Nixon: Man Behind the Mask - Gary Allen

Goldwater Over the Dam

After seven futile tries, in 1964 the Conservatives, those who formed the vast majority of the grass roots of the party, finally succeeded in nominating one of their own to run for the Presidency. The impetus for the Goldwater nomination came from the Conservative movement that had mushroomed following the election of John Kennedy. It was primarily a young movement and a grass-roots movement. The new Conservative forces came not from the top down, as the stereotype put out by Theodore White and other authors would suggest, but from the bottom up. The Goldwater drive was as far from the "boss" image as it is possible to get; it was a rare occasion of spontaneous ideological fervor imposing its energies on a reluctant candidate.

It was the personal commitment of people who believed their efforts made a difference that fueled the Goldwater effort, from the primary battles, to the delegate contest in state conventions, to the floor of San Francisco's Cow Palace. The Goldwater people had a "secret weapon"—the Conservative movement and the profound commitment of its partisans. Campaign director Cliff White found in the legions of the movement the people who would go out and make the personal contacts, ring the doorbells, and sit through the precinct meetings. He found people who were motivated by the philosophy of Conservatism. In November 1964, of course, this motivation was not sufficient to overcome the many handicaps under which Goldwater operated. But without the commitment Goldwater would not have been in the race in the first place. In ten primaries Goldwater got 2,148,000 votes, or 48 per cent of the total. His nearest rival, Nelson Rockefeller, got 1,163,000, or 28 percent.

If the little people liked Goldwater, the big people, and particularly the Establishment Insiders, certainly did not. Big business, which is supposed to be Conservative and usually is not, recognized Goldwater as a man it could not control and jumped out of the Republican boat to huddle with Lyndon Johnson, a man who is known to be a pretty shrewd financier himself.

In no campaign had the prejudice of the press expressed itself so clearly as in the legendary distortions of Goldwater's stands. The true ideological colors of Huntley-Brinkley, Life, Look, Time, Newsweek, et al., have never been more glaringly obvious than in the treatment given Goldwater in his campaign.

From a public relations standpoint Goldwater was a most promotable item, and could easily have been given the same charisma that has been created for Lindsay, Rockefeller, and Percy. A sort of modern Thomas Jefferson, Goldwater was a chronic gadgeteer, a jet plane pilot, a sports car fancier, a ham radio operator, an expert on western lore, and an honorary member of an Indian tribe. He was dashing in appearance and laced his public remarks with humor and colloquialisms (which were magnificently twisted by the press). But Goldwater was a threat to the CFR one-party system, and all the big guns of the American communications and publishing industry were turned on him in an attempt to destroy not merely the man, but the movement behind him.

But nowhere was Goldwater attacked as viciously and ferociously as he was by members of his own party, including many for whom Goldwater had made personal campaign efforts in the past. The Liberals loosed upon Goldwater a storm of accusation and innuendo that made their assaults upon the late Senator Taft in 1952 look like warm endorsements. Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Cabot Lodge appeared before 40,000 Negro demonstrators in the streets of San Francisco during the convention, openly inciting them against the candidacy of the man about to be chosen to head their own party ticket. Scranton camp followers spread incredible tales, suggesting that Goldwater was perhaps in league with neo-Fascists in Germany—this about a man whose own father was Jewish.

During the California primary Rockefeller had mailed out a million reprints of Look magazine's smear on Goldwater, and Rocky insinuated that Goldwater supporters used "Communist and Nazi methods." At the convention the Liberals tried to insert in the platform a repudiation of "extremist groups such as the Communists, the Ku Klux Klan, [and] The John Birch Society." The technique was obvious: to lump a patriotic organization together with two anti-American subversive groups (the albatross technique), and dump them all into the lap of Goldwater—and this from the very Liberals who used to scream loudest about "guilt by association" when it was accurately applied to Communists and fellow travelers.

The entire tenor of the '64 convention was to brand Goldwater as a madman and an extremist. The Liberals denounced Goldwater's supporters as extremists but were unwilling to denounce the ADA, the ACLU, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, CORE, or any of the radical leftwing societies that are influential in the Democratic Party.

The image of Goldwater as a bomb-crazed maniac fastened on him, as Theodore White observed, "first by Rockefeller, then by Scranton, then by Johnson"—was decisive. The result was that Goldwater wound up running his campaign "not only against Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic record, but against fear itself." Up through the primaries and the convention, both Rockefeller and Scranton strove to argue that they, not Goldwater, were true "Conservatives." Goldwater was portrayed as a "radical" who wanted to defoliate everything, including downtown New York. Robert Donovan observed that:

"The fear that a Goldwater administration might somehow lead to war was the most powerful single factor Johnson had on his side. Everywhere reporters and poll-takers found voters worried about what Goldwater would do abroad . . . This worry was undoubtedly the main reason why many men and women who might otherwise have been expected to vote Republican deserted Goldwater."

The climax of the liberal Republican attack on Goldwater was contained in the infamous Scranton "letter," which is an excellent example of how immoderate moderates can be when dealing with Conservatives. The letter to Goldwater, which was distributed to every convention delegate, stated:

"Your supporters . . . admit that you area minority candidate, but feel they have bought, beaten and compromised enough delegate support to make the result a foregone conclusion.

"With open contempt for the dignity, integrity and common sense of the convention, your managers say in effect that the delegates are little more than a flock of chickens whose necks will be wrung at will

"You have too often casually prescribed nuclear war as a solution to a troubled world.

"You have too often allowed the radical extrenusts to use you.

"You have too often stood for irresponsibility in the serious question of racial holocaust . . .

"In short, Goldwaterism has come to stand for a whole crazy-quilt collection of absurd and dangerous positions that would be soundly repudiated by the American people in November."

When Scranton issued his various statements, of which the "letter" was merely the last of a series, he had no realistic chance for the nomination. The question had been settled before he entered the race. The only purpose that would be served by this eleventh hour harangue was to destroy Goldwater's slender chance of election in the fall.

Describing Scranton's frame of mind when he jumped into the race, Theodore White tells us in The Making of the President, 1964: "It was his party: and if, to save it, he had to punish Goldwater, an old friend, and destroy, in 1964 the value of his nomination, then so it had to be." After Scranton had done his dirty work he faded away like an old political soldier. White states that the strategy of the "letter":

". . . had made the Republican convention the stage for the destruction of the leading Republican candidate. What Rockefeller had begun in the spring, Scranton finished in June and at the convention: the painting for the American people of a half-crazed leader indifferent to the needs of American society at home and eager to plunge the nation into war abroad . . . Rockefeller and Scranton had drawn up the indictment, Lyndon Johnson was the prosecutor. Goldwater was cast as the defendant."

The hatchet job was done by Liberal Republicans. The Democrats were just the clean-up committee.

Of course, it would be ludicrously false to maintain that Goldwater was headed for a smashing victory in November 1964 until he was stabbed in the back by members of his own party. All polls showed that Goldwater's popularity had peaked out just prior to the tragic assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. Even though the President was shot down by an avowed Marxist who had spent several years in Russia, and who following his arrest gave the Communist clenched fist salute and called for John J. Abt, the chief defense attorney for the Communist party, to serve as his lawyer, the American media blamed the President's assassination on "the climate of hate." Strong implications were made that Conservative activists were somehow to blame for the assassination of the President.

The New England Liberal, who according to all the polls was losing popularity, was replaced by a man variously regarded as a Southerner or Westerner, who was believed, mistakenly, to be quite Conservative. During the campaign LBJ delivered a number of speeches that would have won him a standing ovation at a DAR convention. The issue of Conservatism versus Liberalism, which was to have been the focal point of the 1964 campaign, never succeeded in getting discussed after the death of Kennedy.

Robert Donovan noted that: "Millions of voters regarded Johnson as a middle-of-the-road conservative and Goldwater as a radical extremist."

Stanton Evans has asked why it was that, if the Conservative position is as politically disastrous as we are told, the Liberals, confronted with the first Conservative presidential candidate in thirty years, labored so hard to demonstrate that he was not a Conservative.

If the American consensus is overwhelmingly Liberal, the best possible strategy against a Conservative candidate would seem to be to prove that he is a Conservative, while the best possible strategy for a Liberal candidate would of course be to present himself in full ADA regalia. Yet the Republican Liberals, Johnson, and their supporters in the media resolutely avoided the confrontation. They stuck to the technique of personal attack, promoting the idea that Goldwater was an untrustworthy individual, a "radical," and that Johnson was a stable, prudent person who could be trusted as Goldwater could not. The Johnson campaign avoided throughout any effort to ballyhoo the explicit ADA-style Liberalism at the heart of the Great Society programs. It is no debate of Liberal-Conservative issues, after all, to cry "nuclear death" when serious issues of foreign policy are raised, when the merits of the Test Ban Treaty are discussed, or when the complex question is broached of what kind of delegated authority should exist in regard to tactical nuclear weapons in the event of a massive Communist attack.

The day after the election. Liberals in and out of the Republican party were gleeful. James Reston (CFR) wrote in the New York Times of November 4th:

"Barry Goldwater has not only lost the Presidential election yesterday, but the conservative cause as well. He has wrecked his party for a long time to come and is not even likely to control the wreckage."

Jacob Javits (CFR), who, like the other Republican "moderates," had taken a vacation during the campaign, said:

"The election of 1964 should have settled this question for a long time to come. The overriding issue posed by the Goldwater-Miller ticket which was clear to the American people was a call for de-centralization—to shift to the state and local levels of government certain important federal functions and responsibilities. The size of the defeat cannot be seen other than as a repudiation of this concept."

Having done everything they possibly could to sabotage Goldwater and magnify the extent of his defeat, the party's Liberals piously maintained that Conservatism had been repudiated and that the party must move leftward in the future. Having promoted the desertion of the party by many of its own members, the Liberal clique blamed the debacle on Goldwater. Having made the Goldwater defeat as large as they possibly could, the Liberal Republicans proceeded to read the Conservatives out of the positions of power in the party.

That Goldwater's poor showing was in large measure attributable to the successful effort to brand him as an irresponsible radical is seen by a comparison of his electoral performance with that of Republican Congressmen in Conservative areas, men who were just as Conservative as Goldwater himself, but who uniformly ran ahead of him. The only significant difference between these candidates and Goldwater was that they were not subjected to the nonstop smear job that was his daily lot. H.R. Gross of Iowa, Richard Roudebush of Indiana, and John Ashbrook of Ohio, all strong Conservatives, ran far ahead of Goldwater in their respective districts. If Goldwater's Conservative ideology had been the reason for his poor showing, these Congressmen would have run more or less even with him, since their ideological position was, on all major points, virtually identical with his. But they, in fact. gained votes from many people who marked their ballots against Goldwater. These results made it clear that not only did Goldwater fail to receive a routine Republican vote; he did not even receive a routine Conservative vote.

Congressional and other losses suffered by the GOP in 1964 are cited by the Liberals as final proof that a Conservative Republican "can't win." It is therefore interesting to compare the outcome of the Goldwater campaign with the last election conducted explicitly in the "Eisenhower mainstream." In 1958, the Republican party sustained a net loss of forty-eight House seats, compared with thirty-eight in 1964.

The party in 1958 lost a total of thirteen Senate seats, compared with two in 1964. In gubernatorial races, the 1958 GOP suffered a net loss of five governorships; in 1964 the party actually made a net gain of one. In 1958, the party lost 686 state legislative seats, while in 1964 it lost 541. The truth is, then, the performance was uniformly worse in 1958 than it was in 1964.

The Liberals in the GOP have brought about their own debacles in Presidential years. In 1948, for example, when Dewey was supposed to win hands down, the GOP lost a staggering total of seventy-five seats in the House of Representatives, nine seats in the Senate, and seven governorships—in each case a much higher aggregate loss than was sustained in 1964. The 1964 election was then, in fact, a lesser calamity, not a greater one, than was suffered in either 1948 or 1958. The fact is that the charges hurled at the head of Goldwater, and the implication that "modern" Republicans alone know how to build the national party and win elections, simply are not true. Far from being able to win, the Liberal Republicans hold championship marks for engineering GOP defeats.

Nineteen sixty-four is also pointed to by Liberal Republicans as proof that their "New York strategy," which seeks to win elections by appealing to bloc votes in the large cities of key industrial states, is superior to Goldwater's "Southwest strategy," which seeks to weld the traditionally Conservative mid-West to the South-Southwest-West. In truth, this strategy was not tested in 1964, since Goldwater was running not against a New Englander, as would have been the case had JFK not been assassinated, but against a man who was also a Southerner and a Westerner. It should also be pointed out that the New York strategy has worked only twice since 1936, and in both of those cases a highly popular war hero defeated an unappealing egghead.

There were positive aspects to the 1964 calamity. Grassroots participation in Republican politics reached an all-time high; Goldwater received contributions from almost 1,500,000 individuals, whereas Nixon received contributions from only 40,000 individuals. (This is further proof, however, that the "fat cats" who had supported Nixon and other Republican candidates in the past abandoned Goldwater.)

Leftwing groups saw in this rise of grass-roots Conservatism a harbinger of the future. Group Research Incorporated, which kept an eye on free-enterprise-oriented groups and individuals for the late Walter Reuther, in a year-end report for 1965 disclosed that Conservative performance since the Goldwater defeat, rather than diminishing, had experienced a marked upward movement and staked out new positions of political strength.' The Anti-Defamation League expressed the opininn that:

"The real accomplishment of the radical right [Conservatism] in the 1964 campaign was in the exposure of millions of Americans to its message, and new recruits to its membership, and in the reservoir of potential recruits being built up . . . through their efforts in the Goldwater campaign."

By 1964 the Conservative movement had come so far that Conservatives were able to accomplish what Taft, on three different occasions, had failed to do—win the nomination. The movement, however, was not yet large enough to win the election. The campaign nonetheless succeeded, albeit in strangled tones, in getting before the people some important issues—crime in the streets was the most obvious—which subsequently became grade A topics for all respectable politicians. During 1964 the Conservatives at least got their foot in the political door.

The real tragedy of the Goldwater campaign was that its leader gave up the crusade when he was defeated at the polls. On November 4, 1964, there were two kinds of Conservatives in America: sad ones and mad ones. Some were ready to crawl into their hole, resigned to the triumph of collectivism. The mad Conservatives wanted to carry on the crusade. Goldwater's cardinal sins were two: first, that following the nominating convention he lost the initiative and went on the defensive; secondly, following his defeat he handed the party machinery, which the Conservatives had acquired through four years of blood, sweat, and tears, back to the Liberals.

In U.S. News & World Report of December 21, 1964, Goldwater was asked how he viewed his future role in the Republican party. He stated that it was his intention to: " . . . continue to be a working member of the Republican party—not trying to dictate anything, just putting my shoulder to the wheel." Thus did Goldwater in one sentence "telegraph" to his twenty-seven million supporters that he did not intend to fight for Conservative principles at the January meeting of the Republican National Committee in Chicago. The Goldwater abdication in January 1965 did more to hurt the Conservative cause and re-establish one-party government in the United States than did the November 1964 election defeat. Out went Dean Burch and in came Ray Bliss, "Mr. Pragmatist." Ralph de Toledano wrote in his nationally syndicated column of June 29, 1965:

"Like other Liberal Leftist Republicans, Mr. Bliss had made no secret of the fact that he cares not a whit about the sensibilities of the Conservatives who make up the bulk of the party's workers. Conservatives, he contended, have nowhere else to go."

Goldwater was a reluctant candidate in the first place. He had no lust for the power of the Presidency, as had Richard Nixon, nor for the incredible amount of work that goes with it. The Conservative movement fell in love with Goldwater's ghost-writers, who turned out his columns, speeches, and books. Unfortunately Goldwater was not his ghost writers. He was propelled into candidacy by the zeal of the grass-roots Conservatives, which he did not fully share. He had no desire to capitalize on the great depth of exuberance and loyalty felt by his hard-core supporters all over the country. Instead of continuing the crusade Goldwater went back to his ham radio. The '64 election was water over the dam—Goldwater over the dam.

The Liberal Republicans, believing that 1964 was a lost cause anyway, were willing to let the Conservatives have their fling, knowing that it would be disastrous. In its January 24, 1967 issue. Look Magazine stated editorially concerning the Republicans:

"In 1964 the overall mood of the convention's professionals was that it didn't really matter who was nominated, because no available Republican could beat President Johnson. The polls showed a bare 35% for Goldwater against Johnson, the same for Nixon, and even less for Governors Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York and William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania. Also, Goldwater had knocked himself out raising money for the party and had won the big California primary. The conservatives, furthermore, were screaming for 'a choice not an echo,' and the moderates correctly assessing the middle-road temper of the country (which is now almost universally recognized) [sic] but squabbling over who their leader should be—decided to let the conservatives fall on their faces."

The strategy couldn't have been smarter. Had the Liberal Republicans in 1964 engineered another minority coup, the Conservatives, particularly after Phyllis Schlafly's book, A Choice Not an Echo, would have left the Republican party en masse. The smartest thing for the Liberals to do was to let the Conservatives have a year, knowing that they could not win and that their defeat could be blamed on the Conservative philosophy, setting the stage for the re-establishment of a middle-of-the-road Republican party.

The man who benefited most from the Goldwater debacle was Richard Nixon. Obviously, Goldwater or someone equally conservative could not be nominated in 1968, and GOP Conservatives would just as obviously not support any of the Liberal Republicans who had put the knife in their candidate's back. Richard Nixon became the only possible candidate acceptable to both wings of the party.

As the 1964 Republican convention approached, Nixon, like an old firehorse, and apparently against his better judgment, again began to smell smoke. He had lain low, bided his time, and avoided the stop-Goldwater movement until late in the game. He had made it "perfectly clear" that he was not taking sides in the Goldwater vs. Rockefeller primaries. Then, as Stephen Hess and David Broder recall in their book. The Republican Establishment:

"Just as suddenly, Nixon switched sides and became the self-appointed leader of the stop-Goldwater forces. A week after California had voted, on June 9th, he flew to Cleveland for the national Governors' Conference . . . Nixon . . . astounded everyone by attacking Goldwater at a press conference. Citing the Senator's view of the United Nations and Soviet-American relations, his suggestion that social security be made voluntary, that the Tennessee Valley Authority be sold to private interests, and civil rights enforcement be left to the states, and a national right-to-work law be enacted, Nixon said, 'It would be a tragedy for the Republican party in the event that Senator Goldwater's views, as previously stated, were not challenged and repudiated.'"

Nixon was trying, according to Hess and Broder, to set up Romney as a stalking horse in a last desperate effort to produce a convention deadlock from which he, Nixon, would emerge as the nominee.

On June 15, 1964, the Herald Tribune News Service reported this repudiation by Nixon of his June 9th statement that Goldwater's views would be a "tragedy" for the party:

"Richard M. Nixon did everything possible Tuesday to join the Goldwater camp here except put on a Goldwater cowboy hat for the benefit of photographers . . . [Nixon] declared that the Senator from Arizona really is 'mainstream' of the party now that 'he has become a national rather than a regional candidate.'"

Hess and Broder explain Nixon's broken field running this way:

". . . privately, the last two weeks of June, 1964, Nixon began to re-adjust his sights from the 1964 nomination to the 1968 . . . Nixon evolved a new role for himself: the apostle of party unity who would campaign doggedly for the ticket in 1964 and for all Republican candidates in 1966, as a way of rebuilding his political capital for 1968."

It could be that Nixon really did not want a stalemate at the convention that would cause it to turn to him with the nomination. He had known since 1960 that his time was 1968, not 1964. His brief flurry of anti-Goldwaterism may have been a show to keep his credentials in order with party Liberals. Nixon knew that Goldwater was "doomed to defeat," but Nixon nevertheless campaigned tirelessly for the Arizonan, knowing that he would thus become the only possible candidate who would not divide the party in 1968, since most other Republican leaders were sitting out the campaign.

One week after the '64 election, Nixon told Warren Duffee of UPI that the Republican Party had "gone too far right," and now "most of all needs some discipline." Nixon continued: "The Republican party's national position must represent the responsible right and the responsible ultra-liberal." The future position of the GOP, Nixon said, "must be the center . . . The formula [for victory] should be the Eisenhower-Nixon formula, not because it is more to the left, but because it is the right position . . . "

Nixon placed himself squarely in the "center," but failed to comment on the fact that the middle of the road had been moving Leftward for thirty-five years. He did, however, state: "I will discourage—I will not tolerate—any activity on behalf of myself by anyone else for 1968." Sure, sure. But when Goldwater dropped the leadership torch, Nixon was Johnny-on-the-spot to pick it up. In an article in the New York Times of February 14, 1965, the following comment was made:

"When Barry Goldwater consented to the removal of the man of his choice as Republican National Chairman and renounced his own Presidential aspirations, the leadership of the Republican party lay there for the taking."

But not for long. Richard M. Nixon has firmly grasped the leadership role, which being unofficial, can become anything he wants to make it. He intends, apparently, to make much of it.