MThe 1964 presidential election was the second in which I voted. Lyndon Johnson who had succeeded John Kennedy, was running against Barry Goldwater. I didn’t like either candidate: Johnson’s personal characteristics were obnoxious, though he had achieved much, especially in the area of civil rights; Goldwater’s personal characterizes seemed fine, but I disapproved of his conservative political views.
I was shocked to read an article in Fact magazine, based on interviews with more than 1,000 psychiatrists, which concluded that Goldwater was mentally unstable and psychologically unfit to be president. It was Lyndon Johnson whose personal fitness to hold the highest office I questioned. Barry Goldwater seemed emotionally stable with excellent personal characteristics, but highly questionable politics. The article was utterly unpersuasive, and in the end I reluctantly voted for Lyndon Johnson. Barry Goldwater went back to the Senate, where he served with great distinction and high personal morality. Lyndon Johnson got us deeply into an unwinnable war that hurt our nation. The more than 1,000 psychiatrists, it turned out, were dead wrong in their diagnosis and predictions.
Their misdiagnosis should surprise no one, since none of the psychiatrists had ever examined, or even met, Goldwater. They just didn’t like his politics. Indeed, some feared that he would destroy the world if he had access to the nuclear button. The most powerful TV ad against Goldwater showed a beautiful child playing with a flower. Then the screen went blank, presumably from a nuclear explosion, and the child, along with the world, was blown up. It was an effective ad. It influenced me far more than the psychobabble in the Fact article.