question “Is Barry Goldwater psychologically fit to be President of the United States?” In fairness, only 2,417 replied but 1,189 of those that did reply said no, he was not fit to govern. Evidently it did not bother the trained psychiatrists that they did not know Goldwater well enough to answer the question. Certainly, LBJ was a gifted enough politician to take advantage of the successful portrayal of Goldwater as an extremist. The president said that extremism in the pursuit of the presidency is an unpardonable vice. Instead, Johnson positioned himself as a moderate. While Goldwater had said he would consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Vietnam, LBJ downplayed the war and portrayed himself more of a peace candidate than Goldwater. “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” “Some are eager to enlarge the conflict… they ask us to take reckless action – such as bombing North Vietnam- such action would offer no solution at all the real problems of Vietnam.” Democratic bumper stickers said “Vote for Goldwater and go to war.” It was only after the election that Johnson would order the longest sustained bombing campaign in the history of the world. TV Ads Tim Sullivan © 2020 The Democrats’ most famous ad was called the “Daisy Girl” ad. It featured a little girl picking petals from a daisy in a daisy field. She was counting the petals and the counting of petals turns into a launch countdown that was followed by a nuclear explosion. The Democrats evidently believed Goldwater was not content with killing little girls by nuclear explosions and so they created the “Ice Cream Cone Ad.” In this ad, a little girl was eating an ice cream cone but the ice cream cone was poisoned with nuclear material. A voice then informed the audience that the ice cream was poisoned “because there’s a man who wants to be President of the United States who voted against Kennedy’s nuclear test- ban treaty with Russia in 1962.” Even Goldwater’s slogan was used against him. When Goldwater’s campaign said “In your heart, you know he’s right,” the Democrats were able to come back and say that “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” Election Results Johnson had his detractors. Johnson’s ethics and craving for power alarmed many. Goldwater had said that “Johnson has so much power and wanted so much more that the Democrats didn’t know whether to vote for him 137
or plug him in.” For many, the presidential race was between a “kook” and a “crook.” In the end the nation overwhelming chose Johnson. Politically, Goldwater and the people of the United States were on opposite poles. Goldwater’s stand on states’ rights led him to vote against the Civil Rights Bill and his apparent willingness to use nuclear weapons left him little chance of winning the election.
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