A little girl, as pretty as anybody's image of his own daughter, appears on the television screen. She carries an ice cream cone. It certainly looks good enough to eatbut is it? A hoarse, anxious, motherlike voice is heard: "Know what people used to do? They used to explode bombs in the air. You know children should have lots of vitamin A and calcium. But they shouldn't have strontium 90 or cesium 137. These things come from atomic bombs, and they're radioactive. They make you die. Do you know what people finally did? They got together and signed a nuclear test ban treaty. And then the radioactive poison started to go away. But now there's a man who wants to be President of the United States, and he doesn't like this treaty. He fought against it. He even voted against it. He wants to go on testing more bombs. His name is Barry Goldwater. If he's elected, they might start testing all over again."
Another little girl appears on the screen. She is strolling through a pleasant field. She stoops, picks a daisy, starts plucking its petals while counting, in the fashion of children from time immemorial. "One, two, three . . ." A man's doom-laden voice comes in stronger and stronger, finally drowning out the child's words. The man is count ing backward: "Ten, nine, eight . . ." The countdown ends, and the screen erupts in atomic explosion, followed by the voice of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who says somberly: "These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live, or go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die."
These political commercials have recently appeared on television under the sponsorship of the Democratic National Committee. Their obvious implication: if Barry Goldwater is elected President, eating ice cream will be dangerous, and daisy plucking will be a thing of the past.
Vicious? Of course. But the very fact that such commercials are being used speaks mouthfuls about what now stands as the decisive issue of the 1964 presidential campaignthe argument over control of nuclear weaponry.
An Educational Program. That issue is killing Barry Goldwater. He knows it and so far he has refused to retreat. He has been scalded by Democrats, pickled by pundits, depicted as a monster by cartoonists, scolded by fellow Republicans. But, insists Barry, "I want to educate the American people to lose some of their fear of the word 'nuclear.' When you say 'nuclear,' all the American people see is a mushroom cloud. Now a nuclear weapon in political terms may be a mushroom cloud. But for military purposes, it's just enough firepower to get the job done."
Lyndon Johnson also realizes the importance of the nuclear issueand he has exploited it with consummate skill. In his speeches, he constantly uses the words "responsibility" and "restraint." He does not need to mention Goldwater's name: everybody knows who and what he is talking about.