tv The Contenders CSPAN August 13, 2016 8:00pm-10:04pm EDT
museum in mitchell, south dakota. this is american history tv, only on c-span 3. >> in 1968, many americans thought they were voting to bring our sons home from vietnam in peace. and since then, 20,000 of our sons have come home in coffins. i have no secret plan for peace. i have a public plan, and as one whose heart has eight for the past eight years over the agony of vietnam, i will halt the senseless bombing of indochina on inaugural day. >> it was 1972, 2:30 in the morning when george mcgovern delivered his acceptance speech. a few months later, he would lose badly to president richard
nixon. tonight, the candidacy and legacy of george mcgovern. we are live from the mcgovern museum in mitchell, south dakota. joining us from there is presidential author scott farris. it was 2:30 when he delivered the acceptance speech in miami. why? scott: thank you, greta. i think it was because of the structure of the mcgovern campaign. he was running against the establishment. so it occurred to senator mcgovern, he was very, very strong on the issue of vietnam. one of the things that has drawn me to writing about senator as one of the most influential who ran for the presidency who was not successful, he went after the vietnam issue. he spoke about that war in ways no presidential candidate had ever spoken about war before. it was language as you heard -- that was mild compared to what i have heard it was strong
, language that unsettled lots of americans and caused them to worry about how he would win the war. it was an insurgent campaign to end the war against the established democrats. there was a lot of conflict there that eventually lead over into the convention. there were some floor fights, there were some issues with the california delegation. there were issues with who he would select for his vice presidential running mate. the convention got out of hand. when it was time to discuss his nomination, it was 2:30 in the morning. instead of speaking before sending 75 million americans, he only spoke to about 15 million americans in the wee hours of the morning. and people felt asleep in front of the tv set. greta: we are going to do a deep dive into the 1972 campaign and the convention. joining us here from our studios in washington is jules witcover, a veteran political reporter,
columnist who covered the mcgovern campaign for the los angeles times. featured prominently in the book "the boys on the bus" about the media campaign, or the media coverage of that campaign. so what is the atmosphere at the convention in 1972? >> exhaustion. greta: >> exhaustion. [laughter] jules: mcgovern gave the speech so late because flights continued to go on over various issues on the platform including the war in vietnam even though the platform had been adopted. it actually played out the next morning when the staff met to choose a vice president or to decide who should be cast to be vice president. it was done in a very hurried
the pointling way to that -- i am sure we will get to it in this discussion -- led to probably the most disastrous part of the mcgovern campaign, which was the selection of the vice presidential nominee who did not stand up. greta: in the convention hall that night, are the people with him? are they still there? it is 2:30 in the morning. jules: oh yes. the mcgovern followers at the convention, many had never been to a convention before. new delegates, they were importantly initiated by mcgovern himself on the commission. you had a lot of people there had never been to any convention, had never been much involved with politics before then. it was a great experience for them. at any convention, staying up until 2:00 in the morning is
not unusual anyway. but what was unusual is that mcgovern gave that very important speech so early in the morning. greta: we will talk about that the reforms led to those people at the convention. but scott let's go back to the mcgovern museum in mitchell, , south dakota. what is happening in our country at this time that leads to the triumph of an anti-war candidate to win the nomination for the democratic party? scott: the great political legacy of george mcgovern changed the complexion of the modern democratic party. before mcgovern, the democrats had built the "new deal coalition," an amalgam of urban catholics and jews and organized labor. but by 1968, 1972 because of , divisions that were exposed by the division over vietnam, senator mcgovern was one of those in the democratic party
who thought the party badly needed to reform or else it was going to die. centerthe party moving white populist, they were now becoming center white republicans over the issue of sense -- civil rights. they saw the moving out to the suburbs and saw that organized labor was shrinking again influence and size. he looked over the political landscape and saw opportunities for growth by reaching out for minority groups that had been ignored by both parties. reaching out to hispanic americans. reaching out to women who had strongly voted on the republican side seat. reaching out to the youth vote. 1972, because of the 26 amendment, with the first time 18-year-olds could vote in the united states. he put together the "new politics coalition" to create this ruling democratic majority. so coming out the 1968 convention, as jules' book covered he chaired a commission , on reform, changing the
delegate selection process heavily. he was very pro-active in bringing women and minorities into the party. the winners are also losers. organized labor resented that their influence was going to diminish. it was a very wild ride because of the reforms mcgovern was able to put through the party. he had the advantage of an insurgent, upsetting the preferred serviceman candidate, sandusky, who had been humphreys running mate in 1968. that caught him off guard. as this built up, it caused a lot of tension. it was a very tumultuous year for the democratic party in 1972, even as the republicans were solidifying around richard nixon. and probably the high point of the nixon presidency was 1972 when he went to china among other things. greta: we will talk more about that later on in the program. part of senator mcgovern's acceptance speech on that night
in 1972 was about reforming the democratic party. he also takes aim at the republican party and what they are doing at their convention, which is being held shortly after the democrats, also in miami. take a look. george mcgovern: we have had our fury and frustrations in this past month and at this convention. but frankly i welcome the , contrast with the smug and dole and empty events which will undoubtedly take place in miami here next month. [applause] george mcgovern: we chose the struggle. we reformed our party. and we let the people in. [applause] george mcgovern: and so we stand today not as a collection of , backroom strategists, not as a tool of itt or any other special interest. [applause]
greta: scott farris, george mcgovern in 1972 saying "we let the people in." take us back to the 1968 convention when hubert humphrey gets the nomination. draw a clear connection for our viewers between the 1968 convention and mcgovern winning then in 1972. tott: let's go back even 1967, because this is when the anti-war movement is starting to pick up steam. they are very frustrated that president johnson is continuing to lead military victory in vietnam. so they start shopping for an alternative johnson. some people challenged johnson in the primaries, which is really unprecedented. when you think about prior to 1968 when a party tried to challenge a sitting president of its own members was 1912, when you had the former president, theodore roosevelt,
challenging even a former president could not knock off a sitting president for the nomination. they wanted to deescalate vietnam. they approached a number of people before senator mcgovern, and he declined. senator mccarthy of minnesota decided to run as an anti-war candidate. when he entered the new hampshire primary in 1968, he surprised the political world by having a very strong showing against johnson. he did not win, but he got enough of the votes that it made johnson aware he would have a tough time getting the renomination. in the meantime, senator robert kennedy, president kennedy's brother, also entered the presidential contest. they were both going after it, and at that point, vice president humphrey still supported the war policies of the vice president johnson. outragedain, -- what
senator kennedy -- senator kennedy of course was assassinated in june. that left only senator mccarthy to be the insurgent candidate. senator kennedy's followers urged senator mcgovern to enter basically as a token candidate at the end. there is a lot of bad blood between the kennedy and mccarthy caps. mcgovern did run a token presidency. ultimately, the nomination went to hubert humphrey, which infuriated the anti-war movement. not only has senator humphrey won a single primary, he did not enter a single primary. the democratic party was still being run by the big city political bosses, by the political machines, and they wanted to have the process more underrepresented constituencies like women, like minorities, like the young brought into the process. , they wanted the process opened up so it was not in secret caucuses in people's homes, but widely advertised so anybody could participate.
the disillusion with however -- hubert humphrey was selected in 1968 put pressure on the democratic party to reform. in trying to appease the insurgents, humphrey suggested reforms to the party. we will talk more about that. but that was the background. it was really the humphrey nomination that outraged the reformers and caused them to demand fundamental change. greta: what is the mood like at the 1960 eight convention? happening jules: inside and outside the hall jules:? -- jules: it was a much more tumultuous convention than the 1972 convention because the party itself was so divided over the war and personalities. that is the year in which there were riots in the streets of chicago the police department , repressed them to the point that it was called a police riot.
there was a big fight over a vietnam plank that the antiwar forces lost but generated tremendous heat. and it continued through the convention. even after the nomination of humphrey, i remember humphrey was a very sad human even in his own celebratory moment. he knew what was going on out in the street, and out on the floor of the convention. ofre was so much criticism him and of continuing the war. experience, the most destructive, but also the most exciting convention in my time. greta: yeah, and compare how humphrey was chosen at the -- as the nominee in 1968 to
four years yet -- four years later the way mcgovern is chosen. jules: a lot of it had to do with reform rules. delegates were selected by appointment of party bosses, governors. if you were a party official, you got a free ticket to the 1968 convention by nature of your influence or your official position as an office holder or as a party holder or office holder. in 1972, those people who wanted to get to the convention had to actually run as delegates supporting one of the primary , candidates. a lot of them picked the wrong horse in nation 72 because they supported ed muskie, the establishment candidate, and he had all of those officeholders pulling for him. but when his campaign dissing
granted -- disintegrated, they were all left out of the convention hall. so many new people had never been to a convention before, they filled the seats of the high and mighty who went to the convention in 1968. greta: jules witcover, covering the 1968 and 1972 conventions for the los angeles times. here as part of our contenders series in washington to help us uncover george mcgovern, our 13th contender in our 14 week series. back at the mcgovern museum as -- is scott farris, presidential author. he wrote about mcgovern's campaign in 1972. they will take your questions and your comments tonight. we will get to your phone calls and a little bit. eastern central time, if you live in that area 202-737-0001. , mountain-pacific time call 202- 737-0002. farris, let me go back to the reforms that were headed by
george mcgovern. how did he get involved in the mcgovern-fraser commission? scott: despite all the chaos, humphrey closed the gap on nixon toward the end of 1968. it was a very close campaign. so you have the regulars thinking, we came close, there was agitation, we were fine. the insurgents said this was the last gasp of a dying political machine. humphrey was anxious to try to unite the party. he decided to throw a bone to the insurgents by appointing a commission on delegate selection reform. as they look to figure out who was the proper guide for the chair, they needed to look for several qualifications. one, did they have credibility with the insurgents? had a picture regulars, it would have been viewed as a sham, but they also wanted somebody who was loyal to the party, who would make it worth it for the regulars. mcgovern and some other folks like mccarthy -- mcgovern had
actively campaigned for humphrey. he was always a loyal democrat and never broke from the party. the third thing they were looking for is they were worried that the people would look at this as a way to manipulate the process to ensure the nomination. everyone was so sure george mcgovern would not be a viable candidate in 1972, he seemed like the obvious choice because he could not manipulate the system to benefit his candidacy because his candidacy was such a long shot and not even worth discussing. he was appointed to the commission to be the chair. there were about two dozen members. people say, how were they able to push these reforms through? they -- the way they were able to do that the people who would , most likely be opposed to reform, particularly organized boycotted the entire process. the commission was dominated by those who intended to open up the process while the old regulars did not think it was worth bothering with. they did not think anything would come of it. greta: so what did they say? scott: the most significant --
states used primaries as opposed to caucuses to choose their convention delegates. then if you did have a caucus, you are required to make it open and well-publicized and publicly available. times,overn a lot of previously if you were a party official, you automatically had a chance to be a delegate. a lot of time those party delegates would name others. sometimes it was named before that year of the convention. they try to open up the process to make it more voter responsive. they also try to do away with the winner-take-all format of primaries and the tip proportional to give insurgent candidates a better chance to build steam and overtake an establishment candidate in the long run. most controversially, i suppose, is they decided on instead of a passive approach of no
discrimination against anybody who would like to be a delegate, they adopted a very proactive -- the delegation had to reflect the makeup of the state's party by gender, ethnicity, race, age. get more trying to women, or minorities, and more youth into the process. and for mcgovern, they said the party should civilly strive for reasonable proportion, reasonable representation of those groups. after he left and a different chair took over, they adopted a significant quota that the be halftation should female and minorities that are equal to the state's population. that was the basic just of reforms by the commission. greta: scott farris, do those reforms stick today? scott: they very much do. they were derided by conservatives and republicans as a quota system, that democrats
were taking this quota and adding it as an affirmative action program. alternately, but parties have adopted these reforms. primaries are now preferred over caucuses. if they are caucuses, they are widely publicized. and they reach out to republican -- minority voters. if you go to a republican convention, 50% of the delegates are going to be female. that was a radical idea back in 1968. let me give you a couple of quick numbers to give you a sense of how things change. in 1968, only 13% of the democratic delegates were women. in 1972, 40% were women. in 1972, 12% to 13% were african-american. there was a change in what the party looks like, and it was very dramatic. greta: and so scott farris, the , impact today is there a , long-term impact? we are heading into the 2012 presidential election with the iowa caucus coming up soon.
scott: indeed. i think it is very harmonic. reforms help the nonestablishment candidates get a foothold. it is an open process for if you have good ground and a lot of dedicated volunteers who will show up at caucuses and particularly primaries, you can overcome disadvantages in terms of endorsement and money. as republicans have followed -- it doesn't look like president obama will get a challenger in the 2012 process. but this is the first year republicans will have no winner take all primaries. so to quote an insurgent candidate as newt gingrich is filling that role this year, is to get a leg up over the establishment candidate which mitt romney has been fulfilling that role. the irony is newt gingrich is benefiting from reforms first initiated by george mcgovern back in 1972. these reforms have broaden -- are broadening participation, not just the democrats. greta: gary hart was george
mcgovern's 1972 campaign manager. here is what he had to say about the senator's democratic primary reform efforts. [video clip] >> i think history will show that he helped save the democratic party simply by chairing the mcgovern reform commission. but by his insistence on the democratic party once again truly becoming a democratic party. because of his efforts and the efforts of many of you, the convention in 1972, as interesting, shall we say, as it was -- [laughter] >> helped save the democratic party and helped open the doors for young people, for women, for minorities, and for people who until that time had been shut
out. it is fashionable for people to say there is not much difference between the parties, but there really is. there is a necessity for a democratic party and the kind of democratic party george mcgovern envisioned and helped create. jules witcover, what is your reaction to hearing him talk about the reforms? jules: mcgovern's role was a critical role. i go back to before 1968. i can remember in 1960 when john kennedy was running. he and his aide, and speech writer ted sorensen recently passed away. just the two of them would get on an airplane and fly around and visit governors and mayors who were so empowered, but you -- that you could pick up the nomination that way. retail not with the people but with the officials and the
politicians. greta: and so jules witcover, , with you covering these conventions what was it like to , see these new faces in 1972 and going forward? jules: it was exciting, because the people were into it. the same ones had been going to 20 or 30 conventions over their lifetime. they had their hands on the levers and they knew it was going to happen. there was a level of uncertainty that was injected by these new people, not only in voting for the nominee, but in the platform committee hearings, credential committee hearings and someone that preceded the actual selection of the provincial nominee. greta: scott farris, let me ask you about the short-term impact of these reforms. let's go to the general election real briefly if we could in 1972. the reforms that he puts in place, do they actually benefit him though when it comes to
voter turnout to beat richard nixon? scott: it helped him to get the nomination. he understood because he chaired the reform commission and had several staffers working on his campaign, he understood the process. i do not think he tried to manipulate it to his own benefit. he always try to be open and fair about it. he understood that something had fundamentally changed in the process, and was able to take advantage of it in terms of winning the nomination. some of the others were playing with the old rules and were caught offguard. his constituency still have not matured. senator mcgovern only got 37.5% of the popular vote in the general election. it just showed that democrats had not yet won over women. they had not yet reached, gotten used to vote -- youth vote the way they have today. if you look at today's democratic party, it has had a lasting impact. if you look at the coalition that mcgovern put together in
1972, women, minorities, the young highly educated voters. , that is the coalition that gave barack obama the presidency in 2008. just as the barry goldwater candidacy that led to the ronald reagan presidency in 1980. i think you can give george mcgovern quite a bit of credit for the barack obama currency in -- presidency in 2008. it was going to become a governing majority, but the constituency just wasn't ready in 1972. greta: tonight's contenders, george mcgovern, the congressman and senator from south dakota, and the democratic nominee party president in 1972. our first call is from mike in poughkeepsie, new york. >> hello. mcgovern became the head of the middle east policy council after deciding not to run for presidency again in 1992. with it, he submitted as a postal -- proposal to president clinton calling on the united
to protect access to middle east oil. did president clinton accept the proposal? if so, what happened as it -- as evidence of it? greta: scott farris and jules witcover all are here shaking their heads. they don't know how to answer that right. scott farris, his legacy? scott: he certainly was very interested in middle east affairs. he was involved with yasser arafat. he was always try to help broker a peace agreement. president clinton did not accept that early on. of course, president clinton at the end of his presidency made a herculean effort to try to make that happen. but senator mcgovern got quite a bit of grief for treatment of the middle east. he was a very strong supporter of israel but also was very outspoken in american politics in terms of palestinian rights. greta: we are going to be talking more about mcgovern's post 1972 convention life, his legacy, and efforts across the
world, specifically on hundred. specific -- specifically on hunger. first, let's hear from borden in pr he, illinois. illinois. caller: voted for mcgovern as a -- caller: i was a college student and voted for mcgovern as a 20-year- old. later on, hearing the things of the nixon groups and their dirty tricks, i saw a program where someone claimed that they chose mcgovern as the weakest link and for their dirty tricks, made it easier for mcgovern to get the nomination. greta: jules witcover, do you want to weigh in on that? jules: it is certainly true that in the 1972 campaign, there were a number of dirty tricks that were aimed at muskie. he was the front runner at the time. i don't think it was so much in terms of setting up for mcgovern, because mcgovern had the beginning of that year, was
such a long shot that it really required clairvoyance on the part of people to set a policy that would make him the nominee. it was more that they wanted to get rid of muskie. they thought he was the toughest candidate. they did a number of things, including spreading word in new hampshire, which had a very , very heavy french-canadian population, that he used certain slur words slurring the , french-canadians. and also, they had another scheme whereby they had a submissive campaign, they had a a number of black voters call, in new york accents, urging people to vote for muskie, assuming that would backfire.
these things all came out, but they really were not the reason ed muskie did not get the nomination. musky's own campaigns had problems that were just as troublesome to him as were mcgovern's. >> we will talk about and must be coming up brigit -- we will talk more about ed muskie coming up. first, we need to talk about why george mcgovern would run in the first place. scott farris, what makes him decide to run for the presidency in 1972? it goes back to 1968 when he filled in for bobby kennedy and was the standard bearer for his delicate because they wanted him to be a stand in for kennedy. participated in a debate between your country and gene mccarthy. everyone thought mcgovern had won that debate.
it was that moment that he realized he had presidential aspirations because he had gone on a national stage between two he began considering a run at that point and decided fairly early in 1969 that he would be a candidate. he felt he with the right person to bring together these old irregulars and the new insurgents and create a democratic majority. also, he personally despite richard nixon. mcgovern rejected the construct of the cold war. the ran against a well-known communist in south dakota. he had always despised him for how he had run against adlai stevenson in 1952 and by adding 56. he relished the fight and it was a great incentive for him to run. to run. >> in vietnam -- what is happening between 1968-1972 on that issue? issue? >> nixon said in 1968 he had a secret plan to end the war in vietnam.
escalating the war in 1969 and 1970 by having u.s. troops invade cambodia and try to disrupt supply lines. early in the nixon presidency, the war seem to be expanding, not winding down. this outraged the anti-war movement and gave mcgovern more emphasis to run against nixon. later as it came closer to the election, nixon understood he needed to start disengaging american troops so that by 1972, there were only a couple hundred thousand combat troops in vietnam. as mcgovern was making the decision to run, he thought nixon was escalating the war, not winding it down. >> 1971, the pentagon papers or first published. what is the impact of this? >> the pentagon papers were not as revealing as they were said to be.
a lot of things in the pentagon papers were known. it gave more credibility to what was at the time nixon's public failing again to protest of the vietnam war. the impression now is that the country was totally in uproar against the war in vietnam in the late 1960's. it really was not. it was split. >> you have the 1970 anti-war contest -- protests, the kent state shootings, those kinds of things. >> these are things nixon very effectively played on. there were just as many people who deplored the mess in the streets, the pictures of these wild-looking young people with their long hair, a strange clothes.
they offended mainstream america. of the war was particularly effective with dealing with the democratic situation. it was a rallying point for voters and activists. nixon also made great use of the war by making slanderous remarks against people who demonstrated. he ran in 1968 and again in 1972 on a law and order agenda. he was going to protect the american people from these rallies who were starting fires and having rallies in the streets. that is why it is painted now
that the vietnam war really built the protest. it did do that, but it also solidified opposition to the war to the advantage of richard nixon. >> scott farris, all of this and the impact of the war on mcgovern -- what did it do? >> it caused him to lose perspective a little bit, to be honest. he spoke again about the war in terms that were very strong, harsh, and uncompromising. he gave a speech before the u.s. senate in 1970 and said "this chamber reeks of blood." when you use that language, it will energize the anti-war folks, but it surprises a lot of voters who
thought that he would withdraw american without any honor and maybe not worry about what would happen to the prisoners of war there. he was so passionate about war, the used language to describe it. the democrat's image of being "anti military" is one they have tried to shake for several decades. >> his desire to win the war with the most important thing for him. when he did lose he said, "i
feel so strongly about this war that we brought peace that much closer, this campaign was worth the." the felt very passionately that this was the wrong war. he thought vietnam was a mistake. he thought it was an anti- colonial war. he thought the u.s. had misunderstood it as a war of communist expansion. a war of communist expansion. the mcgovern campaign hired a documentary filmmaker, charles guggenheim, to create a series of short films about the candidate. >> he was christened george stanley mcgovern.
birthplace, avon, south dakota. he grew up in mitchell and went to school there. but the most important lessons were learned at home. his mother, a gentle spirit. from his father, christian principles and hard work. his father had spent his boyhood in the illinois coal country where 14 hour days were measured out at 10 cents a bucket. but he found time to read scripture and decided to abandon the mines for politics. in 1899, he was ordained a minister. reverend mcgovern built his last church in mitchell when george was a fight. as a boy, george had his father's love of history, but he would not be spared the troubles of his own time. the memory would live with them
his whole life. >> we are at the mcgovern museum. scott farris, tell us about george mcgovern. what through his life, starting early on, influenced him -- to find him? >> it is important to remember his father was a minister in the wesleyan methodist denomination. what george mcgovern got from his father was a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong to the point that he is often accused of not being moral, but moralistic. he got the notion of right and wrong and the notion of doing good. how to apply christianity to social affairs. feeding the hungry, etc. he was a shy child, which would later at influence him. the perhaps even had a learning
disability and was slow. he won a number of states and won a scholarship to go to wesleyan. he and his team won some national competitions. that early childhood formed him in terms of becoming a public figure. he cared a lot -- he was a good communicator, a good speaker, make good arguments, but also cared a lot about principles and public policy.
he had a gym teacher that told mcgovern to jump over eight vaulting horse. the teacher said he was a physical power. that really stung mcgovern. he thought about it for a number of years. at dakota wesleyan, a classmate said he would like him to take flying lessons. mcgovern said he was afraid to fly, but he remembered what the gym teacher at sensible years before and decided to take private lessons. he became a pilot. when japan bombed pearl harbor, mcgovern and his friends drove down to omaha and enlisted in the army air corps. he became a pilot of be-24 bombers. he was stationed in italy. he flew 35 combat missions, which is what you were required to fly before you could go home.
he was a skilled pilot. he was admired by his crew of 10. the b-24 was a hard place to fly. later in life after he developed a friendship with historian stephen ambrose, ambrose wrote "wild blue" which highlighted the air war during war ii. he discovered the only thing he liked about the ministry was giving sermons. he thought everything else was not up his alley. the switch to history and got a doctorate degree in history. he is only one of two men who had at a ph.d.
be nominated for president. he had a background in eastern europe that led him to believe the cold war concept was all -- all wrong. it was simply protecting the traditional fear of influence. he was born to be a professor, but he was also very interested in politics. he caught the eye of state democrats who asked if he would be interested in becoming the executive secretary of the south dakota democratic party. the democrats in south dakota at that point were in bad shape. there were 110 legislators in south dakota in 1953 two were democrats. it was quite a challenge.
mcgovern thought it was a challenge were taking. he slowly built up the democratic party. he recruited party workers, candidates, raised money, wrote speeches. the democrats got 24 seats in 1954. in 1956, mcgovern to the party he helped build up and ran for congress. he of a one again in 1958 when he defeated a former south dakota governor. john kennedy felt that perhaps his candidacy had brought mcgovern down, so he offered mcgovern a position to run a program in the kennedy administration.
my comment and my question is i heard somewhere -- i do not know what the truth is behind this -- but moments before senator robert f. kennedy was assassinated in 1968 after winning the california primary, senator mcgovern was actually participating in a conversation with senator kennedy. i wondered if it has been revealed what the conversation was about and if you know anything about that phone conversation? about that phone conversation? >> jules witcover? >> i have never heard that. i was in the hotel kitchen at the time robert kennedy was assassinated. i spent a great deal of time
since then exploring all of the details of the time leading up to robert kennedy's death. i have never run across that story. i do know that in his hotel room, he made a call to a number of people to look over to the next phase of the campaign. he was going to new york to campaign for delegates there. he did talk to many people. he may well have talked to senator mcgovern as well. there was a primary in south dakota the same night. i have not heard he actually talked to him, but it is possible.
ran a backlash campaign rather than a law and order. unfortunately, the only state mcgovern carried was massachusetts. i am it from there. at the time we probably festooned our cars with bumper stickers saying "do not blame me, i am from massachusetts." that is all i have to say. >> george mcgovern always resented the implication that he won the nomination because richard nixon became involved with the dirty tricks against muskie. mcgovern said he always thought ed muskie was a weak front runner. he did not have the fire in the belly. he clearly did not understand
that the rules had changed because of the reform senator mcgovern always thought that was bunk. he abolished the nixon campaign was always doing little things. they would find that the buses had been canceled before rallies and they could not get people to and from. they would see somebody at a mcgovern rally holding up a hammer and sickle flag of the soviet union flag. there were dirty tricks involved, but he did not believe that was why he won the nomination. >> i read the "wild blue" and only then learned about mcgovern's war record. i remember the 1972 campaign. it was the first time i could vote. but i do not recall mcgovern ever mentioning his war record.
i think it would have given his anti-war stance more credibility if he had. can you comment on that? on that? >> before our guest comment on that, i want to show what george mcgovern had to say about his experience as a world war ii bomber pilot. c-span sat down with him recently in his office at mitchell, south dakota. >> i flew 35 missions in a b-24 bomber, which was the biggest one we had at that time. it was before the b-52. we were hitting the most heavily defended targets in europe. i wanted to bail out and i wanted my crew to bail out, but i have a little scotch blood and i knew the planes cost about $300,000.
that is nothing by today's standards. we have a b-1 that cost $1 billion, but it was a lot of money then. i started bringing those planes back to home base. for that, i got a distinguished flying cross. why did he not talk about his military service? it was the subject of a lot of debate about how much he should emphasize his war record. he never just completely ignored it, but he was specifically encouraged by his staff to exclude it from his nomination acceptance speech. the rationale was that they
could not be antiwar and discuss his war record. it would have been to his benefit if he had talked about it a little bit more because people got the mistaken idea that he was a pacifist who did not believe in using the armed services for any purpose. he endorsed the use of force in kosovo. he was not a pacifist, but it was a decision they fell the should not mention being an anti-war candidate. >> was is war hero status talked about? he had a slogan when he wound up his speeches late in the campaign about leaving war behind and coming home. another one of his slogans was "come home america." it is in the context of that that there were no references to his wartime experience.
>> before we talk a little bit more about george mcgovern's primary run, the big get this phone call from jail in massachusetts. >> i recall watching senator mcgovern and robert woodbridge at the time of precedent for's of fuel. president ford's funeral. they were interviewing george mcgovern. he said in the end he had voted for ford in 1976. he said he discussed it with his family afterwards and felt they had done that as well. i about fell off my chair because i am is a strong democrat. i wonder if that has come into the midst of information about senator mcgovern ever? >> scott farris?
>> he did have great affection for gerald ford. i do not know that he actually voted for him, but he had problems with the carter. president carter had not been very supportive of him in 1972. even though president carter basically bar of the mcgovern strategy to get his nomination in 1976. he was also a little hurt that the magnitude of senator mcgovern's loss was be was a bit of a pariah in democratic circles. i am sure there were some hurt feelings. he worked with a number of republicans. he and bob dole partnered for almost an entire lifetime on the issue of ending a hunter in the world. he was capable of working across the aisle. >> george mcgovern, the world war ii hero, the congressman from south dakota, the senator from their decides to make a run for the presidency. having decided to run, mcgovern announces his candidacy from
sioux falls, south dakota on january 18, 1971. here is a piece of the campaign fell but together by charles guggenheim on mcgovern's decision to make that presidential run. >> this country was conceived by men who had a dream of human dignity and justice and concern for each other at. if we began now to match our policies with our ideas, then i believed it is yet possible that we will come to admire this country, not simply because we were born here, but because of the kind of great and good land that you and i want it to be and that, together, we have made. that is my hope. that is my reason for seeking the presidency of the united states. [applause]
>> jules witcover, what is mcgovern's chances heading into the primary in 1971? the primary in 1971? >> considered very slim. the was not a really dynamic personality. he was a very calm man. very soft-spoken. he lacked fire except when he talked about the war in vietnam. >> was the considered dull? >> some considered him a bildull. his niceness was sometimes ridiculed, but it was genuine. when he ran in the first primaries, he was regarded basically as a weak replacement for robert kennedy because
robert kennedy was so dynamic as a candidate. it was also because there is a certain uncertainty to be the nominee at that time. he had been very impressive as of 3's nominee in 1968. he was also a rather soft-spoken man most of the time, but he had a terrible temper that sometimes came through. the seldom happened with george mcgovern. >> who else was running and how they compare to george mcgovern? >> the other senators were fred harris -- they were all bunched up together. it was muskie's nomination to lose.
some of the things that happened in new hampshire including appearing to cry in a serious moment outside the local newspapers for things that had been printed about his wife. there was some dispute about whether he was actually crying or not. it was snowing at the time at muskie, himself, said he was not crying. that was the impression, nevertheless. the only reason his tennessee collapsed in new hampshire -- his candidacy collapsed in new hampshire was because of his position on vietnam. mcgovern left no doubt where he stood on the war. mcgovern was genuinely against the war, but he was belittled in those days.
although he was revered by the people who were against the war in vietnam, there were other people who did not see it that way. they would not dream of voting for george mcgovern. >> charles guggenheim felled part of the campaign, including the senators speaking to a group of vietnam war veterans at a hospital. here is a little bit of that conversation. >> they love their country, there is a question about that. you are about halfway mad at it, are you not? >> when you lose control of your bowels', your bladder, york sterility whenever father a child, you'll never walk again for the rest of your life, you are 23-years old, you do not want to be a burden for your family -- to you know where you go from here? a nursing home.
and you stay there until you die. nobody thinks of a disabled veteran or a disabled anybody except another disabled person. if you fall out of your wheelchair, the you know who is the first person to come to be some help? a guy in a wheelchair, not somebody who is walking. >> one of the unconscionable attacks of this day is what you just said -- people who are desperately in need of help cannot qualify for it under the present system. i love the united states, but i love it enough that i want to see some changes made. the american people want to believe in the government and their country. i want to provide the kind of leadership that would help restore that kind of faith. i do not think i can do it alone.
of course i cannot. but the president can help set a but the president can set a new tone in this country. that is what i would like to try to do. >> scott ferris, the impact of george mcgovern's tone and not campaign film and the impact on his primary run. tone, one off the the things he will go back to is how many times america has been involved in some sort of military conflict. how often do you hear politicians talking that candidly about the cost of war? very seldomly if ever. that was very startling to a lot of american people. heardrn after he lost, some senators talking and said let me tell you why george lost. america is a great country with plenty of faults but george
acted like he was angry at the do that.nd you cannot him, he was a patriot. highest order the patriotism but many people interpreted it as tearing down the united states by talking so graphically about the cost of war and questioning our conduct of their. >> so as jules the cover said, race to lose. how does george mcgovern over come this and win the nomination? was a bit of a political savant. he understood what it would take to win. it was always talked about what a decent guy he was. all of that is true. but he was intensely ambitious
as well. mcgovern on that fire in the belly to be president and was willing to do what it took in terms of bringing in that putting in the long hours. mcgovern would do what it took. he would go forth if you that is what he needed to do. he had a concept of how to win that included these activists, insurgents who would organize and let these early primary states and get him out of the lower depths of the candidacies. a very strong second-place showing in iowa caucus, and new hampshire. it showed muskie was vulnerable. organize the other candidates and one some key
primaries in wisconsin, nearly one ohio. had a better organization, worked harder, and had the devotion of these antiwar insurgents at his disk those of >> what was the media making of this strategy at the time, this grassroots strategy? i think that we really paid more attention to muskie because he was supposed to be the winner. muskie's staff made a terrible mistake in new hampshire when one of his leading campaign muskie wouldted 151%. he 146%.
it was written that mcgovern was essentially the winner of the new hampshire primary foe's i think if muskie hadn't stumbled, mcgovern's knowing the game which he invented with the new delegate selection rules probably would have one anyway but the fact muskie had this string of mistakes and bad luck certainly gave the opening for mcgovern. >> and the role of george wallace? wallace was a spoiler or tried it to be a spoiler. wallace won the florida primary. that was kind of the last scale in muskie's coffin. did mcgovern make any
mistakes in this primary? >> he did later. he got a little complacent. he stumbled the most badly in california. he was writing these victories. it came down to the california primary and suddenly they were took humphrey and for granted and i think the news media liked underdogs. that is why mcgovern got a lot of press for leon. now humphrey was the underdog and started getting the positive press. so they misplayed the same expectations game muskie lost in new hampshire. everyone assumed mcgovern would
win in a blowout in california and it turned out to be very close. >> i want to talk about dirty tricks because a couple callers have brought that up. what are some of the dirty tricks that are happening? >> we have already talked about the things are done to muskie. , theghout the campaign dirty tricks were integral to the strategy. not because they were afraid of muskie but that is the way they did business. break-in wasergate a manifestation, a rare desire not only to win but to destroy. , which wasampaign
early personified by nixon himself, was to decimate the opposition, not take any chances. >> let's take to mcgovern in the primary. where does this tag line come from? >> eagleton was the first one. that later got changed. first of all, he didn't support legalization of marijuana. he said he would say you here on
the candidate that is supposed to legalize pot and he would say that's not true, i just think we shouldn't have penalties for marijuana possession. in terms of amnesty, he favored a limited amnesty. he favored it for people who are conscientious objectors. he believed abortion should remain a decision made at the state level and not that the federal level. he would have opposed the basic construct of roe versus wade. none of those labels really apply to him but they captured the whole peacenik hippie image people were trying to put on him. linewould categorize that of amnesty and abortion as a dirty trick. that was just so commonplace in politics.
active actions taken by one side to sabotage the other side. when you heard that tagline, what did you make of it? >> not much. >> you didn't write about it? i there was no reason wouldn't write about it but i wouldn't have put it in the category of a dirty trick. it was the sort of mudslinging that would go on both sides back-and-forth and always has been. william in pennsylvania, you are on the air. >> i was a 17-year-old college student at the time and volunteer for the mcgovern campaign but i was not able to vote in that election.
but my question is the breaking of the democratic headquarters at the watergate did not appear to be exploited and denounce that much by the mcgovern campaign at the time. was there so much caution with the campaign not to denounce the break-in? it seems to me the senate draft may have been a very effective factor and reason for people not to reelect nixon. i would like to conclude that mr. mcgovern appears to be the only living contender who is ifilable and i was wondering he was invited to participate in your program tonight. >> he was invited and we had planned he would join us. unfortunately, he took a spill earlier this evening and want to be able to make it. he is doing fine but won't be able to make it with us this evening. let's take the collar's comments
about nixon and watergate break-in. >> mcgovern certainly tried. at the time, the watergate story didn't take off the way it should have. a lot of newspapers including my old newspaper at the time, the los angeles times, felt that the and at thenprovable washington post, hanging out by themselves. ity didn't always jump in on . himself had a way added but it didn't catch on
with the press the way you might expect it to. wechsler the american people paying attention? >> you have to remember most of the people had discriminating aspects of watergate were revealed after the campaign was over. and one ofial began the offenders told the judge there was more to the story then had come out. a lot of this stuff came out too late to be of any benefit to mcgovern but he certainly did try. to thes go up convention. here is george mcgovern. at the convention in miami joking about his -- >> chairman o'brien, chairwoman burke, senator kennedy, senator
eagleton, and my fellow citizens , i am happy to join you for this benediction of our friday sunrise service. [laughter] [applause] i assume that everyone here is impressed with my control of this convention and that my choice for vice president was challenged by only 39 other nominees. [laughter] >> and we are back live from south dakota at the museum. scott ferris, presidential author. speech atives his
2:30 in the morning. tie that back to some in you touched on briefly and that was hubert humphrey's challenge to mcgovern in the state of california. how did that impacted the convention in the late-night speech. >> what happened in california was the mcgovern commission as i mentioned earlier had decided to do away with winner take all primaries. they did that at the urging of the antiwar insurgents who realized there is a lot of strong insurgent feeling in that benefits whoever the insurgent candidate turned out to be. that was a rule adopted and everyone understood that full that they went to the -- that. they went to the california primary and the race is narrowed down to mcgovern and humphrey. mcgovern was predicted to have a
huge win. humphrey actually came within five points. humphrey then said why should california be one or take god? -- take all? he said i should get roughly half the delegates out of california. humphrey and mcgovern were very good friends and next-door neighbors. they came from midwestern states. they had a lot in common. mcgovern was shocked humphrey was going to such lengths to challenge the results in california because even that would probably not deny mcgovern nomination. this went all the way to the convention floor where humphrey's proposed a delegation . and mcgovern was trying to be too that back because he wanted
a first ballot victory. it wasn't resolved until wednesday -- the tuesday of the convention and wednesday was the day mcgovern was supposed to submit his vice presidential nominee. people had been up all night having this terrible floor flight -- fighter so when they got up the next morning, they didn't have a short list. generally for mcgovern before, they generally didn't name the vice presidential nominee until the convention. now you see buys presidential nominees are always picked ahead of the convention so they can be that did. it took them all day to get someone who was willing to run as george mcgovern's running mate. they submitted a few minutes before the deadline. he had anchored the feminists -- angered the feminists.
that encouraged other people to put up a whole bunch of nominees, 39. by the time they finally got the balloting done, it was 2:30 in the morning. ofwho is on his list possible vp candidates? >> it started out as quite a long list. the night that they were ,upposed to pick the nominee that morning at the mcgovern hotel in miami, he called together the staff. big, greenound this covered table in the hotel and slips of paper were passed around to staff members.
and they would write their names and a little piece of paper and they would be collected. first, they had about 20 different people nominated and narrowed it down to about 10 and then narrowed it down to six. among the group in addition to , whoton were ted kennedy told mcgovern several times he didn't want to do it. larry o'brien. and nelson, a senator from wisconsin. and they took two or three others. they had to take a ballot and another one and another one. and finally when it got down to two people and it was april 10
and kevin white, the mayor of boston at the time. after some more discussion, it was decided. mcgovern actually called kevin white. the association called mcgovern and said you can't take kevin white. the delegation will walk out. off and dto back inaten eight kevin -- denom kevin white and that left eagleton.
we were hanging around outside this meeting for a couple hours and when it finally broke up, we went into the room and found these little pieces of paper, most of them torn up. so we spent two hours patching them together so we could determine who it would the and it was so many names. we wasted our time. >> there was no consensus? timeey had decided i that that it would be a golden -- angleton. hourswasted about two playing detective tried to figure out who it was. >> why do all of these potential running mates say no and when he agleton,ose a goal -- e
who does that appeal to? >> most of them said no because they thought he was going to lose. so nobody wanted to be associated with a losing campaign. senator mcgovern's biggest tactical error was he spent way too much time trying to court senator kennedy. what he wanted to do was represent the insurgent wing at the party. the same problem hubert humphrey had. he was looking for somebody who would be acceptable to labor, and urban ethnic catholic. eagleton fit that bill. and senator mcgovern's communications director called senator eagleton and said is there anything in your past we should know about that would disclose -- would disqualify you
and he said no. ed in on this conversation in morristown, new jersey. >> good evening. senator mcgovern took up robert kennedy's banner and 78. how much support did mcgovern receive from the kennedy forces after he got the nomination? they campaigned enthusiastically for him. ted kennedy was very good about the whole 10 -- kennedy family and one senator eagleton was .ropped from the ticket he had strong support of the kennedy family. strongviewed as a very ally. robert kennedy had especially high regard for mcgovern.
michael in ohio, you are next. >> this talk about the vice president and so on, it's just an example how messed up the whole scenario seemed to be but what i always wondered was how come the democratic party never stood behind hubert humphreys who only four years earlier had a very close election with president and should end why they wouldn't have backed him all along instead of him just person tryinger to run for office. was that humphrey had been a presidential
candidate before that and had intimated -- hadn't made it. and also you have to remember ldj was a standard there and 68 until he decided to drop out and humphrey did not get into that raise until lbj dropped out. he didn't have the apparatus to go on. he probably would have been a good candidate. bud, you are on the
air. thank you for taking my call and thank you for doing these series and we are talking tonight about one of my very favorite americans, the very first campaign i was ever involved in. beene always and rather -- rather amazed at how much of this country dismissed senator mcgovern and -- dismissed senator mcgovern. i read your book when i was in college and that book and several others, i still couldn't quite get it. but i think the senator has proven himself over decades to great american and i'm really grateful for c-span presenting this program. with the caller
that mcgovern was underrated and underappreciated. it was unfortunate. he made some serious mistakes in his own campaign that did it in but without the other conflicts in the campaign, dirty tricks and so long, whether mcgovern could have won that election. >> let's get into nixon's role in the general election but first, we need to talk to about the eagleton choice and the follow from that. here is mcgovern's former campaign aide explaining the eagleton choice. >> the problem there was it
wasn't clear until the second day of the convention that because of the ugly credentials fight that concerned the california nomination, it wasn't clear george mcgovern had clear sailing to the nomination we thought he had. that took a lot of effort and delegates and time and concentration. >> it got kind of chaotic. there were three or four days in which to choose the vice president. we all got together and talked about names and asked a few people and through some names around but tom eagleton was by all standards the candidate. george mcgovern was the son of a president sent -- protestant minister
on key issues, he was in agreement with mcgovern. it looked like a pretty good fit. you have to remember that we did not have any fbi, any security agencies available to check anybody out. we assumed that tom eagleton who had run statewide and won four or five times as he had, if there was anything that could be it would haveim , come out. what were you being told about the candidate? >> the vetting candidates was a very casual sort of thing at that time. mr. witcover: there was very
little time, or any reason really, not to take his word for it. they had at nothing that would damage the campaign. so, after the convention, you go to sioux falls. what is happening? what is the story about eagleton? mr. witcover: i was not there at the time that eagleton went there and met with mcgovern. when word came that eagleton had had mental health problems and had taken shock therapy twice. mcgovern at first was satisfied with eagleton's explanation. and he stood up for him. he said, he would support him
but there were questions coming back and he made the mistake of saying he was for him 1000%. and it was very hard to back away from that when they realized, after the reaction that they were getting, after the disclosure of eagleton's problems -- it was clearly going to damage the campaign. ms. brawner: what happened next? mr. farris: there were some things that happened and they were trying to find a delicate way out of it and they were not able to do that. a couple of things happened. once the rumors -- or the truth came out about senator eagleton's treatment for depression, which is what he had been diagnosed with. he was also accused of being a drunk driver, which turned out to be false. there was a sense that he was being picked on.
and there was a lot of sympathy for those who had mental illness and he said that he was fine, maybe he is fine. and mcgovern said he was behind him. so why not have him stay on the ticket? he hoped he would quietly resign and go away, but senator eagleton was not feeling that way. he felt his reputation had been damaged. even though senator mcgovern said he was behind thomas eagleton 1000%, he was quietly trying to figure out how to get him off the ticket. occurredy long dance in which they were trying to negotiate eagleton voluntarily resigning from the ticket. what happened was that eagleton essentially wrote out the statement that senator mcgovern would make, and there would be no reference to these mental health problems. and so, that was the only condition under which he would resign. in the meantime of course, this
climbgn facing an uphill now an albatross on the , campaign. the struggle to replace eagleton took a very long time. it was very embarrassing to senator mcgovern. senator muskie called a news conference to announce that he had declined being the nominee. eventually, he turned to sargent -- sargent shriver who had been , one of the earlier choices but had been out of the country during the democratic nomination. now he was back. he said he would do it. he turned out to be an effective campaigner, but it was disastrous. the campaign was very hurt by the eagleton affair. and maybe they never would have one, -- won, but he may have carried 10 or 15 states and carried 47% of the vote instead of 37% of the vote. ms. brawner: why is that? how do americans view that decision? mr. farris: remember that it was
on the question of character. many people believed richard nixon was a knockoff of joe mccarthy. and they never understood how middle america embraced richard nixon. yet, because he went back and forth and seemed indecisive and maybe not totally honest about eagleton, nixon now seemed more trustworthy. that hurt him very deeply. he was very sad about that. and he realized that now the question was about his character not nixon's. was the eagleton story, it one factor that kept watergate from being a big story. people could not put watergate in context, initially. why would they break into the democratic headquarters? nobody knew it was part of a broader strategy of sabotaging democratic campaigns. so the big political story in the late summer and fall of 1972 was the eagleton affair, not
watergate, and that is one of the reasons the democrats could not capitalize on watergate. ms. brawner: ok, so we will come back and talk about nixon at this time, but first, let me show you a couple of campaign ads from this. -- from this peridod. >> one of the reasons i am disturbed about the president's $10 million secret election fund, is that it indicates that there is something he is afraid to disclose. what are they hiding? and i am perfectly willing to publish the name of every dollar contributed to my campaign. it is something like that that puts a damper on the moral tone of the whole nation. >> mcgovern, democrat for the people. >> i would like to say a couple of words. i am a democrat for president nixon and his reelection. i can only say the thing that motivated my change was a year of collecting pure, unaffected
facts. [applause] >> i want to make this pledge to sammy and everybody here. whether you happen to be young, old, black, white, i believe in the american dream. sammy davis believes in it. we have seen it in our own lives. this is your first vote, and years from now, i hope you can look back and say this was one of your best votes. thank you. thank you. [applause] ms. brawner: what is happening with nixon at this point in the general election? how is he campaigning? mr. witcover: nixon is coasting, basically. he had a very, very disciplined campaign. it was a carryover from his campaign in 1968, where everything was orchestrated,
down to the finest detail. that caution came out of his defeat in 1960 when he made the mistake of pledging to go to every state, and campaigned dawn to dusk. as a result of that, he looked terrible. everybody will recall the debate he had with john f. kennedy, where he looked like he was going to expire. so as a result of that he and , his brain trust decided that the best way to run richard nixon was to limit what he did and always have him at his best. it happened in 1968 and again in 1972. ms. brawner: so what was it like for you to cover the mcgovern campaign versus the nixon campaign? how were they different? mr. witcover: i covered them both. one difference was that mcgovern
was running desperately. they knew that they were not catching on. they traveled widely. it was one of the first campaigns where jet planes were used extensively and they could go back and forth across the country in a day. just as humphrey had done when he lost to nixon in 1968, campaigning too much. one of the successes for nixon in 1968 and 1972 was that the campaign people realized, if you gave television just one face to use on the evening news, making best one youe could. and only do that one piece. whereas humphrey campaigned, as i said earlier, from dawn to dusk. he made a lot of mistakes. he made some good choices.
but the media will always pick the most controversial thing, so 9 times out of 10, humphrey would look bad and nixon would look good. the same thing applied in 1972 with mcgovern and nixon. is thewner: so, what nixon campaign doing to try to weaken the government? -- make a govern -- mcgovern? mr. farris: they are trying to paint him as a radical, out of touch with the american mainstream. and also staying above the fray, talking about the accomplishments of the nixon administration. and let me talk about why mcgovern thought he had a chance to win. he had a number of accomplishments. again, he thought that richard nixon was unpopular because of his personality and also, his first year in office was very
controversial. he had expanded the war in vietnam, and domestically, he raised a lot of hackles by instituting wage control. there was inflation. it was a real concern. richard nixon then did some things to reduce in the inflation rate and he spent a ton of money at the end of 1971 to give a boost to the economy. he then began the americanization of the war in vietnam, bringing troops home to try to quell the anti-war demonstrations. he tried to counter his image as a pro-warmonger by going to china and establishing relations. he managed to orchestrate events so that his presidency reached its peak in 1972. his great accomplishments in office occurred in 1972 and took away a lot of the arguments about why he should not be supported. two other quick things about
misjudgments he made. he thought george wallace was going to run again as a third- party candidate and siphon a lot of votes from nixon not only in the south but in the industrial northeast, that would make those states harder to carry. of course wallace was the victim , of an assassination attempt right before the maryland primary, was paralyzed, and was not able to continue the race. he also thought the youth vote would come out in mass in in his favor. especially with the passage of the 26th amendment that allowed 18-year-olds to vote. surprisingly, he barely won the 18-20 year-old demographic, which showed that despite all of the attention given to anti-war students and activists, a lot of young americans were still very conservative. ms. brawner: and we know how this story ends. george mcgovern loses in one of the second worst landslides in american history. what is the mood of the campaign?
and of the country at the end of this election, going into november? mr. witcover: when you're on the campaign plane, and you're in this tube flying around the country, you do not know what is going on in the rest of the country. people on the campaign day in and day out, many believed that they were going to win or thought that they could win. the dimensions of the defeat was crushing to them. ms. brawner: we need to, as we wrap up this discussion about the general election, we want to move on to the legacy of george mcgovern. but first, a little bit of the senator from his concession speech. then you'll hear a secret white house recording of a phone conversation between president nixon and the special assistant for national security, henry kissinger. >> we projected that president nixon will come out of this the
winner with about 60% of the popular vote and somewhere between 450 to 500 or more electoral votes. >> congratulations on your victory. i hope in the next four years you will lead us to a time of peace abroad and justice at home. you have my full support in such efforts with best wishes to you and your gracious wife, pat. sincerely, george mcgovern. >> mr. president, dr. kissinger and senator humphrey are speaking. it will be a few moments before we can get him. i have dr. kissinger. go ahead please. , >> hello, mr. president. i wanted to extend my warmest congratulations. warmest congratulations. >> we all knew it was going to happen. we got our 60%.
>> one could not really be sure until we had seen. and we had every state except massachusetts, and maybe minnesota. what a critic. did you hear that concession statement? he was very gracious at the beginning. >> then he went right back to saying -- >> he sent me a wire saying i look forward to working with you and your supporters for peace in the years ahead. >> and i'm not going to second that wire. would you agree? >> absolutely. he was not generous and unworthy. >> writes. -- right. and i responded in a decent way. it was as far as i could go, but i am not going to spend much time on him. ms. brawner: you are looking at one of the cue cards from george
mcgovern's concession speech. this is at his museum in south dakota, where he says, we do love the nation. later on, the nation will be better because we never gave up in the long battle to renew the oldest ideals and to redirect the current energies along more humane and hopeful paths. was his concession speech reviewed by others as not gracious? mr. witcover: i do not think so. it took a paranoid personality like richard nixon to take it that way. ms. brawner: scott farris, your reaction? mr. farris: i think actually it was generally pretty gracious. nixon's telegram to george mcgovern was not particularly warm and friendly either. i think that they both knew that they did not like each other. most people have not gone back and read all of the concession speeches in american history. i actually did that for my book. george mcgovern does get a little more testy than some of the others.
barry goldwater is another one. apparently, when you lose in a landslide you're not feeling that good. part of it is when you lose closely, maybe you get another shot at it down the road and you do not want to burn any bridges. during nixon's second inaugural, george mcgovern was in england at oxford, and gave a speech in which he was very critical of nixon. that actually caused a lot more comments than the concession speech he gave. he said america was now more in danger of a one-man rule then at any point in history. i think that was in the realm of what is expected of a losing candidate. but the speech in oxford in 1973, a lot of people criticized him for saying those things, especially to a foreign audience. ms. brawner: we're going to move on to the legacy of george mcgovern what george mcgovern , did after he ran for president in 1972. but first we're going to get to ed in ohio.
good evening. you need to turn the television down. caller: good evening. yes, good evening. there is an important article that george mcgovern wrote that , and it was "my advice to obama." it was when president obama was elected. he went on to say, first, why not order all troops out of iraq and afghanistan by thanksgiving. ms. brawner: we are getting a lot of feedback. needed to turn the television down. scott farris, pick it up there with george mcgovern and his impact on president obama. his antiwar views.
mr. farris: two things about president obama, i mentioned earlier that he created the democratic coalition that represents the modern democratic party, the party that elected barack obama in 2008. so, and the obama campaign in also tended to mirror george mcgovern, an insurgent candidate against a more established candidate, hillary clinton. and by doing the same things, the grassroots effort. and so clearly president obama , followed the george mcgovern blueprint to a certain degree. in terms of the war, george mcgovern has said two things. one, he has taken to heart the an antiwar candidate was elected, because obama had spoken against the iraq war. but he was also did pointed -- disappointed that president obama has escalated american involvement in afghanistan. he has criticized that and suggested that afghanistan could become another vietnam, which of course was the centerpiece of his campaign.
so he has offered obama a lot of praise, but also expressed his concerns as well. ms. brawner: duncan in ohio, go ahead. >> thank you for having me. i was just curious if you had ever heard of an organization called bildeberg, and whether george mcgovern had been to a meeting with them? ms. brawner: scott farris? mr. farris: no, i have not heard of that. ms. brawner: as we continue to talk about george mcgovern and his post-1972 career. this is bill clinton, who actually ran the george mcgovern campaign in texas, as many of you know. after that, we will come back about this part of his legacy. >> think of just the highlights of this fascinating life.
pilot, a teacher, congressman, senator, first director of food for peace, author with senator dole of the food stamp program, courageous critic of the vietnam war, first and only person from south dakota so far to be nominated for president, united nations delegate under presidents ford and carter, advocate for disarmament and peace in the middle east. when i was president, united nations ambassador to the food and agriculture organization, recipient of the medal of freedom, and with senator dole, the inspiration for the school funding program. george did not tell you what happened with the $300 million. there are 130 million children in this world who never darkened a schoolhouse door. their idea was to say to poor kids across the world and to their parents, you can have one good nutritious meal a day no matter how poor you are, but you
have to come to school to get it. after we passed that little bit ty initiates his in a -- initiative in a multi-trillion dollar budget, school enrollment around the world in the first year went up by more than 6 million children. [applause] ms. brawner: scott farris explain why george mcgovern had , a passion on this issue and its impact. mr. farris: two reasons. one, he was a generally compassionate man. he had seen hunger during the depression. he saw hunger in italy during the war. and he understood the problems facing america and the world in terms of people going hungry. as a senator from a farm state, he also understood how this was a program with a marvelous capacity to produce food. and the world's need for that
food. and of course other farm state , senators like senator dole saw the opportunity in this as well. one of the things senator mcgovern did, when the food for peace program was first initiated under the eisenhower administration, it was seen as a way to get rid of agricultural surpluses that the government had purchased, a program from the new deal. george mcgovern said it is a humanitarian thing. it is about feeding the hungry, especially children. and so he took the food for peace program, which was a minor program under eisenhower, and dramatically increased its scope. in six months, he distributed six times as much food as the eisenhower administration had delivered in six years. but within six months of taking over the program, 35 million children around the world got a school lunch. and within another year, another
30 million did. it was probably the greatest humanitarian effort of the kennedy administration, including the peace corps. and it really is almost all linked to george mcgovern. ms. brawner: we have about 10 minutes left, talking about george mcgovern. as we told you earlier, we invited senator mcgovern to be on our program this evening. unfortunately, he took a spill earlier tonight and was unable to join us. he has been flown to sioux falls, south dakota for further medical attention. and so unfortunately, he could not be with us. we wish him the best of health. jake in sioux falls, s.d., go ahead. caller: good evening. it is actually jack. excellent program tonight. my question is whether george mcgovern was ever delectable in electable in --
1972. were there any electable in 1972? could he have been elected if he had avoided eagleton debacle or the late-night speech? mr. witcover: i do not think so. the conditions we have talked about at some length to night were a mixed bag in the campaign. for all this support that george mcgovern got from war protestors, there were just as many people who did not look at the war that way. they did not think it was a disaster. their attitudes were shaped by president nixon, who played on their patriotism and played on their emotions, and turned the demonstrations that helped george mcgovern into almost a national disgrace in a way that helped nixon. ms. brawner: scott farris, was george mcgovern cost -- george
mcgovern's political career over after 1972? mr. farris: he continued to serve in the united states senate. he was reelected in south dakota pretty handily in 1974. by that time, watergate had come about and president nixon had resigned. senator mcgovern felt a bit of vindication. it is unfortunate that his defeat was so total in 1972 that he was not mentioned as a candidate in 1976. in 1980, there was a big republican wave that brought ronald reagan into office. many democrats lost their seats in congress. but he continued to be active in public service. in fact, in george mcgovern 1984 launched another quixotic bid for the presidency. he was up against gary hart and former vice president walter mondale. and senator mcgovern got kudos for being a thoughtful presence. he tried to heal some of the that were madeds
during the mondale scuffle. he has maintained a very active life, going back to the issue of world hunger. he worked with the clinton administration to help start the world food program, which helped to feed many people. hunger and nutrition remains his passion today, as well he did reminding people of liberal values. ms. brawner: we will hear from mitch in florida. caller: thank you. i think that you guys have done your studies. and the previous caller that once to remind everybody to the lossgeorge after of the election, i do not think that george lost. he moved on to do much better
things like you folks were just , talking about with the world hunger program. george has survived wars, being an antiwar person yet willing to step up for our country. i think he is a great peacekeeper, and he understands world politics like we do not understand. my question is, for our country, who in 2012 is the closest candidate that can carry out george mcgovern's policies? who is the closest, best option that we have? ms. brawner: i will throw it to you. easy itover: that is an one. is barack obama. i do not think that any of the republican candidates represent anything akin to the sorts of things that george mcgovern running for president in 1972 or the objectives he has carried out the rest of his life.
ms. brawner: scott harris what , kind of president would george mcgovern have been? mr. farris: i actually think he would have been a pretty good president. i base that on the food for peace program. one of the things you need to bring to the presidency is certain executive management skills. and what he was able to do with the program, without a lot of money, indicates that he was able to carry things out. had he become president, he may have had a difficult time getting us out of vietnam in a way that would have been acceptable to people, but i think he would have been a fine president. of course, it is impossible to speculate, but i think he had the qualities of judgment and good will that americans want in their president. ms. brawner: and the future of liberalism in this country? mr. farris: again he has , outlined a map for the democratic party to be a major force in politics, to return to its status as the majority party.
and it is a question of whether the democrats will get over the nostalgias of the new deal coalition. there are still a lot of people that remember their parents and families growing up in urban america and would like to restore the democratic party to that labor union ideal. but i think senator mcgovern realized that there are more fertile grounds for working with liberalism within the democratic party. and as one as they can continue to appeal to minorities, women, to the young, and to continue to broaden their base. and not exclude anybody from a different category, i think he has shown a way for them to have a viable course. maybe gary hart is right. without george mcgovern, the democratic party might have ceased to exist as a viable party. ms. brawner: let me give this to both of you, will there be another antiwar candidate? mr. witcover: this time around?
ms. brawner: in the future. like a mcgovern? mr. witcover: the thing the differentiated him from other anti-war candidate was in his heart, in his soul. he really was against that war and really all wars. i think he might disagree with barack obama, who said he is not against all wars. george mcgovern was not against all wars either because he fought courageously in one. but i think if he had been elected, he would have gone as -- gotten us out of vietnam as soon as he could. it certainly would have been a lot sooner than nixon did, with the country's tail between its legs. ms. brawner: scott farris, quickly. mr. farris: i do not believe anyone will ever run as an anti-war candidate exactly the way he did. one of his legacies he showed , what a presidential candidate can and cannot say about a war when america is involved in it. people were very unsettled when
he was so uncompromising and graphic in his language. i think it is very indicative that ever since george mcgovern, presidential nominees they don't want to be called, as mike dukakis said, i am not another mcgovern when it comes to foreign affairs. at i am skeptical unless we have more time pass that we talk , about war the way that george mcgovern did in 1972. ms. brawner: we want to thank the george mcgovern center. the head librarian at the museum. and we want to thank jack mortenson. and also the daughter of senator mcgovern and sarah mcgovern, as well. and our guests. and withris, can i
your final thoughts -- end with your final thoughts, what is the legacy of george mcgovern? mr. farris: again, he transformed the democratic party in a way that very few have ever transformed the political party. his food for peace, his humanitarian efforts, those may be his greatest legacy. thousands or many millions of people are alive today because of george mcgovern. something i forgot to mention, bill clinton, his texas coordinator. that campaign also spawned a lot of young idealists who went into politics and made a name for himself. so for a man that lost the presidential election, he had a lot of influence. ms. brawner: thank you both. ♪ [cheering]
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