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Clinton said, "It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of his

Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005): The Legacy of the Former Senator and Anti-War Presidential Candidate

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/18/1442236

We look at the life of former anti-war presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy. Hundreds gathered for his memorial service this weekend. We speak with a reporter who covered him for decades and SDS founder Tom Hayden. [includes rush transcript - partial]

We look at the lives of two individuals whose actions in the late 1960s shaped how this country viewed the Vietnam War.

One was named Hugh Thompson. He was an Army helicopter pilot who helped stop the My Lai Massacre when U.S. troops slaughtered hundreds of innocent Vietnamese villagers. He died earlier this month at the age of 62. Later in the show we will speak with former Army Specialist Lawrence Colburn who helped Thompson end the massacre.

But first we are going to look at the life of Eugene McCarthy, the former Minnesota Senator and presidential candidate. He died in December at the age of 89. On Saturday some 800 people filled the National Cathedral in Washington for a memorial service.

McCarthy and the Vietnam War will be forever linked.

It was in 1968 when the Democratic Senator from Minnesota broke party ranks and decided to challenge President Lyndon Johnson for the party's presidential nomination.

McCarthy ran on a platform opposing the Vietnam War. By 1968 the war had already taken thousands of American lives as U.S. involvement escalated under Johnson.

In March 1968, voters in New Hampshire responded to McCarthy's anti- war sentiments. He shocked the nation by receiving 42 percent of the primary vote. Johnson -- the sitting president - ended up wining the New Hampshire primary but his political future changed overnight.

Within days, Senator Robert Kennedy jumped into the race. And then to the amazement of the country, Johnson announced within weeks that he was dropping out and not seeking re-election.

1968 would prove to be a painful year in many ways.

On April 4, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. Then on June 6, Robert Kennedy was shot dead shortly after delivering a victory speech in Los Angeles after winning the California primary.

For many Eugene McCarthy's run for president marked a bright spot in a tragic year.

But McCarthy's run for the presidency stopped in Chicago during the infamous 1968 Democratic convention when the delegates nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey who would then go on to lose to Richard Nixon in November.

But the effects of McCarthy's run for office were felt for years.

On Saturday, at McCarthy's memorial service President Clinton gave the eulogy for the late Senator and said McCarthy was instrumental in building opposition to the Vietnam War.

Clinton said, "It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of history."

We go now back to 1968 to listen to an anti-Vietnam War campaign radio spot that McCarthy ran ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

We speak with are joined by two guests:

  • Albert Eisele, co-founder and editor at large of the Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C. He is the author of a dual biography of Hubert Humphrey and former Sen. Eugene McCarthy called "Almost to the Presidency" written in 1979. He was a Washington correspondent for the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press and Knight-Ridder before becoming press secretary to Vice President Walter Mondale.
  • Tom Hayden, former California State Senator. He lead the demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Hayden and others were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot in the famous trial known as the trial of the "Chicago Seven."

And we play excerpts of Eugene McCarthy in his own words:

  • Anti-Vietnam War campaign radio spot.
  • Excerpt of 1968 campaign speech.
  • Interview on Minnesota Public Radio, March 25, 2003, just after the launch of the Iraq invasion.
  • Discussing the corporate media, the war department and on getting old, excerpts of the documentary "I'm Sorry I Was Right," courtesy of the
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<H2>Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005): The Legacy of the Former Senator and Anti-War Presidential Candidate</H2> <P>Wednesday, January 18th, 2006</P><SMALL>http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/18/1442236</SMALL> <P>We look at the life of former anti-war presidential candidate, Eugene McCarthy. Hundreds gathered for his memorial service this weekend. We speak with a reporter who covered him for decades and SDS founder Tom Hayden. [includes rush transcript - partial]</P> <P></P><lj-cut text="More on McCarthy"> We look at the lives of two individuals whose actions in the late 1960s shaped how this country viewed the Vietnam War. <P>One was named Hugh Thompson. He was an Army helicopter pilot who helped stop the My Lai Massacre when U.S. troops slaughtered hundreds of innocent Vietnamese villagers. He died earlier this month at the age of 62. Later in the show we will speak with former Army Specialist Lawrence Colburn who helped Thompson end the massacre. <P>But first we are going to look at the life of Eugene McCarthy, the former Minnesota Senator and presidential candidate. He died in December at the age of 89. On Saturday some 800 people filled the National Cathedral in Washington for a memorial service. <P>McCarthy and the Vietnam War will be forever linked. <P>It was in 1968 when the Democratic Senator from Minnesota broke party ranks and decided to challenge President Lyndon Johnson for the party's presidential nomination. <P>McCarthy ran on a platform opposing the Vietnam War. By 1968 the war had already taken thousands of American lives as U.S. involvement escalated under Johnson. <P>In March 1968, voters in New Hampshire responded to McCarthy's anti- war sentiments. He shocked the nation by receiving 42 percent of the primary vote. Johnson -- the sitting president - ended up wining the New Hampshire primary but his political future changed overnight. <P>Within days, Senator Robert Kennedy jumped into the race. And then to the amazement of the country, Johnson announced within weeks that he was dropping out and not seeking re-election. <P>1968 would prove to be a painful year in many ways. <P>On April 4, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee. Then on June 6, Robert Kennedy was shot dead shortly after delivering a victory speech in Los Angeles after winning the California primary. <P>For many Eugene McCarthy's run for president marked a bright spot in a tragic year. <P>But McCarthy's run for the presidency stopped in Chicago during the infamous 1968 Democratic convention when the delegates nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey who would then go on to lose to Richard Nixon in November. <P>But the effects of McCarthy's run for office were felt for years. <P>On Saturday, at McCarthy's memorial service President Clinton gave the eulogy for the late Senator and said McCarthy was instrumental in building opposition to the Vietnam War. <P>Clinton said, "It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of history." <P>We go now back to 1968 to listen to an anti-Vietnam War campaign radio spot that McCarthy ran ahead of the New Hampshire primary. <P>We speak with are joined by two guests: <P> <UL> <LI><B>Albert Eisele</B>, co-founder and editor at large of the Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C. He is the author of a dual biography of Hubert Humphrey and former Sen. Eugene McCarthy called "Almost to the Presidency" written in 1979. He was a Washington correspondent for the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press and Knight-Ridder before becoming press secretary to Vice President Walter Mondale. <LI><B>Tom Hayden</B>, former California State Senator. He lead the demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Hayden and others were charged with conspiracy and inciting to riot in the famous trial known as the trial of the "Chicago Seven." <P></P></LI></UL>And we play excerpts of Eugene McCarthy in his own words: <P> <UL> <LI>Anti-Vietnam War campaign radio spot. <LI>Excerpt of 1968 campaign speech. <LI>Interview on <A href="http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2005/06/15_olsond_genemccarthy/">Minnesota Public Radio</A>, March 25, 2003, just after the launch of the Iraq invasion. <LI>Discussing the corporate media, the war department and on getting old, excerpts of the documentary <A href="http://www.thecie.org/" gene>"I'm Sorry I Was Right,"</A> courtesy of the <A href="http:///" www.thecie.org>Center for International Education</A>.</LI></UL> <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>We go back now to 1968 to listen to an anti-Vietnam War campaign radio spot that McCarthy ran ahead of the New Hampshire primary. <UL> <P><B>RADIO SPOT: </B>Four years ago America had 3,000 men in Vietnam, and we were told we were winning the war. Three years ago we had 16,000 men in Vietnam, and we were told we were winning the war. Two years ago we had 100,000 men in Vietnam, and we were told we were winning the war. A year ago, we had 250,000 men in Vietnam, and we were told we were winning the war. Today, we have 550,000 men in Vietnam with over 100,000 boys killed and wounded, and we're told we're winning the war. There's got to be a better way than death, double talk and taxes. On March 12, stand up with McCarthy and say so. </P></UL> <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>A campaign radio spot that Eugene McCarthy ran ahead of the New Hampshire primary in 1968. This is an excerpt of a campaign speech by McCarthy. <UL> <P><B>EUGENE McCARTHY: </B>And it fits into our whole campaign thrust, namely of protecting people's rights and beyond that of setting them free. We’ll go on in great things and also in small things to demonstrate our continued belief that there is a certain power in human reason, which is really the only instrument we have with which we can give some direction to life and history. </P></UL> <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>That was Eugene McCarthy, as we turn now to our guests. On the phone with us from California is Tom Hayden, former California state senator, led the demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. Hayden and others were charged with conspiracy, inciting to riot in the famous trial known as “Chicago Seven.” And in our studio in Washington, D.C., we're joined by Albert Eisele, he is co-founder and editor-at-large of the <I>Hill</I> newspaper in Washington, D.C. He’s the author of a dual biography of Hubert Humphrey and former senator Eugene McCarthy called <I>Almost to the Presidency</I>, written in 1979. He was Washington correspondent for the <I>St. Paul Dispatch</I> and <I>Pioneer Press</I> and Knight-Ridder before becoming Press Secretary to Vice President Walter Mondale. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Albert Eisele, can you talk about when you first met Eugene McCarthy? <P><B>ALBERT EISELE: </B>Yes, I can. I came to Washington in 1965 as a reporter for newspapers in Duluth and St. Paul, and obviously he was in the Senate. And I covered him and other members of the Minnesota delegation. I had known him somewhat, because I happened to have graduated from the same university in Minnesota that he did, St. John's University, so he was obviously well known there, but I really got to know him in the period from 1965 on, when I covered him as a senator. <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>When did you start to talk to him about his desire to run for president against the sitting Democratic president? <P><B>ALBERT EISELE: </B>Well, it was becoming evident in 1967 that he was seriously considering it. As you recall, there were a number of other senators who were critical of the war and who had been asked by anti-war activists to run, and none of them wanted to. I believe I wrote the first story that he was actually seriously considering challenging Lyndon Johnson. This was in late 1967. And in November or maybe December 1, first part of December of 1967, he gave a speech in Chicago, in which he basically said that he was challenging Johnson. Of course, he announced his candidacy later. It was -- when you look back on it, it's hard to understand just how courageous, if you will, and maybe foolhardy it was for a senator of the Democratic Party to challenge a Democratic president, one of the most powerful presidents ever. It was akin to political suicide. But as it turned out, it certainly wasn't. <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>Tom Hayden, when Eugene McCarthy announced he would run for president, where were you, if you can remember? <P><B>TOM HAYDEN: </B>Well, that would have been towards the end of 1967. I would have been on the East Coast in Newark, New Jersey. The country was coming apart in the town where I was working, Newark. There had been several days of rioting and people killed. The same in Detroit. The Tet Offensive had not occurred yet in Vietnam. But it was clear that the war was being lost or had become a quagmire. And there was a huge movement, I mean, a really huge movement, and an element of it wanted to find a candidate to challenge President Johnson. Wonder about the parallels with today. <P>And McCarthy came forward after a lot of thought. I remember seeing him in the scruffy headquarters of the national mobilization committee, coming by to say hello to people. And I was very young. And he was very elegant. He had on a black coat, suit and tie. And a lot of people rallied to him. I was not one of them. I was involved with the anti-war movement. And come what may, we wanted to have demonstrations in the streets. But there probably was an electoral strategy, I thought. <P>And looking back, you know, I have to say that he was the man. He really did -- President Clinton is right. He did take it on all alone at a time when a lot of the counsel was that it was suicidal. And he generated a movement that toppled a president and brought into politics the whole generation of activists that included people like the young Bill Clinton, who I think was his campaign manager in Texas. <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>Can you talk about why, Albert Eisele, Robert Kennedy entered the race and what this meant for Eugene McCarthy, the man you were covering? <P><B>ALBERT EISELE: </B>Well, it certainly caused a huge upheaval in the Democratic Party. You recall that Robert Kennedy had been implored by others to run and refused to do it before New Hampshire and before Johnson announced that he was dropping out. And immediately afterwards, Robert Kennedy announced that he was getting in, which alienated many of his supporters and certainly McCarthy's supporters, as well. And then, of course, that led to the series of tragic events, which you referred to earlier, his assassination in California, when he won the primary. But he didn't win it by that much. Just the week before that, McCarthy had won the Oregon primary, so it was a real race going into California. <P>And then that touched off a whole series of catalytic events, culminating with the violent Chicago convention and then Hubert Humphrey's defeat by Richard Nixon. Many of McCarthy's critics blame him for Humphrey's defeat. But I don't think that's right. I think the biggest reason that Humphrey lost that election was that he could not get the albatross of Vietnam off of his back. And I think that he -- McCarthy reached out to him at various times and asked him to make some concessions, which he wouldn't. And for that reason I think that he lost the election, by a very slim margin, obviously. <P><B>AMY GOODMAN: </B>We're talking to Albert Eisele and to Tom Hayden about Eugene McCarthy, a memorial service held for him this week in Washington. Over 800 people attended. </P>
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