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Warren Christopher and Barry Goldwater: Two of a kind, in one special way

Warren Christopher 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.


Jim Newton: Lunches with Mr. Christopher

Warren Christopher: Mr. Secretary

Strength through subtlety: No major L.A. institution bears the name of Warren M. Christopher, but he surely left his mark

-- 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


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old repoter

thats a cute article

Rocky Avery

How many Republicans today are negative towards President Kennedy? I'm a Conservative who wishes we had anyone with half the intelligence, leadership & charisma of JFK today. All these decades later, even though I miss that man.

Native Angeleno

Interesting Goldwater did not mention any affinity for LBJ, who he called the biggest liar in America in 1964, and he was right, which was the closest he got to nailing Johnson for the details of his succession to the office over the body of John Kennedy, and for the falsification of the Tonkin Gulf incident, which Goldwater knew would lead to full-blown war in Vietnam the next year, as it did, and many more bodies lost to bullets before their time.

The loss of JFK did not allow us the Goldwater-Kennedy campaign of '64. I remember Goldwater in 1963 speaking of nuking China and privatizing TVA, and Kennedy answering he would leave Sen Goldwater alone that week, knowing a reply was unnecessary to do him any more damage. We may have even had more very historic debates, had Goldwater challenged him. Johnson issued a refusal before Goldwater could make the offer.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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