Thomas Eagleton, former Senator from Missouri, and briefly the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1972, died today at the age of 77.
One of the low points of the McGovern campaign in '72 was when it came out that Eagleton had been hospitalized for depression, and had received electro-shock therapy. McGovern famously said he would stand by Eagleton "1000%", and then dumped him shortly afterwards. I think of this every time a major league baseball manager gets a public vote of confidence from the ownership of the team, which frequentlyly means he's going to be dumped pretty damn soon.
William Greider in the Washington Post, Tuesday July 25, 1972, just 11 days after Eagleton had been chosen by McGovern:
Senator Thomas Eagleton, the Democratic nominee for Vice President, unexpectedly revealed today that he was hospitalized three times between 1960 and 1966 for psychiatric treatment, suffering from "nervous exhaustion and fatigue."
Under questioning, he said the illness involved "the manifestation of depression" and that twice he received electric shock therapy, which he described as a recognized treatment for that type of ailment.
Sen. George McGovern, the Democratic Presidential nominee, promptly expressed full confidence in Eagleton, and said he would discourage any talk of dumping Eagleton from the ticket.
Eagleton revealed his medical history after reporters for the Knight Newspapers had confronted McGovern staff members with accounts of it [...]
James M. Naughton, New York Times, July 30, 1972:
The Democratic nominee declined on Tuesday even to consider Senator Eagleton's offer to withdraw from the ticket, saying that its make-up was irrevicably set. Three days later, he began orchestrating an attempt to persuade Mr. Eagleton to withdraw from the ticket.
Having asserted on Tuesday that "there is no one sounder in body, mind and spirit than Tom Eagleton," Mr. McGovern was telling reporters aboard his chartered campaign plane last night that "the one thing we know about Eagleton is that he has been to the hospital three times for [mental] depression."
The Democratic Presidential nominee publically admonished his staff to stop gossiping about what effect Mr. Eagleton's disclouse might have on th Democrats' chances in November. A day later, he contrived through his staff to assemble a group of reporters for a casual discussion on the same subject.
Mr. McGovern appeared, even to disillusioned members of his campaign staff, to be saying one thing and doing another -- which was the charge he had been preparing to make in the campaign against President Nixon.
In the Democratic primaries, Senator McGovern managed to convey the impression that he was somehow not a politician in the customary sense -- that he was more open, more accesible, more attuned to the issues and more idealistic than other candidates.
But his reaction to Mr. Eagleton's disclosure may have seriously impaired that image.
According to Hunter Thompson in his classic Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 (and Thompson, it should be said, was both a trenchant observer of politics and sometimes almost completely unreliable), the choice of Eagleton was a fluke. Before the convention, when McGovern had the nomination just about locked up, he had floated a list of possible running mates which Thompson derides as full of hack politicians, but was really hoping that Ted Kennedy would take it. McGovern waited so long for Kennedy to decide, that he ended up having to make a fast choice, and Eagleton was selected without any real due diligence on his background -- they basically took Eagleton's word that there were no skeletons in his closet.
It may have been the kiss of death for the McGovern campaign, very early on, but it's rather doubtful that McGovern would have won in any event. He had taken the nomination through skillful use of the newly revised party rules about primaries and the convention, crafted by a reform commission that he himself had headed up, and not by having a particularly large base of support within the party. Given that, he was unlikely to have received a lot of votes in the general election in any case, even if his campaign hadn't started off with such a tremendous gaffe as the Eagleton affair. Of course, we'll never know, but in the end he won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, and the government remained in the vindictive hands of Richard M. "Tricky Dick" Nixon.
I mention all of this only because it's my observation that certain elements in the progressive blogosphere are hell-bent on making another different, but similar, mistake. They insist that the only factor which ought to count is a candidate's commitment to the liberal agenda, especially after so many years of disastrous right-wing rule. On the other hand, I contend that the most important factor is can the candidate attract enough votes to win?, and I'm satisfied that a general agreement with progressive values is a sufficient guarantee that if elected the result will be better off for the country -- much better -- than if we allowed the Republicans to continue to reign. I'm interested primarily in the ability to get elected, for that reason. If we could elect solid liberals to the White House with only the votes of liberal voters, then it wouldn't matter, we could get behind whoever was the most progressive, but that's not the case, and too damned many Democrats and liberals just don't seem to want to understand that.
Listen, 2008 is not 1972. In 1972 McGovern's anti-war stance probably alienated more voters than it attracted, because he was ahead of the curve, and he was running against a not unpopular sitting President. In 2008, an anti-war stance is what a majority of the population agrees with, and the outgoing President is among the most unpopular in the modern era. The wave is with us, not against us as it was in 1972, but that doesn't mean we can throw caution to the wind and not pay attention to having the best candidate, with best possibility of winning.
[The excerpts from WaPo and Times news reports from 1972 were quoted in HST's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72]
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
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