Best Politician (2009)

Barry Goldwater

LBJ's people smeared him as crazy. They said he was too far right, that (per that awful "Daisy" ad) he'd usher in World War III, that the stakes were simply "too high" to trust him with the country. "In your guts, you know he's nuts," they chanted. And then Barry Goldwater lost the presidency — the first in a long line of Arizonans to fall just a bit short of the ultimate political goal.

But something strange has happened to Goldwater in the 40-plus years since he ran for president. You only had to watch his granddaughter CC's 2006 documentary, Mr. Conservative, to realize how wrong the media elite had been about Goldwater. He wasn't crazy. He was, instead, a creature of the West: an independent, a straight shooter, a guy who understood that there's nothing on the Eastern seaboard that rivals the beauty of a sunset over Paradise Valley. And he was smart. Read The Conscience of a Conservative today and — though you may not agree with a word of it — we guarantee you'll be struck by its lucidity and logic.

You don't have to be a conservative to appreciate his legacy. Goldwater tolerated no corruption; he didn't mince words. He sat down with a tarnished Nixon and persuaded him to resign. He called out his own party when it got too hung up on gays and abortion. Then it was the right's turn to smear him — they said he'd left the movement he helped to create. But really, the movement left him.

Forget the Straight Talk Express. This was a man who told it like it was. And screw Sarah Palin . . . Goldwater was the true maverick.

Of all the Arizonans who've played the political game, Barry Goldwater is the one we're most proud of today. Even if you didn't agree with Goldwater on anything, it's hard not to respect him for just about everything.

Best of Phoenix 2009 In Photos


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