Friday, December 10, 2010

Remembering a great politican after 5 years

Eugene Joseph McCarthy: Sir, As a fellow Democratic I am truly sadden about your death because I am a big presidential buff and when I read about the 1968 election, it was seems that you were the right candidate to become the nation's 37th president instead of who we got, well Senator thanks for all what you stand for and Remembering you today after 5 years, may you rest in peace!

Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy (March 29, 1916 – December 10, 2005) was an American politician, poet, and a long-time member of the United States Congress from Minnesota. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971.

In the 1968 presidential election, McCarthy was the first candidate to challenge incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, running on an anti-Vietnam War platform. The unexpected vote total he achieved in the New Hampshire primary led Johnson to withdraw from the race, and lured Robert F. Kennedy into the contest. McCarthy would unsuccessfully seek the presidency five times altogether.

The 1968 campaign/Eugene McCarthy presidential campaign, 1968:

In 1968, McCarthy ran against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, with the intention of influencing the federal government — then controlled by Democrats — to curtail its involvement in the Vietnam War. A number of anti-war college students and other activists from around the country traveled to New Hampshire to support McCarthy's campaign. Some anti-war students who had the long-haired appearance of hippies chose to cut their long hair and shave off their beards, in order to campaign for McCarthy door-to-door, a phenomenon that led to the informal slogan "Get clean for Gene."

McCarthy's decision to run was partly an outcome of opposition to the war by Wayne Morse of Oregon, one of the two Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Morse gave speeches denouncing the war before it had entered the consciousness of most Americans. Following that, several politically active Oregon Democrats asked Robert Kennedy to run as an anti-war candidate. Initially Kennedy refused, so the group asked McCarthy to run, and he responded favorably.

McCarthy declared his candidacy on November 30, 1967 saying, "I am concerned that the Administration seems to have set no limit to the price it is willing to pay for a military victory." His candidacy was dismissed by political experts and the news media, and given little chance of making any impact against Johnson in the primaries. But public perception of him changed following the Tet Offensive (January 30 - September 23, 1968), the aftermath of which saw many Democrats grow disillusioned by the war, and quite a few interested in an alternative to LBJ.

McCarthy said "My decision to challenge the President's position and the administration's position has been strengthened by recent announcements out of the administration. The evident intention to escalate and to intensify the war in Vietnam, and on the other hand, the absence of any positive indication or suggestion for a compromise or for a negotiated political settlement."

As his volunteers led by youth coordinator Sam Brown went door to door in New Hampshire, and as the media began paying more serious attention to the Senator, McCarthy began to rise in the opinion polls. When McCarthy scored 42% to Johnson's 49% in the popular vote (and 20 of the 24 N.H. delegates to the Democratic national nominating convention) in New Hampshire on March 12 it was clear that deep division existed among Democrats on the war issue. By this time, Johnson had become inextricably defined by Vietnam, and this demonstration of divided support within his party meant his reelection (only four years after winning the highest percentage of the popular vote in modern history) was unlikely. On March 16 Kennedy announced that he would run, and was seen by many Democrats as a stronger candidate than McCarthy.

On March 31, in a surprise move, Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. Following that McCarthy won in Wisconsin where the Kennedy campaign was still getting organized. Although it was largely forgotten following subsequent events, McCarthy also won in Oregon against a well-organized Kennedy effort.

Even as McCarthy styled himself the clean politician, however, he dished it out, too. He mocked Robert Kennedy and his supporters. A major gaffe occurred in Oregon, when McCarthy sniffed that Kennedy supporters were "less intelligent" than his own and belittled Indiana (which had by then gone for Kennedy) for lacking a poet of the stature of Robert Lowell—a friend of McCarthy's who often traveled with him.

Quite a few of the people who had joined McCarthy's effort early on were Kennedy loyalists. Now that Kennedy was in the race, many jumped ship to his campaign, and they urged McCarthy to drop out and support Kennedy for the nomination. However, McCarthy resented the fact that Bobby had let him do the "dirty work" of challenging Johnson, and then only entered the race once it was apparent that the President was vulnerable. As a result, while he initially entered the campaign with few illusions of winning, McCarthy now devoted himself to beating Kennedy (and Hubert Humphrey, who entered the race after LBJ removed himself) and gaining the nomination.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey, long a champion of labor unions and civil rights, entered the race with the support of the party "establishment," including most members of Congress, mayors, governors and labor unions. He entered the race too late to enter any primaries, but had the support of the president and many Democratic insiders.

Robert Kennedy, like his brother before him, planned to win the nomination through popular support in the primaries. McCarthy and Kennedy squared off in California, each knowing that the state would be the make or break for them. They both campaigned vigorously up and down the state, with many polls showing them neck-and-neck, and a few even predicting a McCarthy victory.

However, a televised debate between them began to tilt undecided voters away from the Minnesota Senator. McCarthy made two ill-considered statements: that he would accept a coalition government that included Communists in Saigon and that only the relocation of inner-city blacks would solve the urban problem. Kennedy pounced, portraying the former idea as soft on communism and the latter diagnosis as a scheme to bus tens of thousands of ghetto residents into white, conservative Orange County.

In the end, McCarthy came off as both remote on the issues and ill-tempered toward his opponent. Kennedy took the crucial California primary on June 4, but was shot after his victory speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles and died soon afterwards.

In response McCarthy refrained from political action for several days, but did not remove himself from the race. One aide recalled him sneering about his fallen rival, "Demagoguing to the last." Another heard him say that Kennedy "brought it on himself"—implying that because Kennedy had promised military support to the state of Israel, he had somehow provoked Sirhan Sirhan, the Arab-American gunman who killed him.

Despite strong showings in several primaries — indeed, he won more votes than any other Democratic candidate — McCarthy garnered only 23 percent of the delegates at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, largely due to the control of state party organizations over the delegate selection process.

After the Kennedy assassination, many delegates for Kennedy chose to support George McGovern rather than McCarthy. Moreover, although the eventual nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was not clearly an anti-war candidate, there was hope among some anti-war Democrats that Humphrey as President might succeed where Johnson had failed — in extricating the United States from Vietnam. McCarthy eventually gave a lukewarm endorsement of Humphrey.

Although McCarthy did not win the Democratic nomination, the anti-war "New Party", which ran several candidates for President that year, listed him as their nominee on the ballot in Arizona, where he received 2,751 votes. He also received 20,721 votes as a write-in candidate in California.

Following the 1968 election, McCarthy returned to the Senate, but announced that he would not be running for reelection in 1970, to the disappointment of many Minnesotans. He disappointed many more people nationwide by declining to take a leadership role in Congress against the war. Indeed, he almost seemed to take a turn to the political Right during his final two years in the Senate, as witnessed by his opposition to President Richard Nixon's Family Assistance Plan, a form of "reverse income tax" to help the poor get off of welfare and a program similar to a plan he had proposed several years earlier.

McCarthy died of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 89 on December 10, 2005 in a retirement home in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., where he had lived for the previous few years. His eulogy was given by former President Bill Clinton.

Following his death the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University dedicated their Public Policy Center the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy. The Democratic party memorialized his passing during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, on August 28, 2008. The memorial included pictures of several prominent Democrats who had died during the 4-year period between conventions displayed on a large screen.

During Senator McCarthy's tribute, the screen displaying his photograph left off his first name, calling him "Senator Joseph McCarthy." Joseph McCarthy was actually an entirely different notable Senator, infamous for his anti-Communist campaigning and sparring with journalist Edward R. Murrow.

Eugene McCarthy for President 1968 Campaign Brochure

‘Portrait of a Leader in His Own Words’

America's Greatest Need

"The need now is for a great reconciliation, a reconciliation of the young and the old, of race with race, of the academic community with society as a whole, of Congress with the Presidency, but principally of the thought and spirit and the best traditions of America with the pressing need for action."

March 26, 1968

New Rights for All Americans

"I have said that, having secured the constitutionally guaranteed, legal civil rights, we must now move to establish a whole new set of civil rights.

"First among these, is the right to a decent job becoming the dignity of a man, a job which returns an income with which he can support his family in dignity and decency.

"To secure this right I propose that the federal government determine a minimum income which it will assure for all Americans.

"The second of these new civil rights is the right to adequate health care, without regard to race.

"To secure this right, we must have a federally subsidized insurance program to assure that no citizen will be deprived of health care for lack of funds. Most states require automobile liability insurance. There is no reason why the same concept cannot apply to the vital area of health care.

"Third, every American must now be accorded the right not simply to equal education, but to the amount and kind of education which is necessary to develop his full potential.

To secure this right I propose a mass program to up-grade the education of our adults who are trapped in poverty. This can be accomplished

Through federally subsidized on-the-job training, through special vocational schools and through adult literacy courses.

"For younger Americans, projects such as the Headstart Program must be expanded. Vocational training should come, not in the form -- of public works, but in on-the-job training programs provided by the private sector. These projects should then be subsidized, either directly or through tax credits, by the federal government.

"The fourth new civil right I have spoken of is the right to a decent house, not a house in isolation, not a house in the ghetto, but a house in a neighborhood which is part of a community, which is part of the United States of America.

"To accomplish this I propose, just as the President's Commission proposed, a massive building program to bring within reach of low and moderate income families, six million housing units within the next five years. Much of this can be accomplished through the private sector, as it was with the Interstate Highway Program, but the federal government must assure the financing of its part of the program so that the construction industry, the building trades, and home finance companies can plan for the long effort."

April 11, 1968

The Role of the Presidency to Unite This Nation

"I am not seeking the Presidency because party leaders sought me and urged me to run. Nor could I say that I have any claim to the office by way of succession.

"I said in 1960 that power sometimes came to men who sought it and I said I was not sure that the record of history showed that those who sought to gain power necessarily exercised it best in a democratic society. And the seeking of me as a candidate came like the dew in the night. It was rather gentle, I must say, soft, but there were signs in the morning that something had happened during the night; so here we are.

"I think that anyone who offers himself or permits himself to be offered for the Presidency must meet three conditions of character and experience and understanding. He must, I think be able to read with reasonable judgment the needs and aspirations of the people of this nation. And I do hope that some twenty years in the House and in the Senate, my travels around this land and a limited amount of reading, have brought me to the point where I have some comprehension of what this country is all about, what it needs, what its people seek.

"I think a man who is presented for the Presidency must also know the limitations of power. He should understand that this country cannot be governed by coercion, that it needs a special kind of leadership, which itself recognizes that the potential for leadership exists in every man and every woman. He must be prepared to be a kind of channel for those desires and those aspirations, largely by way of setting people free.

"The office of the Presidency of the United States must never be a personal office. A President should not speak of 'my country' but always of 'our country,' not of 'my Cabinet' but of 'the Cabinet.'

"The role of the Presidency -- at all times, but particularly in 1968 -- must be one of uniting this nation, not by adding it up in some way, not by putting it together as a kind of jigsaw puzzle. To unify this nation means to inspire it, to encourage the development of common purposes and shared ideals, and to move toward establishing an order of justice in America."

March 23, 1968

The War in Vietnam

"Our stated objectives in Vietnam are in reality different from our practical ones. We proclaim that our ultimate purpose is support for self-determination, to let the people of South Vietnam work out their own future, free from foreign interference. In reality, we have interfered in South Vietnam and have continued in power in Saigon a government dependent upon the United States. This was the policy of John Foster Dulles in 1954. It is the policy of Dean Rusk today."

"Our objective -- in actions as well as in words should be a government in Saigon that reflects as nearly as possible what the people of Vietnam want.

"I do not believe that the National Liberation Front, the successor to the Viet Minh which defeated the French and which, in the eyes of the Vietnamese people, freed the country from the yok of Western imperialism, can be denied a role as a political force in the future of South Vietnam. The Front is the government in large parts of the country. It is just not feasible to try to 'roll back' a political structure that is deeply rooted in the thoughts and feelings of the people; nor is it necessary from the point of view of American interests

"While the United States should not insist on specific agreements, we should press the Saigon government to enter into negotiations with the NLF as a political force. The question of whether there should be a coalition government, or an interim government, or some other mechanism, can be settled among the Vietnamese themselves

"We must make it clear to the authorities in Saigon that our commitment is not open-ended, that they must begin to work out in the South the shape of their future.

"There is never a totally painless way to pull back from either unwise, ill-advised or outdated ideas or commitments. As with the French decision to permit self-determination in Algeria, following the honorable, though difficult course would reflect credit on this nation in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of our own citizens."

April 1, 1968

Biography of Eugene J. McCarthy

Senator Eugene J. McCarthy (Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota) was born in the small Minnesota farming community of Watkins in 1916. He graduated from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1935, and received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota in 1938.

Senator McCarthy was a teacher in public high schools and private colleges for ten years. During, World War II, he served as a civilian technical assistant in military intelligence for the War Department. He was acting head of the sociology department at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul at the time of his election to Congress in 1948.

McCarthy was elected to the United States Senate in 1958. During his first term he served on the Senate Committees on Finance, Agriculture and Forestry, and Public Works. In 1959 and 1960 he was chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Unemployment Problems.

In 1964, Senator McCarthy was re-elected to the Senate by the largest popular majority of any Democratic candidate in the history of Minnesota. He presently serves on the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations, Finance, Standards and Conduct. and on the Democratic Steering Committee.

Senator McCarthy is the author of four books: Frontiers in American Democracy (1960), Dictionary of American Politics (1962), A Liberal Answer to the Conservative Challenge (1964), and The Limits of Power (1967).

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