Stuart C. Reid: We could use a man like Barry Goldwater again

Richard Nixon performs the last acts of his devastated presidency in the White House East Room, August 9, 1974, as he bids farewell to his Cabinet, aides, and staff. Nixon said only a man in the deepest valley can know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain. (AP Photo)

There was a time when a Republican senator heroically confronted the corrupt and corrosive deeds of a Republican president who was damaging the nation by his duplicity. Unfortunately, the honorable Sen. Barry Goldwater is no longer around when he is so desperately needed.

Goldwater, a very patriotic, conservative senator from Arizona, was the first to confront President Richard Nixon regarding his role in Watergate. The following is his personal account:

“I was the first one to go to him [Nixon] and told him, tell the truth, tell what happened — level with the American people and you’ll be all right. Well, he didn’t do it. And the more it went on and on, the madder I got because the more he lied to the American people. He lied to me. He lied to his family. He lied to everybody. It made me realize that all Dick Nixon was interested in was Richard Milhous Nixon. He didn’t care about the country.”

Goldwater had been a diehard supporter of Nixon. He believed in his conservative policies and promises to appoint conservative judges. Twice, Goldwater willingly crisscrossed the country persuading the public to choose Nixon to lead the nation.

Despite that, when Nixon dissembled and deceived and pressed others to do the same, disgracing them, the presidency and the entire nation, Goldwater had enough of the betrayal. He nobly stood before his Republican caucus and declared: “I have taken all that I can take, I am publicly going to oppose this man.”

At the urging of Senate leadership, Goldwater suspended his indignation just long enough to meet with Nixon in the Oval Office to inform him there was nothing to stop a Senate impeachment trial. When the meeting concluded, it was clear what must happen. Nixon publicly announced his resignation three days later.

Thereafter, during a media interview, Goldwater observed: “I don’t think there is a handful of people who still respect Dick Nixon. I don’t. I have no respect for him at all. He knows it, too.”

The Goldwater-Nixon relationship did not survive what President Gerald Ford referred to as “our long national nightmare.” In the end, the gulf between a man of honor and a man of dishonor was too great for either one of them to be at peace in the other’s presence ever again.

Regrettably, 45 years later, because of the Trump presidency, the nightmare has returned to haunt the nation once more. Like before, it is dividing family and friends and pitting cities and states against one another. And, like before, it is despoiling the nation’s dignity, while injecting political and social toxicity into four generations of Americans.

Republicans should mark what historically happens to collaborators of loathsome leaders who sew strife and shame when those leaders fall from power. The aggrieved do not excuse those who wantonly conspired with political plunderers, nor forgive even those who were subserviently silent, cowering to avoid bullying.

The fate of Republicans, and the republic they claim to cherish and serve, is sealed if they remain indifferent to the transcendent verity that the vice of lies unchallenged by the virtue of truths necessarily incurs a debt—a debt that must be paid for Republicans to get clean.

That debt can only be retired and the national dignity restored when Senate Republicans: 1) rally to marshal truth into battle against Trump’s legion of lies; 2) wholly rout Trump’s pathological presidency that is blasting apart America’s meaning and usefulness; and 3) pay penitence for their contemptible collaboration by standing fearlessly, pledging: “I have taken all that I can take. I am publicly going to oppose this man.”

Stuart Reid

Stuart C. Reid, Ogden, is a penitent Republican and a former Utah state senator