Sunday, October 21, 2012

George McGovern (1922-2012)


To the liberal Democratic faithful, Mr. McGovern remained a standard-bearer well into his old age, writing and lecturing even as his name was routinely invoked by conservatives as synonymous with what they considered the failures of liberal politics.

He never retreated from those ideals, however, insisting on a strong, "progressive" federal government to protect the vulnerable and expand economic opportunity, and asserting that history would prove him correct in his opposing not only what he called "the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam" but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
-- from the NYT obit by David Rosenbaum (who,
by the way, we're told died in 2006)

by Ken

My friend Paul passed along the NYT obit with this note:
My first vote was for George McGovern in '72. He was thoroughly trounced by the incumbent, Richard M. Nixon. We all remember how well that turned out. George was a WWII hero and an incredibly decent human being who led the charge against the Vietnam War before Bobby Kennedy and Gene McCarthy got involved.

RIP, George. I still have your campaign button.
I'll leave you to read the NYT obit, which you can do now without using up one of your precious NYT clicks.  Let me just highlight a couple of things:

* Paul's point: "George was a WWII hero and an incredibly decent human being who led the charge against the Vietnam War before Bobby Kennedy and Gene McCarthy got involved." And, as the NYT obit points out, he "oppos[ed] not only what he called 'the tragically mistaken American war in Vietnam' but also the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan." We'll come back to this, especially that part about his being "an incredibly decent human being." But first --

* The fascinating disclosure made by the NYT in the biographical note for the obit, which is bylined "By David E. Rosenbaum": "David E. Rosenbaum, a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, died in 2006. William McDonald contributed reporting."

Now we all understand. The major media outlets all stockpile advance-written obituaries of famous people for whom they know they will need obituaries when the time comes. The normal practice, as I understand it, is that at certain intervals the obituary is dusted off and brought up to date, so that when it's finally needed it just requires a final freshening up. In this case, reporter Rosenbaum obviously hasn't been available to do any tinkering since 2006.

It's certainly no discredit to Senator McGovern that he was obituarized (is that a word? for our purposes I think it'll have to be) by a dead guy, and a not-all-that-recently dead one at that. On the contrary, since David Rosenbaum was indeed a highly respected political reporter, his assignment to the job originally -- which I'm guessing was well before 2006 -- would seem to do credit to both gentlemen. And the way life works, there's no reason to assume that the designated obituarist won't predecease the subject. Is that any reason to chuck the product? What you do is just what the Times did: You disclose, and give some sort of credit to the person who shepherded the piece as it stood into print.

Still, there's something about this -- I don't know, some sense that for the last however-many years Senator George has been reduced to the status of "waiting to kick the bucket." Yes, he may once have had a certain place in the fabric of history, but now -- in this case going back at least to 2006 (and, as I've already suggested, likely going back a good bit farther) -- there has been just the one thing left for him to do, and how he's done it.


Yes, he was.

And he was, as Paul says, "thoroughly trounced" by a man who was an incredibly indecent human being, who nevertheless has come to look like a statesman and pious visionary by comparison with most of the presidential candidates who have followed him, especially those of his party, and notably including the ones who were actually elected -- Reagan, G.W.H. Bush, and G. W. Bush, not to mention this Willard Inc.

The sad, or maybe tragic, thing is that we seem to have no use for incredibly decent human beings except to chronicle their passing.


There isn't any question about why Republican office-seekers like, is there? (A: God tells them to.)

My friend had mentioned in a note I saw when I got back from my long-awaited "Day on the J Train" with urban geographer Jack Eichenbaum (short version: it was exhausting but incredibly exhilarating) this evening:
I am working on an essay titled 'Why Democrats cannot tell the truth when they run for office." I have doing some thinking on it for quite some time.

It is part of the frustration.
Maybe it wasn't entirely coincidental that I dashed off the reply I did. Maybe somewhere in the tangle of my brain this was connecting to the news of the passing of my kind of patriot, this incredibly decent human being George McGovern. In what I wrote I realize now I took for granted the answer to the question of why Republicans can't tell the truth when they run for office. In the event that it might ever occur to one to consider doing so. Anyway, here's what I wrote:
Good subject, M. As usual, there's a range of factors, depending first on which kind of D's you're talking about.

If it's the new-style corporate-whore D, what are they supposed to say? "Sure, a reasonable person might assume from my network of big-money corporate contributors that I'm in the bag to them. However, I can assure you that I will nevertheless give every consideration to you, my precious constituents." You see how already this last part is a lie?

If, on the other hand, we're talking about the kind of D who actually believes the kind of stuff we believe, and only sort of mumbles about it when no one in particular is paying attention, then I think we have to assume that the person has been persuaded, on the basis of carefully selected "evidence," by corporate-whore political masterminds and consultants like Rahm Emanuel, that talking about deep-seated progressive convictions will cause them to lose.

And you know, there's some basis of truth in this, to the extent that saying such stuff, which if well said might cause considerable spontaneous enthusiasm among potential voters, could at the same time constitute a red flag to the Forces of Darknesses whose financial purse strings were pretty well loosened even before Citizens United. Look what happened to Alan Grayson when he made himself a big enough target. Which is one reason I would dearly love to see him sent back to Congress, without his having in any way stilled or compromised his public voice.

RIP, George.


Somehow, it seems part of this discussion (for want of a better word).

[Click to enlarge.]

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At 9:18 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

RIP George Stanley McGovern


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