True war heroes make very little of what they did and the heroism they displayed. George H. W. Bush was one of those, and George McGovern was another.
Sen. McGovern, a minister’s son, was raised in a
farm community during the Depression and was a
decorated bomber pilot in World War II. Both experiences — seeing people asking
for food at his family’s doorstep and witnessing emaciated child beggars in
wartime Italy — molded his political career from the moment he was elected to
Congress in 1956. South
Senator McGovern, having seen the horror of war realized early on that the
war in Vietnam
was a horrible mistake. Ultimately he
ran for and was nominated for President, but after a disastrous campaign he was
defeated by Richard Nixon.
The McGovern-Shriver ticket received only 38 percent of the popular vote, carrying just
Massachusetts and the ,
for 17 electoral votes. Nixon won 520 electoral votes. District of Columbia
At the 1973 Gridiron Club dinner in
Sen. McGovern was able to joke, “Ever since I was a young man I wanted to run
for the presidency in the worst possible way — and I did.” But the defeat hurt
for a long time. Washington
That McGovern had been a WWII hero was never brought into the campaign. He lost the traditional blue collar Democratic vote. Nixon of course was later forced to resign the office after it became clear he would be impeached and removed for committing crimes.
But Nixon and later President Ford ultimately were forced to recognize reality, and they ended the war in
Vietnam, but only after massive U. S.
casualties, deaths that would have been avoided has Mr. McGovern been
elected. So the outcome as far as the war
was concerned was unaffected by the election, only the amount of death and
destruction was greater under the Nixon.
Senator McGovern carried defeat with grace and dignity, even though it was painful.
Twelve years later, after Walter F. Mondale, a former Democratic senator from Minnesota and vice president under Jimmy Carter, was beaten by incumbent Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election, he asked Sen. McGovern how long it would take to get over the pain of losing in a landslide.
“I'll let you know when I get there,” Sen. McGovern said.
Senator McGovern died at the age of 90.