George McGovern did not exactly have great success as a presidential candidate. He lost all but one state to Richard Nixon. But in an open letter to President Obama in this month’s Harper’s magazine, he warns Obama that it is better to lose an election than lose his soul. Strong words from a man who should know. His letter challenges Obama to step up and lead America with bold initiatives. Initiatives that could revive the economy and build up the middle class like President Roosevelt’s New Deal. We discuss his ambitious blueprint and whether he believes President Obama is the man to get the job done.


  • George McGovern Former U.S. senator from South Dakota and former presidential candidate.


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Former Senator George McGovern knows what it's like to lose. He lost 49 states to Richard Nixon in the presidential race of 1972, but despite that experience, his advice to today's politicians is, it's better to lose an election than to lose your soul.

  • 11:07:28

    MS. DIANE REHMJoining me from South Dakota Public Broadcasting studio in Vermillion, former U.S. Senator, George McGovern. Good morning to you, sir, and welcome to the program.

  • 11:07:42

    FORMER SEN. GEORGE MCGOVERNWell, thank you. I -- I wish we were on television so people can see how terrific you look.

  • 11:07:50

    REHMOh, thank you.

  • 11:07:53

    MCGOVERNYou look about 10 years younger than the last time I was on your program.

  • 11:07:57

    REHMWell, isn't that nice of you to say? Thank you very much. Just trying to stay in good health and good shape. Tell me, Senator McGovern, what compelled you to write this open letter to President Obama now?

  • 11:08:18

    MCGOVERNWell, it was the fact that I watched that, what seemed to me, almost senseless debate over the national debt and the deficits and the fact that people were so negative all the way through and that not a single senator that I heard, I'm sure there were some that I didn't hear, but not one that I listened to said anything about the cause of this national debt.

  • 11:08:54

    MCGOVERNIt's certainly not the school lunch program or the programs to help the schools, it's the wars we've been in. That war in Iraq cost $3 trillion, according to our Nobel Prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and the one in Afghanistan will be about the same. And the biggest part of the federal government is the military department, it's $700 billion a year.

  • 11:09:33

    MCGOVERNSo I -- I wanted to write an article to say, now, wait a minute, let's look at what is causing these national debts and let's get at the root of the problem. It's the fact that we're exaggerating the need for these huge military operations and that's the point I was trying to make.

  • 11:09:59

    REHMNow, I understand that Lawrence Korb, who was at one time Assistant Secretary of Defense, has come up with a new plan to reduce Defense Department spending, but you go all the way back to World War II, Senator, where you fully participated. You talked about the fact that the War Department name was actually changed to the Defense Department. I was interested in your comments on that.

  • 11:10:40

    MCGOVERNWell, you know, public relations is a fine art. I wish I had been better at it (laugh), but the Defense Department for a century was called the War Department, but in 1947, some smart PR person said, call yourself the Defense Department, not the War Department. Nobody (laugh) -- nobody thinks happy thoughts about war, but everybody will be in favor of defense. And I think that's true.

  • 11:11:17

    MCGOVERNIt's been almost regarded as sacred when the Congress examines the military DE Budget or what is called the Defense Department. I there are lots of things that contribute to our national defense, one is health -- the health of our people, another is the education of our young people. Another is protecting our environment. Still another, finding safer and cleaner fuels to provide our energy. So I don't want to see it go unnoticed that we're still spending $700 billion a year on the military and I think that's too much. (unintelligible).

  • 11:12:06

    REHMAnd you also, I gather, feel that defense lobbyists have had a great deal to do with that?

  • 11:12:18

    MCGOVERNYes, they have, but so have the members of Congress. We lobby for a defense base in our state, whether it's Oklahoma or Idaho or Texas or wherever. Most members of Congress want a military base in their states because it means jobs. And so we've got to think if we're going to reduce that process somewhat, we've got to think of alternative ways of putting people to work, other than simply sending them into the military.

  • 11:12:54

    REHMI'm interested, Senator McGovern, that you parallel the problems that President Obama faces today with those that President Roosevelt faced during the Great Depression. Do you really believe that things are that bad?

  • 11:13:21

    MCGOVERNI don't think so. I don't think that the recession is as acute as the Great Depression was, but it's -- it's a similar problem in that we've got to get our people back to work. I don't think President Obama, who I support as our president and who I supported as a candidate, has spent too much money trying to take us out of this recession, I don't think we've invested enough in that process.

  • 11:13:57

    MCGOVERNNow, President Roosevelt didn't make that mistake. He set up the Public Works Administration to put up new public buildings all over the country. We've got a beautiful courthouse in Mitchell, S.D., my hometown, that was built in the New Deal and we did get most of our people back to work by those programs that President Roosevelt offered. I'd like to see something similar today, including beginning to build the best, fastest and safest railway system in the world. That's one way to put people back to work.

  • 11:14:37

    MCGOVERNIt would save energy, it would protect the environment if it were properly constructed and that's the kind of alternative things we ought to be looking to, to put our idle people back to work.

  • 11:14:52

    REHMI gather you'd also like to see the Bush tax cuts lapse and then raise taxes on the rich even more.

  • 11:15:03

    MCGOVERNAbsolutely. You know, that's what the Graduated Income Tax is all about and that's been the heart of American progress for the last 50 years and more, that we did have a Graduated Tax, which means that people who have very high incomes should pay at a higher rate to the federal government. It's argued by the advocates of giving the rich tax cuts that they will spend that employing people. It doesn't work that way.

  • 11:15:37

    MCGOVERNThey invest it in the stock market, they may invest it in a yacht, they may take a longer vacation in Europe, but there's no real evidence that tax cuts for the 1 percent of our people who are the richest is going to lead to more employment. It just doesn't work that way.

  • 11:16:01

    REHMYou know, it has been, as you suggested earlier, sad to watch this impasse between the White House and the Congress over raising the debt ceiling, but, you know, President Obama seemed to be backed against the wall. He wasn't able to do what President Roosevelt accomplished and the question is, why? Was he not strong enough? Was he not firm enough? Did he not stand strong enough in his own positions?

  • 11:16:49

    MCGOVERNWell, I think President Obama is a strong person, I think he's a good leader, I think he's an excellent spokesman, he's about the best campaigner I've ever witnessed and -- but what has happened to our politics, I find very disturbing. We're more hardboiled with each other, we're more antagonistic with each other. There's a strange lack of civility in the Congress that I didn't find in all those years that I served first in House and then in the Senate. I never...

  • 11:17:35

    REHMWhy do you think that is?

  • 11:17:36

    MCGOVERNWell, I don't know all of the reasons for it, but what I would like to see, I'd like to have people recognize that our political opponents are not our enemies. We're all Americans. No party has a monopoly on virtue or on the truth, although I am biased enough to think that the Democrats have a little more (laugh) of those good virtues than the other side. And I do think the Republicans who have the minority in the Senate have tried to act as though they have a majority and to run over the president's program, to run over their opponents in the Congress. What -- what is really needed is more civility. The Bible has a more lofty way. It says we should love one another. I agree with that.

  • 11:18:36

    REHMAll right. And we'll take just a short break here. Former U.S. Senator George McGovern is on the line with me. Stay with us.

  • 11:20:04

    REHMWelcome back. Former U.S. Senator George McGovern recently wrote a letter to President Obama, which appears in Harper's magazine. He talks about what he would like to see President Obama move forward on, despite the kind of resistance he is receiving within the Congress. And you are invited to join our conversation, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to

  • 11:20:48

    REHMSenator McGovern, there are an awful lot of people who might say, at this point, well, Senator McGovern has these views. They're wonderful liberal views, but nobody is going to pay attention. It is the conservatives who are in control and that's all there is to it.

  • 11:21:12

    MCGOVERNWell, I disagree with that. I have always thought that we need both a good strong conservative political party in the United States and a good strong liberal party. My mother and father lived and died as conservative Republicans. Whether they would have voted for me when I ran for president, if they had lived that long, I don't know, but it would've been something of a stretch.

  • 11:21:48

    MCGOVERNBut they didn't go in for the kind of knockdown, kick them, blast them politics that we've seen too much of in recent years. Let me, if I may, give you a couple of personal examples of the kind of thing I would like to see.

  • 11:22:05


  • 11:22:06

    MCGOVERNWhen I took on the Vietnam War as a major issue in the 1960s and the 1970s, I introduced an amendment to terminate that war within a set period of time. And I got Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, who recently died, a wonderful man, and he and I teamed up. It became known as the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment to end the war. I suppose in Oregon it was known as the Hatfield-McGovern (laugh) war, but we never had any trouble over whose name came first.

  • 11:22:55


  • 11:22:56

    MCGOVERNAnd we had, at one time, up to 43 votes for that amendment. And right after my campaign, the Congress took up a similar proposal and ended the war. Now, I can give you another example. When I was running for president in 1972, Bob Dole, the senator from Kansas, was the Republican National Chairman and it was his job to take a bite out of me almost every morning before breakfast and maybe another one before he went to bed (laugh) at night.

  • 11:23:34

    MCGOVERNBut after that campaign was out of the way, he and I teamed up on anything that had to do with agriculture or with feeding hungry kids in the school lunch program or the WIC program for low income pregnant and nursing women and their infants and we got along just fine. Today, as I am on your program, Bob Dole is one of the best friends I have in the country.

  • 11:24:04

    MCGOVERNWe both found that the other one didn't have horns when we got in close. We loved our wives, we loved our children, we love this country. We were both combat veterans in World War II, I a bomber pilot and he a member of the Mountain Division. So we need to recognize our common humanity and...

  • 11:24:32

    REHMBut one of the -- one of the points you make in this letter is that you believe many in Congress have lost "love of nation." What do you mean by that?

  • 11:24:50

    MCGOVERNWell, it's this new type of politics where you hire the cleverest political advisors, professionals, you know, people that know how to use television and radio and the press and billboards and all the rest. They also know something about the human psyche, some of these people that I think use that skill for things that aren't entirely lofty. Their appeal is based on fear, it's based on suspicion, it's based on trying to look for weak points in the other person's makeup and their character in their backgrounds and to cut that person up rather than to deal with the big issues.

  • 11:25:50

    MCGOVERNI don't say it's easy to maintain a high level of discourse. Diane, you always do that in your programs. I'm not trying to butter you up, but one of the things people love about you is that you treat them with respect. And you go after ideas. You bring on people with differing ideas, sometimes very different from yours, but I think that's what is needed in American politics.

  • 11:26:23

    REHMIt's interesting to read in former Vice-President Dick Cheney's book, his new autobiography, where he says that President George W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq was truly courageous. Do you think that that's how history is going to see it?

  • 11:26:53

    MCGOVERNI think it was truly courageous and even more truly wrong. We never should have invaded Iraq. They had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attack in New York and at the Pentagon and we knew that. When I say we, our informed people in Washington in the administration knew that Iraq -- now, they had a miserable leader in Saddam Hussein, but he had nothing to do with al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden. In fact, they detested each other.

  • 11:27:37

    MCGOVERNOsama bin Laden was a fanatical believer in religious ideas. The leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was an atheist, so they had nothing in common. I think he might have been on the target list of Osama bin Laden. But we should -- we had no business invading Iraq and we ought to terminate that as fast as we can.

  • 11:28:15

    REHMAnd what about President Obama's involvement in Libya? Dick Cheney says in his book he advocated bombing Syria. Is America's appetite for intervention going too far?

  • 11:28:37

    MCGOVERNWell, I think it has been. I think that's what Vietnam was all about. Vietnam was no threat to us. As soon as we got our troops out of their country, they became our friends. You can go there and have a nice vacation today. They don't hate Americans and I think the same thing was true in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, with Libya, this is a miserable government there. They've persecuted people, they've tortured people and we've done a wise thing. We've gotten NATO involved, so it's not just an American operation. That's a big difference.

  • 11:29:22

    REHMBut, of course, you fought, as you said, in World War II. You were a willing soldier. When did you begin to get misgivings about America's involvement in foreign conflicts?

  • 11:29:40

    MCGOVERNThe first time on a major scale was Vietnam. I was dead set against that and I made that the major issue of my presidential campaign. That's how I won the nomination, was my opposition to the Vietnam War. The problem with it politically is that I suppose about a third of the Democrats favored the Vietnam War and probably two-thirds or more of the Republicans favored it. So running against that war was difficult in the general election. And the result was President Nixon's big landslide win, but Vietnam was what set me off in questioning the so-called wisemen.

  • 11:30:41

    REHMWe have many callers who'd like to pose a question to you, Senator. I'm going to open the phones now and go first to O'Fallon, Mo. Good morning, Jerry.

  • 11:31:00

    JERRYSenator McGovern, all I can say is everything you're saying is completely sane and sensible. And I still don't know why that never gets any traction. I mean, here in Missouri, our -- I would put a quotation marks around "Democratic Senator" whose name is Claire McCaskill, is -- will jump right on the bandwagon every time that, you know, Boeing gets another big defense contract because that means jobs.

  • 11:31:30

    JERRYAnd as I've explained for years and years, you know, when I was back at McDonnell-Douglas, we developed generations and generations of new fighter planes. About 2 percent of those were ever used in any kind of combat. And, yes, it did put people to work, but as you said, had we taken that same amount of resources and put it towards a rail system in this country, I'd be able to step out on my front porch practically and go anywhere I wanted to. And obviously, you know, I'm preaching to the choir or you are and vice-versa. But why does this argument not get any traction? I just don't understand.

  • 11:32:09

    MCGOVERNWell, that's a perfectly good question. I wish I knew more about the human heart and about the human mind because I do think that somehow it's easier to sell war than it is peace. It's either easier to sell marching off to kill than it is to feeding hungry people. You may know that a passion of my life for 50 years has been to feed hungry people, both in this country where I teamed up with Bob Dole in order to do that -- we doubled all the food assistance programs -- and overseas.

  • 11:33:06

    MCGOVERNBut, you know, this is not a new problem. You read in the Bible, I think it was the words of the Man at Nazareth, that the way to destruction is broad. The way to salvation is narrow and difficult to pursue. So they were grappling with that 2,000 years ago. Why do people choose fear? Why do they choose hatred? Why is it so difficult?

  • 11:33:46

    MCGOVERNYou know, I was watching a young mother the other day. I was out in Rapid City, more accurately at Mount Rushmore, and this young mother had three little children. She was saying to them, now, don't fight, stop hitting each other and I stopped to think, you know, I wonder if we could get that young woman to talk to the heads of state.

  • 11:34:16

    REHMThat would be wonderful. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Senator George McGovern is my guest and we will continue to take your calls. Senator, I'd like to ask you about your suggestion to expand Medicare to all Americans. Given the backlash that President Obama had experienced against his health reform, wouldn't that just be political suicide for him?

  • 11:34:57

    MCGOVERNWell, I'll say this. If President Obama's opponents run against him next year on the grounds that they're against healthcare and he's for it, he's going to win. I think most Americans really favor universal healthcare and they should because other countries, other industrial countries, have been experimenting with it for 50 years. And I think that's what we should do.

  • 11:35:34

    MCGOVERNI think one of the reasons that my friend Hillary Clinton -- and she is my friend and she's a great lady doing a wonderful job as Secretary of State. She tried in the Clinton administration to sell comprehensive healthcare. Now, I think maybe she would agree with me that one problem they may have made that the program was too complicated. It was too long. I think it was something like 1500 pages. I never read a piece of legislation of 1500 pages in my life and I don't intend to start now. But anyway, what I'm proposing, you can say in one line. Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans, period.

  • 11:36:29

    REHMAnd how would you do that? You'd introduce that little by little?

  • 11:36:36

    MCGOVERNYeah, I would do it at two-year intervals. Maybe to begin with, the little kids, with the infants and children, say, after the age of eight. Start with them for a couple of years. And then after the hospitals and the doctors and the nurses got over the shock, begin with those. say, from nine to 18 and then 19 to 35 and then on up to 65. It's not all that complicated. It's what every other industrial country already has.

  • 11:37:18

    REHMFormer Senator George McGovern. And after a short break, we'll come back, take your calls, read your e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd we're back. We'll go right back to the phones, your questions, your comments for Senator George McGovern. He's on the line with us this morning for the entire hour. Let's go to Rochester, N.Y. Good morning, Jim.

  • 11:40:26

    JIMGood morning, good morning, Diane.

  • 11:40:28

    REHMGood morning, sir.

  • 11:40:29

    JIMFirst time caller, long -- long time listening and I love you. And Senator McGovern, I would love to be referring to you as Former President McGovern (unintelligible). My question is, what do you think it's going to take to get these Tea Party people and these ultra-right, don't want to spend a dime in the right places and just eviscerate all the public programs?

  • 11:40:53

    JIMWhat do you think it's going to take to make them see the light, that that's not going to work and that the only way to get this country moving again is with a federal jobs program? It's worked in every recession up 'til now. I don't know why they think that if we slashed the budget and slashed spending, all of a sudden, a magic wand is going to make everything better. (unintelligible) thoughts on this?

  • 11:41:18

    MCGOVERNWell, this -- you're absolutely right. When you're in a recession or a depression, you don't cut federal spending, you increase it because we got to stimulate more activity in this economy. I mentioned President Roosevelt earlier in this broadcast. In those days, I was a republican. I grew up that way, with my mother and father, but gradually, I began to see what Roosevelt was doing. He was constantly blasted as the big spending liberal. Do you know what his budget was during the New Deal from 1933 to 1940?

  • 11:42:10


  • 11:42:10

    MCGOVERNSeven – seven billion a year. Now, we have to count it in trillions.

  • 11:42:17


  • 11:42:18

    MCGOVERNBut we shouldn't cut our budget today when we're in a recession. What that does is put a damper on the program and we shouldn't try to balance our budget in the middle of a recession. First of all, you can't do it and secondly, it doesn't provide the kind of jobs stimulus that we need. We ought to be building public buildings, courthouses and schools and hospital. We ought to be building roads. We ought to be building a railroad, the best in the world. We were the pioneers in railroads in the 19th century and we ought to become the pioneers again in 19 -- in the current century.

  • 11:43:07

    REHMNow, here's...

  • 11:43:07


  • 11:43:08's an e-mail from Tim in Dallas. He says, "Please ask the senator to comment on the seeming increase in religious rhetoric from far right Republican presidential candidates." And let me just tell you that Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann told Floridians on Sunday that hurricane Irene and the earthquake felt along much of the East coast, last week were messages from God to warn politicians to start heeding divine guidance. I'm not sure what that means, but I wonder about your own thoughts.

  • 11:44:03

    MCGOVERNWell, I know Congresswoman Bachmann insists that she's following the word of God at all times, that God told her to run for president and He's guiding her in what she says. I think that's pretty risky ground to be on. You know, and then blaming this hurricane on God, 21 people were killed in that hurricane and my heart goes out to all of those families, but I don't think that was God intervening to try to teach us a lesson.

  • 11:44:43

    MCGOVERNLet me tell you about a little story I experienced when I was 10 years old. I was watching two of my friends peg a baseball back and forth and one ball went high, it went out into the street with the person that it was intended for hard after it, right into the path of an oncoming truck. He was killed instantly. And a few minutes later, the minister from our church came over and he said to the mother, well, Mrs. So-and-so, I know this is a hard day for you, but this was God's will.

  • 11:45:28

    MCGOVERNShe says, no, reverend, I don't think so. I think Roger just didn't look where he was going. Well, I agreed with the mother. I don't think it's right for us to blame these tragedies, whether their natural tragedies, the results of scientific principles or whatever the (word?) to blame all the calamities on God and say, that's his way of publishing -- of punishing us.

  • 11:46:01

    MCGOVERNI wouldn't be interested in a God who deliberately kills people in order to give them a lesson, so I think in all due respects to Mrs. Bachmann, who may be a very fine woman, I don't know her, I've never met her, but I don't think that she has a monopoly on the word of God.

  • 11:46:23

    REHMAll right. Let's go to San Antonio, Texas. Good morning, Bennett.

  • 11:46:31

    BENNETTWell, good morning, senator, it's good to hear your voice. I qualify you as a -- as good statesman and although you lost, well, I think the cards were stacked against you. But we both lived through the Depression, I'm sure. And do -- the causes of the Depression in, say, in Germany in the 1920s was that German capital and German banks was exited from -- taken out of Germany because the Germans industry didn't want to pay English and French war debts or whatever they were called. Now, here in the United States...

  • 11:47:12


  • 11:47:14

    BENNETTIndemnity, whatever. It was kind of a Reparations of some sort, a punishment. Here in the United States in the 1990s and 2000 -- early 2000, American industry and American banks have been exporting capital and productive capabilities all over the world, to China, Indonesia, to Philippines, you name the place and American industry has set cash in those places, taken out of the United States. And to me, we're following a parallel in the United States today of Germany of the 1920s for the same root causes and I wish you'd comment on it.

  • 11:48:02

    MCGOVERNWell, I think there's a considerable truth in what you say. I don't consider myself an expert on the international monetary situation. The late Senator Symington once told me, when I asked him as an industrialist, tell me about the international monetary system. He'd say, well, they say there are only two people that understand it, a Swiss banker and a clerk in a bank in Berlin and they disagree.

  • 11:48:43

    MCGOVERNSo I've given up on the international monetary situation. I do think this, though, that a lot of our troubles began right at the top of the industrial and financial circles in this country. They were -- they led us down a mistaken path, not intentionally. I don't think they're evil people, but I do think they were on the wrong track in granting mortgages. In fact, trying to market mortgages and market and push them to people that couldn't afford...

  • 11:49:19


  • 11:49:20 take a mortgage.

  • 11:49:21


  • 11:49:21

    MCGOVERNAnd that's where we got into a lot of this trouble. But when it comes to these international monetary questions, I'm going to call up you and, what do we do now (laugh) ?

  • 11:49:35

    REHM(laugh) Bennett, you just wait for a call. Thanks for calling. Let's go now to Framingham, Mass. Hi there, Sam. Sam, are you there? I guess...

  • 11:49:49

    SAMYeah, I'm here.

  • 11:49:50

    REHMOkay, sir.

  • 11:49:50

    SAMSorry it (unintelligible) portable phone. I wanted to ask the senator, I actually worked on his campaign as an 18-year-old in 1972 and I was wondering if the Senator thinks that electoral politics are still a viable way to govern the United States and I ask that question because it seems that the government doesn't do what the people of the country want it to do. And if you just look at poles, I know when the Single-payer system was up for consideration, every pole that I read is the majority of Americans were very interested in, you know, a Medicare system for all.

  • 11:50:26


  • 11:50:27

    SAMBut that's not what the government did. And similarly, people have wanted out of Afghanistan -- I think the poles now for three or four years consistently. And it just seems like because there's so much money in electoral politics and particularly in the House, it's just not viable anymore because every two years, you vote for a new person, they do whatever they're going to do and then you vote again and nothing seems to move.

  • 11:50:53

    MCGOVERNWell, I think you've got a good point there. Money is the biggest change in American politics since I began. My first campaign for Congress cost $12,000. The two Congressional candidates running in that same district now spend a couple of million and I don't think they're any smarter than I was, but they certainly got a lot more money.

  • 11:51:20

    MCGOVERNBut you're quite right, we've got to do something about big money in politics. We -- I live part of the year in Florida, the rest of the time in my home state of South Dakota, but we elected a governor there in Florida who spent $72 million of his own money. Well, who's going to beat a guy with $72 million? So I think you put your finger on a real problem in American politics. I'd like to see us go to the public financing campaigns.

  • 11:51:54

    MCGOVERNThe best way taxpayers can protect their interest in the government is to pay for it, to pay for the campaign that takes people there because that will help free these individuals from the kind of pressures they're under now.

  • 11:52:11

    REHMWell, it would also mean that people who are not millionaires or billionaires are elected to the Congress, perhaps with ideas other than lowering taxes on the very wealthy. I mean, aren't most of those in Congress now very wealthy people?

  • 11:52:41

    MCGOVERNMost of them are pretty wealthy, as you say, very wealthy compared to the typical American. And that is a change from the time when I was there, not that everything was virtuous in my day either, but it was better than the situation we have today.

  • 11:53:02

    REHMSenator George McGovern of South Dakota and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to East Hampton, N.Y. Good morning, Arthur, you're on the air.

  • 11:53:18

    ARTHURGood morning, Diane, thank you. And I just wanted to call up and quickly thank the Senator for his service to our country, not only in the Senate, but during his fine service during World War II. And I wanted to sort of ask him if he thought some of the partisanship that has emerged in our politics, I trace some of it myself to the ranker that our country found ourselves in during that war in Vietnam.

  • 11:53:39

    ARTHURAnd I -- I salute him for his stands against the war and I supported him for '72 and I think we've seen the wisdom of his thoughts and his beliefs come to fruition in this country and people finally realized that these foreign (word?) are not what they seem to be and do not benefit us. Again, thank you for your service and I think one of the great ironies was that Senator McGovern was a true patriot, a true war hero and his patriotism was questioned during his run for the presidency. I found that despicable and thank you for your service, senator.

  • 11:54:06

    MCGOVERNThank you for your kind words. I should just let people like you speak for me. You do a better job of selling me than I do myself. Let me say one thing about '72. We got beat badly by Richard Nixon, but when people say, was the whole thing a loss? I remind them that we won the nomination in a field of some of the most capable politicians we had, Hubert Humphrey, Ed Muskie, Scoop Jackson, various other, the Mayor of New York, John Lindsay.

  • 11:54:49

    MCGOVERNThere were 15 other candidates, so I remind people it wasn't all losses and we won 11 Primaries, including the two biggest ones, New York, where you live, and California. You know, there was a coach at -- of the Buffalo Bills that took his team to the Super Bowl four times in a row. He lost all four times. Someone said, Coach, isn't it embarrassing to go to the Super Bowl four times and lose every time? He says, yes, it's very painful. You want to know how you avoid that kind of pain? Just don't get to the Super Bowl.

  • 11:55:35

    REHMYeah, exactly.

  • 11:55:37

    MCGOVERNWe got to the Super Bowl in '72 and with a few breaks, it could've gone the other way and...

  • 11:55:43


  • 11:55:44

    MCGOVERN...we had some bad breaks.

  • 11:55:45

    REHM...and what happened afterward, Senator?

  • 11:55:49

    MCGOVERNWell, there was a bipartisan investigation of Mr. Nixon by the Senate, a bipartisan one in the house. They both found him guilty of repeatedly violating the Constitution and federal law and he was thrown out of office. I went to Mr. Nixon's funeral, as I did Mrs. Nixon's. I don’t have any malice toward them, but the thought occurred to me, listening to all the eulogies to President Nixon, that even from his standpoint, he'd been better off if I had won.

  • 11:56:33

    MCGOVERNI tried to tell the country that in that election, but they went overwhelmingly for Mr. Nixon and I think it's too bad because we had a great Army out there of McGovern supporters.

  • 11:56:48

    REHMIndeed. Thank you so much for joining us, Senator, from South Dakota Public Broadcasting Studio there in Vermillion. I know how much our listeners have enjoyed hearing you. Thank you for joining us.

  • 11:57:10

    MCGOVERNThank you, Diane. You're a wonderful voice in the media these days.

  • 11:57:15

    REHMThank you. And thanks for listening, all, I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:20

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