In 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater spoke candidly about the possibility of nuclear warfare in Vietnam and of mining the harbors in Hanoi.
The uproar was instantaneous, and the conservative Arizona senator struggled to overcome an image of bellicosity that frightened away voters by the droves. He never recovered and lost in a landslide to Lyndon Johnson.
A scant few years later, comedians were feeding their audiences lines like: “They told me if I voted for Goldwater, there would be an expanding war in Southeast Asia and rioting in the streets. I did anyway, and that is exactly what happened.”
Goldwater always claimed he had been misquoted, forcing journalists covering his campaign to begin taping his every public utterance. It was the beginning of intense accountability.
There can be no such contentions in Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney’s startling assessment to a private gathering of fundraisers in May that he was going into his race for the presidency with “47 percent” negative — voters living off the government, paying no income taxes, who would not cast their ballots for him.