Yesterday marked the passing of an era. George McGovern, former Senator, Representative, and candidate for President, died of natural causes at 90. The South Dakota resident stood tall on the national stage, especially during the Vietnam War period. He was a man of grace, wit, and courage.
The Vietnam War, in a strange way, has many parallels with today. It was a war fought for reasons that were simply not true or at best naively misplaced. There were no frontiers between US and South Vietnamese troops, and the Viet Cong.
There were also no limits that the US would not go to assure victory. Battle field body count became a nightly news presentation. Each evening Americans would be told how we were winning the war, and for emphasis, how many enemy soldiers had been killed that day. If just another 20,000 troops were dispatched, we were told, the war could be quickly wound up. Truth became a casualty along with some 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese.
George McGovern, however, saw through the clouds of war. Against a sitting President of his own party, Lyndon Johnson, McGovern spoke out against the war before it became fashionable. McGovern was no soft dove having been a decorate WWII pilot. He was a realist who could tell when the king had no clothes.
Since 2000, the US has fought two unjustified wars (morphed into nation building projects), turned a blind eye to paying for what the country was spending, and is now contesting a Presidential election where one of the outcomes is to select a President who subscribes to the policies that came center stage following the 2000 Presidential election.
George may not have gotten every issue correct but when it came to the big ones, he could see, and more importantly, speak the truth.
I wish I could say the same for today’s leaders.