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Remembering Vic Gold

Image: Remembering Vic Gold
Vic Gold, right, stands with Frank Mankiewicz, left, and Stan Musial in 1989.

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Sunday, 02 Jul 2017 06:42 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When I learned that Vic Gold had died on June 5 at age 88, I tried to think of the most memorable of my recollections of the son of Jewish immigrants who went on to become a press spokesman for 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and later press secretary to Vice President Spiro Agnew.

In 1993, Gold was among several friends of Dick Cheney with whom I spoke who were booming the former secretary of defense for a run for president in 1996. Cheney’s service in the Ford and Bush administrations notwithstanding, Gold insisted, he was a true-blue conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.

But former President Gerald Ford was also a Cheney booster who had a completely different take on his onetime chief of staff.

From Ford’s point of view, conservatives wouldn’t be threatened by the Republican right because “there isn’t a person like Reagan who can be a focal point for the opposition. I don’t see anybody on the hard right who would go after Dick, like Gov. Reagan challenged me.”

“Ford told you that? He actually said that?” Gold later exclaimed to me. When I insisted that the former President did indeed say that, Gold shot back: “Well, that just proves to me Lyndon Johnson knew what he was talking about when he said that Ford played football in college without a helmet!”

Vic Gold’s volatile temper and outbursts were unforgettable. Goldwater biographer Lee Edwards recalled how when Barry Goldwater delivered his acceptance speech at the 1964 convention and uttered the controversial phrase “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,” Gold shouted out “terrific!”

Connecticut publisher and Gold family friend Roger McCaffrey told me how Gold was having a sharp disagreement with Reagan White House Chief of Staff James A. Baker in the office of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. Rather than let their disagreement evolve into a major scene, McCaffrey said, “Vic suddenly got down on the floor and started doing one-handed pushups — his own form of anger management.”

A graduate of the Tulane University and U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, the young Gold worked as a reporter for the Birmingham News while attending the University of Alabama Law School.

In 1958, he joined the Washington D.C.-based public relations firm of Selvage and Lee and became one of the earlier “guns for hire” on political campaigns. Gold went on to form his own public relations business and provided strategy, press work, and speech-writing for clients from Rep. Bob Dole (in his first Senate race in Kansas in 1968) to Shirley Temple Black (in her losing bid for Congress from California in 1967).

But Gold is best remembered for his work with the press covering his hero Goldwater in 1964. This was no easy task because, as then-Copley News correspondent Lyn Nofziger told me, “only two of us were actually going to vote for him — Clark Mollenhoff [of the Des Moines Register] and me.” Gold, as presidential campaign chronicler Theodore White recounted, “carried [the journalists'] bags, got them to the trains on time, out-shouted policemen on their behalf, bedded them down and woke them up and before they knew it, the correspondents . . . had been won to a friendship with the diminutive intellectual which spilled over onto his hero."

Gold was also press secretary to another politician he admired, Vice President Agnew. He accompanied Agnew in the 1970 midterm election, which his supporters dubbed “The Seven Week Offensive Against the Left.” (After Agnew resigned from office amid charges of corruption during his days in Maryland politics, Gold grew disappointed with his former boss and friend.)

In later years, Gold broke with many of his old friends in Republican politics and decried the influence of evangelical conservatives and “political hatchet men such as Karl Rove” within the GOP. He called former friend Cheney “Machiavellian” and a “vice president out of control.” He also wrote for the Washingtonian and produced several books on public relations, including "I Don’t Need You When I Know I’m Right" and "PR As in President."

Vic Gold was always a classic conservative in the mold of his hero Barry Goldwater and, even to those whom he disagreed, remained a true friend.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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When I learned that Vic Gold had died on June 5 at age 88, I tried to think of the most memorable of my recollections of the son of Jewish immigrants who went on to become a press spokesman for 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater.
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Sunday, 02 Jul 2017 06:42 PM
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