The network that saved honest journalism celebrates triumph over liberal media.
July 14, 1964.
The Cow Palace, San Francisco.
It is a warm California night, the political temperature inside the old arena holding the Republican National Convention rapidly approaching the boiling point.
On the surface, the events in the Cow Palace — the six acre arena’s name derived from its original purpose as a home for livestock exposition — are standard fare for a political convention. There is a front runner and a challenger. There is a platform to be decided. Speeches to be given by party luminaries. Roll call votes to be taken.
This being 1964, sixteen full years after the first serious commercial introduction of television in America, three television networks — from oldest to youngest they were NBC, CBS, and ABC — have assigned their “news divisions” to cover the convention. Surrounding the upper rim of the Cow Palace in glassed-in booths, the “anchors” peer out over the teeming crowd of delegates below. Their colleagues in print and radio watch from the regular press galleries, closer to the action.
To the eye, all seems normal — or as normal as a traditional American political convention can be.
But there is, in fact, something remarkably different about this convention night. Out of the heat and jostling and high emotion, political shock waves were about to be generated that would permanently change the shape of America. Shock waves that would forever alter the dynamic between the men and women in those glass walled television anchor booths, their non-television colleagues in the press galleries — and the rapidly increasing mass media audience of millions of Americans.
Shock waves that would eventually lead to the creation and stunning success of Fox News.
For months now the Republican Establishment has been under siege from a growing number of Republicans who felt the party had been, in Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s words, “embracing the welfare staters and implementing programs more representative of the New Deal-Fair Deal than Republican principles.” Goldwater had addressed the Republican Convention of 1960 to tell the swelling ranks of his followers: “Let’s grow up, conservatives. If we want to take this party back, and I think we can some day, let’s go to work.”
And so they did.
For the next four years, led by Goldwater, the GOP Establishment found itself unexpectedly fighting for its life — its life defined as the routine dominance of the Republican Party in the name of what Goldwater openly scorned as the “dime store New Deal.” By which he meant progressive, socialistic big government policies except less so by a dime here and there. Almost twenty years after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the implementation of the New Deal, with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs already surging through Congress, the growing significance of the role of government in everyday life — and its rising cost in both dollars and freedom — was a growing political chasm within the larger nation as a whole as well as the GOP. The conservative objective, in contrast to Republican liberals, was a return to the party’s first principles. Or, in Goldwater’s words: “to preserve and extend freedom.”
By the primary season of 1964, this struggle had become an existential one for Republicans, deeply personalized in the battle for the nomination between Goldwater and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The two men, — personally, politically and culturally — could not be more different. Goldwater the jut-jawed Arizonan who represented the growing economic and political power of the population shifts to the American West and South and the demands for freedom associated with it, Rockefeller the scion of Eastern Establishment old wealth, his last name and personal ancestry the very symbol of the buttoned-down political and cultural liberal. When Goldwater defeated Rockefeller in the California GOP primary, the last-minute Establishment stand-in, Pennsylvania Governor William W. Scranton, took up the banner. The two competing forces and their lieutenants (one of Scranton’s was Michigan Governor George Romney, father of Mitt; one of Goldwater’s, actor Ronald Reagan) were this night engaged in open political combat for the nomination, the balloting a mere 24 hours distant. Goldwater and his conservative forces were on the cusp of winning.
Yet Scranton and his Establishment backers had something going for them as the clock for this convention session began to tick. And the Goldwater conservatives on the floor that night knew exactly what that something was.
The American media.
The men (and they were mostly men in the day) in those glassed-in sky booths and their brethren in the press galleries. Men who, contrary to the lofty self-image insistently sold to the public, were anything but impartial — honorable — observers in the battle that was ratcheting up between newly invigorated conservatives and the left.
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H/T to National Review Online