GOLDWATER: The Man Who Made a Revolution by Lee Edwards

GOLDWATER: The Man Who Made a Revolution

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Edwards, a Goldwater campaign veteran and professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, offers an anecdote-rich portrait of the intellectual and practical godfather of modern American conservatism. Barry Goldwater is perhaps best known for proclaiming, ""Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."" Edwards details Goldwater's beginnings as an executive in his family's Arizona-based chain of department stores, portraying a man who succeeded early in Arizona politics because, as he recalled, ""I can call ten thousand people in this state by their first name."" The author chronicles Goldwater's rise to national prominence as an exponent of a limited federal government that does not attempt to legislate morality, a stance that would put him at odds with the Christian Right late in his career. Of special value is Edwards's detailed account of the 1964 presidential campaign, which was famous for disinformation and mudslinging (Goldwater himself remarked, ""If I didn't know Goldwater in 1964 and had to depend on the press, I'd have voted against the son of a bitch myself""). Edwards shows how Goldwater's landslide loss galvanized conservatives to move the Republican Party rightward to field the successful candidates Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, but the author is too quick to attribute such dubious later experiments as supply-side economics to the more fiscally sensible Arizonan. Happily, Edwards captures something of Goldwater the man, a feisty character unafraid to speak his piece--the Goldwater who dismissed fellow conservative Ronald Reagan as ""just an actor"" and invited a former-supporter-turned-antiwar-activist to come see him despite the protestations of his congressional aides, saying, ""Piss on them. You're my friend."" Required reading for Goldwater aficionados, and useful for students of contemporary American politics of whatever stripe.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Regnery