Variety reviewer Robert Koehler (formerly of the L.A. Times) recently reviewed a new documentary titled "Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater." The main driver behind the project is his granddaughter, C.C. Goldwater, and it's scheduled to air on HBO on September 18. The list of interviewees underlines it's not a big right-wing project: it includes Walter Cronkite, Ted Kennedy, Al Franken, Helen Thomas, James Carville, Bob Schieffer, Andy Rooney, Julian Bond, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, John Dean, and erstwhile Goldwater Girl Hillary Rodham Clinton. A few righties appear (Richard Viguerie, George Will) and some more centrist GOP types do, too (John Warner, Sandra Day O'Connor).
Here's how Koehler sums the film up: "Pic reflects on a contempo religious GOP right wing that would have profoundly alienated Goldwater, who rarely brought God into his politics."
Koehler extolled the film for showing "some of the contradictions of Goldwater, who opposed expansion of civil rights for African-Americans in the '60s and -- as various family anecdotes illustrate -- was tolerant toward gays and lesbians as well as female reproductive rights. (Daughter Joanne tells of her abortion as a young woman, and gay grandson Ty speaks warmly of him.)"
At first, Koehler seems unhappy there's not enough angst toward the religious right: "Even with an impressive roster of journos and political sharpies (including Hillary Clinton, who was a Goldwater Girl in '64 and a devout conservative in her teens), little is made of libertarian Goldwater's differences with the right-wing Christian movement that swept into the GOP in the 1980s. John Dean, whose new book, 'Conservatives Without Conscience,' began as a collaboration with longtime friend Goldwater, articulates best how Goldwater's straight-talking politics was rejected by his Bush-era party."
But he later concludes: "Response to the pic from GOP pundits and opinionmakers will provide a telling indicator of the current political climate. Walter Cronkite overstates the case that the older Goldwater turned liberal, while George Will is more on point, noting that what changed wasn't Goldwater but the GOP's extreme shift toward moralistic conservatism."
It will be interesting to hear if that's exactly how it sounds out of the mouth of Will.