The Goldwater-Nixon Party

I have a theory that the Republican Party is like Cobra Command, Karl Rove is Dr. Mindbender and George W. Bush is their Serpentor, created from the harvested political DNA of two wingnut saints: Barry Goldwater & Richard Nixon. And not just any DNA from these two hosts. No, that would be too easy. Instead, Dr. Mindbender has carefully harvested the worst of material from both sources.

But then of course by ‘worst’ I mean ‘most wingnutty’. So from Dr. Mindbender’s point of view, the operation has been a success.

The modern Republican Party combines Goldwater’s foriegn policy extremism and domestic glibertarian batshit rhetoric with Richard Nixon’s penchant for shitheaded dirty-tricks and skill at cultivating bigotry. What a political cocktail! Anyway, Rick Perlstein thinks so, too — though without the corny 80s pop culture references:

I pointed out that the modern conservative movement that first massed in 1960 behind Barry Goldwater defined themselves against Republican standard-bearer Richard Nixon’s ideological expedience – but that at the very same time the same people who “pioneered this anti-Nixonian movement of principle showed up in the dankest recesses of the Nixon administration. People like Douglas Caddy, of course, the co-founder of the effort to draft Goldwater for vice-president in 1960 and YAF’s first president, who was the man the White House called on to represent the Watergate burglars in 1972,” and former Young Americans for Freedom president Tom Charles Huston–“who, as the author of the first extra-legal espionage and sabotage plan in the Nixon White House, can fairly be called an architect of Watergate.”

I interviewed many of the original organizers of Young Americans for Freedom for my book Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. Here’s what I said at [not] “Princeton” [University but at the right-wing “Madison Institute”]:

How did my subjects from the youth conservative movement of the 1960s, the ones that later came to inherit the world, present themselves to the researcher who came calling for stories about how their triumph began? On the one hand, beaming, telling me stories of principle. On the other, sometimes in the same breath, winkingly defining political deviancy down, telling Hustonian tales of antinomial subterfuge. Peeling off opposition bumper stickers with razor blades, jamming Rockefeller phone banks, working to subvert the 1961 National Student Association convention by setting up a dummy “Middle of the Road Caucus.”

I explained that this was why Richard Nixon’s White House speciically recruited dedicated conservatives to do his dirty work – “good, healthy right-eing exuberants,” as he described the likes of Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy. And what do conservatives think of convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy, who cheerfully worked overtime specifically to break the law on the White House’s behalf? They made him one of their most popular speakers and radio hosts. The party of law and order indeed….

How did this roomful of “conservative intellectuals,” including those beside me on the dais, respond to my agument that Richard Nixon loved conservatives specifically for their willingness to break the law in the service of something they call “freedom”? One of them, another YAF founder, M. Stanton Evans… quipped, “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate.”

That sounds about right.

In lieu of quitting, as you may have noticed, I’ve pledged to blog when I can on some of the things fellow lefties do that have vexed me so much. Well, here’s another one of them: the Barry Goldwater love one sees occasionally, usually in an aside to a comment or post deploring the state of small government ideals in Bush’s America. Good god.

Back to political G.I. Joe, briefly. Here’s the thing: Cobra Command has been around a long time. There’s been a Dr. Mindbender before — his name was Richard Viguerie. There’s been a Serpentor before, too. His name was Ronald Reagan and he too was manufactured from Goldwater & Nixon DNA. Bush is just a better, newer, even more wingnutty version and less concerned than Reagan about disguising his Nixonian parts behind optimism and convenient memory lapses.

Just as Reagan could not have joked on the radio about nuking the Soviet Union, or have employed a bunch of nun-raping thugs for his Central American crusade against the Commie Menace without his Goldwater DNA, so too could Bush not prosecute his ‘extremism in pursuit of occupying Iraq is no vice’ policies without his Barry bits.

But hey, apparently one wise-crack from Ol’ Barry about kicking Jerry Falwell in the ass is enough to redeem him in some lefty eyes. Blargh. Actually, it was Goldwater himself who inevitably made the Jerry Falwell types powerful. Goldwater’s crackpot libertarianism and willingness to nuke anyone anywhere for the sake of ‘freedom’ (a mindless hawkishness so redolent of our modern neoconservatives) could never on its own deliver electoral majorities. Say what you want about the American people’s intelligence, but they ain’t that suicidal — or at least, they didn’t used to be. However, economic libertarianism is of course incredibly popular with the Chamber of Commerce type/robber baron goons who bankroll the Republican Party. The problem was — how to sweeten the economic bitterness enough to deliver the votes? The solution was: by appealling to the radicalized Christian Fundamentalists on cultural issues. If Goldwater didn’t like his demented offspring, he only had himself to blame:

He favors breaking off diplomatic relations with the Russians; he wants to present them whenever possible with a take-it-or-leave-it, peace-or-war attitude which many thoughtful conservatives who approve his domestic program find disquietingly like brinksmanship.

LBJ’s ‘Daisy’ commercial wasn’t entirely unfair to Goldwater. Now for the crackpot glibertarianism:

[Goldwater] was firmly against socialized medicine, but he seemed to know nothing about how it worked in Scandinavia, West Germany, England.

Goldwater was honest. No, he didn’t know much about European socialism. “But I did meet with this Norwegian doctor, matter of fact her name was Goldwater, which is how she happened to get in touch with me. She said the thing seemed to work all right, but that being assured of a certain income every month from the government kept her from feeling any real urge to study harder — you know, keep up at her profession. There was no incentive.” I asked him if he thought that the desire to be good was entirely economic in origin. He said of course it was. I then asked him to explain how it was that two people as different as ourselves worked hard, though in neither case was money the spur. He was startled. Then he murmured vaguely and slipped away from the subject.

How easy Goldwater’s philosophy is to adopt if you’re predisposed to believing that such programs are the inevitable product of atheistic homofagfag societies. When you have a bloc already suspicious of the New Deal, incensed by the Great Society (which transfered wealth to negroes — negroes!!!), and perking its ears to William F. Buckley lambasting the Pope in righteous defense of laissez-faire crapitalism … well, millions of white trash Protestants (and a not insignificant amount of Phalangist-style Catholics) are willing to vote against their own economic interests (not to mention several of Christ’s sternest admonishments) and presto: a majority is formed. Its natural tendencies are to form personality cults around religious authoritarians, support top-down class warfare, provoke war with anyone anywhere but preferably against groups easily demonised on sectarian grounds.

And speaking of authoritarianism… Sure, when it was easy to do, Goldwater denounced Nixon. But to those liberals who think that if good Ol’ Barry were around, he wouldn’t put up with Bush’s Big Brother schtick, I offer the following.

This is from Hitchens back when he was human. The set-up is that there is a Watergate theory that explains the break-in like so: The administration was paranoid about what Larry O’Brien knew about Greek expatriate and Nixon friend Tom Pappas; the burglars broke in to find out. At that time Greece was run by a fascist junta whose secret police were trained by the CIA and whose government was recipient of mucho CIA dinero. It is suspected that Pappas recycled a sizable amount of these funds into CREEP’s coffers. Something stank, and:

There were three attempts by congressional committees to probe Pappas’s activities. They did, as Seymour Hersh puts it in The Price of Power, “raise the question of whether the CIA…was aware that some of its funds were being returned to the United States for use in the presidential election.” All three congressional inquiries were terminated…

Hitchens details it all. The first inquiry was attempted by the awesome Texas populist Wright Patman. It was crushed by Representative Gerald Ford, with some heavy assistance by Nixon’s FBI. The second inquiry was part of the famous Church Committee, but the part about investigating Pappas was ..well, nixed at the special personal request of Henry Kissinger. The final attempt was undertaken at the instigation of George McGovern and was to be chaired by Daniel Inouye, then Birch Bayh…

Those in Washington who had hoped for a serious probe were to be disappointed… hearings during the tenure of Birch Bayh were prevented from calling CIA witnesses by Vice-Chairman and later Chairman Barry Goldwater. In the words of one of his subordinates… “Goldwater deep-sixed the Pappas investigation.”

In October 1963, an interview with Goldwater had been published in the Athens Daily Post… In the midst of a call for more private capital in Greece, Goldwater said:

The recently signed agreement between Tom Pappas of Boston and the Greek government for the investment of U.S. capital of $160 million in Greece is an important beginning in this direction. I know Tom Pappas very well. He is one of my closest friends.

This distinguished friendship, which a new and more cynical world has learned to call conflict of interest, did not restrain Senator Goldwater from crushing the Pappas inquiry or impel him to reiterate his long and deep comradeship with its subject…

Nixon was nastier, more creative in his devilishness than ..well, anyone. But Goldwater himself — supposedly so pure and virtuous — had his Nixonian traits, too. Why were Goldwater’s and Nixon’s traits so easily welded to form modern Republicanism? Because they were synergistic. One tendency naturally energized and expanded the other and vice-versa. Serpentor.

Notes: other quotes are from Gore Vidal’s Life magazine interview with Goldwater. So if one is of the kitten-basket school of punditry, it can be safely assumed that all quoted text is a tissue of lies or at the very least a gay conspiracy theory. Caveat emptor.


Comments: 17


I’m thinking less Cobra Command and more Hydra, except that Hydra’s got Nick Fury on the payroll now.

Oooops! Did I expose my fanboy roots?

Anyway, HTML, another triumph. Anyone left of Hugh Hewitt who has something nice to say about Goldwater might as well just praise the John Birch Society while they’re at it.


Aw hell,no! Bush isn’t Serpentor; Serpentor was cool! Bush is Corbra Commander.


“G. Gordon Mindbender, go tap Democratic phone lines. This I command!”

Thanks for the very informative posting, and thanks for bringing back memories of GI Joe.


[…] you that The Wrath of Khan is the better picture, but for me, I always… « The Goldwater-Nixon Party […]

Smotes Durston

From Cobra Commander’s filecard:
Total control of the world . . . its people, wealth, and resources–that’s the objective of COBRA Commander. This fanatical leader rules with an iron fist. He demands total loyalty and allegiance. His main battle plan for world control relies on revolution and chaos.

Major Bludd = Rumsfeld?
Worked as military advisor in a number of countries and is currently wanted for crimes in Rhodesia and Libya. [Ed: it appears G.I. Joe researchers weren’t up on their current events in 1983, since “Rhodesia” no longer existed.]… Major Bludd writes poetry . . . badly: When you’re feeling low and woozy/Slap a fresh clip in your Uzi!/Assume the proper firing stance/And make the suckers jump and dance!
Bludd has a tactical mind like a steel trap.
Strike the Rumsfeld reference.

He maintains a luxurious lifestyle around the world. Destro provides high-tech arms to any side able to meet his price and will incite war where it does not exist.

Hmmm. You may be on to something here, Mencken.

Knowing is half the battle…


Wait, hold on, so…who are Tomax and Xamot?


I’m with you – Serpentor at least had some basic competencies; Cobra Commander was just a useless nutball. That was why they built Serpentor in the first place! Maybe that makes him McCain…

And does that mean Nancy Pelosi is Scarlett? I fear this thread will damage my poor fanboy brain…

a different brad

Joe Lieberman = Zartan?


I am also frustrated by lefties praising Goldwater, but I do find it interesting that his brand of libertarianism (now glibertarianism) would be considered pure apostasy by today’s right wing. True, he was hypocrtical in some important respects, but he also held true to his more “unleashed” views. Those views seem to have been: warmongering and anti-statism, which led him to advocate bombing anyone anywhere, but also to oppose religious nuts. This is a mixed bag, certainly, but more important (in my mind, at least) is the way the political landscape has changed since then. I’m not interested in Goldwater per se, but how he was perceived then, how he might be perceived now, and how the American right and the Republican Party have changed.


In lieu of quitting, as you may have noticed, I’ve pledged to blog when I can on some of the things fellow lefties do that have vexed me so much.

Hee, hee… bring it…

Snark aside- thanks for this post. You know I’ll always love ya, ya big galoot. Even if we do vex each other occasionally. (Vex is such an awesome word. We really all should use it more. No, I’m not trying to tell you what to write…)


Actually Nick Fury is now head of Shield not Hydra (and is about to have his a** handed to him by teh Hulk)


Anyway, Rick Perlstein thinks so, too — though without the corny 80s pop culture references[…]

Aw, hellz no, dude!!
I call “bogus” on him, even if I must concede every point!


Hasn’t Nick Fury been head of SHIELD since about 1966 or so?

a different brad

Fury probably actually is head of HYDRA now. I think Iron Man or Mr Fantastic are head of SHIELD now. I got the Civil War reprint,* n Fury was with Cap on the side of the rebels or whatever they were called.
*- First comic I’d bought in 15 years or so. From what I gather Marvel in particular has had some really bad writers get way too much control in that time.


First comic I’d bought in 15 years or so. From what I gather Marvel in particular has had some really bad writers get way too much control in that time.

I’ll let you in on something: they were always stupid comics.


A Different Brad
You are right Tony Stark became head of Shield after civil war.


[…] Perlstein’s characterization. I’ve read the profile many times — referenced it in my blogging (and tell me reader, after taking a look at that passage, who truly comes across as a crank?) […]


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