George McGovern



It is a warm and silent night in October 1972. Pat Buchanan, a young speechwriter in the Nixon White House, walks along an abandoned Connecticut Avenue, stopping occasionally to gaze at the crescent moon. Suddenly the sky cracks open, a beam of pink light strikes Pat in the face, and the temperature drops 20 degrees; a figure with the body of Francisco Franco and the face of the Virgin Mary materializes on the sidewalk, speaking through a wall of static:

"This is a transmission from the year 2-0-0-6. Repeat: This is a transmission from the year 2-0-0-6. Come in, Pat Buchanan. Come in, Pat Buchanan."

Startled, Pat says, "That's me." And then: "You say you're calling from the year 2006?"

"Yes," replies the entity.

"What will I be doing for a living then?" Pat asks.

"You're a newspaper columnist, a TV pundit, and an editor at a magazine you helped to found, The American Conservative."

Pat considers this. "That sounds plausible," he says. "What sort of stuff do I run in this magazine?"

The entity coughs. "Conservative stuff. You know."

"Well, could you give an example?"

The entity sighs. "The current issue has a cover story about the abuse of executive power."

Pat brightens. "Nixon's still around?" he asks.

"Only in spirit," says the entity. "But, actually, the story comes out against the abuses."

Pat mulls this for a moment. "Hmm. Well, what else is in the issue?"

The entity gets testy. "I didn't beam in to talk to you about your magazine," it says. "I have an important message about FBI associate direc—"

"Come on," says Pat. "What piece comes after the cover story?"

The entity looks uncomfortable. "It's a warm profile of— um, of George McGovern."

"Come again?"

"McGovern. And the campaign he ran in 1972. It— Where are you going?"

But Buchanan has walked directly through the sputtering spirit, laughing at the lies of the creature from the future. Within half an hour he is downing his third glass of whiskey and convincing himself the encounter never took place.

(The McGovern profile, written by the libertarian journalist Bill Kauffman, is well worth reading, though it might confuse any reader who believes the whole country can be reduced to the colors red and blue. The same goes for Scott McConnell's paleoconservative appreciation of Eugene McCarthy, published in the same issue.)