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Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:27 PM

Remembering George McGovern

Last edited Thu Oct 25, 2012, 09:37 AM - Edit history (1)

George McGovern, who died this Saturday at the age of 90, was the first presidential candidate who I campaigned or voted for. He has ever since been one of my greatest sources of inspiration. In my opinion he was one of the most honest, courageous, and compassionate politicians our country has ever known. The 1972 Democratic nominee for President, I believe he would have been a great President had he been elected. But either our country wasn’t ready for him then, or probably more accurately, our “mainstream” corporate media did such a hatchet job on him that he never had a chance of getting elected against an incumbent president (Richard Nixon).


A brief background on George McGovern

McGovern, a long-time and consistent critic of unnecessary U.S. wars, was a bomber pilot and war hero during World War II. Following two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from South Dakota in 1962. By the late 1960s, he was one of three or four U.S. Senators to publicly speak out against our involvement in the Vietnam war, for reasons very similar to his later opposition to the Iraq War, including: the awful toll in American and Vietnamese lives; the belief that the Vietnamese people should have the right to determine their own fate; and, the fact that we could not ‘win’ that war. He later said that it took more courage for him to speak out against that war as a junior Senator than it did for him to fly combat missions during World War II.

In 1972 he was chosen as the Democratic nominee for President, with his number one campaign issue being the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. Unfortunately, he was excoriated not only by his opponents but by much of the U.S. national news media, which dubbed his candidacy as standing for the “Three A’s”: abortion, acid, and amnesty: Abortion, because he believed in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion (one year before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land); acid, because he believed that people should not be imprisoned for the possession of marijuana (marijuana isn’t acid, but hey, what’s a little inaccuracy when the Presidency of the United States is at stake?); and amnesty, because he believed that following the termination of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war, draft evaders and deserters from that illegal war should receive amnesty.

His campaign for president in 1972 was derailed by a barrage of lies and dirty tricks, reminiscent of the campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004, and more recently President Obama. Most of all, his courageous opposition to the Vietnam War allowed his opponents to peg him as a pacifist.

McGovern lost the Presidential election of 1972 to Richard Nixon in a landslide, carrying only one state (Massachusetts). But not before Nixon, in an effort to neutralize McGovern’s most important campaign issue, reached an agreement with North Vietnam just a couple of weeks before the election, allowing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to claim “Peace is at hand” just a few days before the election. This led directly to the Paris Peace Accords, signed by Nixon just a few days after the start of his second Presidential administration, which officially ended direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. And that is a major reason why I say that George McGovern is more responsible than any other single person for ending our involvement in the Vietnam War.


Some lessons we could learn from George McGovern on war

George McGovern during the Vietnam War was the Dennis Kucinich of our day. Though his detractors never lost an opportunity to call him a pacifist, McGovern was never a pacifist. As a bomber pilot in WW II, he advocated the bombing of Nazi concentration camps in order to more directly combat the genocide taking place in those camps. As a U.S. Senator in 1978, he was one of the very few U.S. politicians who advocated intervention in Cambodia in order to stop the genocide taking place there. McGovern asked in response to that genocide, “Do we sit on the sidelines and watch a population slaughtered or do we marshal military force and put an end to it?” And he also supported our involvement to stop genocide in Kosovo in 1998 and in Darfur.

But when it came to immoral imperialist wars his opposition was fierce. He was one of three or four U.S. Senators who opposed U.S. involvement in the early years of the Vietnam War, as manifested by the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment (defeated by 55-39), which required the complete withdrawal of American forces over a period of several months. In pushing for his amendment to end the war, McGovern was not afraid to point fingers at his Senate colleagues (Democratic as well as Republican): Rick Perlstein, in his book “Nixonland”, describes following the scene:

Opposing senators had spoken of the necessity of resolve in the face of adversity, of national honor, of staying the course, of glory, of courage. McGovern responded:

“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending fifty thousand young Americans to an early grave. This chamber reeks of blood.” (Senators averted their eyes or stared at there desks or drew their faces taut with fury; this was not senatorial decorum.) “Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage… young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or face, or hopes… Do not talk about national honor, or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible…”

McGovern succinctly summed up the lesson that we should have learned from Vietnam (and Iraq) when he said "We seem bent on saving the Vietnamese from Ho Chi Minh even if we have to kill them and demolish their country to do it". And he said about his opposition to the Vietnam War, while alluding to the Iraq War:

I frankly don't understand the interpretation that once you get into a war you can't ever pull out until you've won it. We need more politicians in this country who are willing to say, "I made a mistake. Let's correct it as soon as possible."

In April 2003 he wrote in response to knee jerk Republican claims that Democrats “don’t support our troops” every time Democrats criticize a war:

I believed then as I do now that the best way to support our troops is to avoid sending them on mistaken military campaigns that needlessly endanger their lives and limbs. That is what went on in Vietnam for nearly thirty years….During the long years of my opposition to that war, including a Presidential campaign dedicated to ending the American involvement, I said in a moment of disgust: “I’m sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars in which young men do the dying.” That terrible American blunder, in which 58,000 of our bravest young men died, and many times that number were crippled physically or psychologically, also cost the lives of some 2 million Vietnamese as well as a similar number of Cambodians and Laotians…I had thought after that horrible tragedy – sold to the American people by our policy-makers as a mission of freedom and mercy – that we never again would carry out a needless, ill-conceived invasion of another country that has done us no harm and posed no threat to our security. I was wrong in that assumption.


Dedication to our most vulnerable fellow citizens

A recent editorial in The Nation summarized George McGovern’s life:

McGovern stood with the underdogs, the hungry and the poor. He led the effort for a school meals program that has provided food for millions of children globally since 2000. In 2002, he asked:

Instead of adding $48 billion to the Pentagon budget, as the President has proposed, wouldn’t we make the world a more stable, secure place if we invested half that sum in reducing poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease in the world? …

McGovern understood that our great nation was born of revolution – dedicated to human rights and dignity for all. He understood that the United States should rightfully be a champion for the vulnerable and a leader in ending hunger, illiteracy and poverty. And he was delightfully scathing in his astute observations about how too many politicians invoke faith and moral values when they violate them on a daily basis.

As we near the end of an election season that has (almost entirely) failed to speak to the poor and the vulnerable among us and has too often presented our role in the world in militarized terms, may we honor McGovern’s commitments by ensuring that what is missing is raised, and what matters is pursued in the critical times ahead.

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Arrow 24 replies Author Time Post
Reply Remembering George McGovern (Original post)
Time for change Oct 2012 OP
Horse with no Name Oct 2012 #1
n2doc Oct 2012 #2
Time for change Oct 2012 #7
sabrina 1 Oct 2012 #3
Time for change Oct 2012 #9
sabrina 1 Oct 2012 #23
fiorello Oct 2012 #4
MrYikes Oct 2012 #5
dreamnightwind Oct 2012 #6
chieftain Oct 2012 #8
Kurovski Oct 2012 #10
Time for change Oct 2012 #16
ProudProgressiveNow Oct 2012 #11
DemReadingDU Oct 2012 #12
Time for change Oct 2012 #19
Douglas Carpenter Oct 2012 #13
Octafish Oct 2012 #14
Time for change Oct 2012 #17
sabrina 1 Oct 2012 #21
rbrnmw Oct 2012 #15
Time for change Oct 2012 #20
jwirr Oct 2012 #18
Time for change Oct 2012 #24
Tierra_y_Libertad Oct 2012 #22

Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:33 PM

1. Very nice.

We always hear it asked, why don't the good ones run for President? Why are we stuck with the republican and republican lite?

The answer is, we have had very good men in our arsenal.

Either we, as Liberals, Democrats or Progressives, didn't support them enough or we stood by and watched them be attacked mercilessly by the dark forces who want to control this country.

RIP Senator McGovern!

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Response to Horse with no Name (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:37 PM

2. Exactly. Some very good people have run



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Response to Horse with no Name (Reply #1)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 08:57 PM

7. Thank you -- And many dark forces there are

It's so difficult to break through against those who own our communications media.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:39 PM

3. I've come to the conclusion that the US has regressed regarding the vision and ideals

it claims to always be working towards.

There is a visceral hatred for anyone advocating for the poor, the elderly and disabled, for children and the sick, in this country that is imho, pathological.

People like McGovern and Kucinich are emotionally and intellectually and physically, very strong people. Those who oppose them if you notice, are generally weak, cowards who are filled with fear.

America is not yet ready for leaders like McGovern, we are in the throes of being ruled by a Corporate state with no meaningful resistance to the daily destruction of what we like to claim to be, but are not.

Maybe this period is necessary before there is a huge rising up against the current policies that have lost the US its moral authority and respect around the world, weakening it as a nation.

Signs of an awakening are beginning to surface, but it took a long time to get to where we are, and it will probably take a long time to get to where we ought to be.

McGovern was either here too soon, or too late. He would have been very in tune with those who wrote the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I wish he had been president, but that was probably never possible in the current climate.

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Response to sabrina 1 (Reply #3)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 11:52 PM

9. I fully agree that it's pathological the way that hatred is shown in this country towards those who

advocate for the poor and the vulnerable.

I think that much of that comes from the 1%, who fear that anything given to the poor and the vulnerable will make them less wealthy and powerful. Much of the rest of it comes from those who acquiesce to the propaganda thrown out by the 1% to ridicule those like George McGovern, Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, etc.

Isn't it interesting that those who castigate those like George McGovern are generally the ones who most profess to be followers of Jesus?

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Response to Time for change (Reply #9)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 01:50 PM

23. Yes, it's definitely a class issue. The 1% has created a 'royal' class

which views the masses as inferior rather than as equals in a country where anyone was supposed to be able to 'make it'. Unlike the kind of society where royalty rules and remains unthreatened in their positions, by the teeming masses. All that is missing are the crowns and other paraphernalia that made the ruling class more obvious in the past.

I don't think they have yet completely succeeded in returning to those days, but we are on the way.

It's nothing new really, the ruling classes always feared the people and kept them down, uneducated, illiterate and poor in order to control them.

But this country was based on a new idea where anyone with the ability to do so, could attain success and class would not be an impediment. I think the 1% were never comfortable with that possibility.

Therefore it is up to the people to support leaders like McGovern, when they come along. But for some reason they do not.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:42 PM

4. Come home, America!

Still among the most moving lines - from McGovern's acceptance speech in 1972:

-----------
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America

From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.

From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism;
from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor;
from the prejudice based on race and sex;
from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick -- come home, America.

Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.

Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming,

for this “is your land, this land is my land -- from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters -- this land was made for you and me.”
-------------

http://www.thenation.com/blog/170674/genius-mcgoverns-come-home-america-vision#

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 02:48 PM

5. Thank you for this.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 04:05 PM

6. K & R

A good man, sad that this country wasn't wise enough to elect him.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Wed Oct 24, 2012, 09:47 PM

8. K&R

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 03:57 AM

10. K&R

You always put together thoughtful, informative posts, Time for Change. You have done so for years.

I appreciate the effort and care you put into them. Thank you.

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Response to Kurovski (Reply #10)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 09:48 AM

16. Thank you so much

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 04:19 AM

11. Great man. My first vote. Nt

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 06:44 AM

12. Very nice, thank you

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Response to DemReadingDU (Reply #12)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 12:41 PM

19. Thank you

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 07:14 AM

13. Above all, being a Democrat means having compassion for others. ... It means standing up for people.

who have been kept down ..." - George McGovern

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 08:43 AM

14. A real Democrat.

A heroic man in every way, he believed all life is precious and all people are equal.

In a radio interview discussing an autobiography, I heard him recall a mission over Germany during World War 2. A 500-pound bomb had not released over the target during the bombing run and they needed to get rid of it in order to land safely. The crew managed to get it to drop over the Austrian countryside. McGovern watched it fall and, as fate would have it, drop directly into the only house in site, completely destroying the structure. For years after the war McGovern wondered about the poor farmer and his family who would have been inside the home around their lunch hour. He was a farmer and understood the routine. Many decades later, he was invited to speak in Germany and related the story. A retired farmer later contacted McGovern and told him that was his home. The family had been home, but heard the aircraft and had taken shelter outside the home. They all survived. McGovern's voice trembled with happiness relating his news.

Speaking of the bombing Auschwitz and the other death camps, one American in authority stood in opposition, John J McCloy. Where it counts most, the guy epitomized all that McGovern wasn't.

Thank you for another outstanding post, Time for change. People who read your stuff do change -- into smarter and better people.


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Response to Octafish (Reply #14)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 10:50 AM

17. Very moving and interesting story about the bombing of the farmer's house -- I'd never heard it

And thank you so much for what you said about people who read my posts. There are few greater compliments. Your posts also have helped to open my and others' eyes about things.

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Response to Octafish (Reply #14)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 01:22 PM

21. That's a beautiful story. I am so glad he received that information

during his lifetime. But it shows he was a man of conscience and that is so rare among our elected officials these days. And among the population who rarely if ever seem to wonder what our WMDs are doing to innocent people around the world. Empathy seems to be in short supply in today's America. But to be fair that is probably because our media goes to great pains never to talk about the destruction to innocent lives caused by our horrific WMDs.

Imo, to begin to become the kind of country envisioned by people like McGovern we will first need a truly free press. How to do that is a big question.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 08:51 AM

15. he was a liberal and proud of it

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Response to rbrnmw (Reply #15)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 01:22 PM

20. Damn right!

If we had more Democrats who would stand up and be proud of being a liberal, I think our Party would have a lot more success.

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 11:51 AM

18. Well done.

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Response to jwirr (Reply #18)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 05:28 PM

24. Thanks

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Response to Time for change (Original post)

Thu Oct 25, 2012, 01:33 PM

22. Voting for McGovern was one of the few votes that didn't do injury to my nose.

Even though I supported Shirley Chisholm in the primaries.

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