Skip to main content

tv   The Contenders George Mc Govern  CSPAN  October 21, 2020 8:00pm-10:08pm EDT

8:00 pm
8:01 pm
8:02 pm
8:03 pm
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 and coffins. i have no secret plan for peace, i have a public plan. as one whose heart has eight for the past ten years over the agony of vietnam, i will halt the senseless bombing of indochina on inaugural day. >> it was 1972, 2:30 in the
8:04 pm
morning, and then presidential nominee george mcgovern delivered his acceptance speech. a few weeks later he would lose badly to president nixon. tonight, the candidacy and legacy of mcgovern. joining us from there is presidential author scott faris. scott, it is 2:30 in the morning when mcgovern delivers his acceptance speech in miami. why? >> well, the reason i think it was sort of emblematic of the whole distrust of the mcgovern campaign was, it was an insurgent campaign run against the establishment. what had happened was, as you heard senator mcgovern there, he was very strong on the issue of vietnam. i think one of the things that has drawn me to writing about senator mcgovern as one of the most influential of those who ranted the presidency, but was not successful, is that he adopted the vietnam war issue and i think he did two things. one, he spoke about that war in ways that no presidential
8:05 pm
candidate had spoken about war before. it wasn't language, as you heard, that was fairly mild for what he had said in the campaign, very strong language that unsettled a lot of americans and caused them to worry about how he would end the war. and so it's the insurgent campaign to end the war against the established democrats. and there was a lot of conflict there that eventually lead over into the convention and there was some four fights. there was some issues in the california delegation. there was an issue of who he was going to select as his vice presidential running mate and the convention got out of hand for him. when it was time for him to accept his nomination, it was 2:30 in the meaning -- warning. instead of speaking in front of 75 millions americans in primetime, he spoke about 15 million. >> we are going to do a deep dive into the 72 campaign and
8:06 pm
the convention as well. but first, joining us here from our studios in washington is jewels witcover. he covered the mcgovern campaign for the los angeles times. here to talk about the media coverage of the campaign. mr. witcover, what is the atmosphere at the convention in 1972? >> exhaustion. >> exhaustion. [laughs] >> one of the reasons mcgovern gave the speech the late was that fights continue to go on over various issues of the platform including, obviously the one vietnam, even though the platform had been adopted. it also played out the next morning when the staff met to
8:07 pm
choose a vice president or to decide who should be asked to be vice president. it was done in a very hurried and unsettling way, to the point, and the couldn't fusion i'm sure will get you in this discussion, it that it led to was probably the most disastrous part of the mcgovern campaign. and that was the selection of a vice presidential nominee. >> and the convention hall that night, are the people with him? are they still there? it's 2:30 in the morning. >> yeah, the mcgovern followers at the convention, many of them had never been to a convention before. as a result of new rules and selection of delegates, initiated in developed by mcgovern himself on a commission, you had a lot of people there who had never been to any convention. they had not been involved in
8:08 pm
much politics before them. so it was a great experience for them. for any convention, staying up until 2:00 in the morning is not unusual. but was unusual was mcgovern was forced to give that very important speech early in the morning. >> right, we will talk about the reforms that led to those types of people at the convention. scott harris, let me go back to you in mitchell, south dakota at the mcgovern museum there. what is happening in our country at this time in 1972 that leads to the triumph of an anti war candidate to win the nomination for the democratic party? >> the great political legacy of george mcgovern is that he quite literally changed the complexion of the modern democratic party. before mcgovern, the democrats had built their base around what was called the new deal coalition. it was an amalgam of urban ethnic's, catholics and jews, southern populists and
8:09 pm
organized labor. but by 1968 in 1972, because of the divisions that were exposed over the division of vietnam, senator mcgovern who was one who thought the democratic party needed to badly reform or it was going to talk. he saw the party was losing southern white populists who were became meeting southern white republicans over the issue of civil rights. you saw that organized labor was shrinking in influence and size. so he looked out at the political landscape and saw that there were opportunities for growth. he reached out to minority groups that have previously been ignored by both parties, such as hispanic americans. reaching out more to women who had strongly voted on the republican side. reaching out to the youth vote, 1972 was the first year that 18 year olds we get to vote in the united states. he was trying to put together a new coalition, he called it the new politics coalition, to meld with a new deal coalition to rule the democratic majority. coming out of the 68 convention,
8:10 pm
he chaired a commission on reform. he changed the -- delegate selection process. he was very proactive in terms of trying to bring women, minorities and the young into the party. and again, when there are winners there are also losers. other elements of the democratic party, particularly organized labor, resented that their influence would diminish. so there was a wild ride, but because of the reform senator mcgovern had was able to put through the party with his commission, he had an advantage as an insurgent in upsetting the preferred establishment candidate, or at least the one that had been considered the favorite, and musky, who had been humphrey's running mate in 68, called the establishment kind of off-guard. and again, as his success built up, it caused a lot of tension with what was called the democratic regulars. so it was a very tumultuous year for the democratic party in 1972. even as the republicans were sort of solidifying around richard nixon and nixon's presidency, his high point,
8:11 pm
which probably 1972. he famously went to china that year, among other things. >> we will definitely talk more about that later on in the program. but 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. >> we have had our fury and our frustrations in these past months. and at this convention. but frankly, i welcome the contrast with the smog and dull and empty event which will doubtless take place here in miami next month. we chose this struggle. we reformed our priority. we let the people in. so we stand today not as a
8:12 pm
collection of backroom strategists, not as a tool of i-tea or any other special interests. >> scott faris, george mcgovern in 1972 saying we let the people in. take us back to that, to the 1968 convention win hubert humphrey gets the nomination and draw a clear connection for our viewers between the 68 convention and mcgovern winning in 1972. >> let's go back even to 1967. this is when the anti war movement is really starting to pick up steam. they are very frustrated, the president lyndon johnson is maintaining the course of vietnam and continue to believe that america can achieve an outright victory in vietnam. so they start shopping for an alternative to johnson, someone who will challenge johnson in the primaries, which is pretty unprecedented. you think in american history about the only other prior to
8:13 pm
1968 were a party try to challenge a sitting president of its own member was 1912 when you had a former president, theodore roosevelt, challenging a sitting president for the nomination. but they wanted to pressure johnson to try to quickly end the war and de-escalate in vietnam. they searched for a number of people. they approach senator mcgovern. he declined. senator mccarthy the minnesota decided to run as an anti war candidate. when he entered the new hampshire primary of 1968, he surprised the political world by having a very strong showing by against president johnson. he did not win, but he got enough of the vote that it may johnson aware that he was going to have a very tough time winning renomination. so johnson decided to withdraw from the race. in the meantime, senator robert kennedy, president kennedy's brother, had also entered the presidential contest and they were both going after him. of course, vice president hubert humphrey decided to enter to carry the standard for the johnson administration. at that point, the vice
8:14 pm
president humphrey still supported the war policies of president johnson. senator kennedy of course was assassinated in june and so that really left only senator mccarthy to sort of be the insurgent candidate. senator kennedy's followers and senator mccarthy entered a token candidacy. there's a lot of bad blood between democrats and kennedy forces. but ultimately, the nomination went to cuba humphrey, which infuriated the reformers and the anti war movement because, not only had senator from free not won a single primary, he had not even entered a single primary. so it was evidence to the reformers and the anti war insurgence that 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 open and have underrepresented constituencies like women and minorities and the young brought into the process. they wanted the entire process
8:15 pm
opened up so it wasn't in caucuses that sometimes were held almost secretly in people's homes. so it was the disillusionment with how hubert humphrey was selected in 1968 that put pressure on the democrat party to reform. senator humphrey, vice president humphrey, and trying to appease the insurgents, decided to form this commission that would talk a little bit about more to suggest reform to the party. that was the background. it was really the humphrey nomination that really enraged the reformers and to cause them to demand fundamental change. let's stick to the 68 convention. jewels, you are covering it, what's the mood at the 68 convention? what is happening in the hall and outside? >> again, it was chaos. it was a much more tumultuous convention than the 72 convention because the party itself was so divided over the war and personalities.
8:16 pm
that's the year in which writes in the streets of chicago where the police department pressed to the point where it was called a police right. there was a big fight over the vietnam plank that the anti-war forces. but it generated tremendous heat and it continued through the convention. even after the nomination of three, i remember i was there and i remember humphrey was a very sad figure in his own very supposedly celebratory moment. he knew what was going on out in the streets and even on the floor of the convention. there was such criticism of him and of the continuing of the war. so that was, and my experience, the most disruptive, but also
8:17 pm
the most excited convention in my time. >> yeah, and compare how humphrey was chosen as the nominee in 68 to, four years later, the win a governess chosen as the nominee. >> a lot of it had to do with the mcgovern reform rolls. in 1968, delegates were largely selected as they had been for years by appointment a party bosses and governors. if you are a party official, you got a free ticket to the 1968 convention. that was by nature of your influence or your official position as an officeholder or as a party officeholder. in 1972, those people, in order to get to the convention, had to actually run as delegate supporting one of the primary candidates. a lot of them picked the wrong horse in 1972 because they supported and musky, who is
8:18 pm
establishment candidate, and he had all those officeholders pulling for him. but when his campaign disintegrated, they were all left out of the convention hallway. as i said before, there were so many people who had never been to a convention before they filled the seats with the high and mighty of those who went to the convention in 68. >> jules witcover covering the convention for the los angeles times. he's here part as our contender series this evening here in washington to help us in coverage mcgovern, our 13th contender in our 14-week series. back in mitchell, south dakota at the mcgovern museum is scott faris, presidential author who wrote about mcgovern's campaign in 1972. they are going to be taking your questions and your comments as well tonight. so we will get to your phone calls here in a little bit. eastern central time, if you live in that area,.
8:19 pm
mountain pacific time, two zero two, seven three seven, triple zero two. scott fairness, let me go through the reforms that were headed up by george mcgovern. how did he get involved in the mcgovern frazier commission? >> as mr. witcover mentioned, it was chaos after 1968. despite all that chaos, humphrey closed the gap very quickly towards the end of 1968. it was a very close campaign. you had the regulars thinking we can break closer 1968. if we had not had all of this agitation, we would have been fine. all the insurgent saying this was the last gasp of a dying political machine. so humphrey was anxious to try and unite the party. so he decided to throw a bone to the insurgents by reporting this commission on delegate selection reform. as they look to figure out who is the right guy for the chair, they needed to look for several qualifications. they have credibility with insurgents? if they picked a regular it would have been viewed as a
8:20 pm
sham. they also wanted someone who is loyal to the party and who show they could work with the regulars. mcgovern, unlike mccarthy and some other folks like harold hughes, who would also have been considered for this position, mcgovern had actively campaigned for humphrey. he was always a loyal democrat and never brooklyn the party. and the third thing they were looking for was they were worried that people would view this as a way for people to manipulate the process to ensure the nomination. everyone was sure sure that mcgovern would not be a viable presidential candidate in 1972, he seem like the obvious choice because he could not manipulate the system for his candidacy because it was such a long shot that it was not even worth discussing. so he was appointed to the commission to be the chair. there were about two dozen members. people say how are they able to push these reforms through? the way they were able to do that is the people who are most likely to be opposed to the reform, particularly organized labor, it boycotted the entire process. so the reform commission was really dominated by those who were intent on opening up the process while the old regulars,
8:21 pm
particularly organized labor, it did not think it was worth bothering with because they did not think anything would come of it. >> so what were the actual reforms? what did they say? >> you will significant thing was -- well, several things. first of all, they began the process of first of all encouraging most states to use primaries as opposed to caucuses and conventions to choose their convention delegates. then, if you did have a caucus, you were required to make an opening well publicized and publicly available. mr. witcover mentioned a lot of times previously, that if you were a party official, you automatically got a chance to be a delegate and sometimes this party officials could also name others and there were all sorts of practices where they would get proxy votes and pick up whoever they wanted to take. sometimes, the decision was made the year before the convention. so they tried opening up the process is generally. they wanted to make it more responsive and more voter responsive. they also tried to do away with a winner take all for the primaries, sort of make a proportional, again to give minority candidates and insurgent candidates a better chance to build steam and maybe
8:22 pm
overtake an establishment candidate in the long run. then most controversial, i suppose, is that they decided instead of a passive approach of no discrimination against anyone who would like to be a delegate, they adopted a very proactive that the delegations had to reflect the makeup of eight states partly by gender and ethnicity and race. by age. they were trying to get more women, more minorities, and more youth into the process. when mcgovern left the commission, what they had said was that the party should simply strife a reasonable proportion. reasonable representation of those groups. after he left at a different shirt took over, the commission actually adopted specific quota that each delegation should be roughly 50% female and should have representation of minority groups equal to whatever that percentage would be in the states population. so those were sort of the basic just of the reforms by the party, by the commission. >> scott fairness, do those reforms take today?
8:23 pm
>> they very much to. in fact, what is interesting is they were derided by conservatives and republicans as a quota system. that the democrats were adding quotas and in affirmative action program. ultimately though, both parties have adopted these reforms. most primaries now are preferred over caucuses. if there are caucuses, they are widely pável -- publicized. even though the republicans have been a little less successful reaching out to minority groups, if you go to a republican convention, 50% of the delegates are going to be female and no one even thinks that is odd at all. that was a radical idea back enact in 68 and it is the norm today. some quick numbers to kind of give a sense of how much things change. in the 1968 convention, only 13% of the democratic delegates were women. and the 1972 convention, 40% were women. in the 1968 convention, only about five or 6% of the delegates were african american. in the 1972 convention, 12 to 13% were. so there was almost this instantaneous change in terms of what the party looked like and it was very dramatic.
8:24 pm
>> so scott various, the impact today, is there a long term impact? we are heading into a 2012 presidential elections with the iowa caucus coming up here very soon. >> indeed. in fact, i think it's very ironic. with the reforms do is they help, again, not establishment candidates get a foothold. because it is an open process where is if you have good ground gains and dedicated volunteers that will show up to caucuses, particularly, but also primaries, you can overcome your disadvantages in terms of endorsements and money. as the republicans have followed suit, i think president obama looks like he's going to get a challenger in the 2012 democratic process, but in the 2012 to republican process, i believe it's the first hear that the republicans will have no winner take all primaries on their side of the ledger. so if in insurgent candidate, like newt gingrich is filling that role this year, is able to get a leg up over the quote establishment candidate, who i think mitt romney has been fulfilling that role, the irony is that newton english has benefited from reforms first
8:25 pm
initiated by george mcgovern back in 1972. these reforms of broadening participation certainly have stayed with us and involve both parties, not just the democrats. >> all right, former colorado senator and presidential candidate gary heart was george mcgovern's 1972 campaign manager. here is what he had to say about the senators democratic primary reform at -- efforts. >> i think the history of his life will show that he helped save the democratic party in the period between 1968 and 72. not 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 of 1972, as interesting as it was shall we say, helped save the democratic party and helped open the doors
8:26 pm
for young people, for women, for minorities, for people who had, up to that time, been shut out. now it's fashionable, i know, for people to say there is not really much difference between the two parties, but there really is. and there is a necessity for a democratic party and the kind of democratic party george mcgovern envisioned and helped create. >> jules witcover, what's your reaction seeing gary heart talk about those reforms? >> he is certainly correct. mcgovern's role was a critical role. i go back to well before 1968 and i can remember in 1960 when john kennedy was running. he and his aide and speech writer, who recently passed away, just the two of them would get on an airplane and fly around and visit governors and mayors who were so
8:27 pm
empowered that you could pick up the nomination that way. retail not with the people, but with the officials and the politicians. >> so for you covering these conventions, what was it like to see these new faces in 1972 and going forward? >> as i said, it was very exciting because these people were into it, more than some of the old people who had been to 20 or 30 conventions over their lifetime. they had their hands on the levers and knew what was going to happen. there was an element of uncertainty that was injected by all of these new people. not only voting for the nominee, but in the platform committee hearings, credentials committee hearings and so on the proceed to the actual selection of a presidential nominee. >> scott various, let me ask you about the short term impact of these reforms.
8:28 pm
let's go to the general election, just briefly if we could, in 1972. the reforms that he put in place. do they actually benefit him when it comes to voter turnout though? to beat richard nixon. >> it helped him get the nomination. he understood, again, because he chaired the commission and had several staffers working on his campaign, he understood the new process. i don't think he deliberately try to manipulate -- he understood it and realize something fundamentally change in this process and was able to take advantage of it in terms of winning the nomination. whereas musky in some of the others were playing by the old role sort of and caught off guard. and the general election, it did not help him because these constituencies still weren't muttered. senator mcgovern only got 37 and a half percent of the popular vote in the general election. it should democrats and not get one over women. they had not gotten the youth
8:29 pm
vote the way they have today. but i think if you look at today's democratic party, you let asked about the lasting impacts, you if you look at the coalition jordan governed put together in 1972, women, the young, highly motivated activist voters, that is exactly the coalition they gave barack obama and 53% of the vote in 2008. just as barry gould waters candidacies is set to have led to the presidents iran regan. i think you can give mcgovern credit for the barack obama presidency in 2008. it just took longer for that constituency to melt and become a governing majority. it was not ready in 1972. >> all right, tonight's contender, george mcgovern, the democratic congressman and senator from south dakota in the 1972 democratic nominee for the president. let me get our viewers involved. first phone call is from mike in poughkeepsie, new york. you are on the air, good evening. >> good evening, hello. mcgovern became the head of the middle east policy council after deciding not to run for presidency again in 1992.
8:30 pm
and with this he submitted a proposal to president clinton calling the united states to protect access to iranian oil in response to israel's failure to end conflict with the arab countries. did president clinton except the proposal and, if so, what happened as an effective it? >> pretty specific question there. i don't know, scott faris, jewels witcover is here shaking his head and doesn't know how to answer that quite right. scott faris, his legacy? >> he certainly was very interested in middle east affairs. he even met with your arafat of the palestinian liberation organization. he was always interested in brokering a peace agreement. clinton did not accept that early on. but of course, president clinton at the end of his presidency made a herculean effort to try to finally make that palestinian israeli peace. but senator mcgovern got quite a bit of grief fort, occasionally using phrases -- he was a strong support of israel, but he also was very
8:31 pm
outspoken in american politics in terms of palestinian rights as well. >> and we are gonna be talking more about the governor's post 72 convention, his legacy, his efforts across the world, specifically on hunger. but first, let's hear from illinois. >> yes, i was a college student, i voted for the governor's a 20 year old. later on, hearing these things on the nixon group, and they're dirty tricks, i saw a program where they claimed they chose mcgovern as your weakest link, and through their dirty tricks spread it in the major democratic candidates, it made it easier for them to get the nomination. have you ever studied that? >> joe, do you want to weigh in on that? >> it is certainly true that in the 1972 campaign, there were involved in a number of dirty tricks, with musky.
8:32 pm
because he was a front runner at the time. i think they were setting it up for mcgovern, because at the beginning of that year, it was such a long shot that it would've been one requiring clairvoyant on the part of the nixon people to have a set of policies to make him the nominee. they wanted to get rid of muskie they thought he was a toughest candidate. including, spreading word in new hampshire, which had a very very heavy french canadian population. they used certain slower words, to slowing the french canadians. had also, they had another scheme and where the nixon campaign had a number of black voters call in new york, urging
8:33 pm
people to vote for muskie, assuming that would backlash against muskie. these things all came out, but there really weren't reasons why he didn't get the nomination, because his result campaign had problems that were just as troublesome for him. >> i will talk more about muskie coming up. the during the primary of 1971, and then the general election of 1972. but first we need to fill back a little bit and talk about why george mcgovern would run in the first place. scott farriers, what makes him decide to run for the presidency in 1972? >> it goes back to 1968, when he filled in for robert kennedy, and was a stand in barr for his delegates. because they needed test and it
8:34 pm
for kennedy. he ended up participating in the debate before the california delegation, between humphrey and mccarthy, and himself. and everyone thought that mcgovern had won that debate and he said at that moment he realized that he had presidential aspirations because he had gone on a national state against two of the leading democrats, and defended his own. so he then considered running, and decided fairly early in 1969 that he would be a candidate, he felt he was a right person to bring the old record with a new insurgences, and create a democratic majority. and also, personally despised richard nixon. mcgovern had always rejected this construct of the cold war, that there was the need to test a red beans. when he ran for the senate he ran against a guy that had always despised nixon, for having -- how he ran against stevenson, and eisenhower's vice
8:35 pm
presidential nominee. i think it is probably a great incentive for him to run. >> and then on vietnam, what is happening between 1968 and, 72, on that issue? >> well, of course nixon had said in 1968 that get a secret plant in the war in vietnam. and that turned out to escalate the war, 1969 and 70. famously, having the u.s. troop invade cambodia, other u.s. troops in the south. so early, in the nixon presidency, the war it was expert -- expanding, not winding down. and of course, this really outraged the anti war movement, and gabe mcgovern even great emphasis to run against nixon in the campaign. of course, later, as it came closer to the election, it is understood that nixon understood he needed to start disengaging american troops and by 1972, there were only couple of hundred thousand combat troops left in vietnam at that point. but as mcgovern was making the decision to run, he thought nixon was escalating the war,
8:36 pm
not winding it down. >> and jewels, we cover 1971, the pentagon papers our first published. what is the impact of this? >> well actually, the pentagon papers were not as revealing as it was set to be. because a lot of the pentagon papers were known. but it gave more credibility to wallace at the time, very mixed public feeling, about the protests against good number. i think, the impression now, is that the country was totally against a war in vietnam, in the late 1960s. it really wasn't. it was very much split. >> but yet the 1970 anti-where protest with the shootings, that sort of thing. >> yes, but even before that, you had very strong protests that nixon very effectively
8:37 pm
played on. there was just as many people who deplored the mess in the street. the pictures of these wild looking young people with their long hair, and strange close, offended one mainstream america. so the warm was particularly effective in dealing with the democratic situation, because it was a rallying point for voters, and activists. but nixon also made great use of a reaction to the wire, by making very slender's remark about people who demonstrated and so on. and he ran in 68, and again in 16 since -- 1972, basically on the line
8:38 pm
order agenda. to protect the american people from these rowdy's, were starting fires and having rallies in the streets. so that's why the war was always pegged with the vietnam war, it was always built -- really built the protests, it did do that. but also, it fueled opposition to the war and richard nixon? . so it's got fair >> is all of this and the impact of our olive it what is a do? >> i think it cost him to lose his perspective, a little bit. i'm going back to what i started with, he was so horrified by the war, and thought it was such a terrible mistake, and he made several trips to vietnam. he'd seen soldiers who had lost limbs, and been crippled for life, as well as a thousands and thousands who had died. and so, you spoke again about
8:39 pm
the war in terms that we are very very strong and harsh, and compromising. he gave a famous speech in front of the u.s. senate, in 1970, which he says this chamber wreaks of blood. and when use that kind of language, it's likely going to get people's attention. and it's going to energize the most primitive of the war folks. but it described what the voters thought, which he was going to withdraw america with any honor, not even wearing what was gonna happen to the prisoners of war. so he was so passionate about the war, he used the strongest possible language describe. it and i also wanted to give the american people listens that they had ownership of this war, they were partly culpable. this wasn't just a president, and the generals, this was a problem with the american society and we couldn't see what america was doing along in vietnam. so politically, ultimately, i think it hurt him. certainly in the general election, because americans don't really want to hear their country and military spoken about in that way. and of course, in the democrats, with this image as being
8:40 pm
intimate -- military, that they have been trying to shake for the last several decades. >> is there some motivation to run for president? >> absolutely. his desire to end the war, was the most important thing to him. when he did lose, he said i feel so strongly about this wire, that if we broad peace, one day closer, then every bone crashing hour of this campaign, is worth it. he felt extremely passionately that this was the wrong war. and what was ironic, of course, he was a war hero himself. he had served in world war ii, as a bomb pilot. he was no pacifist. but he just felt vietnam was a terrible mistake. he thought it was a war of independence and anti colonial war. and the united states had misunderstood it as a war against communist expansion, which he didn't think was true. >> that's what we want to go next, talk about the early life of george mcgovern before we talk about the 72 campaign. and then the govern campaign hired a documentary filmmaker, charles guggenheim, to produce a series of short films about
8:41 pm
the candidacy. so as we turn to turn the story of young with government, here is a brief look at the films. >> he was mcgovern, birthplace, south dakota. he grew up in mitchell, started school there. but the more important lessons were learned at home. from his mother, a gentle spirit. and from his father, christian principles and hard work. his father has spent his boyhood in illinois coal country, where the 14-hour days were measured out at ten cents a bucket. but he found time to re-descriptors, and decided to abandon the mines for politics. an 1899, he was ordained minister. reverend mcgovern built his last church in mitchell, when george was five. as a boy, george had his father's love of history. but he was not to spare the
8:42 pm
troubles of his own time. i the memory would remain with him all his life. >> scott faris, back in south dakota, at the mcgovern museum. tell us about george mcgovern. what's your his life, starting early on, influences him defines him? >> well, first of all, i think it's extremely important to say that his father was a minister in the west, methodist denomination, which is a very strict fairly fundamentalist sect of methodists. it described drinking, and dancing, and going to move these. so what he got from his father was a very strong sense of what is right and wrong. to the point that he was often been accused of being more lipstick, and even some time self righteous. so i got that from his father, very strongly. and this notion that it's right and wrong and the notion of
8:43 pm
doing good. he read a lot about the social gospel. which is how to apply christianity to public affairs, so you feed the hungry, etc. he also was interesting, he was a shy child which would later influence him. he had some teachers who thought he had a learning disability, and what kind of slow. but what a couple of people realized, was that he was in vibrant diligence, just very shy. so they forced him to read allowing class, and to do more things and public. and when he got to high school, he had a very influential teacher, who was a history and social studies teacher, as well as a debate coach. and he convinced george mcgovern to god for the, bait and turned out he was an exceptional debater. he won a number of state needs, and won a scholarship here to wesleyan, as a debater. and here, his team won national competitions. so that formed him in terms of becoming a public figure. he cared a lot about being a
8:44 pm
good communicator and a good speaker. he made good arguments and cared also a lot about principles in public policy. >> and then, world war ii. >> yes, he had another teacher who influence him in a different way, in world war ii. he had a gym teacher whom one-time directed mcgovern to jump of a lot -- over a vaulting horse. he said he, ran but couldn't bring himself to do the same -- the jump. and a coach said your problems is that your physical coward. and that really stung, and he thought about it for a number of years. because he said it when he was at college, he said a class mates said i want you to get flying lessons, if we go together, we can get a discount. and mcgovern said he was afraid of, flying and remembered what his teacher had set several years before, and decided to take the pilot lessons. so he became a certified pilot. so when japan burnt -- bomb pearl harbor, mcgovern and his friends drove down to the enlisting army. he became a pilot of bombers, he was stationed in italy. he flew 35 combat missions, he
8:45 pm
is quite a hero. he was required to fly before going home. he was an exceptionally -- exceptionally skilled pilot. he was very much admired by his crew, of ten, it was it he flew very hard points to. fry and on three occasions, we can't call them crash linings, but he had emergency landings where it was very risky, but every time he brought him in his crew safely and for that he won the distinguished flying cross. and was really a war. here later in life, after you developed -- the historian, mr. ambrose wrote the wild blue, which is of the mcgovern experience during the war in a way to highlight during world war ii. and how does his early political career define him, defined his presidential candidacy? >> he had initially thought he would be a teacher. he was going to become a history -- excuse me, he originally thought he was going to be a minister. after he came back from the war and completed his undergraduate education, he entered the seminary thinking would follow
8:46 pm
his father's footsteps. the only thing he liked about the senator was giving the sermons. he found a lot of the sacraments and the parish visits in those kinds of things just were not up his alley. he switched history, got a doctorate degree from northwestern in history. along with woodrow wilson, he's one of only two men to have phds nominated for president. he had some professors at northwestern who gave him some background in regards to eastern europe that led him to believe, as i said, the cold war construct was all wrong. the soviet union was not attempting were domination, but with simply protecting the traditional sphere of influence that it had done when it was imperial russia. he was going to be a professor, but he was also very interested in politics. he was very active in the 1952 stevenson campaign. he started writing letters to the editor and guest editorials. he caught the eye of state democrats who asked if he would be interested in perhaps becoming the executive secretary of the south dakota democratic party.
8:47 pm
the democrats in south dakota at that point where instead shape. there were 110 legislators in south dakota in 1953. of all of them, who were democrats. so it was quite a challenge and we govern thought about it and said it was a challenge with taking. he slowly built up the democratic party. he went out and recruited party workers. he recruited candidates. he raised money. he wrote platforms and speeches. the democrats got 24 seats in 1954. then in 1956, mcgovern took the party helped build up and ran for congress in the first time in defeated the two term republican harold loafer. you want to get in 1958 when he defeated a former south dakota governor. then in 1960 he made his first bid for the united states senate, lost, and so jon kennedy felt that his candidacy had brought mcgovern down in south dakota. so he offered mcgovern the position to run the food for peace program in the kennedy
8:48 pm
administration. >> and so we are talking about george mcgovern's legacy, his candidacy, we will delve into the primary run that he made in 1971. but before we do that, let's get in kurt in akron, ohio as part of the conversation. go ahead, kurt. >> thank you and good evening, c-span. thank you for this wonderful series of the contenders. i only hope that sunday you will do one about the cabinet as well. anyway, my comment and question is i heard somewhere, and i don't know what the truth is behind this, but just moments before senator robert f. kennedy was assassinated in 1968 after winning the california primary, senator mcgovern was actually participating in a phone conversation with senator kennedy. i just wondered if it's now been revealed what that conversation was about and if you know anything about that phone conversation. >> i never heard that.
8:49 pm
i happen to be in the hotel kitchen at the time robert kennedy was assassinated. i spent a great deal of time then, and since then, exploring all of the details of the time leading up to robert kennedy's death. i never came across that story, but i do know that in his hotel room, he didn't make calls to a number of people to look forward to what he expected to be the next phase of the campaign, which was to go to new york and campaign for delegates there. he did talk to many people. he may well have talked to senator mcgovern as well, because if i'm not mistaken, there was also a primary it's not dakota the same night. i had not heard that he actually talked to him, but
8:50 pm
it's very possible. >> all right. mike in california. good evening to you. thanks for joining us. >> hello. just a few things i want to throw out. anthony lucas in nightmare, which is perhaps the best from about watergate, says dirty tricks for essential knit that the narrative about who the nominee would be. i think it's more accurate to say that nixon ran on a white backlash campaign as opposed to so-called law in order. and finally a historical footnote. unfortunately, the only state mcgovern carried was massachusetts and i'm from there. at the time, we proudly put bumper stickers on our car saying don't blame me, for massachusetts. that is all i have to say. >> scott faris. >> senator mcgovern always resented the implication that he won the nomination because richard nixon became involved with his alleged dirty tricks. i guess they're not alleged anymore. 30 tricks against musky.
8:51 pm
mcgovern said he always thought musky was a very weak front runner. that he was not a good campaigner. that he did not have the fire in his belly. that he clearly did not understand, again, that the rules are changed because of the reform commission. the notion that musky lost the nomination is only because of nixon's dirty tricks. senator mcgovern always thought that was bunk. he certainly acknowledge the nixon campaign were always doing little things. the mcgovern campaign had plenty of stories where they would find out that their buses have been canceled right before a rally and they could not get people to and from. they always seem to have somebody at a mcgovern rally behind him holding a hammer and sickle flag of the soviet union, which they always assumed was a nixon plant. there were certainly dirty tricks involved, but he did not believe that was why they won the nomination. >> all right, john in and dale, virginia. >> several years ago, i read the wild blue and only then learned about mcgovern's war
8:52 pm
record. i remember the 1972 campaign, it was my first time i could vote. i don't recall mcgovern ever mentioning his war record. i think it would have given his anti war stance more credibility if he had. >> yeah. >> can you comment on that? >> john, before our guest comment on that, i just want to show you and others were george mcgovern had to say that his experience as a world war ii bomber pilot. c-span sat down with him recently at his offices in mitchell, south dakota. here he is in his own words on that and then we will come back to talk about it. >> i flew 35 missions in a b 24 bomber, which is the biggest one we had at that time. that was before the b-52 and the b one. we were hitting the most heavily defended targets in europe. they shot us to pieces on some
8:53 pm
of those missions. i wanted to bail out and wanted my crew to bailout, but i've got a little scotch blood and i knew those planes cost about 300,000 dollars. that's nothing by today standards where you have a b one that costs a billion for one plane. but it was a lot of money then, so i kept nursing those crippled planes back to home base. and for that, i got the distinguished flying cross. >> there it is. the distinguished flying cross in mitchell, south dakota and then the govern museum. we are live from there for our contenders series tonight on george mcgovern. scott faris, how does a war hero become a anti war presidential candidate? and why, as that caller said, does he not talk about it? >> there was a subject of a lot of debate during the campaign about how much he should
8:54 pm
emphasize his war record during world war ii. he did mention from time to time, he never just completely ignored it, but he specifically was encouraged by his staff to excluded from his nomination acceptance speech. they said they thought it was in congress that he would come out and speak against war while at the same time speaking about his war record. that was the rational why he did not emphasize it more. but i would agree with the color. i think it would have been to his benefit head he talked about it a little more more because people got the mistaken impression that he was a pacifist who did not believe in using the armed forces for any purpose. he would later in life, for example, endorse clinton's use of the armed forces in kosovo and bosnia to stop the genocide there. so he was not a pacifist. it was just a decision that they felt was in congress to mention the more record in the context of being the anti war candidate. >> jewels witcover, as a reporter covering this, was it talked about, his war hero status? >> not very much until the end of the campaign. he had a slogan in his speech
8:55 pm
about leaving the war behind and coming home. that was one of his slogans, come home america. it was in the context of that there was some references to his wartime experience. >> before we talk a little bit more about george mcgovern's primary run, let me get this phone call in from jill in brock in, massachusetts. jill, you are on the air. >> thank you. i recall watching senator mcgovern and robert woodward and i think bob schieffer at the time of president ford's funeral. they were interviewing senator mcgovern and talking about his friendship with president ford. he said in the end that he had voted for ford in 76. he said he discussed it with his family afterwards and found they had all done that as well. i about fell off my chair because i'm a strong democrat.
8:56 pm
i wondered if that has come into the mix of information about senator mcgovern ever? >> scott farris? >> he did have great affection for gerald ford. i don't know that he actually voted for him, but he had some problems with president carter. a couple of reasons. president carter had not been very supportive of him back in 1972. then even though president carter basically ball -- borrowed mcgovern strategy from 1972 to get his nomination in 1976. i also think the magnitude of mcgovern's loss meant he was a bit of a pariah and democratic circles. he was not given a starting role in the next convention. i'm sure there was some hurt feelings there. i'm not sure he voted for president for, but he worked with a number of republicans. he and bob dole partnered for their entire lifetime almost for ending world hunger. he was capable of working across the aisle. he was not an idealogue who never worked in a bipartisan
8:57 pm
manner. >> george mcgovern, the world war ii hero, the congressman from south dakota, the senator from their decides to take a run from the presidency -- for the presidency. having decided to run, mcgovern announces his candidacy from sioux falls, south dakota on january 18th, 1971. here's a piece of a campaign found put together by charles guggenheim on mcgovern's decision to make that presidential run. >> this country was conceived by a man who had a dream of human dignity and justice and concern for each other. and if we begin now to match our policies with our ideals, then i believe that 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 a good
8:58 pm
land that you and i want it to be, and that together, we have made it. that is my hope, that is my reason for seeking the presidency of the united states. ♪ ♪ >> and jules witcover, what is in the governs chances heading into the primary in 1971? >> considered very slim. he was not a really dynamic personality. he was a very calm man. he was a very soft spoken, like fire, except when he talked about the war in vietnam. >> was he considered dull? >> some considered handle. his gentleness and his niceness
8:59 pm
sometimes was ridiculed, but they were genuine. when he ran in the first primary, he was regarded basically has a weak replacement robert kennedy, because robert kennedy as it kennedy was so dynamic. it was also because musky was considered almost a certainty to be the nominee at that time. he had been very impressive as some freeze nominee in 1968. he was also a rather softspoken man most the time, but he had a terrible temper that sometimes came through. that seldom happened with george mcgovern. >> so who else is running and who do they compare to george mcgovern? >> as i recall, another senator,
9:00 pm
fred harris of oklahoma, but they were all bunched up together and it was considered musky's nomination to lose and some of the things that happened in new hampshire that your other guest mentioned including appearing to cry in a furious moment outside the local newspaper for things that had been printed about his wife. there is no dispute about whether he was crying or not, because he was telling at the time, and muskie himself tonight that he wasn't crying. but nevertheless, that was the impression. but they were other reasons why this collapsed, the beginning of the collapse of new hampshire. because one of the big ones was the position of vietnam.
9:01 pm
he could not make up his mind where his stood on vietnam. whereas mcgovern left no doubt, where he stood on the warrant vietnam. another point i should make is that mcgovern was genuinely against a wall, but he was a very little -- . and so, although he was revered by the people who are against a war in vietnam. as i said before, there were so many other people who didn't see it that way. and they would dream to vote for george mcgovern. >> charles didn't time, part of what he found during the campaign, included the senator speaking to a group of vietnam veterans, vietnam war veterans at a hospital, here's a little bit of that conversation. >> a lovely country there, is no question about that. yet you're halfway mad at it, aren't you? >> when you lose the control of
9:02 pm
your battle, your bladder, your sterility, or never father a child, the possibility that you will ever walk again is cut off for the rest of your life, your 23 years old, you don't want to be a burden on your family, you know we, go a nursing home. and you're gonna stay there until you brought. why aren't there places like this where the government could set up, nobody thinks of the disabled veteran, or disabled anybody, another disabled person. if you fall out of your wheelchair you know who's your first one to come and try and give you some help? i got in a wheelchair, no -- not someone who's walking. >> i think it's one of the most important facts, what you just said. that there is people who are desperately in need of help. who can't qualify for, it under the present system. >> to stay alive. >> that's right. i love the united states but i love it enough so i want to see some changes made. the american people want to
9:03 pm
believe in their government, they want to believe in their country. and i'd like to be one of those, that provides the kind of leadership that would help restore that kind of faith. i don't say i can do it alone, of course i can't. but the president can help set a new tone in this country, he can help raise divisions, and the fate, in the division in the people. that's what i would like to try to do. >> scott farris the impact of the tone in that campaign film, and the impact on the primary run? >> well, it turns out the tone, one of the things identical back to. because how many time, america is often involved in some kind of military, conflict as we are, today in the last decade in iraq and afghanistan. but how often do your politics -- politicians talk about the cost of war? very soul done, if ever. and i think that was very startling to a lot of american people. after the election, and mcgovern was lost, he said he
9:04 pm
was in the senate cloakroom and he had another senator of georgia talking and he said you know, let me tell you why george that election, and he said because america is a great country it's got plenty of faults. but george acted like he was angry at the country, and you can't preach day and night against american expect to be elected. and that chuck mcgovern. because his feeling was that as a patriot, what you do is point out your nations faults, and try to improve them. you don't sugarcoat it and say were a great country, a great nation at, everything we do is great. so he was trying, in his mind, he was fulfilling the highest order of patriotism. but many people didn't interpret it, and said he was talking down in the united states by talking so graphically about the castro war, and questioning our conduct and why were there in the first place. >> and so, as jules witcover said, scott farris this was his primary race to lose. so how does judgment govern overcome this and win the nomination? >> well i think it was a bit of a political survivor he, was an organizational genius.
9:05 pm
he understood what it would take to win. first of all, one of the things we stop, about he always talked about what a good guy he was, what a decent guy he was. all of that was true. but we should not overlook the fact that he was intensely ambitious as well. he tells a story of himself, one time, about a friend of his who says george you are the most sufficient egomaniac i know. and that is true. mcgovern had that fire in the belly to be president, and he was willing to do what it took to put in the long hours, and his campaign manager once said that mcgovern would do what it take. he would go for the jugular, if that's what he would do, to win the nomination to the election. so he worked very hard. he had a concept of how to win that involved all of these activists, these insurgents who were organized, who would flood these caucuses and early primary states, and get him out of the lower depths of the candidacies. where he was only pulling one or 2% at the beginning of the campaign. but then he pulled off a very strong second place showing in the iowa caucus, a very strong second place showing in new
9:06 pm
hampshire. it showed muskie was vulnerable, and caused other people to let go of the race. so he organized other candidates, he wanted to keep the primary in wisconsin. he barely won ohio, he meant to keep in place in california, which will talk about a little bit more. so he had a better organization, he worked harder, and he had the devotion of the a tie war insurgents at his disposal. >> jules witcover what was immediate making of the strategy at the time? these grassroots strategies, where you paying attention to it? >> obviously. but i think we must remain attention to muskie. because he was supposed to be the winner. muskie staff made a terrible mistake in new hampshire. one of his leading campaign people predicted that, as she said, if muskie he doesn't win 50% of the voter i will leave
9:07 pm
behind. he won 46% of the vote. but against that prediction, he was written really that mcgovern was essentially the winner, before the primary. and muskie then recover from that. so i think, if muskie hadn't stumbled, mcgovern knowing the game and what he invented, with the delegate election rules, brought probably would've won anyway. but the fact that muskie had a string of mistakes and bad luck, certainly provide an opening for macgregor. >> and george wallace, to a role of him in this primary? >> well, wallace was a spoiler. he tried to be a spoiler. and he managed muskie that far because wallace had won before
9:08 pm
primary, and muskie made a mistake and finish fourth. something's camp in a nail in the coffin and others can open away. >> so muskie but did mcgovern make any mistakes in these primaries? >> he would later. he got complacent, oddly enough. here he was the -- but he stumbled the most badly in california. i came into california, he was against other victories, it was against humphrey's, all the others had dropped out, and it came down to the california primary. and some were happy, and some worked not as hard, and they took it for granted. i think the media too, so macgregor got a positive price going on, and people always admire someone who has been scrapping from behind. so now macron -- and so they have the same
9:09 pm
expectations gained, muskie lasagna, macgregor lost in california. everybody assumed he would win, and it turned out to be very close. it was a less big bump in the road, which nearly derailed his nomination. >> we're gonna get into that a little bit more but. i want to first talk about dirty tricks. because a couple of callers have brought up. jules witcover what happened in a campaign? lower some of the dirty tricks our happening? >> most of the dirty tricks were in new hampshire. we've already talked about the things that were done to muskie. but, throughout the campaign, the dirty tricks were similar to nixon's strategy. not simply because they were afraid of muskie, but that is the way they did business. the whole watergate brigade was a manifestation of a desire,
9:10 pm
not only to win, but to destroy. the whole campaign, which was really personified by nixon himself, was to decimate the opposition. not take any chances. and it led to the excesses that we saw soon after, in the watergate problem. >> let's go to the primaries, scott farris where does this tagline of amnesty asking an abortion come from, explain what it is and where does it come from? >> well remarkably. it came from his future running mate, according to bob no back in his memoirs, which were published a while ago. allegedly, eagle ten was the first one where people were saying if mick governor as a chance, eagles him told novak on background while no he can't possibly, he is the guy who favors abortion, amnesty, and legalization of marijuana. and later he changed that for little value.
9:11 pm
so that was kind of painted on the grabber. it was pretty unfair, he didn't support legalization of marijuana, in fact he said if you go to college campuses he would say will you've heard on the candidate he was supposed to legalize pot. hand college audience would go wild and applaud. and he said that's not true, so i really don't. i think we should not have joe penalties row marijuana positions. and the crowd would sit on his hands. the problem with amnesty, he actually favorite very little amnesty. he had favored for deserters, for people who are conscientious objectors, and some of those who avoided the drafting anyways. and on abortion he actually really displeased his feminine supporters. he believed abortion should remain a decision made at the state level, not of the federal level. he didn't even ask about roe v. wade in that campaign, in 1972. he even opposed the basic aspect of roe v. wade which made it a federal matter. so none of those labor's really applied, but they sort of captured the haute hippie image that people were trying to put on mcgovern.
9:12 pm
>> i wouldn't categorize that line, amnesty an abortion as a dirty trick. that was just commonplace and politics, it's always been, particularly more so now. we talk about dirty tricks we talk about active actions taken by both -- one side to sabotage the other side. >> right. well at the time, when you heard that tagline covering the primaries, what you make of it? >> not much. >> you can write about it? >> i don't remember what i wrote about. but i there was no reason i wouldn't write about it, but that wouldn't put it in the category of being a dirty trick. it would just be going on both sides, back and forth, it's always been done, it still does, and probably will continue to be done. >> pennsylvania, you're on the air with our two guests, we are talking about george mcgovern, our 14th contender. go ahead. >> hi.
9:13 pm
i'm a 17-year-old college student. i volunteered for the mcgovern campaign. but i was not able to vote in that election, i was 17 years old. how my question is, the breaking of the democratic headquarter, at the watergate, did not appear to be exploited in the south that much, by the mcgovern campaign at the time. why was it there are so much caution in the campaign, not to denounce the break in. it seems to me that the senate draft to break in, may have been, a factor, a very effective factor, and reason for people not to reelect nixon. and i'd like to include, lastly, that mr. mcgovern appears to be the only living contender who is available, and i was wonder -- wondering if he was invited to participate tonight. >> you know what, he was invited to participate. and we had plans for him to
9:14 pm
join us, unfortunately he took a spill earlier, and he won't be able to make it. he's doing fine. but regrettably, he won't be able to make it with us, this evening. let's take the caller's comments about nixon, and the water break, and the rules in place. why didn't mcgovern make more of it? >> well he certainly tried. but at the time, the watergate story didn't take out the way it should have, or the way we expected it to. one of the reasons, was an inside journalism story. a lot of newspapers including my old newspaper at the time, some editors felt the story was unproven, and the washington post was hanging out there by themselves, so they were flying with the -- without other newspapers. so he didn't jump in on. it and mcgovern himself, to his
9:15 pm
credit, head away at it, and didn't catch on, with a request in which you would've expected him to. >> and where the american people paying attention? there were reading about it. what you have to remember that most destructive indiscriminating aspects of watergate were revealed after the campaign was over. when the trial began and one of the defendants told a judge that there was more to the story then had come out. so a lot of that stuff came out too late to be of any benefit to mcgovern, but he certainly did try. >> all right. we discussed the primary. let's go up to the convention. here's george mcgovern at the convention in miami joking about giving his feature 2:30
9:16 pm
in the morning. >> chairman bryan, senator burke, senator kennedy, senator eagle ten and my fellow citizens. i'm happy to join you for this benediction of our friday sunrise service. i assume that everyone here is impressed with my control of this convention in that my choice for vice president was challenged by only 39 other nominees. >> and we are back live from mitchell, south dakota at the
9:17 pm
museum in mitchell, south dakota, than the government's ear there. scott, vice president author, it's taking place -- mcgovern gives a speech at 2:30 in the morning. tied at back to something that you touched on briefly before we heard from a government there and that is shubert humphrey's challenge to mcgovern in the state of california. how does that impact the convention and the late night speech. >> what happened in california was that the mcgovern commission, as i mentioned earlier, had decided to try to do away with winner take all primary's. but they granted in exception to california. they did that at the urging of these anti-war insurgents will realize that there was a lot of struggle -- strong insurgent feeling in california and that would benefit whoever the insurgent candidate happened to be, if in fact california was able to remain a winner take all state. that was the rules adopted in everyone understood that. so they want to the california
9:18 pm
primary, which is the last big primary before the convention. by now, the race had no narrow down between mcgovern and humphrey. had mcgovern won by the 15 to 20 points as the post thought he would, california would not have been in issue. but humphrey came within five points. at that point, humphrey and said why should california be winner take all? the commission had talked about proportional displacement of delegates, why should california be so different? i should get roughly half the delegates out of california because he's trying to stop mcgovern. one of the interesting sidelines here is that humphrey and mcgovern were good friends and next or neighbors. they both came from midwestern states. in fact, humphrey was born in south dakota before moving to minnesota. they were both history professors. they had a lot in common. mcgovern was shocked that humphrey was going to such lengths to challenge the results in california because even that would not have denied mcgovern the nomination. he already locked up a lot of delegates from the other caucus states. this went all the way to the
9:19 pm
convention floor where humphrey proposed an alternative delegation that were half a govern supporters in half humphrey supporters. of course, we govern was trying to beat that back because he wanted a first ballot victory. it was not resolved until the wednesday of the convention, excuse me, the tuesday of the convention. wednesday with the day that mcgovern was supposed to submit his vice presidential nominee. as mr. witcover mentioned, people were exhausted and up all night. so when they got up the next morning, they do not have a short list of nominees. that was not wildly different from the past. generally, from a governed before, they did not name the vice presidential nominee until the convention. because of the fiasco at the 70 to convention where the governor picked eagle tin, and you see the vice presidential nominees are always picked ahead of the convention so they can be bet it. but anyways, it took all day for them to finally get somebody who is willing to run with george mcgovern. it came down to where he finally submitted the name a
9:20 pm
few minutes before the deadline. by that time, he also angered the feminists. they decided to put a woman he nominee up and that encouraged other people, as senator mcgovern noted, to put up a whole bunch of nominees, some 39. some serious others goofy like archie bunker. when they finally got the balloting done and nominated eagle to be his running mate, it was 2:30 in the morning. >> jules witcover, who is on his list is a short list of possible bp candidates. >> it started out with quite a long list because the night that they were going to post the pick, that morning at the hotel in miami, he called together the staff and said around this big green cover
9:21 pm
table in the hotel and slips of paper were passed around to all of the staff members. some low extent members were in on the decision on who should be the vice president. they would write their names on a piece of paper and then it would be collected and they would total them. at first, i had about 20 different people who are nominated. then they narrowed it down to about ten. then they narrowed it down to six. i don't know if i can name all of the six. but among that group, in addition to eagle tin, were obviously ted kennedy, who told mcgovern several times he did not want to do it. mario brian. a rubicon was the governor of connecticut. dell son was a senator from wisconsin. and there was two or three
9:22 pm
others. they took a ballot and another one and another one and finally when they got down to two people. it was eagle tin and kevin white who was the mayor of boston at the time. after some more discussion, it was decided that it should be kevin white. mcgovern actually called kevin white and offer the nomination and he said he would not take it. but then kenneth gobright who was a prominent economist and a member of the massachusetts delegation called mcgovern and said you can't take kevin white. the massachusetts delegation would walk out. there was also a suggested that kim kennedy would object. he had to back up and that left
9:23 pm
eagleton. a story about that meeting. we are hanging around outside this meeting for a couple of hours and when it finally broke up, we went into the room and found all of these pieces of paper. so most of them were torn up. so meticulously they've got them altogether and spent about two hours patching them together so we could finally determine who it was going to be. there was so many names in so many little pieces. we wasted our time,. >> there was no consensus. >> well it was decided by that time that it would be eagleton. we did not know they had made a decision. so we wasted about two hours playing to texas.
9:24 pm
>> scott farris, why did all these potential running mates say no? and when eagleton accepts, who does that appeal to? >> most of them said no because they thought he was going to lose. even though senator mcgovern that he had a good case to make and some good reasons about why he thought he would win, most people did not think that was going to happen. so nobody wanted to be associated with losing campaign. senator mcgovern biggest tactical air was probably that he could -- he thought he could convince ted kennedy to become his running mate. what he wanted to do was that he wanted to represent the inserted wing of the party. he had the same problem that hubert humphrey had in 1968. he wanted to unite the democrats. he wanted someone who is acceptable to labor, it was an urban ethnic, a catholic, that was why kevin white who was one of those who was considered and senator eagleton fit that bill. and senator eagleton was very anxious. he had aspirations of his own.
9:25 pm
so senator mcgovern's communications director called senator eagleton and said is there anything in your past that we should know about that would disqualify you? he said no there wasn't. >> we will talk about more -- we will talk more about the eagleton decision and the fallout from it. first, let me get ahead from morristown, new jersey and on this conversation. go ahead. >> good evening. senator mcgovern took up robert kennedy's banner in 1968. how much support did mcgovern received from the kennedy forces after he got the nomination and after i headed discussing kennedy family members to the ticket? >> they campaigned enthusiastically for him. ted kennedy was very good about it. the whole kennedy family campaigned aggressively for him. and of course, when senator eagleton was dropped on the ticket, he had a very strong
9:26 pm
support of the kennedy family. they had great fashion -- affection for senator mcgovern. jon kennedy had especially high regard for senator mcgovern. he called him the most decent man in the u.s. senate. >> michael in warren, ohio. you are next. >> yes. this talk about the vice president pick and so one. it's just an example about how messed up that whole scenario seem to be. i always wondered was how can the democratic party never stood behind hubert humphrey, who only four years earlier, had a very close election with president nixon? why they would not have backed him all along instead of him just becoming another person trying to run for office? >> all right, mr. witcover.
9:27 pm
>> one reason was humphrey had been a presidential candidate before that and had not made it. muskie, as i said before, muskie was so strong. and also, you have to remember that nixon -- not nixon, but lbj for was the standard bear in 68 until you decide to drop out. humphrey did not get into that race until after lbj dropped out. so he did not have the apparatus to go on.
9:28 pm
he probably would've been a good candidate. >> but from colorado. you're on the air. >> yes. it's led bill. >> sorry about that. >> thanks for taking my call and thanks very much for doing this series. we are talking tonight about one of my very favorite americans, the very first campaign that i was very -- ever involved in. i have always been rather amazed at how much this country dismissed senator mcgovern and was willing to reelect richard nixon. i read mr. witcover book, probably the year came out when i was in college, and that book and several others i still just couldn't quite get it. i think the senator has proven himself over decades to be a
9:29 pm
very great american. i'm really grateful for c-span presenting this program. >> all right, jules witcover. >> i would agree with the caller that the government was in underrated and underappreciated candidate. it's sort of unfortunate that he ran into a candidacy in the next since that was very aggressive and destructive. he made some mistakes, some serious mistakes in his own campaign that did him in, but i doubt without the conflicts and the campaign in the dirty tricks and so on, whether mcgovern could've won that election. >> let's get into that. let's get into nixon's role in the general election and the mistakes made by mcgovern. but first, we need to talk
9:30 pm
about the eagleton choice and the fallout from that. here is the government's former campaign aide frank mac awaits explaining the eagle choice. >> the problem there, of course, is we had a very tough denomination. it was unclear until the second day of the convention, that there was an ugly credentials fight, that concern the california delegation. it was not clear that mcgovern had a clear sailing on the nomination, as we thought he had. had to win that fight, and that took a lot of effort, and delegates, and time, and concentration. it's just kind of chaotic. there were three or four days, from went to choose vice president, two days, really, two days two nights. and we all got together and we talked, and we talked about names. and we asked a few people, threw some names around. but tom eagle ton, was by all the standards, of measurements,
9:31 pm
the candidate -- he was the son of a small agricultural state in the north, protestant minister, he had strong ties to labor. on the key issues, he was certainly an agreement with the government. and they look like a pretty good fit. and you have to understand, that we didn't have any fbi, we didn't have any security agencies available to check anybody out. we went through the statewide, ran a few, times one of the times, they could be used against, him and they were used against him. >> so, jules witcover, the eagle to choice, what are you being told about it from the campaign? >> there was no chatter about, it at all. when i was made, because there was no indication there was
9:32 pm
anything wrong with it. varying candidates, it was a very casual sort of thing at the, time and dad as it was indicated in that clip there really wasn't that much time to do anything or any reason not to take eagle turns word for it. that they had nothing that would damage the campaign. >> so you were there, and after the convention you are in this place. what is happening about eagle tint? >> well i wasn't actually out there at the time, but eagle tin went to and met with mcgovern. they're working that eagle tin had had mental health problems, and had take shock therapy twice. but the governor first was
9:33 pm
satisfied, with eagle tons explanation, and stood up for him. he normally said that he would support them, but there were some questions coming back at him. you make the mistake of saying you were full 1000 percent. and it was very hard to back away from that, when they realized from the reaction they were getting, that this disclosure of legal to -- eagle tins legal problems was going to really damaged a campaign. >> so, scott farris what happens next? >> well what happened next was they were trying to find a delicate way out of it. a couple of things had happened. one of the things was once the rumors came out and the truth came out about senator eagleton treatment, i think that's what he was diagnosed with, some reports came out for example that he was also drunk, and had
9:34 pm
been arrested for drunken driving. those were in fact false, and those came from jack anderson's call. so that point in time, eagleton was becoming a very sympathetic figure, at some people are picking on. it there was a lot of sympathy for people who had mental illnesses, and he had a feeling he was cured, he said he was fine. maybe his, financed senate and macgregor said he was hanging behind. so they began to begin with. so the idea was for him to resign, and he would go away. but senator eagleton was in feeling that way, he felt his reputation had been damaged, it had not been handled very well. senator macgregor had -- mcgovern had been -- he was quietly trying to finish out how he could get him off the ticket. so it's a very long dense, which they had to negotiate in which he would -- the terms in which he would voluntarily resign from the ticket. and eventually, i would roll
9:35 pm
out the ticket that senator mcgovern would make about the mentioned to health problems, and that is the only condition in which he would resign. in the meantime, of course, this campaign was already facing an appeal and a climb, which didn't settle with a big albatross. so of course, the average -- the struggle to find a place for eagle tin, it took a long time, it was very and very saying to senator mcgovern. he got a bit of a rearranged by calling aides precedents to filling the nominee. eventually, they turned to a sergeant who had been one of the earlier choices, but he had been out of the country at the time of the democratic convention. and now he was, back and he turned out to be a very effective campaigner, but he was absolutely disastrous. whatever chance mcgovern had to win was wiped away by the eagleton affair. and if you talk to other people they will tell navy he would've won in 1972, but had not been for the eagleton mess, they believe mcgovern would've carry ten or 15 states, and would've
9:36 pm
won 45 to 47% instead of 37% of the votes. >> how do americans feel that decision? >> well, the interesting thing was remember mcgovern felt one of the great advantages he had over nixon was in question of character. he believed next in a lies and knock off of mccarthy. he could connect with americas mental health, as well as what the caller alluded to earlier. and yet, because he had baffled and come back and forth and seem to be indecisive, and not totally honest about the eagleton fiasco, a question of character no work to nixon's fate. if you ask people who seemed more trustworthy? in the polling, it was nixon, and not mcgovern he was very sad about that, he was hurt deeply. and now the question was about his character, not nixon's. and further, the eagleton story was one of the factors that kept watergate from being the great story. as it was mentioned, people couldn't think about the contacting --
9:37 pm
context initially. nobody knew about this broader strategy of sabotaging the campaign. so the big political story, in the late summer and fall of 1972 was the eagleton affair not watergate. and that was one of the reasons why mcgovern he couldn't capitalize. >> so will come back and talk about nixon. what is happening with nixon at the time. but first let me show you a couple of campaign ads from this period. first days george mcgovern followed by a nixon ad. >> one of the reasons i'm disturbed about the president 10 million dollar secret election find, is that it indicates there is something there he is afraid to disclose. but what are they hiding? and i'm perfectly willing to publish the name of every dollar contributed to my campaign. and i don't see what the president is covering up. but it's that kind of thing that puts a kind of a damper on a moral tone for the whole nation. >> mcgovern, democrat, for the people. >> i would just like to say a
9:38 pm
couple of words. i am a democrat, for president nixon in his relation. i can only thing -- say the thing that motivated might change, was it a year of just collecting pure unaffected facts. >> i want to make this pledge, i want to make it to everybody here, whether you happen to be black, or white, or young, or old, or all of those listening, i believe in the american dream, sandy believes in it. we believe in it. because, we've seen it come true, in our own lives. this is your first vote, and years from now, i just hope you're gonna look back and say it was one of your best votes. thank you. >> jules witcover what is happening with nixon at this
9:39 pm
point in the general election? how is he campaigning? >> nixon is coasting, basically. he had a very disciplined campaign. he carried out 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 dakota to every state, and just campaigned from dawn to dusk. as a result of that, it made him look terrible. we recall the debate he had with john f. getting, where he looked like he was gonna expire. so, as a result of that, he decided the best way to run was to limit what he did, and only show him at his best. it happened in 68, it happened again in 72.
9:40 pm
>> so what was it like then, for you to cover the mcgovern campaign, versus the nixon campaign? how are they different? >> well i covered both, actually. the one was -- mcgovern was winning desperately. they weren't catching on, they traveled widely, those were the first campaign where depletes were used extensively across the country in a day. and that's humphrey had done, when he lost to the knicks and the first time, in 1968, campaigning too much. one of the secrets of nixon's success in both 68 and 72 was that his people realized that if you gave television just one piece to use, on the evening news, make it the best when you
9:41 pm
could. and only do that one piece, and do some other trivial campaigning otherwise. where is humphrey's, as i said earlier, from dawn to dusk in campaign, made a lot of mistakes, made some good choices, but immediate would always picked the most controversial thing. so nine times out of ten, humphrey would look bad, and nixon will look good. and the same thing applied in 72, with mcgovern and nixon. >> so, scott farris what is a nixon campaign doing to try and weaken mcgovern? >> well, again, they're hitting him as a radical. he was far too extreme to be acceptable to the american mainstream. and again, as they said, talking about the accomplishments of the nixon administration. let me talk real quickly about why mcgovern thought he had a chance to win. i thought it's fairly important. he had a face to look pretty
9:42 pm
reasonable, rational reasons. he thought nixon was very unpopular, both because of his personality, but also because nixon for the first couple of years in office had been very controversial. he expanded the wind vietnam. and domestically, he had raised a lot of hackles by instituting wage and price control. the economy was not doing well and 71. and there and inflation was a real concern. nixon then, did some things to try to reduce the inflation rate, and he spent a ton of money at the end of 71, early seventies here to boost the economy. he then began the american is a shun of the war in vietnam. increasingly relying a return to and entire demonstration. and he tried to counter by going to china and establishing normal diplomatic relations, with communist china. which the anti communist nixon came quite a surprise. so he managed to orchestrate events, sort of his presidency
9:43 pm
reached its peak in 1972. his great accomplishment in office occurred in 1972, and took away a lot of the government's arguments of why nixon should be supported. two other quick things about what mcgovern misjudgements he made. he thought george wallace was gonna run against, as a third party. and aside from a lot of voters and nixon, not only in law south, but the initial northeast, we would've made this states easier to carry. of course, wallace was evicted moment assassination attempt right before the primary, and was paralyzed, and he wasn't able to continue the race. the other thing, misjudgment from the campaign, was that he thought the youthful will come out in mask favor for him. especially, with the passage of the 26th amendment, allowing 20 -- 18 year olds about. surprisingly, mcgovern barely won the young demographic, with -- and lost 21 to 25 demographic to nixon. which showed, despite the attention getting to anti war students and activists on college campuses, a lot of young americans were still very conservative. >> and jules witcover we know
9:44 pm
how the story and, mcgovern and one of the second worst landslide defeats in american history. what is the mood of his campaign, and of the country, at the end of this election, heading into november? >> well a lot of them, when you're a campaign trail, you're flying around the country, you don't know what's going on in the rest of the country. people who are on that campaign day in and day out, many of them, believed they would go to win, or at least to think they could win. and the dimensions of the defeat were obviously crushing to them. >> and 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 mcgovern concession speech. and then, you will hear a secret white house recording a white house conversation between nixon and then at the,
9:45 pm
time specialist distant for national security, kissinger. >> we protect president nixon would come out of this the winner, where the bout 60% of the popular vote. and somewhere between 450 and 500 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. i sincerely, george mcgovern. doctor kissinger, and also, it will be a few moments where we can get him. go ahead please. mister president, hi henry how are you. i just wanted to extend my congratulations, we all knew it
9:46 pm
was gonna happen. we got our 60%. one can be to happy, almost all states maybe except minnesota. you know, this was a break. he was very gracious in the beginning, and then he went right back [inaudible]. he said i look forward to working with you and your supporters. no i'm not gonna sit up and that's for no war. i could argue with bobby about it, but it's sensitive sort of thing. he was on generous, i responded,
9:47 pm
in a very different way, but i'm not gonna say much time. >> you're looking at one of the qcard from their mcgovern concession speech, in the museum in south dakota. where he says we did not relative the support of policies were the glory, but we do love the nation. and later on the nation will be better because we never once gave up in the long battle to renew its oldest ideals, and to redirect its current energies along more humane and hopeful paths. jules witcover it was his concession speech viewed by others as ungracious? >> i don't think so. i think it took a paranoid person, like richard nixon, to take it that way. >> and scott farris, your reaction? >> i think it was generally pretty gracious. nixon's telegram to mcgovern, was not particularly fuzzy and warm either.
9:48 pm
so both didn't like each. other but i would say, in connection if you look at most people who look back at concessions, i did that is part of my book, mcgovern is a little more petulant than the typical. one interesting really, apparently when you get being in a landslide, you're not defeated as quite as good if you lose fairly closely. the problem is when you lose fairly close, you make it another shot for years on the. rod don't burn any bridges. but what happened later, there are the dayton extends inauguration in 70, three the second inaugural, mcgovern was in england and gave a speech in oxford. in which was extremely critical of richard nixon. and said the united states more revelations came out of watergate and at least now america was more than nation of one man will ever and then in history. and that cause a lot of comment. i think that was in the realm of expected of losing dipped to a presidential candidate. but the speech he gave him 73 would cause a lot of criticism for mcgovern to say these things. especially before an audience. >> all right we're gonna move
9:49 pm
on to his legacy, what he did after he ran for president in 1972. but first, let me get ahead in here, in ohio, and good evening. and you have to turn a television down, quickly go ahead. >> yes good evening. there's an important article that was published in the wall street journal, it's made base to obama. and this was when it's when obama was elected. and he went on to say, first, why not order all u.s. troops out of iraq and afghanistan by thanksgiving. >> okay at, i'm gonna leave it
9:50 pm
derrick. as we are getting a life feedback, you gotta turn on television. down let's just talk about -- scott farris pick up that on his president -- heritage on president obama in anti war views. >> two things about obama. he created the coalition, democratic coalition that represents the modern democratic party, the coalition. which elected break about nine 2008. in the obama campaign in 2007 and 2008 also tended to mere make governs to search the candidacy -- . and by doing a lot of the things a lot of grass for great efforts, and so, clearly, president obama followed the mcgovern blueprint to a certain degree. in terms of the war, senator mcgovern said a few things, one taken far and he was finally happy that an anti war candidate was elected. happening because president of omaha spoken openly against iraq war. but he also was disappointed
9:51 pm
that president obama had escalated american involvement in afghanistan. and he has criticized that. i had suggested that afghanistan could become another vietnam, which is of course, what the centerpiece of his campaign. so he offered good political base for president obama. and offered a lot of praise, but also some concerns. >> duncan, ohio, go ahead. >> it has, thank you for having me. i was just curious if you ever heard of an organization called the -- , and whether or not george mcgovern had been to one of their conferences before, thanks. >> scott farris? >> nope, i've never heard of that. >> okay. as we continue to talk about joe -- george mcgovern his legacy at their post 1972 career, i want to show you a little bit from former president bill clinton, speaking in the governor centered -- center. in a ceremony in 2006, he actually ran the campaign in texas as a young man, as many of you know.
9:52 pm
after that, we will come back and talk a little bit more about that, it's part of his legacy. >> think of just a highlights of his fascinating live. pilot, teacher, congressman, senator, first director of food for peace. author of the food stamp program. courageous critic of the vietnam war. first and only person from south dakota so far to be nominated from president. united nations delegate under president forward, and carter. advocate for a disarmament and beast in the middle east. when i was president, united nations ambassador to the food and agriculture organization. recipient of the medal of freedom. and, what senator gold, the inspiration of the school funding program. george didn't tell you what happened with that 300 million dollars. there are 130 million children
9:53 pm
in this world, who never dark in the school house 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, and i'm gonna -- no matter how far you, are we have to come to school to get. it after we passed that little bitty initiative, in a multi trillion dollar budget, school enrollment around the world in the first year went up by more than six and million children. 6 million futures george mcgovern helped to make. >> it's scott farris explain why mcgovern had a passion on this issue and its impact? >> well two reasons why had passions. for one is because he's generally compassionate man, he kept saying hunger during the depression. he saw hunger in italy, during the war. and when he took some overseas missions, he saw hunger around the. world so he understood the problem facing america, and the world, in terms of people going
9:54 pm
hungry. but as a senator from a foreign, staged also understood how this was in light of a program that matched the great american capacity to produce food, with the world's need for that food. so it was a humanitarian, but it was also benefited in practicality and politics. and of course, in the farm state senators, who saw the opportunity in this as well. one of the things, senator mcgovern did, it was this food for peace program was first initiated in the eisenhower administration. it was read is a way to get rid of agricultural cypress, that the government had purchased in the commercial commodity credit corporation. but the program from the new, deal with the government buying our cultural style process, to support crisis. and the government thought it was kind of offensive. really, it's a humanitarian thing, it's about feeding the hungry, specially children. and so he took the program, which was a minor one by at the eisenhower administration, and dramatically increased its scope. in six months, he spent six times as much as the -- distributed as much --
9:55 pm
six times as much as the eisenhower administration had done in six years. within six months of him taken over that program, 35 million children around the world, got school lunch, and within another year, another 30 million kids. it was probably, the greatest humanitarian effort of the kennedy administration, including the peace cohort, and it's really almost all due to george mcgovern. >> we have about ten minutes left. you are talking about george mcgovern, as we told you earlier we invited him to be on a program. this evening. unfortunately he took a spill earlier tonight, and was unable to then join us. he's been flown to south dakota, for further medical attention. and so, unfortunately, he couldn't be with us and we wish him the best of health. jake, in south dakota, go ahead. >> good evening. it's actually jack. >> sorry about that. >> excellent program tonight, my question is whether george mcgovern was ever elected in the 1972, what there be any
9:56 pm
circumstances under which he could've been nixon, had he avoided the eagleton tobacco and other problems of the convention, you know the late acceptance speech? >> sadly, i don't think so. i think the conditions that we've talked about, so lengthy tonight, where a mixed bag of the campaign, as i also indicated. for all the support mcgovern got from protesters in the war, there were so many more people who didn't look at the war that way. they didn't think it was a disaster. and the attitudes were shaped by a president, president nixon who played on the preacher tourism and played on their emotions. and turned the demonstrations, that probably helped mcgovern, into almost a national disgrace.
9:57 pm
in a way that helped nixon. >> scott farris was george mcgovern political career over after 1972? >> he continued to serve the united states senate, in fact he was elected -- reelected in south dakota in 1974. even though he had a strong republican challenger. by that time, watergate had come about, of course, president nixon had resigned. so certainly, senator mcgovern felt a bit of indication. it was unfortunate that he was defeated so in total in 1972, so that he wasn't mention this candidate in 1976. in 1980, i was of course a big republican wave, that brought reagan in the presidency. and swept a lot of democrats out of office. and in 80, he lost to congressman chains. but he continued to be active in a public service, in fact in 1980, for he launched quick bid for the presidency. at that point, there was a toss going on between his former campaign manager, and former vice president.
9:58 pm
and descended to join the grace, and got a lot of kudos for being a very thoughtful presence. he thought -- he tried to heal some of the wounds, from the scuffle. but he then announced he couldn't win the massachusetts, or finish in the top, to he would withdraw, and so he did. but he maintained a very active life in public affairs, going back to his issue on world hunger. he worked with the clinton administration, to help start the world food programme, which continues to feed many, many people. probably, nutrition remains his passion today. as well as silver lining american benefits, of liberal valleys. and the place of liberalism in our american political system. >> let's hear from mitch next, in st. augustine, florida. >> good evening, ladies and gentlemen. thank you all very much. i hope he recovers, i think you guys -- in the previous colors, i want to remind everybody to remember george after losing an
9:59 pm
election. i don't think george lost, i think he moved on to do much greater things. much like you folks were talking about with the world hunger program. george has survived wars, being in a tower person, he was willing to step up for a country. i think it was 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 mcgovern policies? who's the closest option that we have? >> it's barack ababa. i don't think that any of the republican candidates represent
10:00 pm
anything akin to the social things that made george mcgovern run for president in 1972, or object that carried out the list of his life. scott farris, what kind of president would george mcgovern have been? >> i think he would have been a pretty good president. lot of people say they don't think so, but i base that on the food for peace program. i think one of the things you need to bring to the presidency is a certain executive management skill. what he was able to do with the program that he did not have a lot of money and resources with, indicated that once he was committed to a goal and a program, he was able to carry it out. he would have become president under difficult circumstances. he would've had a tough time getting us out of vietnam in a way that was acceptable to a lot of the american people. but i think ultimately, he would've been a fine president. of course, it's impossible to speculate on the what if, but i think he had the qualities, the judgment and the goodwill that i think americans want in their president. >> and the future of liberalism
10:01 pm
in this country? >> i think, again, he has outlined a map for the democratic party to be a major force in politics, maybe even returned to its status as the majority party, the republicans have been the majority party i think over the last 30 plus years. it's a question whether the democrats will get over their nostalgia for the new deal coalition. a lot of democrats remember their parents and their families going up in an urban america. they want to restore that party to the labor union ideal, but i think senator mcgovern realized there are more fertile grounds to work in for liberalism and for democrats. i think as long as the democrats continue or are able to appeal to minorities and women or to the young and to continue broaden their base and not exclude anybody who's from a different kind of category, i think he's found a way for them to be a political -- a viable political force. without george mcgovern's reforms, the democratic party might have ceased to exist to
10:02 pm
be a viable party. >> let me give this one to both of you. i will have you, mister witcover, answer first. will there be another anti war candidate? >> this time around? >> well, in the future. like a mcgovern, in the mold of a mcgovern. >> i think the thing that differentiated govern from other anti war candidates was that it was in his heart and soul. he really was against that war and almost against all wars. i think you might disagree with barack obama who said he's not against all wars, he's just against don wars. mcgovern was not against always either because he fought courageously in one, but i think he was much more determined against wars. i think if he had been elected, he would have gotten us out of vietnam as soon as he could. it would have been a lot sooner than nixon certainly did with the country's tail between its legs. >> scott farris, you very quickly? >> i don't believe anyone will
10:03 pm
ever run as an anti war candidate the way george mcgovern did. he showed with the limits of what a presidential candidate can say about a war when america is involved in it. i think people were very unsettled when he was so graphic and so vehement and so uncompromising in his language. i think it's very indicative that ever since the mcgovern presidential nominee, democrats have generally felt the need to feel their -- distress their bona fide says commander-in-chief, calling for increased defend spending, etc. they don't want to be called as mike dukakis said in 1988, i will not be another mcgovern when it comes to foreign affairs. we will never hear someone talk about where the way george mcgovern did in 1972. >> we need to wrap up on that point. we want to thank tonight the mcgovern center there in mitchell, south dakota. don symonds, rod brown, laurie lang lynn, kevin king can who's the head librarian at the my -- museum. we also want to thank jack mortensen, jay van duke and
10:04 pm
senator mcgovern's daughter and and senator mcgovern as well. a big thanks to our guests jules witcover and scott farris. can i end with you scott farris, with your thoughts, since you the presidential author here. what is the legacy of george mcgovern? >> again, he transformed the democratic party in ways that very few people in american politics it ever transferred political party. of course, his food for peace, the way he's humanitarian efforts on behalf of the world in the nation's hungry, it maybe his greatest legacy. who knows how many thousands if not millions of people are alive today because of george mcgovern. one thing we forgot to mention as we saw a clip from one of his legacies, bill clinton with his texas coordinator. so that campaign also spawned a lot of idealists went into politics and made a name for themselves. for a man who lost a presidential election, he probably had a more influence than a lot of men who won the election. >> thank you both.
10:05 pm
10:06 pm
10:07 pm
up next, we look back at c-span's video library at the 1972 democratic national convention in miami beach, florida, where senator george mcgovern


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on