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October 22, 2012

Senator George S. McGovern (1922–2012)

He is the most decent man in the Senate.

--Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

Growing up, professionals born in the 1960s were often likely to have political heroes on the GOP side of things. Ronald Reagan is a good example, and he seemed to excite college kids in a way other Republicans had not since Ike. But if you were born earlier, say in the 1950s, your heroes came in a veritable pantheon that included certain "lefty" U.S. senators: Robert Kennedy, Birch Bayh, Gaylord Nelson, Eugene McCarthy, Tom Eagleton, Ed Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abe Ribicoff, Dick Clark. And George McGovern from South Dakota. McGovern, who by his own missteps was beaten by Nixon in 1972, was really heir to Robert Kennedy's ideas and following after Kennedy was shot and killed in 1968.

A lot of people thought this bookish WWII war-hero was a little too liberal, and personally a bit too peaceful and gentle, to be the President of the United States. But those around him--like Gary Hart, Frank Mankiewicz, Warren Beatty and Hunter Thompson--knew better. Senator McGovern was a tough and feisty guy. He just wasn't flashy about it. But once in the fall of 1972, McGovern was mercilessly heckled at a rally by someone very close to the stage. When the rally was over, McGovern stepped down from the stage and gestured for the man to come over to him. The man came. In the middle of a throng of Secret Service agents and admirers, McGovern cupped his hand over his mouth, got real close to the man and whispered in his ear: "I have a secret for you. Kiss my ass."

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Posted by JD Hull at October 22, 2012 08:39 PM

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