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Goldwater’s 1960 advice resonates for 2008

- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2007

Barry Goldwater still has fans out there.

"Let's grow up, conservatives. If we want to take this party back — and I think we can — let's get to work," the Arizona senator told the 1960 Republican convention, as he withdrew from the race and cast his support behind Richard M. Nixon.

They remain fighting words for those weary of party bickering.

"Goldwater's message 47 years ago was that the conservative movement did not have the right to complain about not winning, because it had not done the work necessary to win — that it needed to 'grow up' and go out and earn its victories rather than griping all the time," said Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator.

"I hear too much griping and not enough effort to find common cause and work on behalf of that cause," Mr. Hillyer said. "When everything looks grim, that's the time to let bygones be bygones and start rebuilding."

Each of the Republican presidential hopefuls have something positive to add to the conservative movement, he said.

"It's not perfect. But it's so much better than the frightening prospect of Hillary Clinton in the White House that it behooves us not to tear down those candidates in the course of choosing a nominee. I'm not suggesting that we be Pollyannas. I am suggesting that we be realists with an upbeat and 'can do' attitude rather than defeatists," Mr. Hillyer said.

Mr. Goldwater, a five-term U.S. senator, died in 1998 at age 89.

The nation itself may experience a Goldwater Renaissance of sorts. Come November, HBO will air a 90-minute documentary — "Mr. Conservative" produced by the former Arizona senator's granddaughter CC Goldwater.

"There was no nonsense with him. He would say things like he'd like to lob a nuclear bomb into the men's room at the Kremlin. He would say things like that and mean it," Ms. Goldwater recalled

It's "basic" Goldwater conservatism — limited government, free enterprise, a strong military, among other things — which survives.

"Principles don't change. It's events and circumstances that change," said Republican strategist Craig Shirley. "To say that the ideas of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater don't apply today is akin to saying the Ten Commandments no longer apply either."

The Republican Party, he suggested, is due for a reality check.

"It's going to get darker before it gets lighter. We need a national tutorial for what I call 'fetal' Republicans. They need a class in the basics," Mr. Shirley said.

Mr. Goldwater has attracted the recent attention of The Washington Post, which proclaimed the "Return of the Goldwater GOP" after President Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program on Oct. 3. The American Spectator, National Review and the conservative blog Red State, alternatively, have pined for a return to old-school Goldwater-ism.

"Barry Goldwater was the point around which the conservative movement coalesced and became a pearl," said William Middendorf, a one-time Goldwater campaign treasurer and author of the new book "A Glorious Disaster," which examines Mr. Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign.

"He'd been called the Moses who showed conservatives the way to the Promised Land, even if he didn't make it there himself," Mr. Middendorf said.

"Why does Goldwater matter today? He was a role model. The honest politician, a man who said what he believed — even if he sometimes did not choose his words too well — who backed up his beliefs with action, and who did not bow to political fashion," he said.