When: Today, Thursday, August 6
After serving pugnaciously in two White Houses, hosting Crossfire on television, and running for president twice, Pat Buchanan knows as much about political debate as anyone. That makes the 76-year-old conservative ideally positioned to break down the challenges facing the 2016 Republican candidates for the White House in Cleveland tonight. John Harwood sat down with Buchanan over dinner at a McLean, Virginia steakhouse to run through the imperatives facing the sprawling field of 17 candidates, which will be divided into two separate debates.
A partial transcript from Speakeasy with John Harwood featuring Pat Buchanan follows. All references must be sourced to CNBC.com:
HARWOOD: You love political argument, don't you?
BUCHANAN: Yeah, well-- yes, I do.
HARWOOD: Between your work in the Nixon and Reagan White Houses, between your work on Crossfire, between your two presidential campaigns, I don't think anybody's debated more than Pat Buchanan. What was your game-day routine?
BUCHANAN: You know I didn't do a great deal of preparation. Standing up there it's tough.
HARWOOD: Well, so, tell me what it's gonna be like for these candidates. There's gonna be ten.
BUCHANAN: There's gonna be ten. And they gotta think of how to distinguish themselves. It depends on which candidate you're talking about.
Now if I were Trump. He's a counterpuncher. He's gonna have to take each of these things where he's been hit. And I think havin' a substantive-- a short, substantive answer.
If I were Bush, I would challenge Trump directly and politely. I would certainly be ready. I would be ready for the-- if you will, the sucker punch comin.'
(ON SCOTT WALKER) - I think he's gotta show a measure of gravitas, and also of communication skills in a debate.
(ON CHRIS CHRISTIE) - He's got a tough assignment. I mean, Trump has become the uber-tough guy.
Rand Paul might come out again as sort of an anti-interventionist against these wars in the Middle East. If I were him, I would distinguish myself that way to try to get back into the mix.
(ON MARCO RUBIO) - The perception of him is a certain callowness and youthfulness. I think he's gotta deal with his own problems rather than the Trump problem.
HARWOOD: Ted Cruz. What does he do?
BUCHANAN: I think he does Ted Cruz. I think he goes after the Senate Majority Leader. No, I do think that's him. I think Cruz is one guy that does have potential.
HARWOOD: Do you think lines like "March to the oven," is that good stuff?
BUCHANAN: That's a calculated decision on his part. And I think it probably in a way, it's gonna help Huckabee.
HARWOOD: Would you repeat it on this debate stage?
BUCHANAN: Well, I don't agree with his position. From Huckabee's standpoint, I would not apologize for it all and I would, I would embellish upon it.
HARWOOD: How do you figure out the right balance between hot and cold, between passion and toughness?
BUCHANAN: I think you treat everybody with respect. You can go and be tough and get into an exchange, people like that.
HARWOOD: Trump doesn't seem to be-- very enamored of treating people with respect.
BUCHANAN: Well, you don't—
HARWOOD: "Not too smart, dummy."
BUCHANAN: Well, that's because they all-- they've all attacked him. You know, they called him a lotta names. And then, people are waitin' for him to respond. And, so, he backhands 'em.
HARWOOD: If any of the candidates, especially the less experienced ones came to you and said, "Is there anything I should not do?"
BUCHANAN: You don't wanna come off as-- as wounded and striking back. Look, if you've been clipped and you draw—
HARWOOD: If-- if you gotta punch, you don't look-- you don't show them--
BUCHANAN: If you gotta-- you wanna smile--you (LAUGH) smile. You don't see-- you smile. Exactly. You smile as though, you know, you weren't affected by it. It might be a funny line. And you laugh with it.
HARWOOD: Now, we got 17 Republican candidates so far. Jim Gilmore just got in. Now, if he's getting in the race, Pat Buchanan can't be far behind.
BUCHANAN: The spirit is willing but the--the flesh is very weak, John.
HARWOOD: Pat, thanks for comin' out and doin' this.
BUCHANAN: Delighted. Enjoyed it.
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