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A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement Hardcover – October 23, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. There's a certain degree of setting the record straight in this attempt to tell the true (or truer) story of Barry Goldwater's failed 1964 presidential campaign. Middendorf was a central figure in the "draft Goldwater" movement, and although he went on to tremendous success in politics (he was RNC treasurer for Nixon's 1968 victory, Secretary of the Navy, and Ambassador to the Netherlands), he views the '64 campaign as a watershed both personally and for the Republican party. It also serves as an intriguing parallel to the current political moment: even with an unpopular war brewing in Vietnam, urban crime and unrest on the rise, a less-than-ideal president at the helm, and signs that most Americans were ready for a change, the GOP wasn't able to counter the seemingly unstoppable Democratic machine with anything more than a "we're not them" message. Despite the ultimate failure of the Goldwater campaign, Middendorf argues, it succeeded in bringing together the best and the brightest American conservatives, who forged a vision of what the Republican party could be if they were in control-a vision carried out in the sustained success of the Republican party from 1968 to the present. This is an important book for readers of any political stripe, pulling back the curtain of a full-steam-ahead presidential campaign and demonstrating how the strength of a party ultimately rests on its ability to articulate a coherent, meaningful and positive message. If Republicans wish to extend their success-and if Democrats wish to make recent gains last-they would do well to heed the lessons Middendorf presents here.
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About the Author

J. William Middendorf II served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations as Secretary of the Navy, Ambassador to The Netherlands, U.S. Representative to the Organization of American States, and U.S. Representative to the European Community. He is a founding member, with William F. Buckley Jr., of the American Conservative Union and a board member of the Heritage Foundation. He lives in Rhode Island.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First edition (October 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465045731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465045730
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,113,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
J. William Middendorff II, A Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's Presidential Campaign and the origins of the Conservative Movement ( 2006, basic books, new york, 303pp)

This is a fascinating and lively insider report from someone who really was an insider. Ambassador Middendorf played a significant role in the rise of modern conservatism within the Republican Party. As a Connecticut Republican with many friends in the moderate wing of the party he nevertheless early on saw the need for a new approach and a new movement.

Bill was part of the draft Goldwater effort and part of the Goldwater Campaign and then Treasurer for the Republican National Committee as it bounced back from the disaster of 1964. He was in on an amazing number of meetings and worked with virtually every major conservative of that period.

His observations are insightful and in some cases unique.

Even though I had lived through virtually every campaign this book covers I still found myself with new reflections and new insights.

From the perspective of 2007 the most stunning reminder was the level of ruthlessness, dishonesty, and viciousness which characterized the Lyndon Johnson campaign and Johnson's entire behavior. It is worth reading as a reminder of what a 2008 Clinton campaign might be like.

Middendorf repeats a story I first heard from Tim Russert about Goldwater and Kennedy agreeing that in 1964 they would tour the country on Air Force One holding a series of debates and proving that there could be civility and collegiality even in presidential politics. Building on the debates of 1960 and enjoying each other's company a Goldwater-Kennedy contest would have led to a much healthier America.
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Format: Hardcover
'Tis the season, I guess, for men who were present at the creation of "modern conservatism" to publish memoirs of what they saw at the revolution. In October, 2005, Jeffrey Hart released "The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times," and about a year later J. William Middendorf put out "A Glorious Disaster." Taken together, the two paint an excellent picture of the early days of what you might call "National Review" conservatism. I'd encourage the interested reader to check out both books, because they really do work well together.

That's because while Hart's book is about ideas, and the growth of "National Review" magazine as the incubator of "modern conservatism," "A Glorious Disaster" is about nuts-and-bolts politics. Conservative educator Morton Blackwell (who is mentioned in this book as one of the Republican leaders tested in the fire of the Goldwater campaign) famously says "You owe it to your philosophy to know how to win elections." "A Glorious Disaster" is, as much as anything, about what happens when you *don't* know how to win elections.
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Format: Hardcover
When I read the title of this book, I expected an in-depth analysis of why the Conservative movement started with Barry Goldwater's failed candidacy for the Presidency in 1964. Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case.

The author of this book was a critical player in the Goldwater campaign, and, as such, has tremendously valuable memories of Goldwater's unsuccessful attempt to become President of the United States. This book, however, is nothing more than a political memoir - how this one individual got involved in the Goldwater campaign and what the ride meant to him. It is filled with exciting and fun stories, and is an enjoyable book to read, but most assuredly is not for the historian.

I believe that this book is a good start towards understanding whether or not Goldwater's ascendancy to the head position in the Republican party really did start the Conservative movement that has been so powerful in the last 25 years, but it certainly does not live up to its title.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an enjoyable political memoir - if the reader is conservative, this book will delight. Even a liberal will enjoy the book, though some of the disparaging remarks about LBJ or Jimmy Carter may not bode well with those who possess a leftist slant.
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Format: Hardcover
Bill Middendorf offers a delightful insider's view of Barry Goldwater's trailblazing 1964 campaign for President.

As a true insider -- he was on the inner circle as campaign treasurer, a key fundraiser, an early Draft Goldwater leader and a seeming voice of seasoned maturity (at age 37) -- he certainly offers a view that is signficantly more robust than most historical accounts.

It's a very enjoyable read.

Of course, Goldwater was utterly shellacked in 1964. But in losing, his principled admirers won by helping establish the foundation for a conservative movement that would build and last for decades.
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