Buchanan also said that, despite Pope John Paul II's recent opposition, he is in favor of capital punishment in cases "where the crimes are heinous and it is the only justifying penalty," and when the judge is certain of the defendant's guilt.
In a wide-ranging, 35-minute interview with Catholic News Service, conducted Oct. 6 as Buchanan headed for Washington after an TV news appearance in Baltimore, the Catholic candidate also talked about his view on limiting immigration, his support for school choice, his opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, why he disputes the notion of a Catholic vote, and his belief that the United Nations should be moved to a neutral country, like Switzerland.
On abortion, Buchanan said the most important thing the president of the United States could do "is to alter the character of the Supreme Court and reconvert it into a pro-life constitutionalist court which respects America's religious heritage and tradition and respects the Constitution as originally written."
Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, "was an abomination, not only from the moral standpoint but a constitutional standpoint," he said. "So I would appoint only pro-life justices who had the courage to overturn (it)."
He said he would reverse five executive orders Clinton signed in the first days of his presidency that, according to Buchanan, "virtually made abortion on demand the policy of the federal government."
He was referring to Clinton's executive orders issued on Jan. 22, 1993, the 21st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, that reversed a number of federal regulations, such as prohibitions on abortion counseling in federally funded family planning clinics and restrictions on access to abortion in U.S. military hospitals overseas.
Buchanan said he would cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, the U.N. population council and fetal tissue research, would push federal legislation to outlaw RU-486 or give the states the freedom to do so, and would outlaw abortions at all military hospitals.
"You can use the office of the presidency to advance the whole cause of life and the culture of life," he said. He would also ask Congress to vote on a human life amendment.
Regarding capital punishment, Buchanan said he believes it is "a states' rights issue." He supports "the use of capital punishment in certain circumstances where the crimes are heinous and where I believe that it is the only justifying penalty."
"I always have held that, though I do believe that any judge ought to have in his own mind absolute certitude that the individual is guilty of these crimes before he imposes the death sentence," he added.
He added, "I think a society that sends a message that it will not take the life of any criminal no matter what he does sends a message of weakness."
Buchanan is opposed to banning tests of all nuclear weapons, weapons which he feels are not "inherently evil."
"I believe it is fundamentally evil to use one of those monstrous instruments on a defenseless city," he said, "but I do think that there is a role both in diplomacy and even ... in war for the use of some of these weapons, mainly tactical atomic weapons."
On the issue of immigration, Buchanan said he thinks the United States should cut the number of people allowed in each year by about two-thirds, to about 300,000 legal immigrants.
Even under his policy, the United States would still have "the most generous immigration policy of any nation on earth," he said.
He feels efforts should be made to help "the 30 million who have come here in the last 30 years to assimilate and Americanize."
"I think we're in danger of pulling apart over issues of race and ethnicity and culture and language and religion," he said.
Buchanan said the United Nations should be moved out of the United States by 2001 to a neutral country, like Switzerland.
He called the United Nations a "bloated bureaucracy" that is "dominated by regimes most of which are envious of and hostile to American national interests."
The United States should keep its seat on the Security Council, he said, but should not have to pay so much to a world body that has "an agenda which does not correspond to the national interest of the United States."
He supports the Vatican's presence at the United Nations and favors having a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, he said.
Asked what his campaign offers to poor people, Buchanan said he feels "we all have obligations to the poor," but thinks that welfare "is in some cases indefensible because it's a destroyer of families."
"In many cases the obligations we have to the poor are on an individual basis first, then on a family basis, then a community basis," he said.
"Fundamentally, I believe in the principle of subsidiarity, that the first place to look for solutions for problems such as poor people have is on the local level rather than to lay this off on the president of the United States," he explained.
Regarding school choice, he said parents should have "maximum freedom" to pick the education they think is best for their children and send then to "public, private, parochial, synagogue, Christian, magnet or home school."
He did not specify use of tuition vouchers, but his campaign material says he supports "tuition vouchers that can be redeemed at all schools ... but have no government strings attached."
He told CNS that parents, teachers and school officials "at the local level should decide what is taught in the public schools--and frankly what is not taught." He has also said he would abolish the U.S. Education Department "and return its functions and funding to state and local control."
Does Buchanan think there is a "Catholic vote" today?
"I would say that is an exaggeration," he said, adding that the Catholic vote isn't like it was when John F. Kennedy ran in 1960, or even in 1972 when, he said, Richard Nixon's campaign "consciously courted the Catholic vote on social and cultural issues" and got 55 percent of it.
Today "there's certainly not any monolithic Catholic vote," he said. "It is not as cohesive and unified as it once was on social and cultural and moral and patriotic issues, and also it's much more ethnically diverse now."
For example, he said, voting patterns among Hispanic Catholics vary widely. Cubans who came to the United States to flee communism tend to vote conservatively, according to Buchanan.
Hispanics who came to the United States as economic refugees tend to "believe in government, and they believe in government programs. They feel they need government support," he said, "so they tend to vote for the party that favors these approaches."
"That's just been historically true, and I'm not sure it's going to change," he added.
As a Catholic running for office, Buchanan said his faith informs his positions on issues, as does his upbringing "and the natural law tradition that dates back to Aquinas and Aristotle. ... It's all interwoven."
Buchanan attends Latin Mass regularly at St. Mary Church in Washington or goes to church in the parish where he grew up, Blessed Sacrament in Chevy Chase, Md. He and his wife, Shelley, live in McLean, Va.
Buchanan, who will turn 62 on Nov. 2, is a native of Washington. A journalist and book author, he is a regular panelist on the TV show "Crossfire" and other political discussion shows. He has never held elected office but was a senior adviser to both Presidents Nixon and Ford and was a Republican candidate for president in 1992 and 1996.
Buchanan said it was unrealistic to believe he would prevail in November.
But, he said, his campaign goal is to create "a new party that's conservative and traditionalist and which has a great passion about its convictions and a willingness to fight for them," he said.
He said his campaign has faced some obstacles, including efforts to drive his party off state ballots, a delay in getting federal election funding of $12.6 million, lack of media coverage and "the successful operation of the two parties to keep me out of the debates."
Also, Buchanan had to undergo gall bladder surgery, which kept him off the campaign trail for several weeks.
He thinks a Gore-Buchanan race would have sparked greater interest this election year.
"I'm not suggesting we'd walk away with a victory but at least the American people would know there had been a real clash of philosophies and ideas and visions for the future and that the choice had been clear," he said.
Regardless of his chances on Election Day, Buchanan said his campaign will "give it everything we've got."
"We could wind up very strong, but we could be (like) one of those fellows who crosses the finish line at the Boston Marathon after dark," he said. "But we shall finish."