According to Keloland.com, George McGovern passed away just an hour ago at the age of 90. He was a good man, and suffered for his outspokenness, though time has proved him right. A brief political bio from Keloland (I exclude his service in WWII):
McGovern was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1956 and re-elected in 1958. In 1962, he was elected into the U.S. Senate.
McGovern became most known for his outspoken opposition to the growing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He staged a brief nomination run in the 1968 presidential election as a stand-in for the assassinated Robert F. Kennedy.
Throughout his career, McGovern has been involved in issues related to agriculture, food, nutrition and hunger. As the first director of the Food for Peace program in 1961, McGovern oversaw the distribution of U.S. surpluses to the needy abroad and was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations-based World Food Program.
In 1972, McGovern secured enough delegates at the Democratic National Convention to win the party’s nomination to be the next president.
McGovern ran on a platform that supported the withdrawal from the Vietnam War in exchange for the return of American prisoners of war. In the general election, the McGovern/Shriver ticket suffered, at the time, the second biggest landslide in American history, losing to Richard Nixon.
Later in life, McGovern went on to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also appointed United Nations Global Ambassador on World Hunger in 2001.
During the 1972 election, when he ran against the odious Nixon, I was beginning graduate school at Rockefeller University in New York (I later transferred to Harvard), and campaigned feverishly for him. I made posters, went door to door, and even wrote a brief personal jingle about him (apologies to the follicularly disadvantaged), which is somehow still coded in my neurons:
Yes, he’s the man for me.
Though his head is as bald as a billiard ball,
He’s the best candidate of them all.
He never stood a chance. On election eve of 1972, I remember sitting on the couch in the student lounge at Rockefeller next to Saul Kripke, now a very famous philosopher. As the returns rolled in, we became more and more despondent, and Kripke began rocking back and forth in despair, like a Jew davening in shul. In the end, the only state McGovern won was Massachusetts, and he also took Washington, D.C. It was a rout. For the next week I walked around in a state of depression, knowing that we’d have to put up with another four years of Nixon, and more American deaths in Vietnam. Public pressure brought an end to the war within a year, but then there was Watergate. . .
McGovern is a species rare in American politics: an honest man—and a likeable one. Things would have gone better had he won. And, after his crushing defeat, he bounced back, teaching, working hard to fight world hunger, and writing op-eds (opposing, among other things, the Iraq war). Like Jimmy Carter, he showed his true mettle by moving forward after his political career ended, rather than retiring to the golf links like George W. Bush.
Requiescat in pace.