Don't Sweat It, Mac, Reagan Had It Worse

When it comes to titanic conservative battles, today's tussle over Sen. John McCain's roots is a mere blip compared with the feud between the movement's giants, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

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ILLUSTRATION BY JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WRWhen it comes to titanic conservative battles, today's tussle over Sen. John McCain's roots is a mere blip compared with the feud between the movement's giants, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Three major conservatives—editor William F. Buckley Jr., publisher Alfred Regnery, and author Craig Shirley—reveal in new books that Reagan, McCain's mentor, suffered snubs from conservatism's Big Daddy and smiled through it all.

Buckley kicks it off in Flying High, a Goldwater tribute, when he says Barry never properly thanked the Gipper for his famous speech that bolstered Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, angering Nancy Reagan."There was the making of bad blood there." In Upstream, the Ascendance of American Conservatism, Regnery details a nasty scene when Goldwater almost spiked the confirmation of a Reagan judge. "Goldwater was always jealous of Reagan because he waltzed into politics at the top," he tells us.

Shirley, whose Rendezvous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America is out in August, says Goldwater regularly dissed Reagan "out of spite" or when policy strayed off the reservation. But Reagan stuck to his guns and normally succeeded. And that's a lesson for McCain, says Shirley. "Reagan won because he stuck to his principles, and that's what McCain has done."