AuH2O and the CIA
Back in the golden age of presidential conduct, before Donald Trump wrecked every norm and smashed every guardrail, someone — either in Lyndon Johnson’s White House or in Langley, accounts differ — decided to have the C.I.A. spy on Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.
The agent assigned to lead that illegal operation, in one of history’s winks, was E. Howard Hunt … Hunt had subordinates volunteer for the Goldwater campaign and obtain advance copies of speeches and position papers, which were dutifully passed to the Johnson White House, which relied on them to pre-empt and befuddle Goldwater.
Hunt and others would later suggest that Johnson welcomed the intel because he needed a blowout win in 1964 to establish his own legitimacy. This is entirely plausible, but it’s also reasonable to connect the spycraft to the larger climate of the ’64 election, in which the entire political establishment treated Goldwater as a unique threat to the norms of postwar politics, a dangerous man likely to bring fascism to America or to lead the United States into thermonuclear war ….