Tuesday, January 16, 2007

George McGovern's Last Hurrah

Huffington Post
Al Eisele
George McGovern's Last Hurrah

Former Sen. George McGovern gave one hell of a speech at the National Press Club in Washington last Friday, but it didn't seem to get much attention.

The 84-year old South Dakota Democrat and 1972 presidential candidate, whose antiwar campaign was snowed under by Ronald Reagan, gave another scorching antiwar speech, this time against the Iraq war.

He said he hopes to live to be 100 because he wants to "get American soliders out of the Iraqi hellhole Bush-Cheny and their neo-conservaitve theorists have created in what was one called the cradle of civilization. "

McGovern, who served 18 years in the Senate before losing his seat to Republican Jim Abdnor in 1980, hasn't been heard from much lately, but he was definitely front and center as he challenged President Bush by directly addressing him with "some impertinent questions."

McGovern, whose own military credentials are unassailable -- he flew 35 missions as a B-25 pilot in World War II -- asked a series of 16 questions of Bush, ranging from "How can you sleep at night knowing that 3,014 young Americans have died in a war you mistakenly ordered?," to "... after such needless death and destruction, first in the Vietnamese jungle and now in the Arabian desert, can you order 21,500 more American troops to Iraq?"

In one of the more powerful passages, he referred to his own star-crossed campaign against Nixon's -- and Lyndon Johnson's -- futile war in Vietnam. "During the long years between 1964 and 1975 when I fought to end the American war in Vietnam ... my four daughters ganged up on me one night. 'Dad, why don't you give up this battle? You've been speaking against this crazy war since we were little kids.' ... In reply, I said, 'Just remember that sometimes in history even a tragic mistake produces something good. The good about Vietnam is that it is such a terrible blunder [that] we'll never go down that road again.'"

Then he added, "Mr. President, we're going down that road again. So, what do I tell my daughters? And what do you tell your daughters?"

McGovern, who now teaches at Dakota Wesleyan University, asked Bush if he's kept his "oath of office to uphold the Constitution when you use what you call the war on terrorism to undermine the Bill of Rights" and "seize and imprison suspects without charge, sometimes torturing them in foreign jails?"

McGovern was also flogging his new book, "Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now," written with William Polk, a former Harvard and University of Chicago professor of Middle East studies. He asked me afterwards if he was "too tough on Bush?" (I covered him for many years as a Washington correspondent for the Aberdeen, S.D. News-American and other Knight-Ridder Newspapers).

I said, "Hell no, Senator. You're not as tough on him as some Republicans, including Chuck Hagel."

I don't know if McGovern's impassioned speech against another war that he, and much of the nation, now sees as a tragic mistake of the same magnitude at Vietnam and a misuse of America's military, economic and moral power, will have much effect, but I salute him for his courage.

As he said in concluding, "Perhaps, Mr. President, you should ponder the words of a genuine conservative, England's 19th century member of Parliament, Edmund Burke: 'A conscientious man whould be cautious in how he dealt in blood"."