While Hillary Rodham Clinton came out second best to Barack Obama in their long-range oratorical duel at Selma, Ala., the real problem with her visit there a week ago concerned her March 4 speech’s claim of her attachment to Martin Luther King Jr. as a high school student in 1963. How, then, could she be a “Goldwater girl” in the next year’s presidential election?
The incompatibility of those two positions of 40 years ago was noted to me by Democratic old-timers who were shocked by Sen. Clinton’s temerity in pursuing her presidential candidacy. Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the 1964 voting rights bill was not incidental to his run for the White House but an integral element of conscious departure from Republican tradition that contributed to his disastrous performance.
That’s unfair to Hillary, because it’s unfair to Goldwater. Goldwater was very explicitly in favor of civil rights for blacks; what he opposed was federal imposition of civil rights on the states. He and King disagreed on that point, of course. But while admiring both King and Goldwater may have been unusual — especially in the Southern states that Goldwater managed to win (but remember that young Hillary wasn’t from the South) — it wasn’t inconsistent.