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STANDING WITH PAT?

Xenophobic Pat Buchanan could never mold the national GOP in his own image of an America that never was. That makes it clear why he would want to exploit the smaller, more vulnerable Reform Party to spew his hate-laced campaign rhetoric.

What isn't clear is why the Reform Party would want him.

The third party that made its name with Ross Perot, and now has popular Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura out front but not running for president, certainly can do better than Buchanan, even if the goal is simply to maintain a high profile.

It would be better to not make headlines at all than to make them by running a candidate who spends half his time making anti-Semitic remarks and bashing gays, minorities and women and the other half trying to then explain why he's not really a bigot.

Buchanan fancies himself a populist, as do members of the party he now threatens to join. But the populism of the eccentric Perot and the flamboyant Ventura is grounded in common-sense economic policies and a belief in the American people -- all of the American people.

Buchanan's distorted version, by contrast, is grounded in scapegoating any American who doesn't look like he looks or believe as he believes. His repeated tirades against Jews -- the latest of which appear in his new book -- his blatant homophobia, his 1940s views of women and his virulent disdain for those of foreign ancestry mark him as a candidate any responsible party should want to avoid.

Railing against imports, trade deals and big corporations -- staples of the populist economic platform -- is not enough to obscure the fact that Buchanan's social agenda is anathema to most Americans. His hateful views, no matter how couched in sugar-coated rhetoric, should put him off-limits to any party that fancies itself as representing the American mainstream.

Buchanan would never win the Republican Party nomination. That's a credit to the GOP. The Reform Party shouldn't want to sully its name by having him as its standard-bearer, either. That's too high a price to pay for a few headlines.

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