For a kid growing up in the ’80s who got her news from TV and print, Barry Goldwater was the state’s crusty, lovable grandpa. He wasn’t Mr. Conservative, but Mr. Arizona, up there with the kachinas he collected.
It was almost as easy for me to look past his political dimensions as it was for relatives such as CC Goldwater, the granddaughter who produced the HBO documentary “Mr. Conservative.”
She said Thursday at a reception celebrating the movie’s DVD release it took seven minutes of footage to convince HBO executives that Goldwater “was human, too, he wasn’t just a sound byte for extremism.”
The reception managed to draw some 200 people to the Goldwater Institute’s downtown Phoenix headquarters in the middle of August.
CC and her uncle, Barry Goldwater Jr., who represented northern Los Angeles County in the House of Representatives during the second half of his father’s 30 years in the Senate, talked with me before the screening about a man who loved gadgets, photography, airplanes and the Colorado River.
He also, Barry Jr. said, was quite spiritual, despite his public battles with the late Jerry Falwell and the infusion of personal morality into politics, which were touched on in the film.
“He would take us to the woods up north and tell us, ‘When you walk in the woods, you walk with God,’ ” Barry Jr. said. “He’d say, ‘Sometimes you can find more integrity in a pine tree than you can in all of humanity.’ ”
Toward the end of his life, Goldwater became a different kind of grandpa — a codger whose views on newly important issues such as gays in the military diverged from the social agenda that put the GOP in the White House. Some tried to take his name off the state party headquarters after he endorsed a Democrat for Congress.
“Mr. Conservative” makes a convincing case that Goldwater’s views never changed; it was the conversation that shifted.
CC wasn’t sure how well the movie would go over with Thursday’s crowd, made up largely of senior citizens who likely voted for Goldwater but didn’t follow him to the libertarian edge.
Indeed, the first question posed during the Q&A session after the movie was what the difference between conservatism and libertarianism is, “and what prevents it from going over into libertinism?” But overall, this audience seemed to approve of “Mr. Conservative,” and Barry Sr.’s biggest applause line was not, “Extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice,” but about the chief freedom the Founding Fathers fought for being “freedom from too much government.”
CC and Barry Jr. said they welcome reader comment about the film, Goldwater’s politics, this year’s rerelease of his book “The Conscience of a Conservative” or any other topic at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.