The Former Arthur Goldberg

Arthur Goldberg
Arthur Goldberg; drawing by David Levine

It had been thought that Arthur Goldberg was one of those great balloons—like Dwight Eisenhower in 1952—subject, of course, to shrinkage over six months in the sun, but with more than enough reserve of air to remain aloft and defeat Governor Rockefeller next November. But he seems already to have begun to leak most alarmingly. The Former Justice of the Supreme Court, the Former Secretary of Labor, the Former Ambassador to the United Nations—an outrider benumbed by these ruffles and flourishes affectionately wondered aloud whether it might not be simpler for provincial chairmen just to introduce him as the Former Arthur Goldberg—was put through the most painful primary night by merely the Former Undersecretary of Commerce and Former Candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of New York, Howard Samuels. The Justice-Ambassador-Secretary sat up until two in the morning, all that dignity hanging over an abyss of humiliation; and he won in the end with only 52 percent of the Democratic vote.

Mr. Samuels, to be sure, had brought to his campaign the carelessness about capital that the very rich seem especially to demonstrate when their own ambition is the object of their philanthropy. His showing must be credited then in some measure to the extinction of romantic illusion in his party: the Democrats of New York seem to be drawn to a candidate these days as women of the eighteenth century were to Casanova, that is, to the man who pays.

But the advantage that almost made the difference for Mr. Samuels was no more in what he spent than in what he promised to do. He would, he kept insisting, be a fighting governor, to which Justice Goldberg was proud to reply that he would be a governor who conciliates. And it was that posture, you finally sense, which caused him to bleed more than he should have and which he seems determined to maintain, with the potential for even more bleeding, all the way along the course ahead of him.

For Justice Goldberg still believes that America is a success. He trusts all parties in their quarrels; and he seeks, with the assurance of finding it, some communality in their interests. That spirit gives him a curious, if rather touching, air of antiquity as he enters a politics where more and more voters feel that what history has put asunder no man ought to try to put together short of the knife. Set aside for the moment the servant and the master: there is nothing in common between the managers of the Long Island Railroad and those they carry these days.

For it is a peculiarly sad moment in history when those qualities in Justice Goldberg which we would otherwise conceive as being most admirable could not serve us worse if they were character defects. There is, to take the most lamentable trait, his sense of duty. He cannot resist any call…

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