George McGovern died

October 21, 2012 • 4:49 am

According to, 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.

44 thoughts on “George McGovern died

  1. Worth mentioning that he was a B-24 pilot and won the Distinguished Flying Cross–as a 1968 draftee I was impressed that someone who’d actually been in a war (unlike Reagan, John Wayne, and some other saber-rattlers)was so passionately opposed to the one in Vietnam.

  2. I went door-to-door for him in ’72 too, in Richmond, in a clearly Republican neighborhood, and somewhere I think I still have a stack of the handbills we tried to hand out at the polls. The big McGovern poster stayed up in the lab there for years after.

    1. Everybody in my social circle voted for him. We were so excited about him at the time. It was CRUSHING when he lost so heavily. He lived a good, long life and is an example to us all.

  3. Sad news indeed. I’m a little younger than you but do remember the election cycle.

    But in terms of “what if” history, there wouldn’t have been a ’72 Nixon landslide had Bobby Kennedy not been murdered in ’68. He would have win two term and I believe the world would have been a much better place because of it.

    But that’s not how our history unfolded. Perhaps in one of the multiverses it did. I’ll never know. But I’d be happy to trade places with that “david” anytime.

  4. “Requiescat in pace” How can he rest in peace when he is wormfood? The term originates from the Bible Isaiah chapter 57 verse 2 and is a meaningless term to atheists who may try to mumble something about “showing respect” to escape their blatent hypocricy.
    I do admire the inconsistency of evolutionists though which is often bought out at times of death and trauma.

    1. Somebody always comes over and says this when I do an obituary and say “RIP” or the like. For crying out loud, what is the point of your comment? Are you gonna fault me for hypocrisy when I say, “Bless you” after someone sneezes?

      If this sanctimonious comment is all you have to contribute to this site, I suggest you go elsewhere.

      1. Yeah this bugs me too. I have even been challenged for saying ‘good grief’ – as a good atheist apparently I shouldn’t say such things.

      2. Besides, as I love to point out:

        Jesus tittyfucking Christ on a pogo stick, what the hell good is a goddamned god good for if you can’t take the asshole’s name in vain? Holy shit! Are we supposed to start swearing on doilies and crumpets?



    2. I am not intending this as a pile on, but it’s just rude to level a claim of hypocrisy at people who are simply engaging in social conventions or good manners.

      But that’s not really your point anyway, is it, John?

      Have a nice day.

    3. Ridiculous and literal minded . The phrase “rest in peace” may, in its literal surface content, be directed nonsensically at the dead. But in practice, as Jerry uses it here, it is just a signifier of remembrance, and a call for others to acknowledge the loss and remember the contribution to human life and society that the deceased made. Rest in peace McGovern, shop says this atheist.

  5. Nixon got his comeuppance.

    I saw an interview with McGovern in 1984 when he asked if he had any advice for Walter Mondale. McGovern immediately replied “Keep in mind there are far worse things than losing an election. I lost by a landslide, but I wouldn’t want to trade places with the man who won”.

    1. For the candidate that is probably true. But the country, and the world, suffers enormously when someone like Nixon wins.

  6. Those were bad times as are these. I hope this time the electorate manages to get it right but I fear the worst. Today’s Republicans make Nixon look liberal.

    1. No, it’s not, unless yours is another counterfactual assumption. You might accurately have called it an assumption corroborated only by the facts of McGovern’s subsequent proven character and the fiasco of Nixon’s second term. But that wouldn’t bring you to the same conclusion.

  7. This reminiscence in The Atlantic makes me regret I was waaaaay too young to have voted for Senator McGovern:

    I thought I heard echoes of the same anti-war sentiment four years ago when Obama promised to bring the troops home from Afghanistan by the following summer. Yet, here we are, at the end of his first term, and he’s still promising to bring them home “real soon now.” And, in the mean time, he’s taken up, just for sport, ordering the targeted murders of countless people — including American citizens — by means of flying death robots that’re more indiscriminate in their targeting than an Al Capone mobster with a Tommy gun.

    And what of the Guantanamo Gulag? Are we really to believe that the Commander in Chief and the head of the Executive Branch was powerless to order the officer in charge of Guantanamo to deliver all prisoners to the FBI and cease operations?

    Sorry for the off-topic rant…I just can’t help comparing the two men, separated by a generation, who share a political party identification…but, in reality, the younger D is worse than the R the older D ran against. Blows my mind!


  8. I went to Racine during spring break to volunteer for the McGovern campaign during the Wisconsin primary. My group was sent daily to factories at shift change to promote voter turnout. I expected industry employees to be McGovern enthusiasts. My memory is that few people accepted flyers we tried to hand them while many more just kept walking past, either ignoring us or chanting the slogans ‘America, Love It or Leave It’, ‘My Country, Right or Wrong’, or ‘Law and Order’. The third maybe came in first in a close race. Fear seemed to close most minds that year, not unlike post-911 America. Things were even worse in ’72 than I thought after Wisconsin; I was quite shocked in November that it was such a landslide for the bad guy. And like many say, Nixon compares very favorably with today’s Tea-publicans.

    1. Nixon compares very favorably with today’s Tea-publicans.

      Nixon was significantly more progressive than Obama.

      Nixon actually ended the Vietnam War, even if reluctantly. Obama continues to escalate the war in Afghanistan.

      Nixon opened relations with China. Obama might not avoid war with Iran.

      Sure, Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act…but Nixon signed Title IX.

      Obama ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Big deal. Nixon integrated Southern schools.

      Nixon launched the era of joint US – Soviet space missions. Obama killed the Shuttle without a replacement on the launchpad and thereby effectively ended them.

      Nixon created the EPA and OSHA and supported the National Clean Air Act and NEPA. Obama is too busy chanting, “Drill, baby, drill!” to care.

      My mind is still blown by the fact that I truly, honestly wish we had Nixon, warts and all, in the White House rather than Obama.

      What the hell happened to America that Richard Milhous “Watergate” Nixon should appear a shining beacon of rationality compared to today’s politicians? Seriously, people: what the fucking fuck?


      1. Nixon was, in the end, a democratic failure, but he was also, in his lucid moments, a statesman. A tragically flawed, twisted and self-destructive one; but on a few decisive occasions when statesmanship mattered, he had it. That alone would debar him from pre-eminence among today’s Republicans. Remember Bob Dole’s triple-edged quip about Nixon’s presidency, namely that the most remarkable thing about it was not what happened during it, but that someone like Nixon managed to become President?

        The turpitudes of Nixon’s acolytes have also tarnished by association the names and legacies of many men and women who worked in his administrations. There was a time, even under Nixon, when one could be a Republican in a position of power and responsibility without being a crook, a kook, a fraud, or a wingnut. Does anyone imagine a Leonard “Len” Garment or a James Schlesinger in a Republican administration today? Tempi passati.

        1. It was also possible to be an environmentalist and a Rethuglican in those days, e.g. James Buckley, James J. Kilpatrick, and even, to some extent, Barry Goldwater. It would be unimaginable in today’s tea party Rethuglican Party.

      2. Although Nixon gets credit for many of those accomplishments on the domestic front, the real impetus came from the much reviled John Ehrlichman, who got himself involved in
        Watergate and went to jail. IMHO, Erlichman, who was something of an environmentalist, gets something of a bum rap as one of the crooks in the Nixon administration because of that, which overlooks his significant accomplishments.

      3. I very reluctantly concede that in a few areas, Nixon did have a better record than Obama but there are two reasons.

        The ironic one is that since he had a prior record as an arch-conservative these moves had credibility- “Only Nixon could go to China”.

        Secondly, Nixon has more actual experience as a statesman than Obama- he knew how to overcome obstructionism.

        I agree with historian Garry Wills than in some ways Nixon was like a character in a Greek tragedy- someone with both virtues and a tragic flaw. But it was a big flaw.

        Negatively, Nixon just had a fundamentally creepy personality. I mean he just gave you the chills. And this was reflected in the way he surrounded himself with even weirder people, notably G. Gordon Liddy and Henry Kissinger. Liddy is one of scariest men to hold high office in the 20th century.

  9. Sorry Jerry, but your jingle about McGovern would never really catch on, not even now when some weird people seem to regard being bald as an acceptable hairstyle. (I exclude those my age since we can’t help it 🙂

    ‘Accentuate the positive’ they say. And in that spirit, I’d have to disagree with your last clause: “… he showed his true mettle by moving forward after his political career ended, rather than retiring to the golf links like George W. Bush.”

    In Dubya’s case, isn’t that a *good* thing? Like, ideally he’d be six feet under ground with a concrete slab over the top, like Chernobyl, but doing FA on the golf links is surely the next best thing?

  10. I say good riddance to bad medicine, McGovern was an antisemitic Israel bashing piece of filth in his later years after he had been defeated for reelection to his Senate seat. He was right up there with Mearsheimer, Walt, Chomsky, and Finkelstein in that regard.

    1. Is anti-Israel (or Israel-bashing as you put it) the same as anti-semitic? So far as I can tell from a quick Google, McGovern’s offence in that direction was pointing out how Israel jerks Washington around any time Israel wants to do something particularly outrageous – and the USA tolerates it.

      Oddly enough, most of these incidents seem to involve doing something nasty to Palestinians – who are, oddly enough, also semitic. So it would seem Israel is being antisemitic and its critics on those occasions are not.

      1. Ah gee, the Government of Israel behaves beastly towards the Palestinians. Of course, when the Palestinians behave beastly toward the Israelis by firing Quasems across the Gaza fence and sending homicide bombers to blow up pizza parlors in Tel Aviv, that’s perfectly A OK with Mr. infiniteimprobabilit.

        1. Yeah well it’s obvious which side you’re on. I don’t think this is the place to refight the Israel-Palestinian war. But I don’t see how supporting either side against the other is antisemitic since they’re BOTH bloody semitic. You’re just trying to use it as a slur against anyone who doesn’t blindly support the Israeli right wing.

          Back on topic – I’ll quote McGovern (as quoted by JTA News Service in the link Hempenstein posted: “It is bad enough for the Israeli people to be led by their own ideologically motivated right wing. But for the American government to take instructions from that faction is insupportable.”

          My feeling exactly.

        2. This comment is nonsense. The middle east is a mess. And it is a mess largely due to religiously motivated extremists who refuse to live with each other because Yahweh or Allah fantasies control the script. The US, ridden as it is with it’s own variety of religion-induced biases gets dragged into the fray. And if someone doesn’t blindly support your favored side they must support your enemy?

  11. I didn’t even notice the RIP until it was pointed out. Since McGovern was a former lay minister and Jerry obviously idolises him it wasn’t a strange thing to say. An atheist friend and I were invited to a mutual friend’s wedding in a church and at the right time my atheist friend knelt, bowed his head, hands clasped and “prayed” with the rest of us.

    Vale George.

    1. I think your atheist friend might be a little disconcerted at his diplomatic conduct being labelled ‘praying’, even in quote marks.

      You mean you really all get down on your knees in the begging position? I’ve never had to do that, at any of the services I’ve accidentally attended. I guess I might if I had to, in order not to distract from the occasion, but I’d definitely resent it.

      1. Oh, sure. He was wearing a suit like the rest of the guys, not an “I am an atheist t-shirt”, most people who didn’t know him probably thought he was just going through the motions like the rest of us. But it was a friend’s wedding and most people make accommodations at times like that, and at funerals. I’m sure that the last thing he wanted to do was to bring attention to himself. It was our friend and his wife’s day, not his.

        1. Well of course. But in all the weddings and funerals I’ve attended, I’ve never found it necessary to do more than sit or stand at the appropriate moments. The kneeling and clasping hands bit is maybe de rigeur in your church. As I said, I’d do it if I had to but I wouldn’t like it.

          I have to say the Catholics (at least here) handle this stuff quite well at weddings – at the appropriate time those who want to do the wafer thing are invited to come up the front in their own time, so obviously those who don’t i.e. other denominations and unbelievers, can just sit tight without drawing any attention to themselves.

          1. It wasn’t my church, it was the main low Anglican church in Adelaide. My atheist friend is one of the more easy-going atheists and didn’t care to make a fuss. We shared a house for a few years in the early Eighties and he always gave short shrif to missionaries knocking on the door, but wasn’t rude about it.

            A funny thing I remember about him is that he (an avid horse and horse racing person) got up very early one morning (in Australia) to watch the Kentucky Derby. He turned on the TV, and while the screen was warming up heard “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” he said he thought “Wow, there’s been a big upset”. But he’d just tuned into an early morning religious program by accident. I had to laugh when he told me. We agreed on a lot of other issues so got on quite well.

            I often sit and don’t sing for hymns I don’t like when I hurts church, which isn’t that often nowadays.

Leave a Reply