Goldwater biographer Rick Perlstein recently bearded the conservative lions in their den, at a Princeton conference titled "The Conservative Movement: Its Past, Present, and Future." They were not pleased :
What to make of the fact that some of the names who pioneered this anti-Nixonian movement of principle showed up in the dankest recesses of the Nixon administration? People like Douglas Caddy, of course, the co-founder of the effort to draft Goldwater for vice-president in 1960 and YAF's first president, who was the man the White House called on to represent the Watergate burglars in 1972. And people like the guy inaugurated as YAF's chair in the 1965 with those stirring words about truth: Tom Charles Huston--who, as the author of the first extra-legal espionage and sabotage plan in the Nixon White House, can fairly be called an architect of Watergate. [ . . . ]Perlstein tracks how principled purists and true-believers from the Goldwater Revolution in 1964 became the embodiment of pragmatic Watergate-style abuse and corruption by 1972, and argues that the latter, not the former, is the seed from which contemporary American conservatism has grown.
[I]t has becomes my thesis that the Republicans are less the party of Goldwater, and more the party of Watergate--and this not despite the operational ascendecy of the conservative movement in its councils but in some sense because of it.
Nixon knew that if you had a dirty job to get down, you got people who answered to the description he made of E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy: "good, healthy right-wing exuberants." My question is: can conservatism exist without the Tom Charles Hustons?
You have to go read the whole thing, or the payoff in the epilogue won't be half as darkly funny.