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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

George McGovern: 1922–2012

It is with heavy hearts this morn­ing that we say farewell to one of the most prin­ci­pled and com­mit­ted pro­gres­sive lead­ers of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. George McGov­ern, who served the Unit­ed States in the U.S. Sen­ate for many years and nobly chal­lenged scoundrel Richard Nixon for the pres­i­den­cy in 1972, has died at the age of nine­ty. His pass­ing was not unex­pect­ed; his fam­i­ly announced just a few days ago that he had been placed in hos­pice care due to declin­ing health.

At approx­i­mate­ly 5:13 AM Cen­tral Time this morn­ing, after hav­ing been uncon­scious for sev­er­al days, McGov­ern’s life came to an end.

“We are blessed to know that our father lived a long, suc­cess­ful and pro­duc­tive life advo­cat­ing for the hun­gry, being a pro­gres­sive voice for mil­lions and fight­ing for peace. He con­tin­ued giv­ing speech­es, writ­ing and advis­ing all the way up to and past his 90th birth­day, which he cel­e­brat­ed this sum­mer,” McGov­ern’s chil­dren said in a state­ment released through spokesman Steve Hildebrand.

Con­do­lences and trib­utes flowed in almost immediately.

“George McGov­ern ded­i­cat­ed his life to serv­ing the coun­try he loved,” said Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. “He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a dec­o­rat­ed bomber pilot over the bat­tle­fields of Europe.  When the peo­ple of South Dako­ta sent him to Wash­ing­ton, this hero of war became a cham­pi­on for peace. And after his career in Con­gress, he became a lead­ing voice in the fight against hunger. George was a states­man of great con­science and con­vic­tion, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family. ”

“Jill and I are pro­found­ly sad­dened to hear about George McGovern’s pass­ing. I was hon­ored to serve with him, to know him, and to call him a friend,” added Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden. “George believed deeply in pub­lic ser­vice. It defined him as a Sen­a­tor and as a man. And he nev­er stopped serv­ing for his entire life – whether it was his courage in World War II, his time in Con­gress, or his fight to elim­i­nate hunger at home and abroad.”

“Above all, George McGov­ern was a gen­er­ous, kind, hon­or­able man. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his fam­i­ly today.”

Bill and Hillary Clin­ton, who orga­nized Texas for McGov­ern in 1972, released a joint state­ment cel­e­brat­ing his life.

“We first met George while cam­paign­ing for him in 1972. Our friend­ship endured for forty years. As a war hero, dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor, con­gress­man, sen­a­tor and ambas­sador, George always worked to advance the com­mon good and help oth­ers real­ize their poten­tial,” they said.

House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Nan­cy Pelosi remem­bered McGov­ern (who served as JFK’s Food for Peace direc­tor) as a tire­less cham­pi­on for the hungry.

“George McGov­ern once said that after he had passed away, he want­ed peo­ple to say, ‘He did the best he could to end hunger in this coun­try and the world.’  Indeed, he did,” Pelosi said. “He was a human­i­tar­i­an with a tac­ti­cal touch, and he saved the lives of many at home and abroad.”

Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Har­ry Reid hailed McGov­ern as a great patriot.

“Sen­a­tor McGov­ern put prin­ci­ple over pol­i­tics and stood up for what he believed in. He lived his val­ues, ded­i­cat­ing his life to fight­ing the scourge of pover­ty here at home and around the world. The forces of social jus­tice lost a great fight­er today, and Sen­a­tor McGov­ern will be sore­ly missed,” Reid said.

Many Repub­li­cans also spoke high­ly of McGov­ern. John McCain remem­bered McGov­ern as “a gen­tle­man”, while the daugh­ters of Dwight Eisen­how­er and Richard Nixon released a state­ment prais­ing McGov­ern’s pub­lic ser­vice. And on CNN’s State of the Union, Newt Gin­grich told host Can­dy Crow­ley that McGov­ern was “a great guy.

CANDY CROWLEY: Tomor­row night’s debate, the last before the elec­tion will focus sole­ly on for­eign pol­i­cy. It is cer­tain to include the spe­cif­ic, includ­ing the who knew what, when ques­tion sur­round­ing the mur­ders of four Amer­i­cans at the U.S. Con­sulate in Beng­hazi to the big pic­ture debate over Amer­i­ca’s role in the glob­al vil­lage. Join­ing me now for a pre­view debate, for­mer U.S. Ambas­sador to the U.N. Bill Richard­son and for­mer Speak­er of House Newt Gingrich.

I want to get to that but I first want to get just your remem­brances of Sen­a­tor George McGov­ern who died today at the age of 90 because in — in some ways he played a piv­otal role as a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Can­di­date in 1972 in the midst of a war.

BILL RICHARDSON: He was a great states­man. I knew him quite well and I’m very sad­dened. I think he’ll be remem­bered, obvi­ous­ly for his stance on the war in Viet­nam, for his bomber mis­sions. But also, for his con­tri­bu­tions on agri­cul­ture, on hunger.

And then the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, he trans­formed the Par­ty, the pri­ma­ry sys­tem, get­ting minori­ties involved. He was a gigan­tic fig­ure and a classy god, good guy.

CANDY CROWLEY: You prob­a­bly had absolute­ly noth­ing in com­mon with Sen­a­tor McGov­ern politically.

NEWT GINGRICH: No, George — George actu­al­ly was a very com­pli­cat­ed per­son. He had served as a bomber pilot in World War II, he was not a paci­fist and his argu­ment over Viet­nam was about that par­tic­u­lar war.

He was a cit­i­zen; I remem­ber being with him at the U.S. Embassy in Rome for din­ner one night and talk­ing about he and Gold­wa­ter, I mean, he said, one of the nice things about los­ing bad­ly enough is you don’t have lots of regrets about what one thing might you have changed.

And he had a very good sense of humor and he was a very down to earth guy who, lat­er on in life, ran a small busi­ness, a bed and break­fast and wrote a great arti­cle on all the prob­lems we had heaped up on small busi­ness through the reg­u­la­tions he had sponsored.

Just a great guy.

Dur­ing his life, McGov­ern served as U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, U.S. Sen­a­tor, and Unit­ed States Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations Agen­cies for Food and Agri­cul­ture. He nev­er lost his sense of humor, despite los­ing cam­paigns in 1960 (for U.S. Sen­ate), 1972 (for the pres­i­den­cy), and 1980 (for reelec­tion to the U.S. Senate).

He nev­er remained silent when he thought he could lend his voice to an impor­tant cause. He had a sharp mind and the abil­i­ty to think long-term, which is some­thing we at NPI val­ue very highly.

On Sep­tem­ber 1st, 1970, McGov­ern deliv­ered a  speech against the unde­clared war in Viet­nam, which he opposed. He said:

There are not very many of these blast­ed and bro­ken boys who think this war is a glo­ri­ous adven­ture. Do not talk to them about bug­ging out, or nation­al hon­or or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a con­gress­man, or a 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 for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our piti­ful will­ing­ness to let the Exec­u­tive car­ry the bur­den that the Con­sti­tu­tion places on us.

Sev­er­al decades lat­er on Feb­ru­ary 13th, 2003 (Per­ma­nent Defense’s one-year anniver­sary), McGov­ern spoke to CNN’s Judy Woodruff, explain­ing why he was urg­ing George W. Bush not to launch an inva­sion of Iraq. He said:

You know, I think most peo­ple would agree that had it not been for that 911 attack, we would­n’t even be here talk­ing about Sad­dam Hus­sein. The irony of that is that he had noth­ing to do with that attack. Iraq had noth­ing to do with it. This was Osama bin Laden’s work. He was the mas­ter­mind. He planned it — and his al Qae­da net­work, that lit­tle band of desert rad­i­cal young men that he’s assembled.

So I don’t see the con­nect between that and this march to war in Iraq. I dis­agree with the pres­i­dent. I don’t think Iraq is a threat to the most mighty mil­i­tary pow­er in the his­to­ry of the world.

McGov­ern added:

I want to make one thing clear: I don’t enjoy crit­i­ciz­ing the poli­cies of my gov­ern­ment. I love this coun­try more than life itself. And that’s why I came here today, as I have oth­er places: to try to plead with our lead­ers to not drop an Amer­i­can army into that Mid­dle East tin­der­box. The con­se­quences of that are almost beyond imagination.

I remem­ber after Win­ston Churchill tried to talk our lead­ers out of going into Viet­nam, we said we have infor­ma­tion that the Com­mu­nists are doing this and doing that. He said, “The only thing cer­tain about a war is that noth­ing is cer­tain about a war.” I trem­ble at the con­se­quences of putting an Amer­i­can army into that area. I think it’s going to inflame the whole Arab world, and doubt­less many oth­er coun­tries. And that’s what we don’t need right now.

Empha­sis is mine.

McGov­ern’s words were pre­scient then and sober­ing now. He saw the con­se­quences of going into Iraq, and spoke out against the inva­sion loud­ly before it hap­pened. And after­wards, as the occu­pa­tion dragged on and the con­flict con­sumed more lives and more mon­ey, he went before Con­gress to press for a with­draw­al of Amer­i­can forces. Along with his com­mit­ment to feed­ing the hun­gry, it is his exem­plary advo­ca­cy against cost­ly wars that we will remem­ber him for.

Rest in peace, Sen­a­tor McGov­ern. Your voice and wis­dom will be great­ly missed.

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One Comment

  1. That McGov­ern was opposed by Repub­li­cans was to be exprect, what was sad is that he was nev­er accept­ed by most rank and file Democ­rats, many who crossed over to vote for Richard Nixon, whom they dispised. He rep­re­sent­ed a new wing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty. Many of the wounds that exist­ed with­in the par­ty were tem­porar­i­ly healed with the nom­i­na­tion and elec­tion of Jim­my Carter, but when Carter’s admin­is­tra­tion was deemed a fail­ure by many, the ban­dages came off and many of the rank and file joined the so called Rea­gan Democ­rats were switched par­ties all together.

    # by Mike Barer :: October 22nd, 2012 at 2:55 PM
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