Sunday, September 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, excerpt two)

from Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus by Rick Perlstein:

Rockefeller was a Cold War hawk almost to the degree (if not exactly the kind) of Goldwater. An early proposal he put forward as governor was to assess each New York family the over $300 it would require to build a bomb shelter for every household in the state. The argument was the same as in Conscience: whichever side was able to render nuclear war less unthinkable had the advantage. “Are we going to arrive at a point some day,” he asked at a civil defense seminar in March, “when the president will say: ‘Well, how can we afford to stand for freedom? With the people exposed, can we run that risk?’” He introduced a new phrase to the American lexicon that summer: “missile gap”—the assertion that the Soviets had hundreds more nuclear projectiles than did the United States. He based the charge on one of his Rockefeller Brothers Special Studies Fund reports. Then he amplified it to revive his presidential bid.

In fact, data from U2 spy planes had demonstrated that the USSR’s arsenal of bombers and missiles that could reach the United States was nearly nonexistent. But that intelligence was top secret, unknown even to a New York governor—a rule of espionage being that you can’t let your enemy know what you know about them. (“I can’t understand the United States being quite as panicky as they are,” Eisenhower once said, forgetting that he was one of only a handful of people who knew that the empire that threatened to bury us could in fact do no such thing.) Republican leaders scurried to shut Rockefeller up. Nixon leaked that the governor was first choice for vice president; Kentucky senator Thruston Morton, chair of the Republican National Convention, offered him the keynote speech in Chicago. Rocky rebuffed them. “I hate the thought of Dick Nixon being president of the United States,” he told confidants.

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