is much more good than bad, and he gets a B-plus on the economy. Romney complains about it but haven't said, really, what he would do differently.

RAZ: Pat Buchanan, are you enthusiastic about a potential Romney presidency, or are you more worried about Obama being re-elected?

BUCHANAN: You know, I really think the country is at a turning point and Romney is the - really the only hope to bring the federal budget under control. Now, the Democratic Party and Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Obamacare, food stamps, Pell Grants, student loans, these are the pride and joy of the Democratic Party. They're why the Democratic Party exist. I simply do not think it is realistic to believe that the Democratic Party is going to do this kind of surgery on its own children.

KINSLEY: Pat.

RAZ: I do believe that - yes, sir?

KINSLEY: Do you think that the end of a, say, four-year or eight-year Romney presidency, any of those programs on that list would've disappeared?

BUCHANAN: No.

KINSLEY: Because if you do, I think you're naive.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: I'm not naive, Michael, and I don't think they would disappear.

KINSLEY: No, no. I don't think you are.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: I don't think they would disappear. But politically, I'm not sure, Michael, that the Democratic Party is going to be willing to make the kinds of changes that are going to needed to preserve these programs. Mitt Romney does believe he is a manager, a businessman. He's going to balance this budget. He come determined to do it.

And to be honest, Michael, I don't think he would last more than a single term. I think the Republicans would have a terrible 2014. But I believe, for the good of the country, that this is what has to be done, and I just don't believe the Democrats are going to do it.

RAZ: Michael Kinsley, Pat Buchanan has argued that America has become far more permissive, obviously, when it comes to public support of gay marriage, the issue of immigration. But I'm wondering, I mean, has that train left the station? Is the America that we are becoming, an America that just doesn't square with Pat Buchanan's vision?

KINSLEY: I think so. I mean, I think Pat has lost ground on all his major themes, some of which you just heard. You know, I also think if the country would just do what I say, it would be a lot better off.

(LAUGHTER)

KINSLEY: I don't put it quite as vehemently as Pat does, but you probably think the same thing too.

BUCHANAN: Let me agree with Michael on some things. I do think that Michael is right about culturally and socially. The cultural, what was called the counterrevolution of the '50s, has really triumphed in half the country and among the young and among the cultural elite. I don't know that - whether we're ever going to get control of the borders, and I don't know if they're going to go back to something of a - not a protective but a revenue tariff to save manufacturing.

So I'm not optimistic about the Republican Party's future. I think demographically, the party that we put together for Nixon and Reagan, you know, those 49-state landslides and 40- and 44-state landslides, that's never again going to happen. And I sort of look on Romney as a last chance to get the budget at least under control.

RAZ: Last word to you, Michael Kinsley.

KINSLEY: Gosh. I don't think Romney will do any better any well, certainly Obama, in as good a position to make some kind of grand bargain as Romney is.

RAZ: Michael Kinsley is a columnist for Bloomberg View and the founding editor of Slate also a former host of "Crossfire" with Pat Buchanan. Michael Kinsley, thanks.

KINSLEY: Thank you.

RAZ: And thanks also to Pat Buchanan, the founding editor of The American Conservative, a three-time presidential candidate, and, of course, a former host of CNN's political talk show "Crossfire" with Michael Kinsley. Pat Buchanan, thank you and Happy Birthday to you.

BUCHANAN: Thank you kindly.

KINSLEY: It's not my birthday, but getting to talk to Pat makes it feel that way.

(LAUGHTER)

BUCHANAN: Thank you, Michael. It's good to hear from you again, my friend.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CROSSFIRE")

STEVIE RAY VAUGHN: (Singing) Caught in the crossfire. Stranded caught in the crossfire. Tooth for tooth, eye for an eye. Sell your soul just to buy, buy, buy. Beggin' a dollar, stealin' a dime...

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