One Bright Shining BBQ - The Chickens of 1972 Come Home to Roost for Hilary Clinton - By Dominic Patten
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May 29 Postscript - So now Senator McGovern has changed horses in mid-stream and decided that actually it isn't ladies first. As the numbers swayed less and less in her favour, the man from South Dakota on May 7, 2008, urged Hilary Clinton to drop out of the Democratic race and hand the nomination over to the Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Now the reality is that Senator Obama has more delegates, more momentum and looks virtually assured of getting the nod in Denver at the party's convention in a few months, so it's not like McGovern went way out on a limb.

But, just like back in '72 when he was running for President, the Prairie preacher sure has a way of alienating his friends and allies.

Prefacing his comments on CNN's Larry King Live with a declaration of "loyalty to people and... loyalty to principle," the 1972 nominee admitted that he, like many, didn't think the Senator from New York could garner the nomination after all and, while he wants to "continue the affection and the admiration that I have always had for Hillary and for President Clinton," McGovern felt that "as soon as it's reasonably possible and as soon as Hillary feels the time has come, for us to get behind our nominee and win that election next November."

What makes the whole thing perhaps even more galling, at least for the Clintons, is that Senator McGovern is now going around saying that he really didn't know much about Senator Barack Obama when he endorsed Senator Clinton in October 2007. It's a nice caveat, if anyone could believe it's true or that George McGovern's judgment is that poor.

All, I can say now is that based on McGovern's track record of picking winners...the Senator from Illinois, who's base and electoral chances are already being frequently compared to McGovern's 1972 landslide defeat, better hope he can break the curse.

So George McGovern, the Democratic nominee for President in 1972 has endorsed Hilary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008. "I think that if we can elect her president," the former Senator from South Dakota told a crowd of over 1700 Democrats at their annual barbeque on October 6, 2007in Johnson County, Iowa, "she'll be a greater president even than her brilliant husband."

Now, in case you didn't pick it up what they were putting down, the Clintons and George McGovern go way back. The former President, who gave McGovern the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the last year of his administration, even referred to himself just a few months back at an 85th birthday celebration for the former Senator as one of "McGovern's heirs."

That is actually very true. Hilary and her after mentioned "brilliant husband" helped run McGovern's Texas campaign in '72. The nominee lost the Lone Star State that year, and received one of the weakest endorsements in history from fellow Democrat, former President and proud Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson, but this was the first time the couple dangled their feet in the water of national politics.

In fact, while the Clintons paid the price of a political education, McGovern suffered one of the greatest defeats at the polls of any nominee when incumbent Richard Nixon swept 49 states with a 23.3% margin of victory. McGovern lost his own state, but carried the Kennedy-country of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Of course, as the Watergate scandal unfolded and the Democratic control of Congress grew stronger, there were many who claimed that the election was stolen. Even with all Nixon's dirty tricks, and there were truckloads, it would have been hard to steal that election. As former Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton, McGovern's disgraced Vice Presidential candidate and the source of the anonymous quote that McGovern was "for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot," told me when I interviewed him for 1972 - The First Year of the 21st Century, "when a candidate loses 49 out of 50 states, there is no way he could win under any circumstances." The man who probably lost his ticket mate 10 states that were in play before the story of Eagleton's alcoholism and electroshock therapy were revealed, would know if anybody would.

But facts never stopped the McGovernites from claiming, to the party's electoral determent, the soul of their party and fighting to overturn the results of November 8, 1972. McGovern himself even ran for the party's nomination in 1984, though, despite success in Iowa, he wasn't anywhere near as successful as he had been 12 years beforehand. McGovern has tried over and over again, from expropriating his relationship and assessment of LBJ in op-ed pages to becoming, with Bill Clinton on hand in Mitchell, South Dakota in October 2006, the only failed Presidential candidate to open his own library, to resurrect his legacy as the greatest President America never had. At the library dedication, Bill Clinton inadvertently hit the nail on the head when he said, "in the storied history of American politics, I believe no other presidential candidate ever had such an enduring impact in defeat. Senator, the fires you lit then still burn in countless hearts."

McGovern has claimed credit for mentoring many of the Democrats bright lights, such as his former campaign manager Gary Hart and John Kerry. Though, it should be noted, with the exception of Bill Clinton, none of them ever made it to the White House. But that would make sense, as McGovern was the first of many Democrats, with the exception of Southern Governors Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to be crushed under the electoral juggernaut of the GOP's Southern Strategy.

In recent years, especially since the release of the 2005 love-in documentary One Bright Shining Moment - The Forgotten Summer of George McGovern, Mr. McGovern himself has become a cottage industry, suddenly coming out swinging on the talk shows. The once and always heart of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party told Larry King that he voted for Republican Gerald Ford in 1976 over Jimmy Carter. That might be a warning to Senator Clinton. McGovern, in both his own career and his choices, has a knack for losers. He voted for Ford who lost in '76. He first supported Wesley Clark in the Democratic primaries in 2004, only to see the former NATO Commander withdraw 24 days later. McGovern predicted a landslide victory for John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004 because, as he told me, "everyone I talk to is voting for Kerry, no one's for George Bush." Barak Obama must have breathed a sigh of relief when on October 6, 2007 McGovern told Iowans that while he love to see an African-American president in his lifetime, "we have an old rule of courtesy in the United States, ladies first." Despite Hilary Clinton's sizable lead in the polls, Senator Obama's campaign might actually benefit from the McGovern Curse.

The former World War II fighter pilot has found new life as a warrior against the War in Iraq. If getting America out of Vietnam was the main thrust of his '72 campaign, McGovern seems set on making getting America out of Iraq the focal point of the 2008 election. Besides co-authoring Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now, the United Nations' Global ambassador on hunger has been getting into spats with Dick Cheney the way he used to with Spiro Agnew, Nixon's Vice-President and ridiculing the administration for not having learned the lessons of Southeast Asia despite the fact the apple and oranges of war are neither the same fruit nor the same type of conflict.

Hilary Clinton wanted George McGovern's endorsement on Oct. 6th to capture that liberal wing of the party that still isn't a 100% sure it trusts her and her husband. Hilary and Bill Clinton wanted George McGovern's endorsement because they have always wanted to feel part of something historically bigger than themselves. And George McGovern? Well, he's always wanted to win the White House...and if he can't do it directly, a Manchurian candidate will do. No wonder Hilary all of a sudden wants to give everyone $5,000...adjusted for cost of living, McGovern's 1972 promise of $1,000 seems almost sweet.

- October 7, 2007

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