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McGovern: He Never Sold His Soul

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Posted on Oct 21, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

The history books will tell you Richard Nixon won the 1972 election, that George McGovern went down to the worst defeat of any presidential candidate in history. But those who write history do not take into account the moral or the good, what is right or what is wrong, what endures and what does not. And even the historians have to acknowledge that Nixon’s victory was attained by lies and fraudulent propaganda, by dirty tricks, by state crimes and acts of theft and burglary. Nixon, as Hunter S. Thompson wrote, may have embodied the “successful” politician but he “was a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions.”

“George McGovern, for all his mistakes… ,” Thompson went on, “understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose…. Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?”

I had dinner in New York a few years ago with McGovern and Rick MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s Magazine. McGovern and I spoke about our experience in war and the lies, deceit and empty patriotism used by politicians and war profiteers to sustain war, of our life as the sons of preachers and of the time each of us had spent as seminary students. I told him about the summer I spent working for him, about the thrill of hearing his acceptance speech and about exhausting the battery of my father’s Impala. I told him he had set the ethical and intellectual standards by which I had attempted to live my own life. He mentioned, ruefully, the loss of 49 states. 

“Senator,” I said. “You never betrayed that 15-year-old boy.”


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