Tag Archives: Barry Goldwater

Recalling a great discussion among friends

This video is among my all-time favorite public television news broadcasts. It features a PBS NewsHour discussion with the late U.S. Sens. George McGovern and Barry Goldwater.

A liberal (McGovern) and a conservative (Goldwater) talked political differences between them and sought to put the 1988 presidential campaign into some sort of civil and proper perspective.

The moderator was Jim Lehrer, a fellow whose acquaintance I made while I was working in Beaumont many years ago. More on that perhaps at another time.

What Sens. McGovern and Goldwater sought to do in this discussion is delineate the differences between their respective philosophies. What is so remarkable is how much common ground these two old men had found and how they believed they found it when they served together in the U.S. Senate.

How did they manage such commonality? Well, they didn’t talk about it in their PBS interview, but I have a theory.

Their common respect was forged in their common history and their shared sacrifice during a time of dire peril for the United States.

McGovern and Goldwater served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. They both served heroically during that conflict. They brought their commonality together when they ended up in the Senate together. McGovern represented South Dakota, Goldwater represented Arizona.

They were far from the only two men of disparate philosophies to forge friendships in the Congress during their time together. I think often of how Sen. Bob Dole developed a unbreakable bond with Sen. Daniel Inouye; Dole is a Kansas conservative, Inouye was a Hawaii liberal. They, too, became brothers in arms in World War II, both suffering grievous battlefield injuries and going through rehab together. Their common suffering became their bond and it overrode whatever political differences they had while serving in the Senate.

Vietnam produced similar friendships that transcended partisan politics. I’ll cite two examples: Sens. John McCain and John Kerry both served with valor and distinction during the Vietnam War. McCain is a Republican; Kerry is a Democrat. They both worked in tandem to allow the United States and Vietnam to establish diplomatic ties long after the end of that terrible and divisive conflict.

These men all knew the meaning of sacrifice for the sake of the country they all loved.

As George McGovern told Barry Goldwater during that 15-minute PBS discussion, they have much more in common now than they did in the old days. Yes, but the common experience they brought with them to their shared public service taught them to respect the other’s point of view, that the “enemy” didn’t sit in the same legislative chamber.

O’Rourke making a return to the Panhandle

I’m thinking a good friend and former colleague is right about Beto O’Rourke’s unfolding political strategy.

The Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is crawling back into the belly of the beast — so to speak — in May. O’Rourke is planning an Amarillo town hall meeting on May 13. I understand details are coming out soon.

My old pal theorized during a recent visit my wife and I made to the Golden Triangle that O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, is seeking to cut his expected losses in heavily Republican rural Texas. Meanwhile, the Democratic congressman is hoping to hold on to his base of progressive support in urban Texas.

So, the theory goes as explained to me by my buddy: If O’Rourke can avoid getting skunked in the country and hold his own in the big cities, he wins the November election against The Cruz Missile.

Indeed, the idea that O’Rourke is coming back yet again to the unofficial heart of Texas Republicanism tells me that the young man is serious about this part of the state.

I’m sure he’s been told the story — or the myth, depending on your point of view — about how President Lyndon Johnson closed the Amarillo Air Force Base in the late 1960s because so many Panhandle counties voted for Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

Fact check: Of the 26 counties comprising the Panhandle, exactly eight of them went for Goldwater. That was eight too many to suit the Texan who was serving as president of the United States, or so the legend goes in these parts.

I won’t argue the point here about whether LBJ was pi**** off enough to put thousands of Texans out of work by closing the air base.

The point, though, is that a young Democratic candidate for statewide office is coming here to make his case for why he should be elected over a Republican incumbent U.S. senator.

Yes, I want him to win. Now that we have (re)established that bias, my hope is that his political brain trust isn’t sending him on a fool’s errand with a town hall meeting in the belly of the beast.

No armchair diagnoses, please

You may count me as one who takes a dim view of those who think they can diagnose medical matters from a distance.

There’s a good bit of that going around these days as it relates to the behavior of the president of the United States, one Donald John Trump Sr.

Yes, he’s acting squirrely. And yes, he tweets messages that sound as if they come from a junior high schooler. He goads a dictator with nuclear bombs. He insults media representatives, politicians and a particular book author … not to mention at least one key former White House aide.

Does any of this mean the man is certifiably crazy? Is he nuts? Is he unfit mentally to be commander in chief?

I am not qualified to answer any of that. Neither are the “experts” who keep insisting the president needs to be kicked out of office on the basis of someone’s long-distance assessment of Trump’s mental fitness.

They don’t know of which they speak.

More than 50 years ago the nation had this same discussion about the late Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran for president in 1964 against President Johnson. Goldwater was deemed to be nuttier than a fruitcake because he talked openly about going to war with the Soviet Union, the world’s other great nuclear power at the time.

Someone wrote a book about Sen. Goldwater and put in writing what many were saying out loud. Goldwater sued the author for libel and won. Then came something called the “Goldwater Rule,” which disallows people from issuing medical diagnoses without examining the person about whom they are talking.

I believe we should keep that in mind as we discuss Donald Trump’s conduct of the high office he occupies.

There might be political reasons to remove this guy. They haven’t emerged; perhaps they never will emerge. Medical assessments are best left to those who get close enough to the subject to offer them.

The rest of us are just firing pot shots from the peanut gallery.

Trump declares ‘war’ on California? Hmmm …

California Democrats believe Donald John Trump has declared war on the nation’s most populous state.

They cite the president’s recent actions regarding (a) recreational marijuana use, (b) offshore oil drilling and (c) increased enforcement of immigration laws.

Let’s ponder that for a moment.

I cannot define any president’s motives. People who are  “done wrong” by presidents often accuse them of political retribution.

It was said during the late 1960s that Democratic President Lyndon Johnson hated the Texas Panhandle so much because several counties voted for Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election that he took it out on the region by closing the Amarillo Air Force Base. Many longtime Panhandle residents still hold a grudge against LBJ for that decision.

Now we have the current president — a Republican — imposing policies deemed detrimental to the nation’s most staunchly Democratic state. Democrats say they are certain that Trump is angry enough to punish the state for purely partisan reasons.

I, um, don’t know about that.

Trump vs. California?

The president’s offshore drilling proposals also involve the Gulf Coast, which comprises states that all voted for Trump in 2016. Immigration enforcement? Texas, too, is affected by whatever stricter policies come from the Trump administration.

I suppose one might make a case that California’s recent legalizing of recreational pot use might be construed as some sort of payback. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the federal government is rescinding Obama administration rules softening punishment for those caught using marijuana, which the feds still consider a “controlled substance.”

And while we are talking about President Obama, I will mention that Barack Obama could have ordered one of the decommissioned space shuttles to be displayed in a museum in Texas. Hey, the state is home to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Neil Armstrong’s first words in July 1969 from the moon’s surface were, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Texas was shunned. Why? Well, some have said President Obama had no love for Texas, given that the state voted twice for his Republican opponents.

I am not a big fan of this kind of political conspiracy theory.

Still, California Democrats do make a fascinating point. They say Donald Trump is the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to fail to visit California during the first year of his presidency.

Hey, the state qualifies as the world’s fifth-largest economy.

What gives, Mr. President?

Sen. Flake speaks hard truth to fellow conservatives

Political conservatives have been scolded by one of their own.

Are they listening? Are they taking heed? Will they act differently in the future?

The scolding comes from U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, a lifelong Arizona Republican, who says conservatives were shamefully silent while the man who would become president told the ongoing lie about Barack Obama’s place of birth.

Flake also turned his fire on conservatives who chanted “Lock her up!” at Donald J. Trump’s campaign rallies.

Conservatives have misbehaved and have failed to follow in the footsteps of Flake’s political mentor, the late U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. Indeed, Flake’s new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” mirrors the title of Goldwater’s 1960 book.

Flake is concerned about the fate and future of the Republican Party, which is now being led by a president with no apparent ideological compass. Flake wants Donald Trump to settle down, to demonstrate some discipline, to allow the White House staff operation to function as it should — and to curb his use of Twitter to make policy pronouncements.

Flake said he’ll continue to criticize Trump when he deserves and will support him when he deserves that, too.

He does pose a fascinating question about the conservative movement. He wonders how actual conservatives can continue to support someone who espouses “protectionist” trade policies, seeks to isolate the nation from the rest of the world and wants to spend enormous amounts of public money with funds that are missing from the federal Treasury.

I’ll add as well that conservatives ought to re-examine their support for someone who has spoken so crassly and profanely about his political opponents and behaved so boorishly in his own personal life.

My hope is they would look inward. My fear — which is being demonstrated daily — is that they’ll continue to stand by their man.

Chaos need not be the new White House norm

As I watch Donald J. Trump’s chaotic first few weeks as president of the United States, I have to keep reminding myself: Does it really need to be this way?

Of course it doesn’t. We’re watching Trump stumble-bum his way through controversy after controversy and his ridiculous rants and riffs with foreign leaders.

Now we’re watching an potentially unfolding major-league scandal involving the president’s former national security adviser, who quit this week in the wake of reports that he had inappropriate — and possibly illegal — discussions with Russian government officials prior to Trump taking office.

Two presidents in my lifetime have taken office amid terrible tragedy and tumult. In both cases, these men grabbed the reins of power and assumed the role of president as if they’d been there all along.

Example one: Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office on a jetliner sitting on a tarmac at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. His predecessor’s body was in a casket in the back of the plane and the nation was in utter shock over what had happened earlier that day when a gunman murdered President John F. Kennedy.

LBJ flew back to Washington and asked the nation to pray for him. We did. He convened his team and got to work immediately.

The nation buried JFK a few days later, President Johnson went to Congress and declared “all that I have I would surrender” to avoid standing before the nation in that moment.

The nation marched forward.

Example two: Gerald Rudolph Ford became president on Aug. 9, 1974 as his predecessor resigned in disgrace. The House of Representatives stood poised to impeach Richard Nixon for high crimes and misdemeanors relating to the Watergate scandal. It took a stalwart Republican U.S. senator, Barry Goldwater, to tell the president his time was up. He had no support in the Senate, where he would stand trial after the House impeached him.

President Nixon quit. President Ford took the oath and then told us, “Our long national nightmare is over.” He told us he was “acutely aware” he hadn’t been elected vice president or president. But he was the right man for the job.

He, too, called his team together and instructed them to get back to work.

President Ford would lose his election battle in 1976 to Jimmy Carter. It was Carter who, upon taking the oath of office in January 1977, would turn to his predecessor and begin his inaugural speech by thanking the former president for “all he had done to heal our country.”

Presidents Johnson and Ford had something in common: they both had extensive government experience prior to assuming their high office. They knew how the government worked. LBJ had served as Senate majority leader before becoming vice president in 1961 and had many friends on both sides of the partisan divide. Ford had served as minority leader in the House of Representatives before Nixon tapped him to be vice president in 1973 after Spiro Agnew quit after pleading no contest to a corruption charge. Ford also had many friends on both sides of the aisle.

These men assumed the presidency under far more trying circumstances than Trump did, yet they made the transition with relative ease … compared to the madness we’re witnessing these days with the 45th president.

We are witnessing in real time, I submit, the consequences of electing someone who brought zero public service experience to the most difficult and complicated job on Planet Earth.

Race mattered in ’64, but LBJ and Goldwater kept it on ice

lbj and goldwater

Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton are engaging in a most extraordinary political fire fight.

Republican presidential nominee Trump and Democratic nominee Clinton are accusing each other of racial bigotry.

Race is an issue in this campaign? It must be so.

It also was an issue back in 1964. The major-party candidates then, though, took a different course.

President Lyndon Johnson and his Republican Party challenger, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, decided to keep race out of the campaign.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/08/goldwater-lbj-racism-campaign-trump-bigotry-214191

The two men met at the White House in July 1964 and agreed that they wouldn’t interject the highly charged issue of race relations into their quest for the White House.

Sen. Goldwater was never known to curb his own tongue. He was a fiery conservative who was prone to making provocative statements. He opposed the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

President Johnson, the Texan known for his excesses and his occasional crudeness, had taken office amid profound national tragedy the previous November. He decided it was time to move his party away from its segregationist past, a decision that would cost the party dearly throughout the South.

As Politico reports:

“In 2016, many observers have suggested similarities between Trump and Senator Goldwater. In some ways, they are analogous: Both were outsiders who won the nomination of a deeply divided Republican Party after defeating the preferred, more moderate candidates of the GOP establishment. And Goldwater, like Trump, had a habit of impolitic comments, as in his clarion call that ‘extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.’ It was a central part of Goldwater’s appeal: He tells it like it is, political correctness be damned—’In your heart, you know he’s right,’ just like his campaign slogan said.

“But there’s a big difference between the quixotic campaign of Goldwater and the spectacularly flawed campaign of Trump: Goldwater abhorred racist rhetoric, whereas Trump may have sealed his fate with it in two major turning points. First came Trump’s assertion that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel could not fairly rule in the Trump University case because the Indiana-born Curiel is of Mexican ancestry while Trump has pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border. Then, Trump’s attack on Ghazala and Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American Gold Star parents who appeared at the Democratic National Convention. Trump insinuated that Ghazala Khan, who stood silently by as her husband spoke, was ‘not allowed’ to speak due to their Islamic religion.”

It’s not that we should sweep the race issue away, pretend it doesn’t exist. My concern in 2016 is that the invective has poisoned reasonable, rational and responsible discussion.

President Johnson and Sen. Goldwater perhaps had the same fear 52 years ago when they decided to keep their hands off a live political grenade.

Memo to GOP: Let your nominee finish his race

Campaign_2016_Trump-6e9c2.wdp

More and more Republicans are saying it: get rid of our presidential nominee.

Dump Trump. Ditch Donald.

The latest Republican to speak out is talk-show host — and former GOP congressman — Joe Scarborough. He says Donald J. Trump has disqualified himself as a presidential candidate.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/08/09/the-gop-must-dump-trump/?utm_term=.e3ce0dbe3fe2

I believe I must remind Scarborough of the following: Republican Party primary voters had the opportunity all along the way to look to someone else when given the chance.

They chose to go with Donald Trump.

He won the GOP nomination fair and square. He scored a first-ballot win at the Cleveland convention.

Sure, Trump has made a hash of his campaign. His statements have boggled our minds. He is demonstrating time and time again his total unfitness for the job.

How, though, does the party ditch a nominee now?

My own sense is that the party ought to let the man finish what he’s begun. Let him complete the race. Let him continue to embarrass himself.

The party can recover. Political parties have ways to do it. The Republicans rebuilt their conservative coalition after the 1964 disaster when Barry Goldwater got trampled by Lyndon Johnson. Democrats did the same thing after getting battered by Richard Nixon’s landslide win over George McGovern in 1972.

It’s a bit late in the game for the Republican Party to change nominees now.

What’s more, as someone who has no intention of voting for Donald Trump — and who cannot stand the idea of his ever getting anywhere near the Oval Office — I plan to enjoy this supreme narcissist getting his noggin thumped.

Polls could drive GOP nomination? Really?

don trump

I’m almost laughing out loud at the notion that Republican National Convention delegates might revolt this summer and nominate someone other than Donald J. Trump if his poll numbers continue to tank.

If history is our guide, it won’t happen based on that criterion.

In 1964, Republicans gathered in San Francisco to nominate Arizona U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater to run against President Lyndon Johnson. He trailed badly at the convention. He continued to trail badly throughout the campaign. The president won election by 23 percentage points.

Eight years later, Democrats faced a similar dilemma. They nominated South Dakota U.S. Sen. George McGovern at their convention in Miami; McGovern was far behind in the polls. The convention was one of the most chaotic ever witnessed. McGovern delivered his “Come home, America” acceptance speech in the wee hours. He went on to lose big in 1972 to President Richard Nixon, also by 23 points.

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush was trailing Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis by 17 percentage points when the GOP convened in New Orleans. The vice president stood before the throng and vowed a “kinder, gentler nation.” He was elected by 8 percentage points.

The polls aren’t going to determine whether Trump is nominated.

My own view is that the presumptive GOP nominee, by virtue of his collecting more votes than any of other candidates and winning the vast majority of state primaries and caucuses has earned the party nomination.

Let the delegates stand by their man. Send him off to campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Take your chances, GOP. Trump is your guy.

Anti-Trump movement gains more ‘talk’

Donald Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Harrison McClary  - RTR4WVBQ

It’s all talk at the moment.

That talk, though, is getting a bit louder … apparently.

Some Republican kingmakers are floating the idea that the GOP is going to seek a replacement nominee to push Donald J. Trump aside at the party’s presidential nominating convention this summer.

They’re scared that Trump leading the Republican ticket this fall is going to steer the party into a meat-grinder in the form of Democratic Party nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/talk-grows-replacing-trump-convention-000000790.html

What I’m not hearing or seeing is precisely how this coup would occur in Cleveland.

Honestly — and it pains me to say this about Trump — the party needs to swallow hard and accept that Trump is its nominee. He’s the guy who won more votes than anyone else. He won them fairly and squarely. He has enough delegates now to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

I don’t know where the anti-Trump forces think they’re going to collect enough convention delegate votes to overturn the primary election process.

If the nominee keeps enraging constituent groups with continued insults, then the GOP is doomed to be handed its head at the ballot box this November.

Then it well could be time for the Republican Party to begin a long-term restructuring aimed at returning it to the mainstream of political debate. They did it after the 1964 debacle with Barry Goldwater’s crushing defeat at the hands of Lyndon Johnson. Democrats did as well after George McGovern got steamrolled in 1972 as Richard Nixon cruised to re-election.

Trump has won his party’s nomination on the up and up.

Let him now lead the party to whatever fate awaits it.