It was a moment that had political junkies, just out of bed for the Sunday morning talk shows and slurping cereal milk, snarfing with laughter. Asked by ABC's Sam Donaldson to comment on Pat Buchanan's build-a-wall protectionist views on the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexican President-elect Vicente Fox responded, "Is he still alive?"
The real Fox-Buchanan joke may have a different punch line. Though the two are far apart on economic issues such as NAFTA, on social questions the Jesuit-schooled Fox takes a number of stances reminiscent of Buchanan's right-wing Catholicism.
Vicente Fox on abortion? As a devout Catholic, he believes life begins at conception. Fox, who has four adopted children, says he doesn't want to change Mexican abortion laws, which currently allow the procedure only in cases of rape or when the life of the mother is at stake.
Fox on homosexuality? "A degenerate act which goes against human nature." During his victorious campaign against Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Francisco Labastida, Fox won demagogic political points by implying that his rival was gay or a transvestite.
Fox on church and state? In his campaign, he criticized Mexico's tradition of secular public education, saying that the schools should inculcate religious values. And his party, the National Action Party (PAN), has been known for similar politics. Fox also used a slogan associated with the extreme rightist Cristero rebels, who were put down in the 1920s by the Mexican government. The slogan's spooky translation? "If I advance, follow me! If I hold back, push me! If I retreat, kill me!"
The U.S. media have under-reported this side of Fox, instead churning out justifiably glowing reports about his overthrow of the corrupt PRI, which had ruled Mexico unchallenged for 71 years. And it's true that Fox has promised to include a range of political views in his cabinet and has distanced himself from the more extreme elements of the PAN. Fox knew he needed broad support to win his election against the incumbent PRI, and he moved significantly to the center during the race while advancing a universally appealing anticorruption campaign theme.
So perhaps Fox will keep true to his pledge, and end up running Mexico like a moderate once he assumes the presidency on Decem-ber 1. But liberals should note that since Fox's election and the triumph of Canadian rightist Stockwell Day, the U.S. right has been intoxicated by the prospect of a continental triple alliance in conservatism. "Fox, Bush and Day," writes the National Review's Larry Kudlow approvingly, "have a traditional-values moral agenda." Take back the continent!