By andrei Blakely
ANNAPOLIS – Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan said Friday the recent terrorist bombing of the USS Cole and the increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians should be treated as separate issues.
Treating the two as connected, Buchanan said during a campaign stop at Salisbury State University, could only further erode the Middle East peace process.
The Cole was heavily damaged and at least 17 crew believed killed Thursday after a small boat exploded alongside in an alleged terrorist attack. Also Thursday, Israel retaliated with helicopter missile attacks on Palestinian targets for the killing of at least two Israeli soldiers.
Buchanan criticized U.S. foreign policy and the platforms of his major- party opponents – Democrat Al Gore and Republican George Bush – before a crowd of more than 200.
The U.S. foreign policy system, which he said appears to favor Israel, is becoming unbalanced in a way that cannot create peace, Buchanan said.
“The U.S. is not perceived as an honest broker by the Arab world. The Israelis are our friends, but many Arabs are our friends,” he said. “We cannot broker peace without peace.”
Buchanan advocates making America more of a self-sufficient country that relies less on trade and more on protecting its own boundaries. He thinks U.S. foreign aid is too high and that the country should stay out of foreign wars.
Buchanan backs making English the national language, and protecting jobs that are undesirable to U.S. citizens now but that could be important later if the economy declined.
Friday’s stop is the second in Maryland for Buchanan, who visited Baltimore Oct. 6.
Buchanan has courted Maryland during his campaign. He needs 5 percent of the vote in the Nov. 7 general election to retain federal matching funds for future Reform Party bids. The party received $12.6 million this election.
Buchanan linked the Middle East situation with the battle against illegal immigration.
“I will remove our soldiers from the Middle East and put them on our borders,” he said. “Ronald Reagan said `a country that can’t defend its borders is not really a country at all.'”
The Republican Party is becoming too much like the Democrats, he said, and a one-party system controlled by big business is evolving in the country.
Donna Schuerholz, who treats patients at Alternatives in Medicine in Salisbury, went to Buchanan’s talk looking for an alternative to Bush and Gore.
“I’m more anti-establishment. I’m anti-big government. The two-party system is the same. I think a couple of them (politicians) should be tried for treason,” Schuerholz said.
The appearance was put together by Harry Basehart, head of the political science department at Salisbury State. Buchanan is the first presidential candidate to appear on campus, said Basehart, although Republican primary candidate Alan Keyes has visited Salisbury.
“I think (Buchanan) speaks the truth. I think he is a man of honor. I think that unfortunately he was cut out of the debates,” said Jay Powell, a Salisbury resident who has supported Buchanan for four years. “I think he could handle (a Middle East crisis). He is a realist and not an idealist. Following Buchanan is like following Ghandi, (Jesse) Jackson or Malcolm X.”
After his address, Buchanan spent a half-hour answering questions from the audience, some of whom questioned the credibility of his ideas. A few members attempted to drown out Buchanan’s responses with low-toned noises.
“They don’t like me,” said Buchanan, as he recognized the dissent.
One audience member asked Buchanan how he wanted to develop isolationist ideals. Buchanan responded that he does not believe in isolationism, but he also does not think the U.S. should fight in other nation’s wars or give as much foreign aid to other countries.
“The idea that we are shoveling $5 billion into Israel and Egypt is preposterous,” he said.
An elderly lady questioned Buchanan’s isolationist theory by reminding him that when he served in the Reagan administration he was against the U.S. surrender of the Panama Canal.
Buchanan said he opposed the pullout because retaining control could aid in the nation’s war against drugs.