May 29, 1998
Barry Goldwater, former senator and Republican presidential nominee, died today at his Arizona home. He was 89 years old. Following this look at his life, Jim Lehrer is joined by syndicated columnist Mark Shields, Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot, and the NewsHour historians to discuss the life and legacy of Barry Goldwater.
SPENCER MICHELS: The many lives of Barry Goldwater--military pilot, devoted family man, presidential candidate, avid photograher, art collector. But Barry Goldwater will be forever known as the father of modern-day conservatism.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
A discussion on Barry Goldwater.
The father of modern-day conservatism.Born in Phoenix on New Year's Day in 1909, Goldwater was a lifelong resident of Arizona. Early on he was attracted to the military. He attended Virginia's Stanton Military academy and later joined the Army Air Corps. Goldwater was a pilot during World War Two, and by the time he retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1967, Major General Barry Goldwater had flown 165 different types of aircraft. His political career had begun when he won a seat on the Phoenix City Council in 1949. Just three years later Goldwater gained national prominence by getting elected to the United States Senate -- upsetting Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland. He brought to Washington fundamental beliefs in a strong, aggressive national defense and in an economy free of government regulation. After a successful run for re-election, Goldwater developed presidential aspirations and planned on running against President Kennedy in 1964.
BARRY GOLDWATER: He was a very, very nice, decent guy. And while I relished the chance to run against Jack Kennedy, we even talked about using the same airplane and doing it the old fashioned way, get out on the stump and debate.
SPENCER MICHELS: Of course, Goldwater would face President Lyndon Johnson instead. Goldwater won the Republican presidential nomination at his party's convention in San Francisco over more moderate candidate Nelson Rockefeller of New York. And he delivered an acceptance speech that brought conservatives to their feet.
The 1964 presidential election.
BARRY GOLDWATER: I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. [applause] Let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
SPENCER MICHELS: But President Johnson capitalized on voters' fears of extremism and produced arguably the most famous television ad in presidential campaign history. That ad would forever be linked to the political career of Barry Goldwater. Even in defeat, Goldwater always displayed a quick wit and a sense of humor.
KEY DATES IN THE LIFE OF BARRY GOLDWATER:
Jan. 1, 1909:
Born in Phoenix, son of Baron and Josephine Williams Goldwater and grandson of the founder of the Goldwater department store.
Graduates from Staunton Military Academy in Virginia.
Joins Army as second lieutenant.
Sept. 22, 1934:
Marries Margaret "Peggy" Johnson.
Pilot and colonel, Army Air Force.
Major general and chief of Arizona Air National Guard.
Elected to Phoenix City Council as part of group committed to cleaning up prostitution and gambling.
Upsets Democratic Sen. Ernest McFarland by 6,000-vote margin to win first term in Senate.
His name goes before Republican convention as a candidate, but he withdraws in favor of Richard Nixon.
Captures Republican presidential nomination after convention fight with Nelson Rockfeller. Declares: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." Gives up Senate seat for presidential bid. Goes on to lose to President Lyndon Johnson.
Re-elected to Senate.
One of several GOP leaders who visit President Nixon, telling him impeachment is inevitable. Nixon resigns same week.
Margaret "Peggy" Goldwater dies.
Retires from Senate.
At 83, marries health-care executive Susan Schaffer Wechsler, 51.
Suffers stroke that damages frontal lobe of brain, which controls memory and personality.
Doctors say he shows symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
May 29, 1998:
Dies at his home in Paradise Valley, AZ.
SPOKESPERSON: Senator, how about you back in 1964?
BARRY GOLDWATER: Oh, I kind of remember that. I was engaged in some kind of a cliffhanger.
BARRY GOLDWATER: A real toughie.
SPOKESPERSON: Yeah? Could have used some people?
BARRY GOLDWATER: I could have used a hell of a lot of more.
SPENCER MICHELS: Goldwater never again ran for president but was elected to three more terms in the Senate. In 1974, during the height of the Watergate scandal, it was Goldwater who advised President Richard Nixon he should resign from office.
SPOKESMAN: And here you go, Mr. Conservative.
SPENCER MICHELS: And it was Goldwater who was credited for the early rise of what eventually became known as the Reagan Revolution. Throughout his years in the Senate--even well into his seventies--Goldwater forever remained the outspoken Arizonan. Here facing off with a young Alfonse D'Amato of New York.
BARRY GOLDWATER: Wait a minute! You haven't debated this thing. You want to talk about the airplane? It's a very interesting -- I've read that book. I've read all the books that-
ALFONSE D'AMATO: Senator, I've heard you on the floor before take this plane apart hoof by hoof, piece by piece, convince this body that the plane couldn't even fly! Now, you come to the-
BARRY GOLDWATER: Oh, you're out of your head!
SPENCER MICHELS: In 1987, at the age of 78 and after 30 years in the United States Senate, Barry Goldwater retired from public office. Shortly after he announced his retirement, Goldwater sat down with Robert MacNeil and talked about the evolution of the conservative movement he started a generation ago.
ROBERT MacNEIL: You were Mr. Conservative. In many ways, you started this. You were in the beginning of and symbolized the tide of conservatism that came in and brought Ronald Reagan into the presidency. What do you think conservatism has done for the country, having come to power, so to speak?
Barry Goldwater reflects on conservatism.
BARRY GOLDWATER: Well, you find in conservatism the same thing you found in liberalism: a split. You had liberals like Hubert Humphrey that were really trying to make the country go with liberalism, and you had others that didn't care what they said or what they appropriated, just so they made a noise that was formerly unacceptable to American thinking. Now, conservatism has its others too. We have conservatives who literally want to do everything in the bag, and that's not possible. We have other conservatives like Ronald Reagan, myself and most conservatives, who want to make progress on the proven values of the past, which to me is a whole essence of conservatism. This doesn't mean we have to bring in abortion or school prayer or every other thing in the book or everything you find under the rocks. Make your progress on the proven values, the Constitution, the free enterprise system, and don't mess around with it.
SPENCER MICHELS: During his later years Goldwater's political views moderated as he often spoke out on behalf of gay rights and against the Christian right. In 1996, Goldwater suffered a stroke and had been in declining health ever since. He died today at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
The PBS NewsHour is Funded in part by: Additional Foundation and Corporate Sponsors
Copyright © 1996- MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. All Rights Reserved. Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour...Become a member of your local PBS station.