Don’t Compare Trump’s Presidential Campaign to Barry Goldwater’s

Updated:
Posted in: Politics

There have been a number of comparisons between former Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater’s bid for president in 1964 and the presidential run currently being undertaken by Donald Trump—all of them have been strikingly off the mark. In fact, those of which I am aware are total nonsense. Not only are the candidates dramatically different personality types, but so too are the circumstances today versus the middle of the last century.

Yesterday I listened as a couple of know-it-all conservative radio commentators comparing Trump’s outspokenness with Goldwater’s. “Trump isn’t doing anything that Goldwater did not do in his day, and today Goldwater is revered,” one of them declared. For this reason, they were sure if Trump did not win, he too would one day be similarly respected for his outspoken personal and political candor. Because of the differences between these men I am sure they are wrong.

While it is hard not to be aware of Trump’s bloviating, clearly, these guys did not know what they are talking about regarding Goldwater. Not only is there no similarity between the kind of statements Goldwater made in 1964 and those Trump is making today, but even more striking are the different treatments given the statements made by these men. Let’s turn back the clock and take a look.

Goldwater’s 1964 Political Rhetoric

While always self-confident and self-assured, Goldwater was also self-effacing and candid to a fault. Take his interview with seasoned political reporter Stewart Alsop for The Saturday Evening Post (August 31, 1963) entitled “Can Goldwater Win in 64?” Here the senator was being very much himself, as he piloted the reporter around Arizona in his small two-engine airplane. A brief sample of Goldwater’s statements from Alsop’s article provide a pretty good sense of the man and the nature of his outspokenness:

On the possibility that he might actually wake up to be president one day: “Frankly, it scares the hell out of me.”

On his own intelligence quotient: “You know, I haven’t got a really first-class brain.”

On his leaving college in freshman year to become a salesman in the family store: “Worst mistake I ever made. But then I guess a peddler doesn’t need a higher education.”

On the possibility that he might emulate Lyndon Johnson, and safeguard his Senate seat by running both for the Senate and the presidency in 1964: “No, I can’t do that after what I said about Lyndon in 1960—they’d run me out of the country. But if I hadn’t opened my big mouth so loud, I might do it.”

On how he achieves his vast literary output—he produced three best-selling books and innumerable magazine articles, and he signs a thrice-a-week column that goes to about 175 papers: “Oh, hell, I’ve got ghosts all over the place. I pick up a lot of Fletcher Knebel’s stuff too. I sent him an item about Bobby Kennedy’s pool, and he sent me two bucks. I sent it right back—I wrote him that if we began paying each other off, I’d owe him $2000 right off the bat.”

On a draft he had written for a humorous speech: “I took it back to the apartment and read it to my wife Peggy and a couple of her girlfriends. I thought they’d be rolling on the floor, but they never cracked a smile. So I said, what the hell’s the matter and Peggy said, look, this is a sophisticated audience, they’re not a lot of lame brains like you, they don’t spend their time looking at TV Westerns. You can’t give them that corn.”

Goldwater, who ran against President Lyndon Johnson, is a polar opposite of Donald Trump, yet his candor was used against him in 1964. With a lot of help from political commentators and the news media, the Johnson campaign managed to portray Goldwater – one of the most liked members of the U.S. Senate by his colleagues across the political spectrum – into something of a madman, “the village anarchist,” as one reporter put it, a political extremist who would take the country into a nuclear world war. The fact that the Johnson campaign had absolutely no underlying evidence to back up their claims was not a problem. Here is what they did.

The Twisting of Goldwater’s Word

It started in earnest with Goldwater’s acceptance speech when he officially became the Republican standard bearer in 1964. At one point in accepting the nomination during his speech he said, “I would remind you that 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!” At the time it was but a passing phrase. Today most everything else Senator Goldwater said in that speech has been long forgotten, except his “extremism in the defense of liberty” line has lived on, largely in infamy. The news media took this line as proof positive that Goldwater was crazy. The Goldwater campaign motto was: “In your heart you know he’s right.” After his acceptance speech, the media reported his detractor’s reply to the motto: “In your guts you know he’s nuts.”

Many post-mortems of the 1964 race point to that single line from his acceptance speech as the reason Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson. When Goldwater first read a draft of his acceptance speech, he told me years later, he had thought the defense of liberty couplet rather Kennedyesque, a line his friend and the late president might have used. He asked his writers the source of the lines and was told they had been suggested by Harry Jaffa, a political science professor and classics scholar at Claremont Men’s College, who said a variation of the phrase was first used by Marcus Tullius Cicero when speaking in the Roman Senate in defense of Rome’s republic form of government and against its overthrow by Lucius Sergius Catilina. According to Jaffa, Cicero’s original statement was: “I must remind you, Lords, Senators, that extreme patriotism in defense of freedom is no crime, and let me respectfully remind you that pusillanimity in the pursuit of justice is not virtue in a Roman.”

Suffice it to say Senator Goldwater never dreamed that the line would be used by his opponents, as well as pundits and commentators, to paint him as a wild-eyed right-wing radical. He simply liked its eloquence. It was not, as later claimed by others, a dog-whistle to rally radicals of all stripes. In fact, the phase had no meaning other than that which a listener (or reader) might give it.

In 1964 there was no such thing as “political correctness” (which did not become widespread until the 1990s). Yet few politicians spoke like Goldwater, who said what he thought and minced few words. He loved wise-cracking and that too, given his candor, caused him trouble in the 1964 campaign. For example, Goldwater once facetiously quipped during a discussion of nuclear weapons—“Let’s lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin”—which was anything but a policy statement. Nonetheless, the Johnson campaign used the crack to create one of the most devastating attack ads in American political history: The “Daisy” commercial. While Goldwater’s name was never mentioned in the commercial with the little girl counting daisy petals before a nuclear explosion, the message was clear. A vote for Goldwater meant nuclear war and death; a vote for President Johnson meant peace and life.

Similarly, the Johnson campaign took a quote from Stewart Alsop’s 1963 interview of Goldwater, where Alsop explained that the senator represented the end of the era where America’s South and West were no longer viewed as “semi-colonial dependencies of New York-dominated capital.” Rather in the South and West, where Goldwater enjoyed great popularity, viewed “the East” with some suspicion, combined as well with pockets of dislike and envy. Alsop thought “Goldwater perfectly expresses this attitude, for he had once remarked, “perhaps only half-jokingly—that the East Coast ought to be ‘sliced off and set adrift.’”

Alsop’s paraphrase became Goldwater’s words, in another devastating Johnson attack ad. Showing a huge hand-saw with a woodcutting sound effect as the East Coast of the United States was sawed off and set afloat, a deep voiced announcer explains: “In a Saturday Evening Post article, dated August 31, 1963, Barry Goldwater said, ‘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.’ Can a man who makes statements like this be expected to serve all the people justly and fairly? Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” It should be noted that the “quote” in the Johnson attack ad was not actually what Goldwater said, nor Alsop’s characterization of it. But facts were not important.

Today, Donald Trump can say anything, and pay no price with his low-information-lets-stick-it-to-the-system voters. A small sample of the ever-growing collection of “Trumpism” show that Goldwater and Trump are very different people. Here are a few typical Trump statements on recurring subjects.

Trump On President Obama: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” Or “Our weak President, that [sic] kisses everybody’s ass, is in more wars than I have ever seen. Now he’s in Libya, he’s in Afghanistan, he’s in Iraq. Nobody respects us.”

Trump On Women: “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man—he made a good decision.” “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” On Fox Anchor Megyn Kelly’s tough questions: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her… wherever.” “All of the women on ‘The Apprentice’ flirted with me—consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected;” “[Angelina Jolie’s] been with so many guys she makes me look like a baby… And, I just don’t even find her attractive.” “Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye—or perhaps another body part.”

Trump On Politics & Policy: “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.” “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” “I’m the worst thing that ever happened to ISIS.” “If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” “Maybe we should boycott Starbucks.” “We should boycott Apple.” “I will build a great wall—and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me—and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.”

On His Opponents: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a [nude] picture of [my wife] Melania from a shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!” “Look at that face!” He said of former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” “The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the womans card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I dont think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing shes got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is women don’t like her.” “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America.”

On Himself: “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.” “My IQ is one of the highest—and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.” “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Little Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If theyre small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Barry Goldwater entered public service to make government better. He served the State of Arizona, and the nation, in the United States Senate for thirty years with great distinction. He was one of the most popular members of the Senate, respected and admired by all his colleagues. Donald Trump has spent his life serving Donald Trump. His pursuit of the presidency is not to make America great rather it is like everything in his life—it’s all about Donald Trump. Just as there are no similarities between Trump and Goldwater, as men, there are no similarities between the 1964 and 2016 Republican presidential campaigns. Only fools and the uninformed are comparing them.

  • Lee Delong

    Senator Barry Goldwater was a good man.

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  • slybyrd

    I don’t have the knowledge of things pertaining to Mr. Goldwater, but I CAN spot a shill when I see one. t-Rump is a shill………….an arrogant, rude, obnoxious, self-serving, spoiled, petulant man-child. And those are his better qualities.

  • I think that Barry Goldwater believed in “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Truly principled conservatism, and I think he wouldn’t have been disowned by Abe Lincoln. In contrast, today’s so-called Republican Party mostly believes in “government of the corporations, by the lawyers, for the richest 0.1%” and their concern about Trump is most related to your [John Dean’s] concluding paragraph, which I would summarize as “government of the Donald, by the Donald, for the Donald”. It appears the so-called GOP has been able to accept Trump’s version, probably on their belief he might actually belong to the richest 0.1% of the people (and even though his tax returns probably show otherwise).

    Here is the burning question: Can Trump be stopped?

    I see two major causes for despair. One is just the long list of haters who love Trump: Racists, anti-government extremists, Muslim haters, anti-abortionists, atheist haters, misogynists (now including many Clinton conspiracy nuts), homophobes, xenophobes, school haters, poor-people haters, lawyer haters, liberal haters, socialist haters, communist haters, anarchist haters, anti-Democrats, anti-Republicans, knowledge haters, haters of every “foreign” language, tax haters, math haters, unpleasant truth haters, and on and on and on. They even hate each other, but they all think they love “their Donald”. They all focus on specific memories of how Trump supported their own pet hatreds and conveniently refuse to believe Trump could have been sincere when he also said the opposite thing.

    The other big cause for despair is that the Democratic Party is weak and divided. Even many of the faithful Democrats feel little enthusiasm for Hillary, and a lot of the Bernie supporters hate the way the government works as much as some of Trump supporters do. Yes, many of them hate Trump, but not with the unified and overwhelming passionate hatred the Trump supporters have. Many Democrats just feel dislike or disgust, not that powerful and driving hatred.

    • Victor Grunden

      Seems you have an odd perception of those that love America and remember the days when a person could open a business, farm, ranch or fishing business without government permission. Most people do hate anarchists(terrorists)whether they are blowing up abortion clinics, black churches or military barracks. It seems you have stereotyped Trump supporters as haters.

      • Let me know if your memory recovers, if you manage to read (and understand) a few history books, or if you decide to raise a substantive point related to something that I actually wrote. My theory is that trolls like you have been trained (and are probably paid, unless you are sincerely insane) to prevent substantive discussion of any real issue.

        • Victor Grunden

          Actually, I don’t have to read history books about that time period. And the current history books about that time period aren’t accurate. Like many other people of the Sputnik generation we lived it. There really was a time when a child could earn money delivering newspapers, cutting grass, sweeping floors, pitching hay and at 16 leave high school and go to work in a sawmill, log woods, quarry, furniture factory until 18 when he would join the military. Others worked their way through college and left debt free. But all were contributers to society and the only thing they hated were the leeches that complained that others weren’t sharing their wealth. What category that the government now insists people must be put in matters little to them. You attempted to stereotype Trump supporters as haters and equate that with lovers of a bygone America in hopes of stopping Trump. The despair among Democrats isn’t about candidates. It’s about too many Democrats seeing their home value destroyed, Social Security and Medicare money being diverted to social welfare of illegals and then being told that their Social Security check must be cut and they must pay for Medicare B&D by government mandate that will pay after a $4900 deductible. Meanwhile Medicaid recipients, refugees and illegals get a free ride. Refugees and aliens even get stipends and housing allowances while American’s children and grandchildren can’t even get work. Maybe their pensions or savings will be there and maybe they won’t. Should a retiree decide to open a part-time business, the committees one must get approval from includes zoning, planning, solid waste district, EPA or it’s surrogates, economic development district, and several others. All requiring attorney fees and associated costs before any actual business is conducted. Even roadside farm stands must have government inspectors if their income exceeds a certain level. By the way, Abe Lincoln was a railroad lawyer and the 1860 Republican platform including building a transcontinental railroad. Abe Lincoln also took cases from southern slave owners brought under The Fugitive Slave Act which required the return of the slaves and a financial renumeration form anyone harboring runaway slaves. Including governments. That was one of the incentives for the Emancipation Proclamation. The Union Army was accepting runaway slaves into their ranks and as such would have owed a lot of money to slaveholders if anything other than total victory was achieved. But Lincoln would certainly have a lot of bad press today considering his personal life. So it is with Trump. He has a lot of negatives but can he Make America Great Again or at least try and quit weakening America?

    • Reconsidering the topic more carefully (and ignoring the immature trollish distractions), I think there are some other historical comparisons that are relevant. My initial response focused on the specific comparison that John Dean addressed, but now I have to dismiss it as something of a wild goose that he was tricked into chasing. The personal differences between Goldwater and Trump are so overwhelming that now I wonder about the motivation of whoever brought this idea to his attention.

      Is someone trying to suggest that Trump is no threat to America because his campaign will implode? If so, the most salient difference are that Trump is extremely skilled in manipulating the media and that the overwhelming evidence is that Trump has no principles to defend. Of course Goldwater had the additional challenge of facing some real journalists in contrast to today’s poseurs. As regards principles, you’d think it would have been to Goldwater’s advantage that he had them and had carefully considered where his principles were leading, but Trump is free to adopt whatever principles his current audience likes and to heck with the consequences. He can just change his mind or redefine his policy proposals as “suggestions”.

      Upon reflection, I think there are three more relevant historical comparisons that should be made and publicized:

      1. Comparing the party discipline of today’s so-called Republican Party with various other political parties through history. Various metrics could be considered, but I think the most similar might be Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, especially in the period immediately before his exile.

      2. Comparing the sensitivity to criticism of Trump with various other historical leaders. I think this is an important personality trait to consider because high sensitivity to criticism is related to the perception of personal threats and extreme or authoritarian reactions to such threats, be they real or imagined. Does Trump most closely resemble “Uncle Joe” Stalin in this regard? If so, that is certainly grounds for concern.

      3. Comparing the hatreds of the extremist political supporters of Trump with various other groups of political supporters. My earlier comment was focused on this aspect, but not as comparative history. The obvious grounds for concern involve authoritarians, a topic that John Dean has written about many times.

    • Madfoot712

      Irony: Claiming to be against “hate” while having a long list of the groups of people you hate.

      • Are you trolls paid not to read? Some kind of write-only scam to destroy any pretense of intelligent consideration of the real problems threatening our country? Works great in big China.

        Wasted keystrokes, but a word of advice. “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.”

        • Madfoot712

          Typical hateful lib.

    • I have to learn to stop being distracted by mindless content-free trolls. If you think about them, all you can do is pity them.

      Anyway, on the general topic at hand, the Donald, I have a new suggestion for a topic that John Dean might be interested in writing about:

      What is the main threat of Donald Trump as “supreme leader”?

      Here are my two main concerns: Donald Stalin persecuting and destroying his personal enemies or Donald Gorbachev setting the stage for the dissolution of the United States.

      Perhaps worse, I think there is clear evidence that many of Trump’s supporters want one or both. The first category of Trumpeters includes the authoritarian followers that Mr Dean has written about before, and most of the second category of Trumpeters are clinging to delusions about the War of Northern Aggression and still hoping to “win” it.

      • Or maybe the real danger is voters who dismiss him as Donald W Bush and who already have fuzzy memories of how terrible a president Dubya was. We’ve already had 8 years of FAUX-led historical revisionism trying to blame President Obama coupled with absolute partisan obstructionism focused on preventing Obama from cleaning up the mess that Dubya left behind.

        Hey, it’s so bad that even I don’t really blame Dubya (or fear Donald W Bush). Yeah, technically Dubya was responsible, but he never knew or cared what was going on, just the way the big dick Cheney liked it.

        Upon further speculation, I suspect that some of Trump’s supporters are fantasizing that he’ll actually turn out to be Donald the Roosevelt (either one) or Donald the Reagan. Serious delusions there.

        • CleanLeon

          You didn’t oppose the Iraq war. You just wanted more government spending. That is why you will vote for Hillary and show that war to you is just another way to push your domestic political agenda. You have never cared about the Iraq war. There is one person who opposed it, and one who voted for it. You are with latter.

      • CleanLeon

        How is he anything like Stalin nutter?

        • There are many very comprehensive biographies of Stalin that you could read. He also appears prominently in most history books covering the period. Calling me a “nutter” will not help you if you read any of them. Your only defense is your will to ignore reality.

          However, I only have one question for a Trump supporter: Who do you hate most?

  • Victor Grunden

    Donald Trump was graduating high school, O’bama was just being born and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution all happened in 1964 while LBJ’s Great Society was in it’s infancy. Now after 8 years of O’bama fundamentally transforming America largely through mechanisms of the Great Society and exhibiting weakness in areas that could have a devastating effect on Trump’s wealth, it seems Trump would at least like to start the trip back to the 1964 crossroads. The 1964 election followed an assassination of a President, Cuban missile crisis, Berlin Wall and cordoning of East Germany, S.Vietnam coup, Communist takeover of Indochina contrary to the 1954 agreement with the French and China had just exploded their first nuclear weapon. The challenges in 2016 aren’t nearly that great, but they can arise again unless someone makes the case for America. And so far it seems Trump is the only one able to do that. Making a case for America wasn’t even an issue in 1964. But once again we stand at the crossroads of government largess and control or individual responsibility and reward in a free society. We will never know if a Goldwater Presidency would have had the credibility gap over Vietnam that the Johnson Administration did but I would have preferred some of Trump’s bluster to the constant strategy changes. We had domestic terrorist then. We have international terrorist now. The players may differ but each election is about the principle of America protecting it’s interest while guaranteeing people’s freedom or will it become weak and fearful even of it’s own people and limit freedom. Some elections just demonstrate it more. In that sense, 1964 and 2016 are similar.

  • Richard

    John Dean is like the rest of the secret society people trying to make a one world government and are hypocrites thinking they can rule GOD! And why would this site demand verification open email address? afraid some of us are going to tell the truth?

  • Madfoot712

    oh look, another establishment shill against Donald Trump.

  • Cody Joe Brown

    one thing is true about the two: the democratic party used the media to villify both of them who before the election seemed to be well-respected and enigmatic. also, both men seem to be of the attitude that the job is going to be a tough one, maybe more of a challenge than can be expected. the oprah interview with trump years ago has her asking him if he would ever run and without skipping a beat he said no. not unless things in the country had gotten really bad.

  • One possibly fresh thought from observing more Trump supporters: They are incredibly negative people compared to what I can remember of Goldwater’s supporters. I think that each of them is driven primarily by some specific hatred, and the question that seems to scare them is “What do you hate most?” So far, I have not found one who was willing to address that question in an honest way, even though their hatred is showing at all the seams…

    When you look at it objectively, you feel like asking how could a cheap con artist and Fraud like Donald Trump be a serious contender for president? (Or if you agree with Trump’s claims, then you could raise him to an expensive con artist.) It must be because he reads the power of hate as stronger than weaker emotions. Hey, it worked great for the Fascists last century.

    • CleanLeon

      You spend all your posts attacking people. Then claim they are negative. Physician, heal thyself!

  • JRPettus

    We reap what we sow and because of that American Voters now have Donald and Hillary. We only have ourselves to blame.