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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 16 - 22, 2002

Opinion Columns

What would Goldwater say today?

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Those grandiloquent orations during the Iraq debate by West Virginia’s majestic silver-haired, silver-tongued Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd were reminders of another era—when congressmen were independent thinkers without spin doctors and spoke their minds with flair and not merely parroting political party lines.

Another of those vivid figures is missing from the Washington scene: the irascible, frequently coarse Barry Goldwater, whose straight talk offended fellow Republicans as often as not. He’d be a nightmare today for latter day conservatives, some of whom he once called "nuts."

During chats with Goldwater off and on over 25 years in Arizona, the moments were golden with memorable, irreverent, quotes that he would repeat in various venues.

President Nixon, he said, was ''the most dishonest individual I have ever met in my life. He lied to his wife, his family, his friends, his colleagues in the Congress, lifetime members of his own political party, the American people and the world.'' Goldwater was in the delegation that told Nixon to resign or be impeached for the Watergate cover-up.

Goldwater said President Reagan, whom Goldwater pushed into political prominence, was "a liar or incompetent" when claiming ignorance about Iranian arms for Nicaraguan Contras rebels.

He incensed Arizona Republicans by repudiating a GOP congressional candidate as an unqualified carpetbagger and endorsed a Democratic woman instead, then told GOP Gov. Evan Mecham to resign after being accused of campaign funding misconduct. Mecham later was ousted after only 15 months in office.

Of Hillary Clinton, he said, "I like the way she acts," and told Republican critics of President Clinton to "get off his back and let him be president."

He favored gays in the military (he only cared whether they could shoot straight, not whether they were sexually straight) approved of abortions as a woman’s choice (his first wife Peggy, who died of cancer, founded Arizona Planned Parenthood).

Goldwater had a special friendship with John Kennedy: he and JFK had planned to campaign for the presidency together in 1964 using the same airplane and same stages to debate, as Lincoln and Douglas did a century earlier.

But after JFK’s death, Goldwater said his heart simply wasn’t in running against LBJ.

Goldwater’s idiosyncratic politics led to an attempt (unsuccessful) to remove his name from Arizona GOP headquarters.

Nothing rankled Goldwater more, however, than mixing politics and religion.

Goldwater was so disgusted with the sanctimony of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, he said "every good Christian ought to line up and kick Jerry Falwell’s ass."

He also fumed that "I don’t have any respect for the religious right. There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, (Pat) Robertson and all the rest of these political preachers. They are a detriment to the country."

Goldwater told U.S. News & World Report in 1994, "If they succeed in establishing religion as a basic Republican Party tenet, they could do us in."

One wonders how Goldwater would react today.

Last weekend, speakers at the Christian Coalition conference in Washington included Republican Majority Leader Rep. Dick Armey, Republican Majority Whip Rep. Tom DeLay, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Republican Reps. Roy Blunt and Lindsey Graham.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, didn’t mince words about the incestuous political-religious ties.

"If you have the opportunity to get a few liberals out of office, do it," he told the evangelicals. "You will be doing the Lord’s work, and He will richly bless you for it."

And as if to show just how tightly wound together the religious right and the Republican Party have become since Goldwater’s days, President Bush sent a feel-good videotape of welcome to the Christian Coalition gathering, reminding members that together they share similar political objectives.



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