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Panning for Goldwater

November 18, 2011
By Wes Burns , Times-Republican

Anybody remember Barry Goldwater?

If you find yourself thinking of a child being hit by a full nuclear strike you AREN'T crazy, that was a commercial Goldwater's opponent in the 1964 presidential election, Lyndon Banes Johnson, ran to show that Goldwater was an unbalanced wacko that would start nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Goldwater was the winner of a bitterly contested Republican primary, the winner of which would face off with the man that assumed the mantle of President after the assassination of one of the more popular presidents in American history.

With no prominent Republican wanting the job (Nixon declined to run after the 1960 election) the GOP was awash with politicians forgotten to history. Guys like Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, John W. Byrnes, and William Scranton; all of whom held the front runner position in at least one state.

So its 1964 and Goldwater, who had been dubbed by his friend Richard Nixon as "Mr. Conservative," is facing down the only real competition within the party, a man named Nelson Rockefeller.

Rockefeller was a moderate Republican, liked by members of both parties, and fought for environmental protections and infrastructure spending.

I know, right?

So how was Goldwater, liked only by the conservative wing of his party, to compete?

He had to step up his crazy game.

President Truman in the late 40s cooked up something called "containment," a policy designed to stop the flow of Communism (apparently a rather fluid philosophy) from spreading from the Soviet Union/China to the rest of the world.

The Truman Doctrine kind of set the stage for most of our current "preemptive strike" theory that would be key to the Bush "we gonna get ya!" Doctrine.

Goldwater looked at containment and said "good, not great."

He had an idea called "rollback," clearly later appropriated by Wal-Mart, which was to send American troops to invade communist countries to liberate them ... from themselves.

Not crazy enough? Goldwater said the civil rights act was an undue Federal incursion into the lives of citizens.

At the Republican convention in 1963 he said "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Ok, that's the kind of thing you say before you invade Canada.

He was the first Republican to win ANY of the Deep South states (Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina) in a presidential election since the Reconstruction era following the end of the Civil War.

He started the process of turning the Republican Party from an East Coast party into the behemoth in was when Reagan got elected.

So, who gets to be Barry Goldwater this time?

Bitterly contested primary battle? Check. Zero prominent Republicans wanting to donate their body for the general election? Check.

Stepping up the crazy game?

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence." -Rep. Michele Bachmann

"The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don't have enough workers to support the retirees. Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion." -Rick Santorum.

"Who's the 'President Of Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan? I don't know, do you know?" -Herman Cain.

"Oops." - Rick Perry.

Check. And after Gingrich talked about his moon bases during a GOP debate he doesn't get a quote in this list; frankly he doesn't need any more.

Since the Republicans seem to have a memory that only extends as far back as Reagan I'm going to give a little piece of history to the once-respectable party: Goldwater won 52 electoral votes; Johnson, who JFK only picked up to give him support in the South, won 486.

Maybe Romneyfeller isn't looking too bad anymore.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Friday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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