Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater (HBO Documentary)

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2007, the Log Cabin Republicans arranged a “theatrical” screening of the HBO Documentary (actually now available for theaters from Zeitgeist) Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater (2006), directed by Julie Anderson. The film was shown in quintuplicate on five plasma screens in the downstairs lounge at a sports bar, the Rhode Grille on Rhode Street and Wilson Boulevard, just above Roslyn in Arlington, VA.

Of course, Barry Goldwater became gradually known as the most famous establishment libertarian conservative. The film starts with the famous black-and-white H-bomb ad (with the little girl) in Lyndon Johnson’s campaign in the 1964 presidential campaign. Goldwater was painted as the warmonger, when it would be Johnson and McNamara who would get sucked in by the domino theory into the war in Vietnam. The film shows lots of black-and-white shots of the 1964 campaign year, with the Republican convention in the Cow Palace in San Francisco. It also shows some of Barry’s life in Arizona, his enjoyment of nature alone, flying solo with prop planes into the wilderness, learning self-reliance, using citizen’s band radio. Barry even made a film “Grand Canyon Rapids” in 1940, a home movie, Technicolor perhaps, that actually got into theaters.

Goldwater (his famous book is “The Conscience of a Conservative”) hinted at his libertarian stance in the post Brown v. Board of Education days, when he maintained that it should not be the government’s business to force desegregation of schools, but that as a personal matter segregation and discrimination were wrong. He claimed that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to enforce its opinion (the “with all deliberate speed” problem).

Goldwater would come back into politics and serve thirty years in the Senate. George Will says, he really didn’t lose the 1964 election; it just took sixteen years to count the votes. (Try that with the 2000 Florida presidential election.) With “the Reagan Revolution” his ideas seemed to pay off, but quickly Goldwater became disenchanted with the neo-Republican strategy of social conservatism, attacking abortion and “gay rights.” Goldwater had always believed in the right of a woman to control her pregnancy. He was turned off by the entry of the Moral Majority into politics. (A James Robson sermon using the p word is quoted.) Although earlier in his life his attitude toward homosexuality was unfavorable, when a grandson Ty Goldwater was gay, he came around, even to the point of writing a famous op-ed (in 1993, after President Clinton tried to lift the military gay ban) that the was wrong. He wrote, “To serve in the military, you don’t have to be straight, you have to shoot straight.” He also saw it as federal intrusion on free speech and a reasonable expectation of personal privacy, even for a servicemember, which was becoming the practical view of many people in the early 90s.

Also appearing in the film are Sandra Day O'Connor (she talks about her appointment to the Supreme Court and Sen. Goldwater's help), James Carville, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Franken, and John Dean (covering the Watergate and Nixon period). The film covers a lot of second half of twentieth century American political history, and shows that politics, as it changes, can produce strange bedfellows or bunkmates.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the protection of liberty is no virtue." From the 1964 convention.

Another important recent HBO Documentary film is "White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (2007), about the event that ended World War II in Japan. The film shows graphic footage of Japan immediately after the events, and horrifying footage of the injuries to the victims.

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