Barry Goldwater once wrote, "I have the
unmitigated gall to think I could lead men anywhere, business,
politics, or combat." The fact was, he did none of these.
In business he inherited wealth and position. He ferried planes
during World War II - but saw no combat and led no men. And
in politics he was ineffectual. When he sought to lead men,
he lost in one of the greatest landslides in American electoral
Goldwater was not helped by offhand remarks like, "Let's lob one into the
men's room in the Kremlin." His campaign slogan was, "In your heart,
you know he's right." Democrats countered with, "In your guts, you
know he's nuts." President Johnson, who was at the height of his popularity
before Vietnam became an all-consuming preoccupation, had no difficulty demolishing
Goldwater at the polls, where the incumbent garnered more than 60% of the popular
vote, winning all but six states. Goldwater recognized that his views were out
of tune with mainstream America and later wrote, "we would have lost even
if Abraham Lincoln had come back and campaigned with us."
The same frank demeanor which doomed him in the election later earned him the
respect and admiration of the press and public. Goldwater was not one to temper
his criticisms. Although an ally of Nixon's throughout the Nixon administration,
Goldwater often gave interviews assailing the President and later wrote that
Nixon was "the most dishonest individual I ever met in my life." When
Nixon traveled to China in 1976 Goldwater said, "As far as I'm concerned,
Nixon can go to China and stay there." He did not attend Nixon's funeral.
In later years he spoke out against conservatives like Pat Robertson's Christian
Coalition ("a bunch of kooks") and Jerry Falwell ("Every good
Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."), against the ban on
gays in the military and against Republican attempts to illegalize abortion.
He was possessed of genuine decency and integrity. His politics were in the main
deeply felt, instinctive. He was not an intellectual and his sister said she
had never seen him read a book. He flew nearly every model of plane in the U.S.
Air force. He climbed mountains, visited Antarctica and liked strong whiskey.
He was not the antichrist.