When Mr. Conservative is too liberal
Where did Barry Goldwater go wrong? He is too liberal for the right-of-center weekly Human Events.Skip to next paragraph
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I looked up the files of the senator - for whom I have a great affection - and found that in March 1961 he was the darling of the same magazine Human Events. It advertised fluorescent Goldwater bumper stickers, Goldwater buttons, and ''for business and social wear, distinguished 'G for Goldwater' lapel pins - 10 carat gold-filled - $3 each.'' You could also send for a portrait of Mr. Goldwater in full color ''together with an inspiring statement of his credo and platform from The Conscience of a Conservative.'' These, it said, ''combined to create a postcard with REAL POLITICAL IMPACT.''
A generation later the man known fondly by millions as ''Mr. Conservative'' is not conservative enough. This in the magazine that President Reagan has good-naturedly described as his favorite publication. I still wonder about it. I have a feeling that the editor of the weekly would be in the Goldwater column if it came to another presidential election like 1964. At that time the senator had a dedicated band unsurpassed in recent times; it operated in the hope that if the party nominated a true-blue, undeviating conservative it would bring out millions of hidden believers who were supposed to be the forgotten men of politics. It didn't work out: Lyndon Johnson won by a thumping 15,522,995. But it was a glorious effort.
And now a former Goldwater defender withdraws support because he has been defending independence of the courts against the editors' desire to limit court jurisdiction on social issues like busing, school prayer, and abortion. On Feb. 9, Mr. Goldwater told the Senate that the immediate challenge was not the various social proposals themselves but the right of the courts to consider them. On Aug. 27, 1787, Mr. Goldwater recalled, the members of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia by a negative vote approved the courts' jurisdiction: two states voted for and six states against an effort to curb the jurisdiction of the justices. They put it in the Constitution, he argued, at least by indirection. Yes, he told the Senate, this transcends the immediate emotional dispute over various social issues and ''affects the essence of our basic constitutional doctrines.''
David R. Brink, president of the American Bar Association, made the same argument here this week before the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Two dozen bills pend in Congress, he says, to strip federal courts of jurisdiction in constitutional cases. Supporters, he says, risk their ''most fundamental values to secure what they believe are expedient solutions to current and transient problems.''
The proponents of the so-called social issues, Mr. Brink says, seek to win their case by ''shutting off access'' to the federal courts. ''And if Congress can shut off these particular rights,'' he argues, ''a future Congress can shut off other constitutional rights - in fact can shut off all our constitutional rights - including those the proponents of the present bills hold most dear.''
It's a formidable combination - Barry Goldwater and the head of the bar association. Mr. Brink spells it out. If Congress can remove jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in federal matters, then state legislatures can do the same thing in state constitutional matters. Then, he says, we wouldn't have any judicial review of this sort left.
Despite objection of some former supporters I don't think Mr. Conservative has ''gone liberal.'' He was a pilot during World War II and the only senator in 1961 licensed to fly a jet - as startling as Sen. John Glenn (D) of Ohio today, who flew to the moon. A lot of loyal Goldwater supporters are going to remember with affection those fluorescent bumper stickers they put on their car in 1961. You could buy them from the magazine Human Events: they cost 10 cents each.