Monday, October 22, 2012

A War Hero Wrongly Tarred with a Reputation for Weak Foreign Policy

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 South Dakota 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.

Senator McGovern, having seen the horror of war realized early on that the U. S. 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 District of Columbia, for 17 electoral votes. Nixon won 520 electoral votes.

At the 1973 Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, 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.

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. 

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