The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sorry If This Ruins Making Of The President 1972 For You

Continuing my post from a couple weeks ago on The Making of The President 1968 ...

Lyndon Johnson of course did not run for reelection and died in 1973. His rather pathetic last days were covered by McGovern in his autobiography, Grassroots; LBJ grew his hair as long as the hippies who despised him, and while eating a steak would light a cigarette between every bite. Not surprising that he would die of a heart attack at 64.

Vice president and candidate Hubert Humphrey (also referred to as HHH; the Sixties habit of referring to politician's three initials mercifully came to an end with JFK, RFK, LBJ and HHH) returned to political life, replacing Eugene McCarthy who did not run for Senate reelection in 1970. Humphrey ran for the presidential nomination in 1972 but lost to McGovern. He died in office in 1978 at the age of 66.

Eugene McCarthy left the Senate in 1971, but did run for the Democratic nomination in 1972 and the presidency in 1976, getting 0.9% of the votes as a third-party candidate in that contest. Like McGovern, he also entered the 1992 Democratic primaries, though he was excluded from debates. He died in 2005 at the age of 89.

George McGovern is of course the famous loser of the 1972 election, the candidate of "amnesty, abortion, and acid" -- interestingly, this epithet was coined anonymously by Thomas Eagleton (before he was McGovern's running mate on the ticket) and relayed through a political columnist. Beaten in the 1980 Senate elections, he made a short run for the presidency in 1984. He is still alive at the age of 88.

Ted Kennedy was already a potential candidate in 1968. The next year he drove off a bridge with a cute young staffer, surviving while she drowned (he took 12 hours to inform the authorities). This killed his national political career, but he lived on in the Senate for 40 more years, looking like a bloated portrait of Dorian Grey. He died in office in August 2009, at the age of 77.

Edmund Sixtus Muskie, Humphrey's running mate in 1968, was not ever referred to as "ESM". He ran for the nomination in 1972. Muskie shed tears as he defended his wife from reports that she drank; at the time; he tried to explain the tears as melting snowflakes. He stayed in the Senate until appointed Secretary of State in 1980. He died in 1996, nearly 82 years old.

Before we examine the Republican figures of 1968, we should note the third party candidate, segregationist George Wallace. He took 13% of the votes and the electoral votes of several states. In 1972 he was poised to do even better, winning several Democratic primaries, but he was paralyzed by assassin Walter Bremer. Wallace renounced segregation and served a final term as Alabama's governor from 1983 to 1987. He died in 1998 aged 79.

(Bremer was sentenced to 35 years in prison and was released in 2007. Bremer didn't hate segregation, he just wanted to be noticed. This fame-seeking behavior inspired a book, and later a movie, called ... Taxi Driver.)

Wallace's running mate was the ominous Curtis LeMay, who led the bomber command that flattened Japanese cities in World War II. He also spearheaded the Berlin airlift of 1947. LeMay died in 1990 at the age of 83.

Nixon's major rival for the Republican nomination was New York governor Nelson Rockefeller. The Rockefeller brothers, much like the Kennedys, were an American dynasty; in 1968 brother Winthrop was governor of Arkansas and held 18 delegates from that state. Nelson was serving his third term in 1968, was elected to a fourth, and became Ford's vice president. He died in 1979 aged 70.

Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, made a play for the presidential nomination in 1968. He would be reelected governor in 1970, and came very close to capturing the nomination from Ford in 1976. He was of course elected President in 1980, and died in 2004, aged 93.

Michigan governor George Romney contested the nomination briefly before a gaffe in which he stated he had been "brainwashed real good" when he visited Vietnam. He was Housing and Urban Development secretary for Nixon. He died in 1995, aged 88. His son Mitt was governor of Massachusetts and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

And finally there is the winner, Richard Milhous Nixon. Nixon had lost in 1960, had run for governor of the Golden State in 1962, and growled to reporters that "they wouldn't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore." After his comeback, he suffered an even greater downfall, resigning in 1974 with an impeachment at his heels. He died in 1994, aged 83.

We visited Hilo a couple of weeks ago and drove along Banyan Tree Drive. This road has huge spreading banyans planted by famous people. Richard Nixon is a famous person:



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