Monday, October 29, 2012
Something I didn't know about George McGovern - he voted for Jerry Ford for President in 1976!I didn't believe this when I saw a reference to it in the Sioux Fall Argus-Leader in a timeline about the late George McGovern's life.
But he did say to Larry King just after President Ford's death that he had voted for him for President in 1976 against winning Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter!
That was a real surprise to me. Below is the complete McGovern section from CNN Larry King Live, Farewell To President Ford 01/02/2007. He also relates a conversation he had with Barry Goldwater about the pardoning of Richard Nixon. I find it easier to believe that he favored a pardon of Nixon than that he voted for Gerald Ford.
KING: We're back. Joining us now for a few moments out of Miami is George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, author of a new book "Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now." Senator McGovern, you lost your daughter Terri to alcoholism. Gerald Ford's support of his wife's anti-addiction efforts must have had a special meaning to you.But in his 1977 book, Grassroots: The Autobiography of George McGovern, he had talked about his unhappiness with Carter as the Democratic candidate and even a personal grudge that he bore him. It's easy to overlook now, but Carter was seen in 1976 within the Democratic Party as a conservative choice. He's been a much more liberal ex-President than he was a President or Presidential candidate. Here's what McGovern wrote in 1977 about Carter's Presidential run:
I tried at first to stay free of involvement in the primaries. But I was convinced that among the early contenders, candidates such as Morris Udall, Sargent Shriver and Birch Bayh had a better grasp of the nation's problems than Carter. Indeed, much of what I knew about the former Georgia governor - which was little - disturbed me. I did not like his prolonged, almost bitter-end, endorsement of America's role in Vietnam. I could not be comfortable with any candidate who had supported the Vietnam madness as late as Carter had. Nor was I reassured about his views on arms control and military spending; the promise of a cut was too vague to be believed. It seemed to me that he was hedging his stands on virtually everything. On a personal level, I recalled that he had been an active promoter of the "Anybody but McGovern" strategy of 1972.
Dissatisfaction with Carter's policy among liberal Democrats and labor persisted. Ted Kennedy mounted a serious challenge against him in the 1980 primaries, as did Jerry Brown. He even disappointed Democrats on Election Day 1980, formally conceding to Ronald Reagan before the polls closed on the West Coast, thus risking reducing Democratic turnout and endangering down-ticket candidates.
McGovern's memory of his support for Ford's pardon of Nixon may have been colored by later reflection, or perhaps his wording by the occasion of Ford's passing. An AP report at the time of the pardon (quoted here from
Reaction splits on party lines Bangor Daily News 09/09/1974):
Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee whom Nixon defeated, said: "It has seemed to me that the central lesson Watergate should be that no one stands above the rule of law. It is difficult to understand granting immunity to Mr. Nixon while committing his subordinates to prison.In his 1977 autobiography, he wrote:
I was not prepared for the intensity of the anger and resentment which followed President Ford's pardon of Nixon. News of the pardon reached me at the conclusion of a Sunday-morning service which I was attending at the Methodist Church in Watertown, South Dakota. When I arrived at a city park a short time later to address a Democratic picnic crowd, I found people in an uproar. Although a predictable reaction at a Democratic gathering, I discovered the same sense of outrage as I campaigned in conservative Republican areas of the state.As the main target of the skulduggery in 1972 that we now know as part of "Watergate", it's easy to imagine that had McGovern been elected President in 1972, he himself would have pardoned the Watergate burglars as an act of generosity. (In fact, I recall a post-election article by his campaign biographer Robert Sam Anson speculating just that, but I haven't located the reference as of this writing.) However, the criminal actions continued well into 1973 and 1974 during the coverup.
Tags: george mcgovern, jerry ford, richard nixon
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