"I'm tired of old men dreaming up wars for young men to fight. If he wants to use American ground troops in Cambodia, let him lead the charge himself."
-Senator George McGovern in response to Senator John Stennis's suggestion that U.S. ground troops may have to reinvade Cambodia.
SENATE liberals have a lot to answer for. The Senate is the only body of government capable of standing up to the President on the war. Yet with few exceptions, Senators have had dismal records in opposing the war. They passed the Tonkin Gulf Rseolution in 1965 which enabled President Johnson to expand the war. They watered down the Cooper-Church amendment and voted down the Hatfield-McGovern plan. They continue to authorize and appropriate funds for the war with scarcely a whisper of opposition.
Most of the liberal luminaries in the Senate have been reluctant to take strong and effective stands against the war. Senator Muskie endorsed the Johnson war strategy by running on the 1968 Democratic ticket with Hubert Humphrey. Senator Kennedy, embroiled in his own personal and political problems, has been cautious in his criticism until very recently. Senator Fulbright, a lonely and powerful figure, has too often let his towering ego conflict with his political duty.
These men speak of Vietnamization as if it were a viable and realistic policy. They see danger in the ever-widening field of battle only because it may slow down the withdrawal effort, as if that were indeed the Nixon aim. They fail to realize that Nixon intends to substitute a massive and genocidal bombing campaign for the ground war and there by reduce American casualties, letting the American public forget about the war while thousands of Vietnamese are being slaughtered.
Only a handful of Senators have consistently called for a complete withdrawal of American forces from Indochina. They are not the most famous of public officials. They were junior Senators from small states: Ernest Greuning of Alaska, Wayne Morse of Oregon, Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, George McGovern of South Dakota. The first three are gone from the Senate. Only McGovern remains as an effective anti-war voice.
On January 18, McGovern announced that he is a candidate for President. The timing of the announcement coming more than a year before the first primary, was unprecedented. The campaign, up until now, has provided little more than grist for the columnists' mills on slow news days. Yet this is the way McCarthy's campaign began in 1967. McCarthy's announcement, like McGovern's, was greeted with wide yawns (and sly smiles). Neither candidate, when he announced, was given even the slimmest chance of success.
Yet in retrospect, the McCarthy campaign was the single most effective anti-war effort in the last ten years. It caused the downfall of the most powerful President since Franklin Roosevelt. It brought home to politicians everywhere the realization that the anti-war movement is not just a whim of left wing intellectuals, but is a current which runs strong in the American public, a current which can be translated into votes: the only language most politicians understand.
McCARTHY'S campaign ground to a halt in Chicago. A combination of the Johnson-Daley political axis and McCarthy's own bumbling, Quixotic personal style combined to create the debacle in Chicago. The only man who came out of the Democratic convention in 1968 looking even remotely human was George McGovern, whose candidacy provided an umbrella for Kennedy supporters, sick at the thought of Humphrey yet turned off by a lackluster McCarthy.
Now George McGovern stands for the Presidency in his own right. His ideology is farther to the left than that of McCarthy in 1968. His political style is more skillful and graceful than Clean Gene's. A recent Gallup poll showed that 75 per cent of the American people support the end-the-war amendment which bears McGovern's name. There is no reason why that feeling cannot be extended into support for a McGovern for President movement.
Who is George McGovern? Briefly: he is the junior Senator from South Dakota. He served two terms in the House and was elected to the Senate in 1963. He holds a Ph.D. in History and was a history professor at Dakota Wesleyan University. He was director of the Food for Peace program under President Kennedy in 1961 and 1962.
What does he stand for?
On the war: He supports and has introduced legislation to require a complete withdrawal of all American military forces from Vietnam within the next year. Says McGovern: "Our intervention in Vietnam's civil war was not an act of national strength but rather a drifting with the tide of old ideas and illusions. Vietnamization is not a formula for ending the killing in Vietnam. It is a clear design to keep the war going by ending criticism in the United States."
On the F.B.I.: He is one of the few public figures with enough courage to take on J.Edgar Hoover. He recently took action to initiate a Senate investigation of the firing of an F.B.I. agent who had criticized Hoover's regime. Hoover accepted the agent's resignation "with prejudice." McGovern said of the incident, "Such vindictiveness is intolerable on the part of an important federal official."
On Poverty and Hunger: McGovern has called for revitalizing the food stamp and school lunch programs so that by Thanskgiving of 1971 no school child in America will go hungry. "If America can send a man to the moon and build a billion dollar interstate highway system there is no reason why America cannot end hunger," McGovern said.
On the military: McGovern opposed the ABM and MIRV programs. He has blasted the Nixon defense budget as offering "no respite from the costly interventionist policies of previous administrations. It does not reflect at all the much heralded 'winding down' of the Indochina war. It seeks the same objectives and hopes in vain that they can be achieved with fewer American lives and more American money." He advocated that the $75 billion defense budget be cut by at least $20 billion.
Politics is a much discredited profession these days. Even the mildest "anti-war actions" are not attracting the support they did a year ago. Yet what are we to do? The F.B.I. continues to practice selective repression. We continue to spend three quarters of a billion dollars on defense while poverty, pollution, and racism eat away at our society. Our military machine and its puppet armies continue to ravage Indochina daily while we raise scarcely a whisper.
George McGovern does not present a panacea or cure-all. He is, however, the best hope we have.