Arizona Horizon Banner

October 31, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative

  |   Video
  • Pollster Bruce Merrill and playwright Ben Tyler talk about Barry Goldwater and the November 1st performance of the play “Mr. Conservative, the story of Barry Goldwater”.
  • Bruce Merrill - ASU Morrison Institute Pollster
  • Ben Tyler - Director,Centennial Theatre Foundation
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: Mr. Conservative,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: A staged reading of the one-man play, "Goldwater: Mr. Conservative," takes place tomorrow evening at 7:30 in the John Paul theater at Phoenix college. Following the performance, ASU pollster Bruce Merrill will moderate a discussion about Arizona's iconic senator and what it means to be a Goldwater conservative. Joining me with a preview is ASU pollster Bruce Merrill, whose extensive résumé includes a lot of work for Barry Goldwater. Also here is centennial theater foundation director Ben Tyler who wrote, "Mr. conservative" back in 1994. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us. It was a long time ago.

Bruce Merrill: It was.

Ted Simons: What is the narrative, Mr. Conservative?

Ben Tyler: I got the idea reading an editorial in "The Republic" in 1994 and they had just placed don't ask, don't tell as part of the military's policy and it was an editorial saying that the writer didn't think that don't ask, don't tell was a good idea and that gays should have the right to serve in the military and what difference did it make what your sexual preference is if you're willing to die for your country. And I got to the end and it was signed "Barry Goldwater." What? It got me interested and I did reading about him. I grew up in Arizona. Barry Goldwater's been part of the landscape forever.

Ted Simons: Who is Barry Goldwater in this play?

Ben Tyler: You mean who is the actor or --

Ted Simons: No, what -- who do we meet up there on the stage?

Ben Tyler: In the play, you have to have conflict, and writing a one-person show is very difficult because you only have one person. Where do you have conflict, right?

Ted Simons: Right.

Ben Tyler: I saw the conflict immediately. Here was a man who came to be known as Mr. conservative, the father of the modern conservative political movement in this country, who I found from what he said and going back to the beginning, was consistent over his entire life was really at odds with what I knew the Republican party to be present day.

Ted Simons: Does that sound like the Barry Goldwater you knew?

Bruce Merrill: It really does. Ben has captured the parts of Barry Goldwater that people don't realize. Not only was he pro-gay rights in the military long before it was popular, people realized he was pro-choice, not pro-life. And really for the same reasons with the homosexuality thing. His position was on abortion, that he loathed abortion. He didn't want it, he didn't like it. But he used to say that that's not the issue. The issue is should a woman make that decision with her own body or should the government? And it was the same thing. We were flying back from Page, Arizona. He had given a speech, and I'll never forget him saying when he was talking about sexuality. He said, Bruce, keep in mind if the government can regulate homosexuality, they can regulate heterosexuality. More a libertarian.

Ted Simons: Would he be the same Barry Goldwater in today's climate, Republican all the way, Barry Goldwater, by the party as it stands now?
Bruce Merrill: Well, it will be interesting to hear Ben's response to that. Having lived with him and written the play. I thought about that, there's elements interestingly enough of the tea party that he would respect.

Ben Tyler: Absolutely.

Bruce Merrill: In terms of keeping government as small as possible. But he was a very complex person and as I say, I really looked at him as more libertarian than conservative. The complex aspect of Barry Goldwater's personality, the surprise would pop up -- of Barry Goldwater personality, some who thought they didn't like him that much.

Ted Simons: How far did you get that worked into the play?

Ben Tyler: One of the decisions I made early on was not to tell the story chronologically. I think that's a big mistake. Especially with a biographic piece. I was born in -- you immediately, so -- the play moves forward just as people have talked. Segues from subject to subject, but I found myself -- and I'm not a progressive. I'm a liberal. Proud to say that -- but I found myself agreeing with so much I thought here's something that we can find common ground.

Ted Simons: Did he become -- you know how when you write -- you write a character and then all of a sudden, the character says I'm not doing that. Did Barry Goldwater say that to you?

Ben Tyler: It does all the time. When you're a writer, you feel like you're on the right track. You start out with an idea what it's going to be but really going back to what Bruce said, to me, the point of the play is maximizing freedom for the individual. I really think if you were to boil it down to one sentence that was what Goldwater's point of view was: Maximizing freedom for the individual. And I think that's what -- traditionally, what liberals are looking for and goes back to the ancient Greeks.

Ted Simons: Ring a bell?

Bruce Merrill: Absolutely. And along with that very important part of his personality where I hope Ben tells the story well, I've been involved with a lot of politicians across the country for a number of years. One of the things that I respect most about Barry Goldwater, and I think is very relevant today, I never one time ever heard him say something to somebody and then say something in the opposite direction behind their back. I mean, I want to tell you, I was in meetings with Barry Goldwater. If he didn't like you or like something, he looked you in the eye and told you.

Ben Tyler: True.

Bruce Merrill: And there's not many politicians who can stand up to that task.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Ben, a quote -- when opposing political ideologies are followed to their natural limits, there exists a place where they find common ground. What does that mean?

Ben Tyler: I also considered myself to be on the other side of the fence from conservatism, but when I read what his idea was I thought, I agree with this and I think that's what happens when you follow this out to the right and left, that eventually there's a place where they do meet up. And today, with things as polarized as they are, we need it more than ever.

Ted Simons: We need it more than ever, but can it happen these days with things as polarized as they are?

Bruce Merrill: It's going to be very tough. You have to be very careful. The reason these people were able to get decisions made, Goldwater, they would go down and shut the door and take a bottle of whiskey and come out with a decision. Would that fly today? No, it's not transparent enough. So society has changed and one of the interesting things, Barry Goldwater was ideal for that particular time. I think as Arizona grew into a state and the nation changed.

Ted Simons: What do you hope to gain? What do you want to happen by the moderated discussion after the play?

Bruce Merrill: I think what Ben is looking for, which I think is good, to have a discussion on both dimensions that Barry Goldwater brings to what is really, I agree with Ben, conservatism. Part of what we -- what we call liberalism today. The terms mean little today. There's philosophical conservative. You can be conservative or liberal on social issues and so bringing those two dimensions together is going to be very interesting.

Ben Tyler: I think it will be. And, you know, Bruce maybe you know the answer. Why don't they hammer out compromises anymore? Why has compromise become a dirty world, it seems? When I hear of the people coming up through the tea party -- I will not compromise on anything! To me, that's the nature of politics. You have to.

Ted Simons: Last response.

Bruce Merrill: We don't have enough time -- [Laughter] I think we talked about change, a lot of it, these people play to the media because they can talk to their constituents to get reelected rather than doing what's best for the country.

Ted Simons: Should be a fascinating evening. Good discussion and it's good to have you here to talk about Barry Goldwater.

Ben Tyler: There's a full production in May of 2012 as part of the centennial celebration. This is a sneak peek for the audience.

Redistricting Politics

  |   Video
  • Voters created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to try to take politics out of the process of redrawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative district boundaries every ten years, but the latest round of redistricting is as political as ever. Hear what State Representatives Chad Campbell, leader of the House Democrats and John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills, have to say about the redistricting process.
  • Chad Campbell - Leader of the House Democrats,John Kavanagh - a Republican from Fountain Hills
Category: Government   |   Keywords: Redistricting Commission, legislative district boundaries,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Every 10 years, Arizona redraws its legislative and congressional district boundaries. That used to be done by state lawmakers, but in 2000, Arizona voters transferred the task to an independent redistricting commission. The move was supposed to help take politics out of the process, but the governor has accused the commission of ignoring constitutional mapping rules, the attorney general launched an investigation of the commission, and the legislature has also entered the fray. Here to talk about all this is state representative John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills. And representative Chad Campbell, a Phoenix democrat who serves as the house minority leader. Thanks for joining us. Why so much political interference?

John Kavanagh: There are serious concerns. Early on, the commission's behavior raised flags. They wouldn't let the Republican members choose the Republican attorney who was supposed to be assigned. And spent 37 hours in executive session. I was on a town council for six years. Over the entire six years, I never spent that long and they managed to and the chairman reading a prepared statement about the chairman of the mapping company and when the maps came out there were many, many problems with the maps. The non-partisan Rothenberg report characterized them as screwing Republicans and attorney general Horne comes out with a filing that has evidence that the open meeting law was violated by the chairperson and one or both of the members.

Chad Campbell: Let me be clear. This is a power grab by the governor and semidistraught Republicans who didn't get the districts they wanted. These maps benefit the Republicans. If anyone should be mad it should be the Democrats. On a 2-to-1 count and the legislative map overwhelmingly favors Republicans and it's apparent to me that certain incumbents that do not like the maps they got. And I just want to stress this is not a -- for the legislature to debate or the governor to debate whether or not the chair followed the law or the commission. If they have problems with that, sue them. That's what happened last time. You can sue them. But to interject politics into a process that was made independent by the voters is downright wrong.

John Kavanagh: The legislature and the governor have a responsibility to ensure that the law is enforced, particularly the governor and the attorney general. There's clear evidence, statements by witnesses, that the chairman of this committee went on the phone not in a public meeting and lined up votes and got one vote by -- votes and got one by a quid pro quo, which the democrat said on the hearing that his vote is -- that's a violation of the open meetings law and spitting in the face of the public who want an open process.

Ted Simons: If you hear of these allegations should you not investigate them?

Chad Campbell: No, it's not up to the legislature or the governor. The A.G. tried and he got removed because this was a conflict of interest. And the so-called witnesses are the same people who were exposed in the "Arizona capitol times" have been colluding with the Arizona trust, they were using taxpayer funded staff to do work on the commission. That's not the proper use of taxpayer dollars and not the proper use of taxpayer time down there and from day one it's obvious to me and everybody that the Republicans and Governor Brewer are going to bully everyone to create a map that benefited the Republicans and they're still not happy.

Ted Simons: Democrats are saying, what in the world do you want? You've got more congressional maps leaning your way and the legislative maps in Republican control. What more do you want?

John Kavanagh: It's not about who made out better. This is about having an important process that determines how people are represented being done properly and by the way, the witnesses, and I'm talking about the two Republican members who received phone calls from the chairwoman of the commission and along with the spouse of one who heard her on the speaker phone asking for a vote on the phone and in one situation, you vote for this mapping committee and I'll take care of you down the line. Quid pro quo. Criminal activity and the most critical decisions, based on blatant violation of the open meetings law, then the process is tainted and it's a poisoned tree and any maps that come from it are the fruit of the poisoned tree.

Chad Campbell: The attorney general got removed from the case and now to the county attorney, if they want to pursue investigating the commission, it's their job. It's not up to us. We're the legislative branch of government. It's not up to the governor, she's the executive branch. It's self-serving politicians trying to get maps you want. You have congressional incumbents who have to run against each other and the commission cannot consider incumbency and where certain electives live.

Ted Simons: Question. If the mapping consultant company had worked for the bush administration, if the chairman of the independent commission had a relative who had worked for Republican -- also democrat, but for the most part, Republican candidates, and you thought you were seeing monkey business going on, as far as the map redrawing, would you have raised concerns yourself, the democratic side?
Chad Campbell: It happened 10 years ago. They had a Republican leaning firm 10 years ago. They had a chairperson so biased toward the Republican party it was so transparent, it was laughable. I mean -- but we didn't use our power in an abusive way. People sued. They took them to court, that's what you're supposed to do and many of the people lost but that's how the process is supposed to work. You're supposed to sue and take litigation.

John Kavanagh: First, treasurer Horne was not removed because of a problem with his case. He was removed because he gave advice about the open meetings law and that creates a conflict of interest. His removal no way suggests that his accusations are baseless or groundless. They're firm. And the law that created this commission gives the governor and senate power to remove members if they've engaged in serious wrongdoing and not only does the evidence suggest extreme wrongdoing, and it's a prima facie case and today, the commission revealed about eight serious problems with a result that will make this die in court and certainly in Washington when it goes up for review.
Chad Campbell: The legislative committee that Mr. Kavanagh refers to was a committee that came out with a false and erroneous set of principles and guidelines. Nothing in the report they have is factual. Nothing they have pertains to the legal power of the commission. It's -- to be honest, that paper is junk. It's scrap that should be shredded and means nothing and if were to go to court, the department of justice, the commissions' work would stand. The concern would be that the Democrats got the short end of the stick, not the Republicans.

Ted Simons: Quickly, if this gets bottled up and justice didn't get this in time and the districts wind up being drawn by a court, or someone else other than the commission, will you be satisfied?

Chad Campbell: I don't know. I can't tell you. I can't see the map. I don't know how the process would work. But I know right now, you have a governor abusing her power and we saw in the "Arizona Republic," you have a legislature enabling her and undermining a voter-approved process.

John Kavanagh: The governor hasn't abused any power. She's within her rights to question --

Chad Campbell: She has no right.

John Kavanagh: The commission has lawyered up. They've run to get lawyers.

Ted Simons: The question would be, would you not lawyer up when the governor tells you have a deadline to answer these questions or else.

John Kavanagh: She lawyered up when the -- when they were asked questions about the irregularities.

Chad Campbell: They sent letters back to the governor today, and if I'm the target of a witch hunt, I'll get an attorney. The governor has no authority to question the commission.

Ted Simons: We've got to stop it there. I think we've managed to take politics completely out of the process. [Laughter] Good to have you here. Thank you.