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Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16 Presidential Losers: Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater, 1964

Barry Goldwater was a serious thinker who profoundly altered American politics.  Ridiculing such a man would be a cheap shot.  We're going for the cheap shot. 
Goldwater started the race about four laps behind.  The assassination of JFK meant incumbent Johnson's candidacy had a powerful emotional impetus behind it.  On top of this, Kennedy had lowered taxes, stimulating the economy and lifting us from a recession - and on the Civil Rights front, he'd (somewhat reluctantly) faced down Governor Wallace in Alabama over integration of the University of Alabama.  On foreign affairs, he'd been less than stellar: a google search reveals that "fiasco" is the word that most commonly follows Bay of Pigs.  He had successfully gotten the Soviets to pull their nuclear missiles from Cuba, but the war in Southeast Asia was heating up, and America's involvement had escalated.  Kennedy had said, "We don't have a prayer of staying in Vietnam. Those people hate us," and insiders saying he was strongly considering pulling out of Vietnam.
Back to Goldwater.
His most famous quotation is "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation is no virtue," a paraphrase of Cicero.  Another great quotation was, ""Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea."  (Goldwater was from Arizona.)  Nor was Goldwater  shy about the possibility of using nuclear weapons, once saying, "Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin as an example."  Democrats paraphrased his campaign slogan, "In your heart, you know he's right," to "In your guts, you know he's nuts."  One of the most famous political ads of all time exploited Goldwater's reputation, showing a little girl plucking petals off a daisy followed by a montage of mushroom clouds.  Not until "Bambi Meets Godzilla" was there another such juxtaposition of innocence and destruction.
After his defeat, Goldwater returned to the Senate and pursued his interests in collecting Hopi "Kachina" dolls - he ended up with over 430 - and UFO's.  Goldwater was convinced that the Air Force was covering up knowledge of extraterrestrial visitors, later telling Larry King "They may not look like us, but I have very strong feelings that they have advanced beyond our mental capabilities."
Hearing chilling speculation of smarter-than-Goldwater outer space aliens, Larry cut to a commercial.

Result

Lyndon Johnson: 486
Barry Goldwater: 52

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