George McGovern’s Good Deed by Gregg Hilton


Former Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) died this morning. You are supposed to speak kindly of the departed, and McGovern did have an admirable record in World War II. However, during his 18 years in the Senate he represented the worst of the radical left, and always advocated unilateral disarmament.

He does deserve credit for admitting some of his mistakes. His Stratford Inn in Connecticut went bankrupt in 1991 primarily because of excessive government regulations.
McGovern said he understood why people did not like him, and wished he had run a business before he began legislating on things that affected them. He wrote: “After two and a half years with the loss of all my earnings from nearly a decade of post-Senate lecture tours, I gave up on the Stratford Inn. But not before learning some painful and valuable lessons.
“I learned first of all that over the past 20 years America has become the most litigious society in the world. Today Americans sue one another at the drop of a hat — almost on the spur of the moment.”
He said we need to “cut down vastly on the incredible paperwork, the complicated tax forms, the number of minute regulations, and the seemingly endless reporting requirements that afflict American business. Many businesses, especially small independents such as the Stratford Inn, simply can’t pass such costs on to their customers and remain competitive or profitable.
“If I were back in the U.S. Senate or in the White House, I would ask a lot of questions before I voted for any more burdens on the thousands of struggling businesses across the nation.”
Three years ago McGovern again broke with the left when he came out in opposition to the union card check legislation.

43rd Anniversary: What if Chappaquiddick Never Happened?

On this date in 1969, a car driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) plunged off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha’s Vineyard. Kennedy’s 28 year old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne died by drowning.
The Senator waited 10 hours before reporting the accident, but was never able to give a convincing explanation of his strange behavior. His license was suspended for six months. At the time of the incident, Kennedy was the nation’s most prominent potential Democratic presidential candidate.
If it had not happened, he may have still passed on a 1972 campaign against President Richard Nixon. He was only 40 that year. 1976 would have been a more realistic time for him, and it was an excellent year for Democrats.
When he did try to deny Jimmy Carter’s 1980 renomination, the Chappaquiddick incident haunted him and helped destroyed his chances. Writing in his book “True Compass,” which was published a week after his death, Kennedy described his actions as “inexcusable” and said that at the time he was afraid, overwhelmed “and made terrible decisions.”
Kennedy said he had to live with the guilt of his actions for four decades but that Miss Kopechne’s family had to endure far worse. “Atonement is a process that never ends,” he wrote.
The news media was relatively easy on Kennedy in 1969, and he was not forced to answer many difficult questions. That would not be allowed today. Kennedy’s popularity obviously declined, but even after Chappaquiddick, he still had a 58% approval rating in 1969, and was easily reelected in 1970

Question: How Did Ed Muskie Lose in New Hampshire in 1972?

ANSWER: Senator Ed Muskie (ME) actually won the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary by 10%, but the news media interpreted it as a significant loss because he ran behind the expectations his own campaign had set.
Muskie had been the 1968 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and would go on to serve as Secretary of State in the Carter Administration. The Senator received excellent reviews after his 1970 nationally televised address which was the Democratic Party’s official response before the midterm elections.
Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy (D-MA) could have easily won the 1972 nomination if it had not been for the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident, and he was not a candidate.
During his 22 years in the Senate, Muskie was always a liberal, but he was not the leftwing choice that year. Muskie was the frontrunner among the party establishment and moderates. The liberal choice in 1972 was Sen. George McGovern (D-SD), and his slogan was “Right From The Start.” Similar to Barack Obama and the Iraq War in 2008, it meant McGovern was an early opponent of the Vietnam War.
Muskie was widely expected to be the nominee throughout 1971, but the first major warning was the Iowa precinct caucuses. Muskie won but McGovern did far better than expected. Muskie received 36% to McGovern’s 23%.
The mainstream media said McGovern had momentum but they expected New Hampshire to be landslide victory for Muskie. Many comparisons were made to the huge win of Sen. John F. Kennedy in the 1960 New Hampshire primary.
Both Kennedy and Muskie were Catholics from adjoining states and were well known in New Hampshire. The state Democratic Party was led by Sen. Thomas McIntyre (D-NH) and they were in full support of Muskie.
McGovern devoted 24 days to the state, while Muskie spent 13. The Maine Senator was significantly criticized by the conservative Manchester Union Leader, but that was to be expected. The Senator made a significant mistake when he decided to hold a rally in front of the Union Leader on a Saturday morning two weeks before the primary.
Speaking of the publisher, he said: “This man doesn’t walk, he crawls. . . By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he has proved himself to be a gutless coward.” Muskie himself later called it “a watershed incident.”
David Broder of The Washington Post wrote: “With tears streaming down his face and his voice choked with emotion, Muskie stood in the snow outside the Manchester Union Leader this morning and accused its publisher of making vicious attacks on him and his wife, Jane…
“In defending his wife, Muskie broke down three times in as many minutes — uttering a few words and then standing silent in the near blizzard, rubbing at his face, his shoulders heaving, while he attempted to regain his composure sufficiently to speak.”
Muskie won the primary by a 46% to 37% margin, but he failed to achieve the 50% goal his campaign had set or the 60% the news media had expected.
Coming in fourth in the Florida primary in March sealed Muskie’s fate, and he withdrew the following month. McGovern would go on to take the Democratic nomination, only to lose in a landslide to Richard Nixon that November.

The End of an Era: John F. Kennedy in South Carolina

The South Carolina state capitol is shown immediately after Vice President Richard Nixon addressed a campaign rally in 1960. He would come close, but South Carolina remained a part of the solid cotton South that year.
Eisenhower received only 2.9% in 1952, while Nixon increased the GOP vote in the state to 48.8%. Then Sen. John F. Kennedy (D-MA) addressed the South Carolina legislature on October 10, 1960. His speech did not receive wide attention, but it would be the end of an era.
It would be the last time a Democratic presidential nominee campaigned to the right of the GOP.
Kennedy had voted against the Eisenhower Administration’s 1957 Civil Rights Act. He repeatedly praised slavery’s champion, Sen. John C. Calhoun (1782-1852), and then attacked Nixon: “Popularity, not logic, is his standard. He promises a vast new Federal program for housing.
“He calls for a vast new Federal program for education. He pledges a vast new Federal program for health.
“He promises to outdo anything the Democrats can do in agriculture, public works, reclamation, foreign aid, defense, and all the rest. But then he journeys South and says he is against Federal spending, against Federal bureaucracy, and against the Democratic Party because we are supporting these programs.
“I do not believe that Washington should do for the people what they can do for themselves through local and private effort. There is no magic attached to tax dollars that have been to Washington and back.
“No expert in the Nation’s Capital knows as much about your local problems and how to meet them as you do. Big government is just as much a threat to our liberties as too little government.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Why Did The President Visit The Lincoln Memorial at 4 am?



QUESTION:  Over four million students participated in a national strike which closed 458 college campuses, and 34 ROTC buildings were burned or bombed. The National Guard was deployed on 26 campuses, and Washington, DC was described as “an armed camp.” uses were parked bumper to bumper to form a protective barricade around the White House. At an evening televised press conference the President was asked if it was possible to have a meaningful dialogue with students.
The President told the nation he wanted to try. Without telling anyone, the next morning he arrived at the Lincoln Memorial at 4:14 am to meet with the surprised demonstrators for 90 minutes. The scene was recreated in a six minute segment in a 1995 Oliver Stone movie. What event caused the student outrage? Who was the President, and what extraordinary message did he have for the students?

ANSWER:  The movie was “Nixon” and the turmoil began on April 30, 1970 with the announcement of a military incursion into Cambodia. President Richard Nixon described the operation in a televised address and said it was designed to wipe out two North Vietnamese sanctuaries. He pointed to a map which described the areas as the “fish hook’ and the “parrot’s beak.” The students and many liberal activists viewed this as a widening of the war, and demonstrations were immediately organized on numerous campuses.  Four students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State University on May 4th, and the reaction was a strike which closed down 458 campuses.
In Washington, DC, presidential speechwriter Ray Price said “mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That’s not student protest, that’s civil war.”The 82nd Airborne Division was camped out in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building and they were ready to protect the Oval Office. Students stormed the president’s office on many campuses and the Secret Service was worried about an attack on the White House.
Because of security concerns, Nixon spent two days at Camp David and returned on May 7th to meet with presidents of eight major universities. The next morning approximately 200 AFL-CIO construction workers attacked over 1000 student demonstrators in lower Manhattan. It was called “The Hard Hat Riot.” That evening (May 8th), Nixon had a televised press conference and the first of over 100,000 students began to gather at the Lincoln Memorial for a large anti-war demonstration the next day. At the press conference Nixon said:

I have not been surprised by the intensity of the protests. I realize those who are protesting believe this decision will expand the war, increase American casualties, and increase American involvement. Those who protest want peace. They want to reduce American casualties and they want our boys brought home.
I made the decision, however, for the very reasons they are protesting. . . I know what I have done will accomplish the goals they want. It will shorten this war. It will reduce American casualties. It will allow us to go forward with our withdrawal program. The 150,000 Americans that I announced for withdrawal in the next year will come home on schedule. It will, in my opinion, serve the cause of a just peace in Vietnam.
Nixon was then asked: “Do you believe you can open up meaningful communications with this college-age generation, and how?” He responded “I would like to try as best I can to do that. It is not easy. Sometimes they talk so loudly it is difficult to be heard. . .  However, on an individual basis, I believe it is possible to do what I have been doing, to bring representatives of the college and university communities to my office, to talk with them, to have a dialogue. . .
The students are trying to say they want peace. They are trying to say they want to stop the killing. They are trying to say they want to end the draft. They are trying to say we ought to get out of Vietnam. I agree with everything they are trying to accomplish.
“I believe, however, the decisions I have made, and particularly this last terribly difficult decision of going into the Cambodian sanctuaries which were completely occupied by the enemy–I believe that decision will serve that purpose, because you can be sure everything I stand for is what they want.”

Anthony Hopkins portrayed the late President in the 1995 Oliver Stone movie “Nixon.” The movie recreates the 90 minute discussion with students at the Lincoln Memorial.

When he arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, Nixon spoke to the students about the war, and he also talked about “the qualities of spirit, emotion, and the depth and spirit of life”. He told them once he had been a pacifist, and prior to WW II he thought Churchill was wrong, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was right. At first he thought Churchill was a madman but he later viewed him as a protector of peace. He praised the students for their commitment to civil rights and the environment. He said they had the right priorities and too many people were focused on materialism:

You must remember that something which is completely clean can also be completely sterile and without spirit. What we all must think about is why we are here. . . Ending the war, cleaning up the streets, the air and water is still not going to solve the spiritual hunger we all have.  This is the greatest mystery of life from the beginning of time.

The presidential motorcade left the Lincoln Memorial at 5:55 am and drove to the deserted U.S. Capitol. Nixon was giving his valet, Manolo Sanchez, a tour. They visited the Rotunda, Statuary Hall and the House Chamber before departing at 6:40 am.The story is told in Richard Nixon and his America by Herbert Parmet, Little Brown (1989), 786 pages.

BOOK REVIEW: “The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America” by Thurston Clarke, Henry Holt (2008).


If Robert Kennedy had lived, would he won the Democratic nomination?

This is the third memoir I have read of Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, and they are all well written. The other two were by journalists Jack Newfield and Jules Witcover who covered the campaign. This book was written four decades later but it serves as the most definitive account.
All of three books unquestionably have a liberal bias. Thurston Clarke does not pretend to be objective. He clearly idealizes Kennedy. He portrays the late Senator as a great moral teacher who was always in the forefront of efforts to combat poverty, racism and the Vietnam War.
Many of the authors claims can be easily rebutted by conservatives, but this book is still interesting because of the detail it provides regarding the campaign. To understand the story of 1968 you have to begin with the New Hampshire primary and the Tet Offensive.
A slate of electors pledged to President Lyndon Johnson won the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic primary, but the results were devastating for the incumbent. LBJ was challenged from the left by Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), and the focal point of the campaign was his opposition to the Vietnam War.
When 1968 began the war appeared to be going well and Johnson had a significant lead in the polls. McCarthy was not considered a serious contender, and the Gallup Poll showed him at 12%. The news media portrayed him as a heroic but grossly underfunded peace candidate.
The massive Viet Cong Tet Offensive of January 31st changed everything. It involved attacks on practically every major city and town. Public perceptions about the war were reversed and negative stories about Vietnam dominated news media coverage. The public began to think the Vietnam War might not be winnable. McCarthy had not attacked Johnson directly up to that point, and the Senator made his first visit to New Hampshire just six weeks before the primary.
The political establishment was stunned by the news out of the Granite State on March 12, 1968 which showed Johnson defeating McCarthy by a slim 49% to 42% margin. When Republican write-in votes were later counted, McCarthy had come within 230 votes of upsetting Johnson.
New Hampshire changed the political landscape. Five days later Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) entered the Democratic contest. This book focuses on the 82 days of the Kennedy campaign. He was only 42 years old and GOP frontrunner Richard Nixon watched RFK’s announcement from Portland, Oregon hotel room. He thought Kennedy would be the Democratic nominee.
The ten week campaign was filled with drama. At the end of March, Johnson withdrew as a candidate. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, and riots erupted throughout the nation. Vice President Hubert Humphrey entered the campaign on April 27th, but he refused to enter the primaries. He would not give permission to have his name placed on primary ballots.
Kennedy won in Indiana and Nebraska, while McCarthy defeated the Johnson slate in Wisconsin. RFK refused to debate Senator McCarthy which damaged him in the Oregon primary in late May. McCarthy won and Kennedy reversed his position. He agreed to a televised date on June 1st, and California became a “must win” primary. The debate robbed McCarthy of his major issue, which was Kennedy’s reluctance to confront him.
The debate moderator was ABC’s Frank Reynolds who said “There doesn’t seem to be too many differences between Senator McCarthy and Senator Kennedy on anything, really.” Three days later RFK won his greatest victory in California. The next stop was the June 18th New York primary, and Kennedy never had the opportunity to make his pitch to party regulars.

The historian Ronald Steel said:

I think Bobby Kennedy continues to haunt our imagination because he represents what might have been. We can never be disillusioned, because it’s always in the unfulfilled future. He never failed, because he was denied the chance, of course. But he opened the sense of possibilities of change…. He spoke in a language that people could find their hopes, and their dreams. And so, I think we’ll always read in Bobby Kennedy, not what was, or what failed to be, but what might have been.

The general election between Nixon and Vice President Hubert Humphrey was very close, and many pundits argue that Democrats would have won if Kennedy had been their nominee. We will never know the answer. The Senator was assassinated the night of his California victory, June 4, 1968,  the results were as follows:


Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY): 46.3%

Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN): 41.8%

Attorney General Thomas Lynch (D-CA): 12% (Humphrey stand-in)

New Jersey

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY): 38%

Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN): 35%

South Dakota

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY): 53%

Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN): 30%

Delegate Projections as of June 6, 1968

Majority Needed For Victory: 1313

Vice President Hubert Humphrey (D-MN): 1030

Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY): 890

Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN): 250

Unpledged: 456

The nomination process was far different in 1968 than the system we know today. Even if Kennedy had won all of the primaries it is still doubtful he would have won the nomination.  The primaries determined only 19% of the delegates. Humphrey needed just 300 delegates to secure the nomination and he had the united support of DNC members, the AFL-CIO, big city machines and party regulars. The exception was Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley who was undecided. McCarthy demonstrated considerable hostility toward Kennedy and threatened to throw his 250 delegates to Humphrey. To win, Kennedy would have to convince a number of Humphrey supporters to switch sides.

Trivia Questions About the First Ladies

1) Which brilliant First Lady used her own money to send 46 disadvantaged young people to college? The press never knew of her generosity and neither did her husband. He only discovered what she had done after her death. Continue reading