Barry Goldwater

The Wild Campaign Film That Barry Goldwater Disowned

Ideological content aside, it's a pretty amazing piece of filmmaking.


I think the first place I read about the 1964 film Choice was in Mostly on the Edge, an enjoyable memoir by Sen. Barry Goldwater's speechwriter Karl Hess. At one point in Goldwater's presidential campaign, Hess wrote,

Just not this Choice.

there was a briefing to review a television ad that supporters had put together to exploit the ever-present, always popular issue of moral decline in America. It was the sort of slimy self-righteous imagery that has come to dominate American politics today. It showed topless (but appropriately censored) women at a public beach and had the stern voice-over, holier-than-thou condemnation of the country's slide into moral decay. Before a word could be said, the senator turned to my son—then sixteen years old—and asked his opinion. Young Karl said the ad was silly, had nothing to do with the ideas of the campaign, and was dirty politics to boot. Goldwater agreed. That was it; the ad was pulled, and the campaign stuck to the high ground of principles and substantive issues.

Over at The American Conservative, Daniel McCarthy notes that Choice can now be seen online. He adds some more historical context as well:

It's a doozy: fast cars, fast women, John Wayne. And more problematically, scenes of riots and civil rights protests portrayed in a way that led Goldwater to call it "a racist film" and demand that "Choice" not be shown on his behalf.

Clif White had been indispensable in helping Goldwater win the Republican nomination, but after that the candidate entrusted his campaign to others. Getting to make "Choice" was something of a consolation prize—but as Rick Perlstein writes in Before the Storm, in giving White permission to do a film on the "morality issue," Goldwater "didn't realize he had just become Truman giving MacArthur what the general thought was a green light to cross the Yalu." The film wasn't an official campaign product, but the campaign got the blame—both for the film itself and, from right-wing activists, for canceling it.

The movie is embedded below. If nothing else, watch the first minute and 40 seconds, which have a great early-'60s exploitation-flick vibe. And check out the minute-long montage that starts around 11:55—whatever else went into making this half hour of agitprop, the filmmakers clearly were having a blast. Oh, hell, just watch the whole thing:

Bonus link: Earlier this week I posted another video. Karl Hess was actually in that one.

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  1. Wow! Not quite “Daisy commercial” level, but…

    I kinda still love the 60’s for all the weird that went on. What a decade. Like the 50’s, but with more acid.

    1. PS those early-mid 60’s Lincoln Continentals are the SHIT! Suicide doors FTW!

      1. That’s Ted Kennedy behind the wheel.

        1. “My big brother was killed in one of these…”

      2. My uncle has one. Bright red, white leather interior, a fucking 4 track tape player, and not a single seat belt.

        Comfortably seats six adults.


          Looks like that. But he usually keeps the top down because it kinda smells a bit.

          1. That’s kewl!

    2. Yeah, Goldwater was concerned that this ad would be dirty politics, yet the democrats had no problem running the “Daisy” ad. It seems the republicans have learned nothing in the intervening decades. The Stupid Party indeed.

      1. Gentlemanly conduct in a fight is a rich man’s conceit. In an election, like a fight, once it starts, you are free to gouge eyes, grab testicles and twist them off, step on toes, stomp on bridges and insteps, knee crotches, fish hook mouths, pop ear drums, smash noses, rabbit punch, use weapons and whatever other means short of outright murder it takes to win.

        1. It’s the combination of length and precision that makes this list is disturbing.

        2. Note to self: Don’t piss off Anonymous Coward.

      2. I caught about 10 minutes of the Michael Medved show yesterday and he still believes, and I quote, “the nicer candidate wins.”


  2. Good thing Goldwater stuck to the High Road, otherwise he might have lost the election..oh.

    1. That’s what I was thinking.

    2. The Ned Stark of the GOP.

      1. Ser Ilyn! Bring me his head!

        1. “Goldwater fought valiantly, Goldwater fought nobly, Goldwater fought honorably. And Goldwater died.”

          1. Once, there were choices, but people chose badly. As a result, now there is no choice, and people keep choosing badly. This is progress.

    3. Yeah, he could have taken the low road by going on about crime, as if there was some sort of increase in the crime rate that was being ignored and brushed off by the country’s leadership.

  3. 12:30

    Q Q Q Q

    Four Q = “Fuck You” subtle huh?

    1. Forking ice hole!

  4. Find it interesting that the kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance don’t use the words “Under God”.

    1. Those words weren’t added until 1954.

      1. Yep. Ten years before this was made.

        1. Perhaps the kids were filmed before 1954.

    2. Well it had only been in the pledge for a decade at that point so maybe the filmmakers preferred the OG pledge.

      1. Either way… interesting.

  5. I’m actually convinced that LBJ is the worst human being to ever hold the office of the presidency. Not just worst president because he gave us the War on Poverty and Vietnam, but just a terrible, slimy, low-life politician that used every dirty trick in the book.

    1. Wilson might have been worse as a person.

      FDR was just a dilettante moron who latched onto the faddish statism of the time.

    2. Jackson was a pretty terrible human, but at least he had style.

      1. He wore a cape and beat armed men senseless with his hands.

        He was basically Batman.

        1. He was a genocidal populist maniac. And a trashy POS to boot. Screw Jackson.

          1. He did pay off the national debt completely.

            1. And for that, Rothbard graciously forgave all the Injun-slaughter. Whattaguy!

      2. Jackson did oppose central banking and made the US debt free (!).

        1. He’s got a couple of good things on his record, but as far as I’m concerned, the shit he pulled with the Indians makes him about the most thoroughly evil president.

  6. Ok, I understand dirty politics and playing with–or preying on–people’s emotions and all, but fuck… this is the same Karl Hess that was shown sharing a joint with Robert Anton Wilson at a Libertarian Party convention in that video the other day, so if he had gone through with it, that would’ve might hypocritical of him too (and he would’ve lost much of my respect), so props to the younger Hess for setting your dad and Goldwater straight.

    1. Hess didn’t make the ad. Or like it.

    2. It was actually Clif White who made the film, not Hess.

  7. Speedboat, water skiing, and Battle Hymn of the Republic = One America

    Jazz and twistin’ the night away = Other America.

    Not sure where the big ass car and beer can toss go.

  8. Uh, as it happens, I was there at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Phila. in the room with Goldwater when he laid eyes on the film for the first time. Karl Jr. was not one of the five of us there. When we finished showing it to Goldwater, his comment was that “We can’t use it. It puts the presidency in a bad light.” Goldwater was too much the gentleman to climb into the muck with LBJ, who was truly a loathesome creature.

    1. “Goldwater was too much the gentleman to climb into the muck with LBJ”

      [begin Yoda voice] That…is why he failed. [end Yoda voice]

  9. Where has this gem been hidden? Only time to watch the 1st couple mins. so far, and I don’t know what they were selling ? cars, Pepsi, NFL-AFL Films, deodorant soap, insecticide ? but whatever it is, I WANT IT! Reminds me also of The Incredible Bread Machine. I see above that others have caught the anachronism in the Pledge of Allegiance, like they went out of their way to keep it secular or it was the only stock footage of it they could find. At the end I expect to see “Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.”.

  10. Did anyone notice that the pledge being recited by school kids at the beginning did not include the phrase “under God”? I guess the producers grabbed some old stock film shot before 1954 for a 1963 campaign film.

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