The Daily Beast

And here’s the Daily Beast’s slideshow. It looks really good, if I say so myself!

PS. A very angry rejoinder from Ernie, which I am printing below:

Including Barry Goldwater’s picture under the caption “America’s Old School Haters” is absolutely despicable.

Do you know anything about Goldwater’s life-long history fighting bigotry? He desegregated the Arizona National Guard before Truman did so with our military; when he was on the Phoenix city council, he was a founding member of the NAACP and he remained a member until his death. He supported gay rights and he championed native American rights his entire life.

If someone like Goldwater can accurately be characterized as an “American hater” — then whom among us can pass the test for decency and morality or being an honorable person?

Shame!

I feel his criticism very intensely, which is why I am sharing it; also because I think it’s important for everyone to realize that we’re not dealing in questions of who is better than anyone else. People are complicated–some believe bad things and do good things, some believe good things and do bad; also public personalities (especially public personalities whose books were mostly ghost-written) sometimes are, fairly or unfairly, remembered for what their followers projected onto them rather than what they were themselves. Abraham Lincoln left a legacy of racist quotes behind too.

I included Goldwater, as I told Ernie, not because I thought he was a racist, but for the conspiracism that he continued to promote quite late into his career (though he certainly did moderate many of his stands by the end of his lifetime). Martin Luther King’s words about Goldwater are apposite: “On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand.”

Frankly, I think Goldwater has a lot in common with Ron Paul (about whom Ernie and I have also publicly disagreed), who I suspect is mostly an honorable person but whose followers often cast him in a bad light. Like Goldwater, his ghostwriters have done him some damage too.

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9 thoughts on “The Daily Beast

  1. Then debate the public policy implications which you think are revealed by Goldwater’s political views but DO NOT maliciously defame someone as “a hater” (which is another word for bigot) — which is a much more serious charge because “a hater” is motivated by some inner demons that cannot be reached by evidence or argument. A “hater” makes decisions based upon virulent animus toward entire groups of other human beings.

    Goldwater was NOT a hater. Nor did he endorse the “conspiracism” which you attribute to him.

  2. I also posted this reply to Arthur on Daily Beast:

    Arthur knows that I have studied/researched the extreme right (and especially the Birch Society) for more than 40 years. I have been on the receiving end of many vicious comments from all sorts of bigots.

    The Birch Society banned me from posting messages on their website. A JBS chapter leader always refers to me as “Comrade” and “New World Order stooge” and “disinformer”. A neo-nazi created an entire website just to vilify my character and my supposed religious background.

    With that background in mind: I don’t have the remotest clue what Arthur means by his description of Goldwater, i.e. the “JBS-style conspiracism that he promoted and continued to promote quite late into his career.”

    Give us specifics!

  3. One example is in the quote above, which says that the Trilateral Commission seeks to “seize” control of the government. A line I elided is even more inflammatory: “seize control and consolidate the four centers of power political, monetary, intellectual and ecclesiastical.” Then there’s this, from the same book, on the CFR: “the CFR…..believes national boundaries should be obliterated and one-world rule established.” Goldwater famously distanced himself from Welch, if not the JBS per se, but the accusation of creeping One Worldism and an assault on US sovereignty is one that resonates with the JBS.

    The point of this piece wasn’t to select the very worst people in the world and expose them as such; it was to show (and by the response, I think it did) how much we overlook in our historical, and in some cases, our contemporary heroes. I could have easily done a gallery of left wing haters, or of black racists, or Jewish racists, or bloody-minded Communists. But in this case, I focused on very mainstream American thinkers, many of whom would be profoundly embarrassed to see their words in this context. Never mind Goldwater, think of Byrd, who apologized over and over–or for that matter, look at John Adams, who for all his apparent detestation and suspicion of the Jesuits, also defended their right to religious freedom.

  4. The string continues over at the Daily Beast:

    ERNIE: First: Goldwater “distanced himself” from both Welch and the ideas which Welch and the JBS presented. I incorporated some of Goldwater’s comments into my webpage which gives examples of right-wing critics of the JBS here:
    https://sites.google.com/site/ernie124102/jbs-4

    Second — an independent analysis of the beliefs and agenda of Trilateral Commission and Council on Foreign Relations members (and similar groups) — does suggest that they are interested in creating some sort of one-world entity where national boundaries and sovereignty is not the primary consideration. The European Union is a fair representation of this concept — i.e. a European Parliament. Furthermore, historically, many of the prime movers behind groups like United World Federalists are people who populated CFR. There is nothing particularly “conspiratorial” about the idea of creating a world government or creating institutions that make national sovereignty less influential in decision-making.

    Third (and most importantly), everyone attributes to William F. Buckley Jr. the achievement of reading the JBS out of the conservative movement. It is certainly correct that he provided the avenue (i.e. National Review magazine), but it was only AFTER Sen. Goldwater and other prominent conservatives (such as Russell Kirk, James Burnham, Eugene Lyons, Frank Meyer, and others) PUBLICLY AGREED with the National Review position — that criticisms of the JBS (and its assertions) actually achieved critical mass. Consequently, one could plausibly argue that YOUR contention about Goldwater serving as a facilitator of JBS “conspiracism” is precisely the OPPOSITE of what actually occurred.

    ME: Goldwater’s comments on the CFR and the Trilateral Commission have been quoted and re-quoted by New World Order fanatics since he made them in the late 1960s; similarly, his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 will likely overshadow his personal support for integration in many histories. But he can hardly be held responsible for all the misuse that people made of his ideas, and I am going to agree with Ernie that I did him an injustice in bracketing him with “haters” (even if they are a pretty damned august company who are, in many cases, equally deserving of a passionate defense. I mean, Emerson? He wrote those words in his diary as a young man; as a public person he was much more high-minded. Byrd endorsed Obama).

    There are other Goldwater quotes in circulation that do him much more credit:

    “The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as it’s not harmful. I can’t see any way in the world that being a gay can cause damage to somebody else.”

    “It’s time America realized that there is no gay exemption in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence.”

    “You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”

    “A woman has a right to an abortion.”

    “That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.”

    “I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are?”

    “Every good Christian ought to kick [Jerry] Falwell right in the ass.”

    “You are extremists, and you’ve hurt the Republican Party much more than the Democrats have.”

    Notice that I have essentially conceded Ernie’s point. I think I’m justified in calling anyone out–especially if they’ve received a pass–on this issue, but I do so not to invoke my own superiority but to remind everyone of how careful we all need to be.

    Still, I agree that Ernie has the high moral ground. My aim, as I wrote him, isn’t to demonize the demonizers, but rather to raise red flags when I see simple-minded, mean-spirited thinking—or when other people see it in my own writings.

    1. Our problem is not (and has never been) people like Sen. Goldwater nor is our problem the principled conservatism which he and others have espoused — which often is caricatured or misrepresented.

      With respect to Goldwater’s comments re: groups like CFR:

      Our problem is the fact that regardless of which Party wins our elections, regardless of whether our President is perceived as a “liberal” (Clinton or Obama) or as a “conservative” (Nixon or Reagan) — we continue to make the same foreign policy mistakes over and over again, because, yes, CFR-members have always been predominant in our government since Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House — but especially after World War II.

      Consequently, we have endless undeclared wars, we spend trillions of dollars on wars and “nation-building” overseas, we lose tens of thousands of America’s sons and daughters, and we never have anything satisfying or worthwhile to show for all the blood and treasure expended.

      The CFR is not a “conspiratorial” enterprise as Birchers et al contend.

      Every society has a prevailing point of view. Unfortunately for us, the CFR mindset (i.e. an internationalist foreign policy where we insert ourselves into disputes and maintain bases all over the world) has always prevailed in our foreign policy establishment and it also suffuses our media and political elites.

      My concern about this whole episode is how easy it is

      (1) to continually narrow the circle of what is considered acceptable opinion or acceptable public policy positions

      and

      (2) to adopt the same “logic” and arguments employed by real “haters” and conspiracy believers

      At some point we have to comprehend that a free society cannot survive or prosper if we subscribe to the notion that it is impossible for intelligent, principled, decent, moral, and honorable people to fundamentally disagree about public policy matters.

      If, instead, we start dividing ourselves into irreconcilable camps where differences in judgment and conclusions devolve into ad hominem slurs about the patriotism, or the character/integrity and/or the intellectual honesty of our perceived opponents — then we are doomed — and political extremists like the Birch Society will win.

      Ultimately, what unites all authoritarians and totalitarians is the singular notion that every problem or issue we confront has ONE correct interpretation and there is always only ONE correct policy option to adopt — (which, “coincidentally” always conforms to their personal preferences!) — and everyone who does NOT agree is suspect and probably morally and intellectually defective.

      That is essentially what the Birch Society and comparable political extremists believe. Let’s not emulate them!

  5. Saying Goldwater’s principled position “gave aid and comfort” to racists is like saying the ACLU’s principled support of the constitutional right of neo-nazis to engage in free speech is giving aid and comfort to racists. Frankly it doesn’t matter if Dr. King says it or if you parrot it, it’s still nonsense. It is true that both Goldwater and the ACLU took positions that less honorable men and women could mis-use to cover their own racism, but using either position to tar the former with the same brush as the latter is ignorant at best and more likely simple disingenuous demagoguery. As Goldwater himself said on the occasion of his vote, “I am unalterably opposed to discrimination or segregation on the basis of race, color, or creed or on any other basis; not only my words, but more importantly my actions through years have repeatedly demonstrated the sincerity of my feeling in this regard…” He went on to say that he recognized that his oath of office and fealty to the constitution put him at odds with his own personal desire to expand civil rights, and while he expected that his vote would be misrepresented by his opponents to suggest he was opposed to civil rights, he could only hope that — in the event the bill was defeated — through continued efforts it could be replaced by legislation that could advance those rights without violating the constitution and the fundamental liberties protected by it. He was obviously predicting the response of ignorant and/or mendacious folks just like you.

  6. As I wrote in the comments above, “I am going to agree with Ernie that I did [Goldwater] an injustice in bracketing him with ‘haters.'”

    I may be ignorant and mendacious, but I do read my critics and respond to them.

  7. One should never forget that LBJ began his US Senate career by speaking in opposition to Republican efforts to make lynching a federal offense. He later went on as Senate Majority Leader to work to water down the Republican Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. Four short years later, he helped drag the Democratic Party kicking and screaming to the right side of civil rights. If you judged him according to his earlier positions and votes, however, a person with your simplistic view would necessarily have to conclude that LBJ’s performance on the CRA’64 must have been some kind of optical illusion or myth — it would be impossible to resolve the dichotomy. Yet, clearly, you are willing to bridge this gap in the case of the Democrat who truly went from admitted segregationist to avowed integrationist, while at the same time seem incapable of accepting the word of a demonstrated integrationist who forever remained an integrationist that on this vote he found the legislation too flawed constitutionally to be passed simply because it sought to achieve ah honorable goal. To find this a fatal flaw, one must take the cynical and pessimistic view that there was no way to achieve that goal by any legislation that would have satisfied Goldwater’s position that individual liberty was only worth pursuing if it did not require the cheapening of that very right for all people.

  8. Holy instamatic, Batman! You are quick on the responsiveness. Sorry if I missed your “concession” to ernie’s point amongst the less generous volume of your earlier response to him.

    By the way, Goldwater’s efforts in regard to civil rights and integration were more than merely “personal” — in addition to his personal work to co-found the AZ chapter of the NAACP, after his election as a city councilman, he worked to desegregate Phoenix public schools and as head of the AZ National Guard, he actually desegregated the corps before President Harry Truman even got around to signing his executive order to desegregate the US Army (an order which, by the way, he did absolutely nothing to enforce in his remaining 4 years in office, leaving that task virtually entirely to President Eisenhower).

    The moral of the story is that the simplistic view of one event or one statement does not often convey the full story. If you are willing to believe anything that reinforces your own prejudices, you inevitably will — and remain ignorant as a result.

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