- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

PURE GOLDWATER

Edited by John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater Jr.

Palgrave McMillan, $27.95, 416 pp.

REVIEWED BY CLAUDE R. MARX

Presidential candidates who lose by a landslide tend to be relegated to the dustbin of history. If they are mentioned at all it is as one-sentence reference in a textbook or an answer on “Jeopardy.” Sen. Barry M. Goldwater - who along with William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan is considered one of the three pillars of modern conservatism - is an exception to that rule.

He is not only still the subject of books and articles, but many conservative politicians (as well as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton) cite him as one of their inspirations for getting into politics.

Though Goldwater wrote several memoirs and books about his world view, because they were published in his lifetime there is a cautious tone to them. That is not the case with “Pure Goldwater,” a collection of previously unpublished letters and journal writings edited by his son, former Congressman Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., and former White Housel John W. Dean, a prep school classmate of the younger Goldwater.

The book is a field guide to presidential and legislative politics of the middle to late-20th century. Reading Goldwater’s descriptions of everything from behind-the-scenes dealings in the Senate or his interactions with Richard Nixon (whom Goldwater thought was both dishonest and insufficiently devoted to conservatism) will provide a literary fix for even the hardest core political junkies.

While Sen. Goldwater was too much of a free spirit to have been a standout legislator, he picked substantive and symbolic issues that enabled him to develop a strong national following among conservatives who felt the GOP was adrift.

The book contains some interesting tidbits about his efforts defending Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s goals of rooting out communists in the government. Sen. Goldwater supported his colleague’s objectives, if not his methodology, and the Arizonian unsuccessfully fought efforts to have the full Senate censure Sen. McCarthy.

In a journal entry, Sen. Goldwater describes how he and Sen. McCarthy’s attorney Edward Bennett Williams snuck into Sen. McCarthy’s hospital room to get him to sign letters of apology that several senators might have been enough to kill the censure motion.

“At one point, Joe actually had the pen to sign one of the letters. For reasons I’ll never know, he suddenly threw down the pen and very emphatically told us he would never apologize. He became quite upset and rang for his nurse who came and on seeing us there, called the Commandant of the hospital,” Sen. Goldwater wrote. “He came immediately and was threatening to have us placed under arrest when I told him who I was … He told us to go and not to bother Joe anymore so we left.”

The senator’s bluntness is very much in evidence throughout “Pure Goldwater.” The bitterness of losing badly to President Johnson in the 1964 election is apparent in Goldwater’s notes in March 1977. He wrote that LBJ was “not a good president; he wasn’t honest enough to be a good president, although some very good legislation passed under his administration [presumably he wasn’t referring to the Civil Rights Act which Goldwater opposed] that probably should have been passed long before. Don’t get me started on that S.O.B. and his weakness, his dangerousness, and his exploitation of others.”

While reading the book one can’t help but think of Sen. Goldwater as an amusing relative who makes some good points but you are glad that he’s not the one calling the shots. It’s very apparent why President Reagan, who expressed similar thoughts as did his friend from Arizona but did so in a more appealing manner, is the conservative icon who won the presidency.

Messrs. Dean and Goldwater don’t include much commentary or contextual analysis in the book. That’s a net plus because the late senator has been written about and critiqued (though most of the evaluations tend to be either critical or hagiographic, with little middle ground) rather extensively.

By compiling his writings and publishing many of them in “Pure Goldwater,” the editors have performed a great public service by letting those interested read the historical record and render a verdict for themselves.

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