While I have long been a fan of Barry Goldwater’s outspoken nature and commitment to conservative principles, my regard for the man increased when nearly twenty years ago, in the summer of 1989, I learned how he handled the arrest, at the height of the 1964 presidential campaign, of Walter Jenkins, the closest aide to his rival for the White House, then-President Lyndon Baines Johnson.Â Jenkins had been arrested for having sex with a man in the men’s room at Washington, D.C. YMCA.
The then-GOP standard bearer refused to make political hay of the matter at a time when one could make political hay out of such things.Â That refusal defined the decency of the then-Arizona Senator and future conservative icon.Â He was a principled politician a gay man could admire.
In responding to Jack Shafer’s pieces in Slate, The Intolerable Smugness of Bill Moyers and More on Moyers, the longtime Johnson aide defines an attitude toward conservatives as identical to that of his ideological allies who believe their “ideological enemies” treat gays with scorn, “Sen. Goldwater and his allies in the press seized on Walter’s arrest as a sign of Washington’s ‘moral degeneration.’“Â Wrong, Mr. Moyers, at least about Goldwater.Â The historical record confirms what Goldwater wrote in his memoir:
Meantime, the White House anxiously awaited what we were going to say about the matter. It drove them crazy when I refused comment. Here was the cowboy who shot from the hip, the Scrooge who would put the penniless on the street, with no Social Security, the maniac who would blow our little children into the next kingdom in a nuclear Armageddon. If he would kill a million men and women, wouldn’t he destroy one individual? Why was the extremist pursuing moderation?
When the media clamor over the case had climbed to a fever pitch, I said the only matter which concerned the campaign was the national security aspect. We never spoke of it except to repeat the security factor in response to questions and pressure from the media. Our reply was always the same: The FBI was the competent agency to answer such questions.
I guess Bill Moyers was right, “his memory is unclear after so many years.”Â Funny how that memory keeps a Republican in a bad light.Â I guess he’s conditioned it to fit his imagination.
In his response to Moyers’ e-mail, Shafer wonders about the issues the Democrat did not address and corrects the historical record about the Republican he seeks to slime:
I’m glad that Moyers’ letter brings up Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., a politician more sinned against than sinning, in my opinion. That Johnson kept a dossier on Goldwater is reported in Michael Beschloss’ book Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson’s Secret White House Tapes, 1964-1965. After the Jenkins arrest, Johnson worried that Hoover might get his hands on the contents of a safe in Jenkins’ office that contained “potentially embarrassing FBI and other information on the private lives of LBJ, â€¦ administration appointees, Goldwater, [vice-presidential nominee William E.] Miller, and other political friends and enemies. â€¦”
As part of the national security investigation of Jenkins, two FBI agents called on Goldwater at 6:30 in the morning at his Chicago hotel “to ask about his own relationship with Jenkins’ and Jenkins’s ‘personal habit,’ ” Beschloss writes. Goldwater, who commanded Jenkins in the Air Force Reserve, was furious. Beschloss continues, “Goldwater complained that in the Jenkins investigation, Johnson was abusing the FBI ‘for political purposes.’ “
It looks like Bill Moyer is still at what he was busy doing in 1964, lying about Barry Goldwater. Or maybe he’s not lying, he’s just remembering the world not as it was, but as he wants it to have been so it can better fit his narrative.