Barry Goldwater Dead At 89
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AllPolitics, May 29) -- Republican conservative patriarch Barry Goldwater, a former Arizona senator and presidential candidate, died Friday at age 89.
"He is soaring," KTAR-AM Radio in Phoenix quoted Goldwater's wife, Susan, as saying in announcing his death Friday morning.
Goldwater was known as an outspoken man of principle who has left a strong political legacy. He is credited by many with remaking the Republican party and setting it on the conservative course that brought Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush to power many years later.
A statement issued by the Goldwater family said he died at his home in suburban Paradise Valley of natural causes. "He was in his own bed, in his own room, as he wished, overlooking the valley he loved with family at his side,"
the family said.
"He died as he lived: with dignity, courage and humility."
In recent years Goldwater's health was failing. He suffered a stroke in 1996 that damaged the frontal lobe of his brain, which controls memory and personality. In September 1997, his family said Goldwater was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
President Bill Clinton ordered all U.S. flags on federal buildings and installations be lowered to half-staff on Wednesday, the day of Goldwater's funeral, in honor of the late senator.
Earlier in the day, Clinton remembered Goldwater fondly, calling him "truly an American original. I never knew anybody quite like him."
Goldwater the politician
"Mr. Republican" to many in the GOP, Goldwater was "a conservative's conservative." Outspoken and earthy, he was never afraid to call things as he saw them.
Goldwater was elected to the Senate from Arizona in 1952. He served there until 1964 when he became the Republican candidate for president.
At the GOP convention in San Francisco, Goldwater spelled out his political philosophy in a famous line: "I would remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Goldwater said he knew the Vietnam War would be one of the major issues in the campaign, and called on President Lyndon Johnson to do what was necessary to win. He made his views on the war clear then and 25 years later when appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live."
"If I had inherited the mess that Johnson got into, I would have said to North Vietnam, by dropping leaflets out of B-52s, 'You quit the war in three days or the next time these babies come over there going to drop some big bombs on you.' And I'd make a swamp out of North Vietnam ... I'd rather kill a hell of a lot of North Vietnamese than one American and we've lost enough of them,"
But Johnson painted his opponent as a right-wing kook who couldn't be trusted to have his finger on the nuclear button. Johnson's still haunting 'Daisy' campaign ad -- with images of a little girl counting daisy petals giving way to those of a nuclear blast countdown -- only ran once, but Americans got the message. ['Daisy' Ad, 2MB]
Goldwater lost big, winning only six states and 38 percent of the vote. Goldwater told friends he knew his candidacy would fail because the country was still traumatized by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But liberal Republicans were convinced the 1964 defeat was a referendum against the conservative movement. And there was always tension between Goldwater and the party's liberal wing, led by Nelson Rockefeller.
Nevertheless, in 1968, Arizonans sent Goldwater back to the Senate where he was a strong supporter of Richard Nixon's first five years as president.
But Goldwater later said he was appalled at the way the Nixon White House handled the Watergate scandal and it was Goldwater who told Nixon he had lost his support in Congress. He would later call Nixon the "most dishonest man" he ever met.
When Reagan was elected in 1980, many of Goldwater's ideas were enacted: lower taxes, Pentagon reform and deregulation, to name a few.
In 1986, Goldwater retired but he wrote his autobiography and worked as a news commentator.
In the last years of his life, Goldwater's outspokeness generated controversy among some conservative fans. While he actively backed GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996, Goldwater's support for individual rights concerning controversial issues like abortion and homosexual rights angered many Christian conservatives.
"The rights that we have under the Constitution covers anything we want to do, as long as its not harmful. I can't see any way in the world that being a gay can cause damage to somebody else," Goldwater said.
Goldwater was the last U.S. senator to be born in a continental U.S. territory, two years before Arizona became a state. And he liked to say his lifelong political philosophy was a product of his early years, growing up on the frontier.
He said it was based on two ideas he learned as a boy: the respect of individual freedom, and a smaller government is a better government.
In addition to his love of politics, Goldwater was a Air Force Reserve general and flew into his 80s. He also was an amateur radio operator, spending hours talking to his friends.
Goldwater always said it was an honor to serve in Congress and run for president.
But he said his greatest compliment came from a policeman who told him: "Senator Goldwater, you always made me feel proud to be an American."