For my write-up today on volume 2 of Richard Nixon's memoirs, I'll comment about Richard Nixon's view of his Democratic opponent in the 1972 Presidential election, Senator George McGovern. I'll base my comments on what I have read in Nixon's memoirs so far.
impression is that Nixon's view of McGovern was rather ambivalent.
Nixon thought that McGovern was sincere, yet he anticipated that
McGovern might distance himself from his leftist positions in an attempt
to get more votes, for, according to Nixon, right-wingers were more
principled than left-wingers when it came to standing by their
convictions. (This comes from a man who reportedly supported a campaign
strategy of running to the right in the primaries and moving to the
center in the general election. I'm not sure where Nixon explicitly
endorsed that strategy, but it has often been associated with Nixon.)
Still, Nixon criticizes the 1972 Democratic National Convention because
it featured unconventional voices expressing their frustrations in an
undisciplined manner: "women, blacks, homosexuals, welfare mothers,
migrant farm workers" (page 144). (Sounds to me like a convention that
valued authenticity, for a change!) So, in a sense, Nixon seems to be
implying that McGovern's campaign was too left-wing. My impression is
that Nixon did not take McGovern all that seriously, for McGovern was
alienating Democrats, including organized labor (one of whose heads disrespected McGovern for abandoning an ally), plus Nixon thought that
McGovern lacked charisma and came across as dour.
Nixon's narration of his compassion for Thomas Eagleton, who was
McGovern's first running mate, yet was dropped from the ticket when it
was discovered that Eagleton had been treated for depression. Nixon
sympathized with Eagleton on account of Nixon's own experiences on the
1952 Republican ticket, when Nixon was attacked for having a fund from
the donations of businessmen. Nixon thought that the press' treatment
of Eagleton was reprehensible, and he was watching to see if McGovern
would lead or would wait for the latest poll before making his decision
to drop Eagleton. McGovern stood by Eagleton, but then he dropped him,
and Nixon expected that McGovern would do so to appease the press and
party professionals. Nixon then wrote a kind note to Terry Eagleton,
Thomas Eagleton's son.
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