Book Review: A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement by J. William Mittendorf II

I’m a sucker for books about the 1964 Republican Presidential campaign, and this book was definitely worth the read. Mittendorf, one of the early backers of drafting Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater for the 1964 GOP Presidential nomination, writes his version of the campaign’s history. It seems like he read one too many histories referring to his organization as “amateurs” and felt the need to set the record straight, as the organization pulled together many people with a great amount of political experience and those without (such as Clif White) turned out to be extremely talented in their own right. (In his own book, Bob Novak sys Clif White ran the best convention machine he’d ever seen. Not bad for a supposed amateur.) They were certainly a far more effective organization than the “Arizona Mafia” that Goldwater surrounded himself with following his nomination.

He shows the committee’s greatest work may have been its filling of vacant positions at the local level of the Republican party a year ahead of time allowing them to get conservatives into delegate slots for the convention, catching the old guard of the GOP off guard. He shows their concern when Goldwater repeatedly turned them down, as running for President could hurt him back in Arizona and could mean leaving his beloved Senate. Fortunately, Goldwater was convinced to run since for him not to run could set the conservative movement back a decade or more.

He actually continues the story beyond the ’64 election showing that many of those who helped get Goldwater the nomination were instrumental in winning Nixon the same prize in 1968. That’s hopefully a mistake he regrets.

It’s good read, perhaps the truest insider’s perspective I’ve read yet on that doomed, but ultimately victorious, campaign.

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