With impeccable timing, I interviewed Eisenhower biographer and Colin Powell booster Stephen E. Ambrose just days before Powell's Noble Renunciation of Ambition. But before our chat disappears into that void (de?)populated by Milton Shapp's Inaugural Address and the Oscar acceptance speech of Pauly Shore, I retrieve this exchange:
Me: One way to look at Eisenhower is as the Establishment's alternative to [Senator Robert] Taft, who as a classical liberal and antiwar isolationist was a potentially radical President. In a way, wouldn't Powell be playing Eisenhower to, say, Pat Buchanan's Taft?
Ambrose: Yes. precisely.
Professor Ambrose is an honest partisan, and I suppose his man Powell would be no worse than Clinton or Dole or Cramm or the other replicants who would be President. The Free Soilers used to scoff at the "Whig and Democratic wings of the great Compromise party of the Nation," but the difference between Henry Clay and the party of Lamar Alexander and Richard Lugar is that Clay was a patriot and an American.
Buchanan has flaws—his Clayite advocacy of a protectionism that amounts to a blank check for the most powerful industries and most cunning lobbyists; his embrace of the truly rebarbative letterhead Christians with their Washington suites and suctorial feats toward Caesar—but he is saying enough unsayable things to make this...