Kitman ’64


There was a lot of discussion on the web, a while back, about Rick Perlstein’s excellent book on the history of the 1964 Goldwater campaign: Before the Storm. While the book well deserves all the attention it’s gotten, it is guilty of gross negligence in one important way: it completely ignores Marvin Kitman’s run against Goldwater for the Republican nomination. In fact, Marvin Kitman is only referred to as a journalist,” and just once at that. But if you take a look at the results of the 1964 Republican Primary for New Hampshire, you will see very clearly that Marvin Kitman had one delegate — just nine less than Barry Goldwater!

Just who was Marvin Kitman, and what did he stand for? The answers can be found in his modestly named book, The Number One Best Seller, which has an extended account of his presidential campaign. This book collects articles published by Kitman in The Saturday Evening Post, The New Leader, Outsiders News Letter, and Monocle. Monocle was published by Victor Navasky, who also worked as Kitman’s campaign manager, appointments secretary, and apologies secretary.

What is an apologies secretary?

It was the apologies secretary’s job to stand up after my speeches and apologize for all the mistakes I had just made. I had a tendency to say the first thing that came to mind while speaking in public, and I didn’t want to lose the nomination just because I sounded inconsistent.

Kitman also had a campaign slogan:

I would rather be President than write.

What was really innovative about Kitman’s 1964 presidential run however, was his political platform. Running against people like Goldwater for the Republican nomination, Kitman had to prove his reactionary credentials. He did this by running on the Republican Party platform of 1864, fulfilling all the promises Lincoln made but which the Party still hadn’t kept:

I’m in favor of abolishing slavery.

Needless to say, Kitman didn’t win. He blamed the media:

If you had treated me with vilification and slander as you did my opponent, General Goldwater, I would have won. You won’t have Kitman to kick around any longer. Gentlemen, you gave me the shaft.

His apologies secretary, Victor Navasky, was asked if Kitman’s outburst was the result of overwork and nervous fatigue.

No.” Navasky told the reporter. He’s just a sore loser.”

After reading the paper, Kitman promptly fired Navasky.

So, what has Marvin Kitman been doing since he retired from politics? Writing of course. Among his many books is his own campaign narrative — of the very first presidential campaign: The Making of the President, 1789: The Unauthorized Campaign Biography. He also worked as a TV Critic for Newsday. After 35 years of writing about TV he retired this year.

I asked Kitman about running again in 2008. He said he considered my query a mandate from the people”!

Needless to say I have to deny I’m a candidate. I always quote quote Calvin Coolidge: I do not choose to run for president.” I won’t even jog for president. But I keep my options open.

He also says that if he does run again, he will not hire Victor Navasky, who as Rick Perlstein’s publisher at The Nation, shouldn’t have tired to cover up his past as a Republican campaign manager and professional apologist.

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