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Barry Goldwater Is Still Wrong

Barry Goldwater was wrong in 1964 and his modern equivalents are wrong today. Leadership demands humility and compromise, and there isn't much of either around today.

With his second inaugural address in the books, President Obama has laid out his agenda for the next four years.  He was anything but timid, possibly because he knows this is legacy-building time for second-termers.  Fair or not, much of the future history lessons about the Obama presidency will be defined by his second term, as is often the case.

Many of the media pundits have labeled this an "aggressive liberal agenda".  Depending upon your political complexion you may enthusiastically agree with that description. Or you might acknowledge, somewhat mournfully, that it's an aggressively liberal roadmap.

Having previously stepped into the comparisons minefield of conservative vs liberal and Republican vs Democrat, I offer no opinion on the merits of either of these polar opposites (though, of course, I do have one).  I'd prefer instead to address the issue of extremism, which I think is far more dangerous, regardless of political preference.

The late Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) flirted with infamy in 1964 when, as the Republican nominee for president, he bellowed in a speech that "Extremism, in the defense of liberty, is no vice!".  That sure got everybody's attention and gave President Johnson a free pass to win the office on his own.  "Extremism" can certainly be one man's wine and another's vinegar, but what seems to consistently occur is that extreme postures on critical issues lead to the gridlock farce in our state and national governments.  I haven't yet heard anyone describe the situation in Washington DC as constructive.  Between corporations and special interest groups throwing around lots of money and the supposed "will of the people", all that our leaders appear capable of doing is running for cover.

Barry Goldwater was wrong in 1964.  Extremism is, from where I sit, always a vice.  It didn't help him win that election and it hasn't worked for any candidate since.  Ronald Reagan is always cited as an extreme conservative politician and Bill Clinton often wears the same label for the other end of the stick.  If you peel back the candy-coating on the outside, both of these men knew that leadership frequently demands accomodation.  The essence of governing lies in the principal of compromise, not confrontation.

Can somebody please teach the kids in Washington to learn to share?

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