Conservative publicist Victor Gold died last week. One of the premiere lights of the conservative movement, Gold was the spokesperson for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign, wrote speeches for Vice President Spiro Agnew in the Nixon White House, and co-authored a early autobiography with George H.W. Bush shortly before he became president.
During the second Bush administration, Gold became disenchanted with the direction of the GOP and, in 2007, wrote a scathing takedown of his party, Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Neocons and Holy Rollers Destroyed the GOP.
In a 2007 interview, Gold told Bill Moyers — his rival during the Goldwater/Johnson election — that he believed the party had lost sight of traditional conservative values such as small government, limited presidential authority, the separation of church and state, and our rights as they are spelled out in the Constitution.
Gold didn’t stop fighting for what he believed was true conservatism with Invasion of the Party Snatchers. In 2010, he embraced new technology and started a blog called “The Wayward Lemming.” In the blog Gold regularly took members of his own party to task for their diversion from the Goldwater standard.
In the Trump campaign Gold saw a corrupt political bargain similar to the one struck between neocons and the Religious Right during the 1980s and 1990s. Gold felt that Trump and his art of the deal showmanship had partnered with the neocons, evangelicals and the fringe “alt right” to win at all costs. Gold took to calling his blog posts on the Trump presidency as coming from the Alt-Reich. But, he noted, there was a big difference between Hitler and Trump: “Though Hitler, like Trump, was a megalomaniacal narcissist, he sought adoration and acclaim in order to gain power, whereas Trump sought power in order to gain adoration and acclaim.”
The blog resembles the kind of cutting sarcasm of a late-night talk show — but with the unusual prospect of a right on right fight. Just read through his takedown of Trump, the GOP and the media machine on one of the issues dearest to Gold’s heart, The Bill of Rights:
Two weeks into Donald Trump’s presidency, this much we know: If Trump were to issue an executive order suspending the first 10 amendments to the Constitution . . .
Paul Ryan would issue a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by the order but would withhold judgment until he had a chance to study it in full. Mitch McConnell would issue a statement expressing “concern” over the order’s effect on the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. John McCain and Lindsey Graham would issue a statement expressing “outrage” over the order and their intention to hold hearings on it as soon as they finished hearings on three other executive orders they were outraged about. Reince Priebus would issue a statement blaming CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post for reporting news of the order. Kellyanne Conway would issue a statement saying the election is over, Trump won, and the president’s critics ought to “shut up” and “get with the program.” Charles Krauthammer would write a column deploring the order, blaming it on Barack Obama for having set a precedent by issuing executive orders. Marco Rubio would make a speech saying while Trump’s order suspending the first 10 amendments was OK, “He’d better not mess with the Bill of Rights.”
Gold never stopped revering Barry Goldwater. He even labeled his cats paleoconservative. If Goldwater were here today, Gold assured his audience shortly before his death, he wouldn’t have suffered fools in his government gladly:
What the moment obviously calls for is a will and a voice like that of my former boss Barry Goldwater. Blunt-spoken Barry, never, in his years on Capitol Hill or as a presidential candidate, afraid to call a spade a goddamn trowel.
Millennials should know that was Sen. Goldwater who, in 1974, led the Republican delegation to the White House to tell Richard Nixon that it was time for him to resign the presidency. Again, it was steel-spined Barry who, 10 years later, whatever the backlash from evangelical voters, told reporters that the Rev. Jerry Falwell needed “a swift kick in the ass.”
So it is that I can see the old man now, after reading the latest presidential tweets, telling his staff “We’ve got a head case in the Oval Office,” then heading for the Senate floor to call for action under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. TERRIBLE! A NEW LOW!
American political discourse has lost a powerful and unique voice.