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Barry Goldwater talks upon his retiring from Senate

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Arizona legend talks politics

The warrior comes home

John Kolbe

Phoenix Gazette political columnist

Dec. 3, 1986 12:00 PM


After three months of unsuccessful efforts by The Phoenix Gazette to arrange an interview with retiring U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater - efforts thwarted by his frenetic schedule - Judy Eisenhower, Goldwater's trusted longtime assistant, was on the telephone.

''Can you see him?'' she asked, with a tone of urgency. ''I just talked to him, and he said to come on up - right now.'' It was vintage Goldwater - impulsive and unpretentious.

In a barely remembered political campaign, it was the kind of impulsiveness that charmed his friends, and scared millions of voters who weren't sure he could be trusted with his finger next to the nuclear button. But whether one ranks among the charmees or the scarees, one thing is sure -- Barry Goldwater hasn't changed much.

Clouds and a pall of smog unknown in his boyhood hung over the Valley when we arrived 30 minutes later at Be-Nunn-I-Kin, his hilltop home in Paradise Valley, with hastily assembled tape recorder and a few random questions.

Goldwater, just four days after the gavel fell on his five-term career, greeted us in a blue sport shirt and stained, light-blue work trousers. Crippled by repeated knee and hip operations, he hardly moved from the chair in his spacious den, looking southward through a vast picture window toward the smog and the McCune mansion just below (which he once dubbed the ''Chinese tire factory'').

He hobbled across the room to turn off the radio at a portable console faintly resembling the dashboard of a jet he might have flown. ''It does everything but cook dinner,'' he chuckled. The gadget-happy senator was obviously pleased with his latest toy.

The tape recorder was whirring, and the beginning seemed to be a reasonable place to start:

Kolbe: Let's start back at the beginning. How did

you get into the political game in the first place? Was it by accident?

Goldwater: Well, you'll never believe it. I talked Howard Pyle into running for governor (in 1950, when Pyle unexpectedly won), and he never said anything about it. But one day - I guess it was about 1951 - we were driving over to Glendale to a Rotary meeting and it was raining like hell. And he said, ''You know, you gotta run for the Senate.'' And I said, ''Why?'' And he said, ''You talked me into running for the governor, I'm going to talk you into running for the Senate.''

I said, ''Howard, nobody in this state can beat (Sen. Ernest) McFarland. Hell, I've been a backer of his, I think he's done a hell of a good job. Howard finally talked me into it. I said, ''Well, we'll never go anyplace, but we'll try.'' The only reason I ever won that election was, Mac was overconfident. He didn't come home until about the last three weeks, and then he never did really campaign. And then, add to that the fact that I had Eisenhower on the same ticket, and I just stood on his coattails, and that's the way I got in.

Kolbe: Was it mostly Eisenhower?

Goldwater: Yeah, I think it was mostly Eisenhower. This state was still predominantly Democrat, and Mac, as I say, had done a hell of a good job. I worked with him on the Central Arizona Project. Whenever I went to Washington, I talked with him. In fact, strange thing, when he became (Senate) majority leader, I said, ''You made a mistake, Mac. You gotta carry the weight of Harry Truman on your shoulders, and somebody might beat you.'' I never thought it might be me.

Kolbe: Was there a certain irony in your riding into office with Eisenhower who, after all, was the guy who had beat Mr. Conservative (Ohio Sen. Robert Taft) at the Republican Convention that year?

Goldwater: Well, I never thought of it, but I guess you're right.

Kolbe: Did you ever regret that you supported Eisennhower rather than Taft?

Goldwater: No, I supported Eisenhower because of the Young Republicans in this state. They wanted Eisenhower. I was basically a Taft man, and when I changed at the state convention that year . . . I bet I lost half the party. In fact, many people tore up my petitions and refused to back me. But I just felt that the Young Republicans needed that kind of break, so I gave them my support.

Kolbe: You never really expected to win, though, did you?

Goldwater: No, I didn't think I had a chance up until . . . well, you probably remember the old Rosetree Bar, down on Adams Street . . .

Kolbe: I didn't know Phoenix very well in those days.

Goldwater: It was an old saloon and pool hall, and they had a big blackboard up right in front of the bar, and any kind of bet that you wanted to make - you could bet that the sun won't come up tomorrow - you just write it up there, and if you had odds, you put the odds down, and some guy would come along and take it. Well, with about two weeks to go, the money got even, and I thought, by God, I might have a chance. I never really thought I could beat Mac, but like I said, Mac just didn't come home. If he'd come home, he would have beat my ass off.

Kolbe: What did you think when you did win? What was your reaction?

Goldwater: I was scared to death, I really was. I went back there, and I never will forget what the vice president . . . oh, he was the guy from Kentucky . . .

Kolbe: Alben Barkley.

Goldwater: Yeah, he said, ''Son, you're going to spend the first six months wondering how in the hell you ever got here. Then, you're going to spend the rest of your time wondering how these other bastards got here.'' I'll never forget that first year. In those days, when they said freshman senators didn't speak, by God, they meant it. And I guess I went over five months before I stood up on the floor.

Kolbe: Was the ban on speaking enforced in some way, or was it just sort of a peer-pressure thing?

Goldwater: It was just an accepted rule that freshman senators didn't sound off. I remember the first time I got up on the floor I just asked unanimous consent that something be put in the record. Of course, that's all changed now. No such rules.

Kolbe: Is that a good or bad thing?

Goldwater: Oh, I think it's good. We're getting today a higher-class man and woman in the Senate from the standpoint of education. I would say most of the new ones have at least a master's degree and a lot of them have Ph.D.'s That doesn't necessarily make them better senators, because I don't think the Senate today measures up to the Senate when I first started.

Kolbe: How was that? What was the Senate like, and what was Washington like in those days? It was a much simpler place, wasn't it?

Goldwater: Yes, to begin with, I think we had less than 2,000 aides working on the Hill. Today, there's close to 30,000. When I first went there, being invited out was something that happened maybe once or twice a month. And my God, now you can go to two dinners a night. I never do that, because I'm not a social person. But the town has become . . . well, it's overwhelmed with lobbyists, with self-interest groups. That was the one thing that Hamilton warned against, was self-interest legislation and, by God, that just about runs the roost today.

Kolbe: How does that change the nature of politics?

Goldwater: Well, it's lessened the feeling of responsibility to a party. We have eight or 10 Republicans that vote more with Democrats than they do with Republicans, and the Democrats have maybe six that we can depend on on every vote. Being a Republican is not a driving force . . . being a Democrat is not a driving force. Now, is that good or bad? It's good in some ways, it's bad in others, because the party is identified with certain principles, and when an individual wanders away from those principles, he ceases to be of any great value to the political makeup of the party.

Kolbe: Aren't the parties fairly broad in their ideologies?

Goldwater: Yeah, they're much broader than they were. Much broader.

Kolbe: Is that good or bad?

Goldwater: Well, again, I think it's good and I think it's bad. It's good in the sense that it gives a much wider representation of how the people at home feel. But it's bad in the harm it does to either party and their principles, to the point that more and more people are saying, ''I don't belong to either party.'' So, that's the harm in it.

The damage that this self-interest brings on is that self-interest groups are now, more than ever, running this country. You take the Israel groups, and there are many of them . . . if just a rumor goes out that the president is going to sell some military equipment to an Arab nation, overnight there will be 60 to 70 senators siding up with the Israeli group. Why? Because they have money, and they threaten. But they're not the only ones. You name it, there's an organization in Washington working for it, all self-interest.

Kolbe: Is the Israeli lobby too powerful?

Goldwater: God, yes, way too powerful.

Kolbe: Has that had some detrimental effects on what comes out of Congress?

Goldwater: Yes. See, we have no treaty with Israel, but we have pledged ourselves to go to war if she has to go to war. And there are some of the actions that some of the Israeli groups take that, at times, I've felt would hasten that day when we have to live up to our promise. I can understand the feeling, but I'm getting awfully tired of the great influence they have and there's no question about it.

The last example was when we wanted to fulfill our promise to sell Saudi Arabia some F-15s. We sent them a few, but then the Israeli group got up in arms and, by God, it stopped. I think the first tabulation we got, 65 senators were opposed to it before any debate or any discussion. And that's held true with every weapons system that we've wanted to sell any of the Arab countries.

Kolbe: Why do they have that influence?

Goldwater: They have it because, you take the big cities like New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, they have a tremendously large Jewish population and a lot of money, and these senators just cater to that type of influence. But like the influence of the labor unions, the National Rifle Association, the American Medical Association, and we could go on and on and name the influences that, while not as strong as Israel, have a great strength. And they make it hard for a man to run when he can't get money, when he has a large dedicated group against him. The tendency then is to overcome that strike by going along with them (the special interests).

Kolbe: Let's go back chronologically to the '50s. When did it become apparent to you that you were becoming something more than just a member of the U.S. Senate but actually a symbol, if you will, of a conservative movement that was just in its formative stages?

Goldwater: Well, I'll be honest with you, I never felt it. I still don't feel it. I don't think I've had the great influence that is attributed to me. I was just fortunate in coming about when the country was beginning to leave liberalism and look towards conservatism. And the fact that I spoke out for conservatism, and conducted my presidential campaign on mostly conservative principles.

And then, The Speech, we call it, that made Ronald Reagan, was a speech I was supposed to make . . .

Kolbe: Really?

Goldwater: They sent me a copy of it in Milwaukee, and I read it, and said this speech was not for me. To tell you the truth, I don't believe I had the ability to read this speech and get across all the innuendoes that it has, so I suggested that they give it to Ronald Reagan, and that's the speech that got him started.

(Broadcast as a half-hour television plug for Goldwater, The Speech didn't succeed in its primary mission - Goldwater lost in a landslide - but it had another, more long-term effect. It launched a gubernatorial boomlet for Reagan in California. The rest is history.)

Kolbe: Whether or not you think you were influential, certainly you have to admit, don't you, that you were clearly a hero, particularly to some young people -- I can say that, because I was one of them -- and not just young people, but a whole crowd of people who started coming into their own at National Review, on college campuses, and so forth.

Goldwater: That might be true, but it's hard for me to believe. I go to these dinners and meetings and hear myself bestowed to the high heavens.

(A photographer arrived to take Goldwater's picture. ''My God, I'm not dressed up,'' the senator said, although the oversight didn't really seem to bother him much.)

It's awfully hard, like last night in Lake Havasu City . . . By God, the whole evening was dedicated to blowing my horn, and I got up and thanked them, and I said, ''You know, I like to hear this stuff, I'd be a xxxx if I said I didn't, but I'm only going to believe about half of it.'' I feel like one of the troops - I just went along and did the best I could.

Kolbe: In 1960, what actually had begun as a Goldwater for vice president effort ended up with you being placed in nomination for president at the Republican Convention. It was there that you got up and made, I think, the speech that probably propelled you more into national attention than any single speech up until, of course, the famous acceptance speech in San Francisco four years later. Hadn't you already become, by 1960, sort of a vehicle for that movement, if you will?

Goldwater: Well, again, I say that was just a case of my being around. I went down to South Carolina (in 1960) to make the speech before the state Republican Convention, and I'll tell you . . . you could have put them all in this room, and, when I was upstairs packing my bags to leave, I got the word that they were going to pledge the delegation to me at the Chicago convention. I tried to talk them out of it.

They got up, and others, when Nixon more or less went back on his word to me and went up to New York to see (Gov. Nelson) Rockefeller and then agreed to a platform that would call for the elimination of right-to-work legislation, I got awfully mad about it and went back to Chicago and refused to address a fund-raiser for Nixon.

Then, the word began to get out, helped by (then Arizona Gov.) Paul Fannin and (political adviser) Steve Shadegg, that maybe Goldwater would be a candidate. And I finally said, ''Look, if you guys will get me 350 signatures in blood, you can put me up.'' Well, I knew they couldn't do it. And that's when they entered my name and I made the speech you are talking about.

Kolbe: Who placed your name in nomination?

Goldwater: I think it was Paul Fannin.

Kolbe: There was a time, shortly after that convention, when there was a real concern that the conservative movement was so tied to you, that it was so caught up in one person, that if you were to drop off the face of the earth tomorrow morning, that suddenly the whole movement would die.

Goldwater: I don't buy that.

Kolbe: I'm not asking you to buy it, it's simply that there was that concern.

Goldwater: There was a real strong (bunch) of conservatives who began to blossom when they held the first meetings in Chicago (beginning in 1961) on how they could get me the nomination. We had a hell of a lot of dedicated people . . . that group that had always been there. I didn't know anything about that first meeting in Chicago. It was a hell of a big meeting, and I tried to discourage them but I didn't have any luck. I didn't think they'd ever get it together, but they did.

Kolbe: You really didn't cooperate much with the people who were trying to nominate you, did you?

Goldwater: No. I really didn't want it, to tell you the


Kolbe: Why?

Goldwater: Well, many reasons. One, I frankly didn't want it. And two, I didn't think I had the ability to be president. I made no bones of it. I have a very limited educational background. I just felt it would be better if I remained a senator. But that didn't do any good.

Kolbe: What finally convinced you to change your


Goldwater: Well, there was a time in '63 when I had agreed to run. And then Jack Kennedy was shot.

Kolbe: You had agreed in 1963 to run?

Goldwater: I had agreed in a quiet sort of way.

Kolbe: You told Clif White (chief Goldwater for President strategist) that?

Goldwater: Yeah, Clif White, and a fellow named Herman who lives here now . . . Dick Kleindienst, Bryce Harlow, a whole bunch of them. But when Jack was shot, I just thought I don't want to run against Lyndon Johnson. I had looked forward to running against Jack Kennedy. I think it would have been a real change in campaigning in this country.

Kolbe: In what way?

Goldwater: Well, we would have debated. We had talked together about just going across the country - maybe using the same airplane - but stopping at a town and standing up in the old Stephen Douglas way and debate. But I just decided not to run when he was killed. And then, right here in this room, I think it was around Dec. 15 or 16 of that year, they put the pressure on me. They said there were hundreds of thousands of young people that were looking forward to my running . . .

Kolbe: And they told you there were all these young people out there waiting for you?

Goldwater: And on the strength of that responsibility I felt for young people, I said, ''OK, we'll go.''

Kolbe: Did you ever believe you could win?

Goldwater: No. The day I was writing my acceptance speech, or helping to rewrite it, I was looking across the room at a presentation of a Princeton poll. It showed me 20 percent and Lyndon 80 percent, and I said in a facetious way -- ''We ought to be writing a speech telling them to go find somebody else.''

No, I really didn't think I could win, but I thought the important thing to do was to get control of the Republican Party away from the East, and in that we were successful. And it's had a very, very good effect on the Republican Party to have, you might say, the center of their activities out here in the West, and I think it's going to stay that way for a long, long time.

Kolbe: Why is that a good thing?

Goldwater: What was wrong was having a handful of Eastern states control the party. Actually, nine states could control the presidential election. I didn't like the ideas that were coming out of that Eastern domination - they were not broad ideas, they didn't encompass the problems of the West. I just wanted to see the thing move, and it moved and we got Nixon (in 1968), which was pretty much in the plans too.

Kolbe: What you are saying, really, is that those ideas weren't conservative enough?

Goldwater: Well, that would be part of it. I didn't like their attitude on foreign policy. I didn't like their partial recognition that the federal government could operate in the economy. It was just enough difference to cause the Republicans in the West to not like or endorse the East.

Kolbe: You said you never believed you could win in 1964. Why not? Was it just too early? Were you ahead of your time?

Goldwater: No, I think the basic reason was that the country wasn't ready, and I don't think they'd ever be ready, to have three presidents in two years. (Kennedy was killed in November 1963, and a new president was to be inaugurated in January 1965.) I've come to that conclusion a long time ago. I think that was the main reason.

Kolbe: Was there anything that had to do with Johnson himself?

Goldwater: I never thought of that. Lyndon performed just as I knew he would -- he used every dirty trick in the bag. He was a powerful man who used powerful ways to get his will. And while I recognize his great ability in the Senate as a Senate leader, I never liked the way he operated.

Kolbe: Why? Was he underhanded, or what?

Goldwater: Well, he came to the Senate (in 1948) absolutely bankrupt, no money. When he died, he was worth about $40 million. I can tell you from personal experience that doesn't happen.

Kolbe: On a Senate salary, anyway.

Goldwater: No. In fact, it cost me about $1 million to be a senator for 30 years.

Kolbe: Really? How do you figure that?

Goldwater: Oh, all the things that I did that I paid for myself . . . extra help here and there, extra travel. When I started, we were only allowed one trip back home. Now, we can go any damn time we want. There were a lot of little things like that. I remember in my first term, there was a newspaper publisher in Wickenburg. I went up to see him one day, and he was really teed off about the senators using franked mail. And he was getting tired of getting letters with no postage stamps. So my first year, it cost me $14,000 just to keep a promise to him.

Kolbe: You didn't use franked mail in your first year in office?

Goldwater: Not to constituents at home. I felt that I had promised him. I knew he was teed off about it.

Kolbe: You didn't keep that up for 30 years?

Goldwater: No, man, I didn't.

Kolbe: Looking back at 1964, what would have been different if you had been elected?

Goldwater: There wouldn't have been all the change that some people think there would. I learned very early in my campaign that there were a lot of things that the president couldn't do. That he only controls, he only has a right to control, 30 percent of the money we spend. Seventy percent of the money and the activities of the agencies are controlled by the Congress, if they want to.

But they don't want to, because it involves political risks. Once you've established an agency, then to unestablish or disestablish it you run into an established group that might number up in the hundreds or thousands that will vote against you. That's why the president (Reagan) hasn't been able to get as many of the agencies closed as he wanted to, because the Congress wouldn't go along. And I realize that, and I realized that if I became president, I wouldn't have control of either house. I'd have to fight that, and that, in itself, would prevent me from doing the things that I said I would do.

Kolbe: Do you think a Goldwater administration would have disappointed your friends?

Goldwater: It would have disappointed some of the real die-hards, but those who had a realistic look at the office would recognize, once again, it isn't what you want to do - it's what you can do. Eisenhower told me that. We sat and talked. He'd bring up a problem he felt he had, and he couldn't do much about it. He said, ''If you're elected, you're going to find the same experiences I had, of frustration.'' So that's about where I was.

Kolbe: You've been accused or complimented, depending on who's doing the talking, of being overly loyal to your friends, to the point that it's gotten you in trouble at times. As with Nixon, for example. How do you look at loyalty?

Goldwater: Well, I'll put it another way. I think it's a very essential part of life that you show loyalty. If people go out of their way to do things for you, you've got to stay loyal to them. I realize that in the course of my life, I've had some friends you might call questionable. But they never tried to take advantage of me. They've never asked me to do anything that I felt I shouldn't do. I don't think loyalty has hurt me one bit, and I'll never change that.

Kolbe: Certainly, you were loyal to Nixon at a time when it cost you some friends among your political allies. (In 1968, support from Goldwater -- who was still immensely popular with party rank and file despite his loss four years earlier -- was crucial to Nixon's successful rejection of challenges from Rockefeller and Reagan.)

Goldwater: Well, I felt very friendly towards Dick Nixon, until - I'll never forget it - the day after Jerry Ford made his first trip to New Hampshire (in 1976) looking for re-election, and Nixon decides to go to China. So who gets all the headlines? ''Nixon Goes to China.'' I was on a TV show and I was asked a question about that. And I said, ''Well, if Nixon likes China so much, let him stay there.'' And within a millisecond, our entire experience together came apart, just like that.

I said this man's a dishonest man. And I remember when I got back to the apartment, Peggy said, ''What in the hell got into you?'' Well, I said, ''I just realized that Dick Nixon is dishonest.''

Kolbe: Hadn't Watergate given you any clues?

Goldwater: Uhh, yes . . .

Kolbe: You were certainly making noises like he was dishonest back then, weren't you?

Goldwater: The decision I made (at the time of Nixon's China announcement) was not that he was dishonest with Watergate, but that he was always dishonest. He had never been an honest man in his life. And I still think that way.

Kolbe: During Watergate, were you inclined to be more restrictive in your views of his dishonesty?

Goldwater: I was a hopeful person. I remember I spoke at the weekly breakfast at the Christian Science Monitor, and I remarked that where there is smoke, there is fire. And Nixon called me that afternoon and asked me to come down (to the White House), and he was quite upset. And I said, ''If there's anything to what we're hearing about Watergate, and you've had a hand in it, the best thing you can do is go on the tube and tell the American people what happened. In a matter of a week, they will have forgotten the whole thing.''

Well, he didn't do it, and week after week after week we get a new admission from the White House that more tapes have been found. And the day that I just blew my stack was when it was reported to us at our weekly Republican luncheon that there was still another tape when he had said there wasn't. I got so goddamn mad that the meeting broke up. We met the Republican leadership and they said, ''We want you to go to the White House and tell that to Nixon.''

So I called Dean Burch (a White House aide and former Arizona lawyer), and he said, ''You can't do it today, but come up to my house for lunch tomorrow and (White House chief of staff) Alex Haig will be here and we'll talk about it.'' So the plan was for me to show up around 3:30 p.m., and (House Minority leader) John Rhodes and (Senate Minority leader) Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania would be there. And we would then see the president.

Kolbe: You went to see Dean Burch at the White House?

Goldwater: No, I saw him at his home. We had lunch and they (Haig and Burch) said, ''Don't threaten the president. Don't even insinuate.'' They'd been very, very close to this whole thing. So we went into the president's office and he acted like a fellow who'd just finished a good round of golf. He sat there and talked to John and me about the times we campaigned together. And we finally got down to the point. He said, ''How am I in the Senate?'' And I said, ''Mr. President, you won't have 10 votes in the Senate.'' And John said the House was about the same. So we went out to the press and made our statements.

Kolbe: John Rhodes has said, if I recall, that it was really kind of an eerie conversation . . .

Goldwater: It was.

Kolbe: . . . as if this man didn't have a care in the world, that the whole thing on Watergate hardly came up.

Goldwater: Nothing. It was spooky. He acted like he just made a hole in one. And when we told him how the votes looked, it didn't change him. What we were afraid of -- Alex Haig, Dean Burch and all of us -- Nixon was sort of right on top of a needle, and he'd go either way. If we pushed him too much, he might, being stubborn, he might say, ''Well, I'm going to ride this out.'' And we knew that would involve the Senate and the House, and at least six months of harangue and argument.

As soon as I got back to the Senate, I began to hear the stories that were getting out on the press that we had told Nixon to quit. I called Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham (managing editor and owner, respectively, of The Washington Post), and said, ''This is the situation. If you people in the press push the president too far, he's not gonna quit. If you leave him alone, I think he's gonna quit.'' And by God, I'll take my hat off to them, they just clammed up on the whole subject. So that in the next few days, thethe days of decision, he was not plagued by a lot of press saying he's got to go.

Kolbe: Actually, that was only a day later, wasn't it? Nixon went on television the next night . . .

Goldwater: That's right, it was one day. I talked to them that afternoon. We got back (from the White House) about 5 p.m. I've always admired The Post -- I don't necessarily like them too much -- but they saved this country one hell of a lot of trouble.

Kolbe: Where do you think the press was getting the word that you had told Nixon to quit? I assume that none of the three of you told them that.

Goldwater: No, you have to work in the Washington press corps to understand those people; they don't necessarily have to have hidebound fact to write on. If I had been a reporter, I think I would have reached the more or less logical conclusion that we did tell him to quit.

Kolbe: In other words, it wasn't too far-fetched?

Goldwater: It wasn't too far-fetched. And I immediately went to my friends in the press, and told them the situation, and all of them finally backed off.

Kolbe: What ways has Congress changed over the last 30 years? We talked about the influence of special-interest groups.

Goldwater: The influence of special interests, the extreme growth of aides to where having 50 or even 100 members on your staff, while a little unusual, is not unheard of. These people sit around the offices and have nothing to do but write bills and write amendments. So, we're faced with thousands and thousands of bills and amendments every year.

The first Senate I served in . . . I don't think we had 200 votes. We can have 200 votes in a month or less now. It just takes up your time. You can't do your committee work the way we used to do it. And then, the new senators and the old ones feel the country's going to hell if they don't get re-elected.

Kolbe: Is that any different than it's ever been? Members of Congress have always worried about re-election.

Goldwater: Yeah, but it wasn't a life-or-death proposition. They liked to be re-elected, but they didn't begin working on it the day after they were elected the first time. Today, I'll make you a small bet, that within a week after the election, there will be fund-raising parties for the next election. As I said earlier, the intellectual type we're getting is better then when I first went there, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the dedication to the United States has kept pace. They're more dedicated to what takes place in their back yard.

I'll give you a good example, even though it involves my junior colleague - this airplane argument I had my last day at the Senate. The engines are to be built by Garrett. Denny (DeConcini, Arizona Democrat) got the floor, (and) it was obvious he didn't know what the hell he was talking about -- airplanes. And the whole debate was not the airplane, but (the fact) the Air Force didn't want the airplane. But he felt he's going to be up for re-election, he wouldn't get all these people at Garrett mad at him.

I've never told him this, but I had discussed it with the son of (World War II Air Corps general) Hap Arnold -- one of my close friends in Washington, Bruce (who is a Garrett lobbyist). I told him I had to oppose the T-46. Well, he said, ''Don't worry about it. We've got enough business, and if they ever build another trainer, we'll get it.'' So Denny was merely talking for the benefit of his next election; otherwise, he never would have said a word.

Kolbe: You got a little teed off at some of those folks (in the Senate) on that last night, didn't you?

Goldwater: Well, after damn near 30 hours, (New York Sen. Alphonse) D'Amato was clearly making a pitch for the votes for the Fairchild people at Farmingdale, Long Island. Instead of getting it, I'm afraid, he got so many people mad at him, that he's lost . . . well, he won't lose the election, but . . .

This is another characteristic of the Senate today that I don't like. The first concern is, does it do my state any good? As I say often, I took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I didn't take an oath to defend the Constitution of Arizona. I didn't take an oath to make sure every factory in this state got a little cut of mustard. I'll do my best to help them, but that's not going to be my driving motive. The Senate is now 100 members, just busting their asses for their own states. I don't think it's good.

Kolbe: Are we getting more legislation, or just worse legislation?

Goldwater: Both. We're getting a lot more legislation. I remember one of the things I said when I first ran for office -- that my job was not to go to Washington to get more legislation, but to get rid of some. I haven't been very successful.

Kolbe: Has the congressional budget process broken down. Has it reached a point of paralysis? Goldwater: I would say it's close to it. In fact, I wrote a piece for The Washington Post (recently) on this general subject, of what the budget act - and I voted for it, I thought it was a hell of an idea - was doing to the committee structure of the Senate.

I used an example of my own Committee on Armed Forces. I started to work the day after we got back to Washington (in January). I had my (military authorization) bill ready to go to the floor . . . by the middle of May. But before I even got to that, the Budget Committee said, ''No, this authorization bill that you submitted is not what we want.'' So I have to go through the whole damn thing again, and authorize the amount they want. So what happens? I don't get my bill considered until after the summer recess, and what the hell, we only have about 40 days left.

Kolbe: What's the solution?

Goldwater: The solution. I have one thing - do away with the Budget Committee. It has not worked the way we thought it would. Do away with that, and then tighten down on the authority (of the) appropriations subcommittees (to) spend money on certain subjects. I think something's going to have to be done, because it's not working.

Kolbe: Are there too many committees and subcommittees, with too much overlap?

Goldwater: I would say yes.

Kolbe: Somebody's estimated that there are something like 20 or 25 committees in the House dealing just with energy.

Goldwater: The House is worse than we are. But the House is much better at enforcing their rules. We should have a rule of germaneness. That would save us billions and billions of dollars.

Kolbe: How do you get senators and congressman who have that perspective that you were talking about, the national perspective rather than the state or district perspective? How do you assure that way of looking at things?

Goldwater: It isn't easy. Getting back to what I said earlier, the main thrust now is getting re-elected. That's not something that's born in the last year of your service -- it's born the first day of your service. Almost everything that goes on after that is directed not primarily at what is good for the country but what's good for me. I don't like it.

Kolbe: But is there really any way to devise a system . . .

Goldwater: No, you can't devise a system that can control the human mind.

Kolbe: What about limits on terms?

Goldwater: I've become a believer in that. I'm a hell of a guy to talk about it, because I've served five terms, and there's only 15 people, I think, who have served five terms or more. (Actually, Goldwater is overly modest. He's served longer in the Senate than all but three of its current members.)

I'm on a constitutional amendment that Denny DeConcini authored, limiting senators to two terms. Leave the House membership alone . . . But I really think the Senate would be benefited by only allowing two terms.

Kolbe: But not the House?

Goldwater: If they are going to have a limit, I would make it six terms, or the same (number of years) as a senator. You'll find the average (length of service) is below that. But Denny put that amendment in, and now he's running for a third term.

Kolbe: You've served under seven presidents. How do you rate them?

Goldwater: I'd put Eisenhower first.

Kolbe: Why?

Goldwater: He was a man who made decisions. He was a lot like Harry Truman, who I think will be the best president of this century. You never had any doubt as to where he stood. You might disagree with him. Eisenhower was pretty much the same way as Truman, and Eisenhower had a wonderful ability to get along with people. As time goes by, more and more people realize that he was a hell of a good president. At first, they didn't look at him that way.

I think had Jack Kennedy lived, he probably would have been a hell of a good president.

After Eisenhower, I would name Reagan for his uncanny ability to get along and get ahead. When he went to this little summit meeting up in Reykjavik, his airplane had no sooner taken off than all the wisenheimers in Washington were saying it was a complete flop. We lost ground, they said. And yet, the next polls that were taken showed Reagan had gone up nine points, because of his willingness, in effect, to tell Gorbachev to go to hell. I think that decision at Reykjavik is probably going to elect a lot of Republicans that we didn't think we'd elect.

Kolbe: George Will called Reykjavik Reagan's ''finest hour,'' because he said Reagan proved that you can go to a summit and come back without an agreement. Has there been too much emphasis on just getting any kind of agreement?

Goldwater: I don't think the president puts that much emphasis . . .

Kolbe: I'm talking about emphasis, generally, over the years.

Goldwater: I have a strong hunch, John, that the American public doesn't give a goddamn about summits, whether you have them or not. I don't get enough mail from Arizona on that subject to bother with it. I think, in many ways, the American people are ahead of our foreign policy framers in Washington.

Kolbe: How do you mean? Are you saying arms control agreements aren't really all that important?

Goldwater: They're not that important to the American citizen. The things they want don't always jive with the president or the State Department.

Kolbe: I was rereading parts of "The Conscience of a Conservative" (Goldwater's first book, published in 1960) last night, and was reminded that you took a very dim view of even dealing with the Communists. Have you moderated at all since then in your view of the aims of Communism, and how we should deal with it?

Goldwater: I think you could say I've changed a little bit there. Let me try to explain it, because it might not be easy. I don't believe Russia wants any war with the United States, and I'm sure the United States doesn't want any war with Russia. Russia's economy is in terrible shape.

Now what can happen from that? When you have a government controlled by a handful of people, the Politburo, and the economy of the country is not good, and young people are beginning to say, ''Why is it in the United States they can work less than a day and buy a pair of shoes, and I have to work two or three weeks?'' They're beginning to question why we can have two or three TV sets, and they can barely afford one.

Now, you let that unhappiness with the economy in a totalitarian state go far enough . . . If it's not corrected, there'll be a revolution. I think that's a bigger factor in Gorbachev's thinking than whether we have arms control or SDI or whatnot. Where have I changed? I think it would be worthwhile at some meeting of the president and Gorbachev, or whoever he might be, to explore the idea of maybe we can help. Once you help a people who are having a hard time, you do pretty good with it.

Kolbe: Do you mean help economically?

Goldwater: Yeah, but don't ask how.

Kolbe: I think the Goldwater who wrote that book might have suggested that was helping them bury us.

Goldwater: Well, it would be, but is that moderation? It might be. I'm just a great believer that the longer you live, the more you learn. And I've been living a long time.

Kolbe: Is there any point in an arms control agreement or any kind of treaty with a regime which has a consistent history of violating them?

Goldwater: When you look at our experience with the Soviet Union . . . I don't know what the figure is now, but at one time (there were) 52 treaties, they'd broken 51. Not that we've abided by every treaty, but (George) Washington was careful in warning the United States not to depend too much on your allies, or on treaties.

Kolbe: I remember, when I was in graduate school at Notre Dame, Dean (Clarence) Manion (former dean of the Notre Dame College of Law) telling me a wonderful story of how this book came into being.

Goldwater: Dean Manion called me one day, and said, ''Why don't you write a book.'' I said, ''I don't know anything about writing books,'' and he said, ''Well, we can get you some help.'' I said, ''I still don't know enough about it, but let me try.'' He offered me $10,000, which was more money than I'd ever heard of. So I sat down and wrote a book and I sent it to him. He said, ''This sounds more like poetry than politics. I've got a man named Brent Bozell - he's Bill Buckley's brother-in-law.''

Brent took my book, and took a bunch of my speeches, and what he did to produce that book was borrow very heavily on the old Greeks, and the Romans to some extent. When you read that book, you'd say, there's nothing new here. You've heard it all before. And well, that's the way it goes.

Kolbe: As I recall, they had a hell of a time trying to find somebody to print it.

Goldwater: No, they didn't. There was a little publisher down in Kentucky. They printed a lot of little books. They printed 19 million, 18 or 19 million. It's the biggest publication in politics they ever had. I got $10,000 out of it.

Kolbe: Was $10,000 all you made out of all that? Weren't there any royalties?

Goldwater: Maybe . . . no, there were no royalties in it. I think we may have been paid a little more, but I don't recall - it's been so long ago. I liked Dean Manion very much. This year, you know, his son (Daniel) was up for a judgeship, and for some reason or another, members of the judiciary just couldn't put up with him. We had a very close vote getting it approved. In fact, we might lose one Republican senator because he voted for him. (Goldwater was right. Washington Sen. Slade Gorton lost on Nov. 4)

Kolbe: How big a part did the book play in your rise to prominence and the conservative movement?

Goldwater: I think it had a tremendous impact. It was an inexpensive book, and young people bought that book as fast as they could buy it. I think the young people were influenced by it. The most delightful thing I hear when I travel around the country, is, ''You got me interested in politics, you and your book.''

Kolbe: Do you still hear that?

Goldwater: Oh God, yes. That thing in Havasu City last night . . . all these young kids putting it on and they said, ''Well, you got us started'' . . . I guess that's the biggest kick I get out of all this. This kid who introduced me last night said he was born in 1966. Hell, in 1966, I was only 57 years old. I was having a good time.

Kolbe: Who were the bad presidents of your time?

Goldwater: I would say Johnson.

Kolbe: Why?

Goldwater: He used his office for his own designs and desire . . . it was obvious. He didn't handle the Vietnam War in a wise way.

Kolbe: How do you look back at Nixon?

Goldwater: I still think he's a dishonest man. I wouldn't trust him from here to the window. A man who would lie to his wife, lie to his children and lie to his country, I have no use for.

Kolbe: Did he do some good things?

Goldwater: Yes. I think in the field of foreign policy, he might be one of the better presidents we've had, but he didn't follow through inside the country.

Kolbe: What about Carter?

Goldwater: I think Carter tried very hard. He's a very religious man. He just was not equipped to be president. I think history will deal a little more kindly with him than he's dealt with today. He's not a bad guy, he's friendly . . . he just wasn't in his place.

Kolbe: What kind of president would Goldwater have been?

Goldwater: God knows.

Kolbe: You said before you didn't think you had the intellectual capability to do it. How important is that? We've certainly had a lot of presidents who weren't very intellectually stellar.

Goldwater: I probably say that because I've always been ashamed of the fact that I didn't finish college. I don't have a degree, but maybe I think too much about it. As you say, there have been presidents who have had far less educational background than I have. It's a hell of a big job. You sit back and look at it - you wonder how the hell those guys get through it. I remember Ike told me one day that he had to sign about 1,300 documents a day, or his office had to. And the decisions that have to be made by that office that have an effect on over 235 million people. It's not something you can say, ha ha ha, we'll do this. You have to give it a hell of a lot of thought. I have a lot of respect for that office. I don't think there's a more challenging office in the world, and I don't see any reduction in that challenge.

Kolbe: We were talking about how the rhetoric has changed. It's certainly a lot safer to call yourself a conservative than it once was. But have the policies changed that much? Has there been much of a change in what's coming out of Washington, what's coming out of government?

Goldwater: Yes, I think if you look at total results of the conservative government, they've made some rather remarkable advances, although if you think of reducing the size of government as the most important function, they haven't done it. I think I saw the other day that we've added 200,000 people to the payrolls. But we've been successful at reducing agencies -- not as successful as we should have been, because it depends on Congress, and when Congress looks out and counts the votes that are involved, nine times out of 10 they won't do anything about it. I think conservatism has changed the country and I think it's going to change it more. As the American people become more and more aware of what conservatism is, and realize that's nine out of 10 times the driving force in America, they'll be thinking, ''Leave me alone, let me do my own job, get out of my hair, let's keep taxes down, you guys spend too much money.

Kolbe: Yet, you see the phenomenon of a lot of people who call themselves conservatives pushing for more government intervention in certain areas, in the so-called social agenda.

Goldwater: That's one of the complaints I have about some of my Republican colleagues. When it gets down to the point of voting, they just don't vote right. If conservatism continues, I think that is going to change. The people will come to demand it.

Of course, Arizona is not a typical state. It's about as conservative a state as we have in the union. So when I recite the reactions of people at home, they might be different in Kansas, or Washington, or in the East; you know damn well they're different.

Kolbe: There are a lot of those people who say Barry Goldwater isn't a conservative anymore, that he's changed too much.

Goldwater: I get that, but I say, where have I changed? They don't come up with any answers. I still get 95 to 100 on conservative box scores.

Kolbe: How have you changed? You say you've learned more.

Goldwater: I think I've become more tolerant. I have a better feeling today for the other person's viewpoint than I had. I'm not as readily critical as I one time was. I think those are the general changes. And I think they come more naturally with age than they do with experience. My basic political concept is wrapped up in the Constitution. The ability of the individual American to take care of his own shop - that still prevails in my thinking - and the need for a strong America.

Kolbe: How has the state changed in your life?

Goldwater: Arizona? Whew. I think the biggest change is in the extremely rapid growth in population. I sit up here and look at the Westward Ho, which you can't see today . . . I was born right where that hotel is. When I was born, there were about 10,000 people living in the whole Valley. And I think, God almighty, in our next census, there might be 2 million people living out there. And there might be 4 million living in Arizona. By the year 2000, this town could be the fifth or sixth largest city in the United States. We're the fastest growing industrial state. Our unemployment figures are below the national. Our personal income is above the average.

Where's the change? The change is wrapped up in the challenge and the problems of keeping this state growing in the right way. I fly over this state . . . every time I fly, I see a new town laid out someplace. And I think, ''I hope to God they do things right.'' Rapid growth doesn't necessarily bring rapid success.

Kolbe: Do you lament the passing of the Arizona you once knew?

Goldwater: Yes, I do. But I know there's not a damn thing I can do about it. I think every native Arizonan, or any person who's lived here a long time, has a feeling about the rapid growth. But with all the problems it brings, it also brings a better economy. It's a stable economy now, although I don't know if it's going to stay that way. But it has its problems, and its challenges.

Kolbe: What would you count as your major successes?

Goldwater: I guess the major success would be the Military Reorganization Act we passed this year. It's the first time in 200 years the military has had a plan to reorganize on. I think that would be my hallmark.

Kolbe: What about disappointments?

Goldwater: I don't have any disappointments. I think the life I've led in and out of politics has been a pretty average life, for a guy that was born like I was, with an opportunity already built in. I don't think I've abused it, or it's been a special benefit, nor has it detracted.

Kolbe: You really think you've led a pretty average life? Goldwater: For a guy who was born with my built-in possibilities, (such as) a family name that goes back almost to the beginning of the territory. I don't think there's a man living who's had the opportunities to do the things I have. I've been in the Army, the Air Force, I've been in the Congress, I'm an author, a book collector, art collector, a photographer . . . you name it, I've had a crack at it.

Kolbe: How do you feel now that you're all through with this madness?

Goldwater: Well, I'm very happy to be home, although I have to tell you that I have no more idea of what I'm going to do than the man in the moon. I'm just going to relax. I'm keeping my apartment in Washington for a while. I don't know exactly why, except I have a feeling that there will be some things that I can do for the Pentagon from time to time, and I'll go back and do them. I'm going to do lectures over at Arizona State, but we haven't worked out any schedule on that . . . it will probably be once a month or something like that. But I . . . don't have any ideas of what I want to do. I want to stay around here.

Kolbe: You don't want to live in Washington?

Goldwater: No, God no. It's a beautiful city, but hen you drive the same six miles to work and back - I think I've driven about 70,000 miles worth - it gets old. And the Senate . . . I didn't run for re-election for several reasons. One, I'm getting too old. Two, it costs too much money and I don't like to raise money. And three, the Senate has changed a lot, and I'm not exactly happy with the changes. So I've done the natural thing -- just said the hell with it and come home and let some younger man take my place

. Kolbe: If you could write your epitaph, what would it be?

Goldwater: All I'd like to be remembered for is trying my damnedest, and being an honest guy. Outside of that, it doesn't make much difference. I'm thankful for it (my career). Thank God I could represent Arizona.

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John Kolbe (right) interviews Barry Goldwater in his Paradise Valley home shortly after the former Senator retired in 1986.

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