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CAMPAIGN 2000

Buchanan Speaks Out at Bob Jones University

September 19, 2000|ERIC BAILEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, hoping to reignite a longshot presidential run bedeviled by money shortfalls and his own medical problems, seized the stage at a controversial fundamentalist college here Monday and took dead aim at some favorite targets--Hollywood, left-leaning judges and the moral degradation of America.

Buchanan, back on the campaign circuit after gallbladder surgery and suddenly flush with more than $12 million in federal campaign cash, declared during a speech at Bob Jones University that America's very underpinnings are threatened by "cultural Marxism."

"We are moving toward a country where we Americans have less and less in common--no common language, no common faith, no common heroes," Buchanan said, adding that his presidential bid amounts to "a struggle for the soul of our country. It is a post-Cold War struggle for who we are, what we stand for and what we believe in our country."

Sounding at times as much a preacher as a politician, Buchanan told nearly 2,000 students gathered in the university's cavernous Rodeheaver Auditorium that the U.S. is suffering a crisis of "moral decay."

He railed against the rise of a "judicial dictatorship," the spread of homosexual rights, looming world government, eroding borders, rampant abortion and the unabashed rewriting of school history books on subjects ranging from Columbus to George Armstrong Custer.

Buchanan vowed to shut down the U.S. Department of Education, close the National Endowment for the Arts "and fumigate the building." He also promised to get "God, the Bible and the Ten Commandments" back in school.

But some of the erstwhile Republican's toughest words were reserved for the entertainment industry, which he chided for "continually polluting the hearts and minds of American's children."

He criticized Oscar-winning films like "Cider House Rules" and "American Beauty" as celebrations of abortion, homosexuality and sin.

"These are the Hollywood values that are being imposed on America through the film industry," Buchanan said. He added that instead of breaking up Microsoft, "why don't we break up Disney?"

The stinging criticism comes as Hollywood increasingly takes hits from all sides during this presidential campaign season.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission released a report criticizing the entertainment industry for marketing R-rated films to children. Congress held hearings. Vice President Al Gore joined the chorus but drew quick criticism for a New York fund-raiser sponsored by entertainment leaders.

While the blast by Buchanan was aimed at the conservatives he hopes to coax in the final weeks of the campaign, the stage for his stump speech was just as noteworthy.

Bob Jones University became a focal point for controversy in February when critics bashed Texas Gov. George W. Bush for an appearance at the 200-acre campus, where a ban on interracial dating was rescinded last March following a national uproar.

School leaders have described Catholicism as a cult. The university does not allow dancing, drinking, smoking, kissing or hand holding. Last year, school officials vowed to arrest a gay alumnus, an ordained minister, if he set foot on campus.

Bush insiders ultimately conceded that the appearance two weeks before the state's critical primary was a misstep.

Buchanan's team pointedly selected Bob Jones to spotlight the Reform hopeful as a politician who will not "abandon his conservative friends" and yearns to "energize the conservative and populist grass roots," said K.B. Forbes, a campaign spokesman.

His speech is seen as a first step to build momentum for the November election, ensure the party gets federal election funds in four years and put a more conservative stamp on the populist party Ross Perot established after a stirring third-party challenge in 1992.

The Reform Party has been sharply divided most of this year, with Buchanan and challenger John Hagelin warring for control during dueling national conventions in Long Beach.

After a prolonged fight, the Federal Election Commission last week directed $12.6 million in campaign funds to Buchanan, identifying him as the rightful Reform Party nominee. Hagelin conceded the Reform ticket, and is now focused on running as the Natural Law Party candidate.

Buchanan, who has made three previous runs at the presidency, also plans a television advertising blitz that will focus on his signature social issues, most notably his strong anti-abortion stance. Future advertisements, particularly in Southern California, will target immigration.

But the bulk of the campaign's TV commercials won't be aired until shortly before Election Day, Buchanan campaign officials said. Instead, he will focus on radio ads and appearances on talk shows, along with stops at cities scattered around the country. Buchanan heads to Michigan today, then on to Ohio.

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