|George McGovern / Wikimedia Commons|
But perhaps, as George McGovern ages gracefully while his country does not, it is time to stop looking at McGovern through the lenses of Scoop Jackson and those neoconservative publicists who so often trace their disenchantment with the Democratic Party to the 1972 campaign. What if we refocus the image and see the George McGovern who doesn’t fit the cartoon? Son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister who had played second base in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, this other George McGovern revered Charles Lindbergh as “our greatest American” and counted among his happiest memories those “joyous experiences with my dad” hunting pheasants. He was voted “The Most Representative Senior Boy” in his high school and went to the college down the street, walking a mile each morning to Dakota Wesleyan and then coming home for lunch.And yes that B-24 pilot was no 'chicken hawk' but a decorated peace hawk.
This other George McGovern was a bomber pilot who flew 35 B-24 missions in the Dakota Queen, named after his wife, Eleanor Stegeberg of Woonsocket, South Dakota, whom he had courted at the Mitchell Roller Rink. He grew up in and remains a congregant of the First United Methodist Church of Mitchell; he knows by heart the “old hymns” and sings them aloud “with the gusto of those devout congregations that shaped my life so many years ago.” This other George McGovern is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and member in good standing of the Stan Musial Society. He lives most of the year in Mitchell, his hometown, and says, “There is a wholesomeness about life in a rural state that is a meaningful factor. It doesn’t guarantee you are going to be a good guy simply because you grow up in an agricultural area, but I think the chances of it are better, because of the sense of well-being, the confidence in the decency of life that comes with working not only with the land but also with the kinds of people who live on the land. Life tends to be more authentic and less artificial than in urban areas. You have a sense of belonging to a community. You’re closer to nature and you see the changing seasons.”
McGovern is, as you might guess, an opponent of the Iraq War and the Bush administration, which he finds appallingly un-conservative.Caution to the wind:
I ask if Iraq is yet in Vietnam’s class as a foreign-policy disaster. “The casualty rate isn’t nearly as high,” he responds, “but the assumptions are just as misguided. Vietnam was a logical expression of the Cold War ideology that we operated under for half a century. If you accepted the view that we had to confront communism wherever it raised its head, Vietnam became perfectly logical.
With the Oregon Republican and neo-Taftie Mark Hatfield, McGovern sponsored the 1970 McGovern-Hatfield “Amendment to End the War,” which called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and “an end to all U.S. military operations in or over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos no later than December 31, 1971.”Kauffman concludes with this:
Impatient with the chronically cautious, with the kind of eunuchs who tell you behind closed doors that they’re against a war but don’t want to risk their position by taking a public stand, McGovern told his colleagues, “Every Senator in this Chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This Chamber reeks of blood.”
Oh, how the Democrats could use a bracing shot of McGovernism.I couldn't agree more. Rest in Peace George McGovern.