The Corner

Paul v. Goldwater

From a reader:

Dear Jonah,

In his NR obituary of Barry Goldwater, William F. Buckley wrote:

“During the campaign of 1964, Goldwater was our incorruptible standard-bearer, disdainful of any inducements to bloc voting. He even gave the impression that his design was to alienate bloc voters. He didn’t mean to do that; he was simply engaging in acts of full political disclosure in an attempt to display the architectural integrity of his views, at once simple in basic design, and individualistic and artful in ornamentation.”

One could have made the case that Buckley’s support of Goldwater was futile. After all, it would have also been a “plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face observation” that Barry Goldwater could not win the presidency in 1964.

You write: “I would very much like to live in a country where a Ron Paul — though perhaps not this Ron Paul — had a much better chance of winning the presidency or the nomination.” Can’t you see an echo of Barry Goldwater/Ronald Reagan in what is happening with Ron Paul right now?

True, Paul probably won’t win the nomination or the presidency, but think of the evangelical passion of his followers, and consider what that could mean for the future of the conservative movement.

I’m 100% behind Paul, and I will contribute to his campaign, but not because I think he will win. I will do it because he is reviving great ideas that are being planted in the mind of other young conservatives, conservatives who will win elections one day. From my perspective, Ron Paul is the only candidate for the Republican nomination who makes me feel optimistic about the future of conservatism in America.

But it is somewhat maddening for limited government conservatives to see the most National Review writers so openly hostile (less so, you and Derb) to a candidate who clearly represents the closest things to Barry Goldwater, since, well, Ronald Reagan.

Me: I have some sympathy for this argument. And while I have no desire to puncture the huckophobic (take that Potemra!) climate, I think it’s worth saying at least in brief that Ron Paul is not exactly the closest thing to Barry Goldwater since Ronald Reagan. On some domestic stuff, sure. And I’ve said repeatedly I’m sympathetic to some of Paul’s domestic policies, no matter how fundamentally flawed they are politically and no matter how blind they are to the changed circumstances of the world we’re in now. But on foreign policy, Goldwater and Reagan were very different creatures than Ron Paul.  I don’t think it’s fair to call Ron Paul an isolationist as so many do. But his non-interventionism — which  may be great — ain’t Reaganism or Goldwaterism. Not by a long shot. 

See my recent magazine piece for more on that.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

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