McCarthy Overpraised for Antiwar Stance
It's not particularly surprising, but this sort of nonsense
should stop:Eugene J. McCarthy, the Minnesota senator who upended President Lyndon B. Johnson's re-election effort amid the Vietnam War tumult of 1968, was remembered at a service on Saturday as a man of sharp intellect, broad curiosity and a deep sense of justice and compassion.
An audience of about 800, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, Ralph Nader and John D. Podesta, President Bill Clinton's last chief of staff, gathered at the National Cathedral here, where lawmakers, relatives and friends spoke of a humble and independent-minded leader who opposed the Vietnam War and believed that politics could make a difference in the lives of ordinary citizens.
Mr. Clinton, who eulogized Mr. McCarthy, said he had been instrumental in building pressure to stop the war.
"It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of history," Mr. Clinton said.
With the war taking thousands of American and Vietnamese lives, Mr. McCarthy, an unabashed liberal, stoked a national debate over the war and over the model of an all-powerful presidency. He challenged Johnson in the New Hampshire primary in 1968, and Johnson, facing almost certain defeat, withdrew from the race. The Democratic party machine then forced the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to face President Richard M. Nixon. But Mr. McCarthy became the quintessential candidate of the Vietnam War protest movement.
There are a couple of things wrong with that analysis. First, Johnson beat McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary in 1968. Second, we know know quite a bit more about Lyndon Johnson. For example, he threatened to drop out of the race in 1964 shortly before the Democratic Convention. It is clear that he was something of a prima donna, and his withdrawal in 1968 must be examined in that light.
Note as well that his vice president, Hubert Humphrey, still managed to get the nomination despite officially supporting the Vietnam War. So whence comes the notion that McCarthy changed much of anything? He arguably got Johnson to drop out, but that didn't change things much. And he arguably helped get Nixon elected, although that's not the type of history changing that liberals are apt to get all teary-eyed over.