Why can't you conservatives be more like this, unelectable? That is the message of HBO's documentary, "Mr. Conservative," profiling the life of Barry Goldwater. Many Democrats are quoted praising Goldwater, which should set off alarm bells that the purpose of this seemingly congratulatory 90-minute film has ulterior motives.
One major quibble: William F. Buckley Jr. is quoted nowhere in this program, which is such a ridiculous omission that viewers, particularly conservatives, will be agape at the oversight. What's the answer? Who knows, although a legion of Democratic admirers - Al Franken, Hillary Rodham Clinton (who campaigned as a "Goldwater Girl" in '64), Sen. Edward Kennedy (his brother John F. Kennedy and Goldwater were close friends, as well as potential presidential rivals) - are quoted. At least George F. Will is his usual eloquent self.
Al Franken's praising Goldwater? Does Franken admire Goldwater's racial policies, or does he admire Goldwater's embarassing defeat at the hands of Lyndon Johnson?
The essence of the documentary: longing for that old-style conservative who would readily wear a target for liberal potshots.
"Mr. Conservative" does have a purpose in mind and that is to reveal just how far the conservative wing of the Republican party has drifted from the ideals of Goldwater, who espoused states' rights, self-sufficiency and small government (one reason why he refused to vote for the Civil Rights Act - a stain he could never scrub away). He also said some incendiary stuff that frightened a lot of people who didn't bother to listen carefully or maybe too carefully (most famously, "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice") and was tarred - either fairly or unfairly though we'll never really know - as a nuclear cowboy by LBJ.