Warren Christopher and Barry Goldwater: Two of a kind, in one special way
Nearly a year and a half ago I had occasion to interview Warren Christopher for my Q&A column "Patt Morrison Asks."
As I thought about our conversation now, with the news of Christopher’s death, I found it curious that he reminded me of another formidable political figure I’d enjoyed interviewing years before –- Barry Goldwater, the longtime Arizona Republican senator and 1964 presidential candidate.
On the face of it this is odd, because of course their politics were pretty much opposite. And their public personalities were strikingly different. Christopher was courtly and cautious, as befits a diplomat; when I asked him about his most rewarding moments as secretary of State, he said, "I really don’t like to get into talking about things that are most rewarding. Pride is a real handicap; pride is a limitation. So I’d rather talk about the issues where there remains so much to be done."
Goldwater’s style was forceful, to say the least, and he was endowed, as I wrote of him, with a tongue like a branding iron. He and Christopher were warriors for what they believed in, but they also shared something missing from the virulent quarters of national politics today -- regard and respect for the other side, and the deep knowledge that political opponents are not the same as enemies. Christopher was a loyal Democrat who supervised the 2000 Bush v. Gore election recount; his hero was Gen. George Marshall, a man who understood that the ultimate goals of policy matter more than the short-lived triumphs of politics. And Goldwater was friends with men his party currently reviles -- Democrats John and Ted Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey, and former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. They fought like cats and dogs, Goldwater told me, "but we always got along" -- and got things done.
So, gentlemen -- and I use the word deliberately -- ave atque vale, soon and late. We may not see your like again, but as you both knew, if we are to prosper as a nation, we must.
-- Patt Morrison
Photo: Warren Christopher holds the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award presented to him in 1998 by Gov. Ed Schafer on behalf of the town of Scranton, N.D., for his many accomplishments. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles Times / December 2, 2009