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Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 89, Dies

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051210/ap_on_go_co/obit_mccarthy Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 89, Dies By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 21
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 10, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051210/ap_on_go_co/obit_mccarthy

      Former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, 89, Dies

      By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer 1
      hour, 21 minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - Former Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy,
      whose insurgent campaign toppled a sitting president
      in 1968 and forced the Democratic Party to take
      seriously his message against the Vietnam War, died
      Saturday. He was 89.

      McCarthy died in his sleep at assisted living home in
      the Georgetown neighborhood where he had lived for the
      past few years, said his son, Michael.

      Eugene McCarthy challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson
      for the 1968 Democratic nomination during growing
      debate over the Vietnam War. The challenge led to
      Johnson's withdrawal from the race.

      The former college professor, who ran for president
      five times in all, was in some ways an atypical
      politician, a man with a witty, erudite speaking style
      who wrote poetry in his spare time and was the author
      of several books.

      "He was thoughtful and he was principled and he was
      compassionate and he had a good sense of humor," his
      son said.

      When Eugene McCarthy ran for president in 1992, he
      explained his decision to leave the seclusion of his
      home in rural Woodville, Va., for the campaign trail
      by quoting Plutarch, the ancient Greek historian:
      "They are wrong who think that politics is like an
      ocean voyage or military campaign, something to be
      done with some particular end in view."

      McCarthy got less than 1 percent of the vote in 1992
      in New Hampshire, the state where he helped change
      history 24 years earlier.

      Helped by his legion of idealistic young volunteers
      known as "clean-for-Gene kids," McCarthy got 42
      percent of the vote in the state's 1968 Democratic
      primary. That showing embarrassed Johnson into
      withdrawing from the race and throwing his support to
      his vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey.

      Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York also decided to seek
      the nomination, but was assassinated in June 1968.
      McCarthy and his followers went to the party
      convention in Chicago, where fellow Minnesotan
      Humphrey won the nomination amid bitter strife both on
      the convention floor and in the streets.

      Humphrey went on to narrowly lose the general election
      to
      Richard Nixon. The racial, social and political
      tensions within the Democratic Party in 1968 have
      continued to affect presidential politics ever since.

      "It was a tragic year for the Democratic Party and for
      responsible politics, in a way," McCarthy said in a
      1988 interview.

      "There were already forces at work that might have
      torn the party apart anyway — the growing women's
      movement, the growing demands for greater racial
      equality, an inability to incorporate all the demands
      of a new generation.

      "But in 1968, the party became a kind of unrelated
      bloc of factions ... each refusing accommodation with
      another, each wanting control at the expense of all
      the others."

      Although he supported the Korean War, McCarthy said he
      opposed the Vietnam War because "as it went on, you
      could tell the people running it didn't know what was
      going on."

      In recent years, McCarthy was critical of campaign
      finance reform, winning him an unlikely award from the
      Conservative Political Action Conference in 2000.

      In an interview when he got the award, McCarthy said
      that money helped him in the 1968 race. "We had a few
      big contributors," he said. "And that's true of any
      liberal movement. In the American Revolution, they
      didn't get matching funds from George III."

      After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, McCarthy said the
      United States was partly to blame for ignoring the
      plight of Palestinians.

      "You let a thing like that fester for 45 years, you
      have to expect something like this to happen," he said
      in an interview at the time. "No one at the White
      House has shown any concern for the Palestinians."

      In a 2004 biography, "Eugene McCarthy: The Rise and
      Fall of Postwar American Liberalism," British
      historian Dominic Sandbrook painted an unflattering
      portrait of McCarthy, calling him lazy and jealous,
      among other things. McCarthy, Sandbrook wrote,
      "willfully courted the reputation of frivolous
      maverick."

      In McCarthy's 1998 book, "No-Fault Politics," editor
      Keith C. Burris described McCarthy in the introduction
      as "a Catholic committed to social justice but a
      skeptic about reform, about do-gooders, about the
      power of the state and the competence of government,
      and about the liberal reliance upon material cures for
      social problems."

      McCarthy was born March 29, 1916, in Watkins, a
      central Minnesota town of about 750. He earned degrees
      from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., and
      the University of Minnesota.

      He was a teacher, a civilian War Department employee
      and college economics and sociology instructor before
      turning to politics. He once spent a year in a
      monastery.

      He was elected to the House in 1948. Ten years later
      he was elected to the Senate and re-elected in 1964.
      McCarthy left the Senate in 1970 and devoted much of
      his time to writing poetry, essays and books.

      With a sardonic sense of humor, McCarthy needled
      whatever establishment was in power. In 1980 he
      endorsed Republican
      Ronald Reagan with the argument that anyone was better
      than incumbent Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.

      On his 85th birthday in 2001, McCarthy told the Star
      Tribune of Minneapolis that President Bush was an
      amateur and said he could not even bear to watch his
      inauguration.

      In an interview a month before the 2003 invasion of
      Iraq, McCarthy compared the Bush administration with
      the characters in the William Golding novel "Lord of
      the Flies," in which a group of boys stranded on an
      island turn to savagery.

      "The bullies are running it," McCarthy said. "Bush is
      bullying everything."

      McCarthy was an advocate for a third-party movement,
      arguing there was no real difference between
      Republicans and Democrats.

      In 2000, he wrote a political satire called "An
      American Bestiary," illustrated by Chris Millis, in
      which high-level advisers are portrayed as park
      pigeons — "they strut and waddle" — and reporters are
      compared with black birds who flock together.

      He blamed the media for deciding who is and is not a
      serious candidate and suggested he should have kept
      his 1992 candidacy a secret, since announcing it
      publicly did no good.

      McCarthy also ran for president in 1972, 1976 and
      1988.

      For McCarthy, the 1950s and 1960s were the Democratic
      Party's high points because it pushed the Civil Rights
      Act through Congress and championed national health
      insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

      "I think he probably would consider his work in civil
      rights legislation in the 1960s to be his greatest
      contribution," his son said Saturday.

      The bad times, Eugene McCarthy said, began with
      America's increased involvement in the Vietnam War and
      the simultaneous failure of some of Johnson's Great
      Society social programs.

      Instead of giving people a chance to earn a living,
      McCarthy said, the Great Society "became affirmative
      action and more welfare. It was an admission the New
      Deal had failed or fallen."

      In recent years McCarthy had lived at Georgetown
      Retirement Residence, an assisted living center in
      Washington. He and his wife, Abigail, separated after
      the 1968 election. She died in 2001.

      Survivors include daughters Ellen and Margaret and six
      grandchildren, Michael McCarthy said.

      A private burial is planned for next week and a
      memorial service in Washington will be scheduled,
      Michael McCarthy said.
    • Ram Lau
      Gene was the A-students candidate in 1968. He has lived a great life, and even figured to find the easy way out during his sleep. (I hope I will be able to do
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 11, 2005
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        Gene was the A-students' candidate in 1968. He has lived a great life,
        and even figured to find the easy way out during his sleep. (I hope I
        will be able to do the same when my time comes.)

        I've always thought of him as the Howard Dean of his era. This is from
        PBS's website:

        Kennedy tried to make light of his struggles. "Gene gets all the A
        students and I get all the C students," he joked to an aide. But as
        someone who had always banked on his youthfulness and intelligence,
        Kennedy bristled at losing the some of the support of the
        intelligentsia and college campuses. Still, Kennedy drew huge crowds,
        and an unprecedented turnout of African American and Latino
        supporters. He said of himself, "Let's face it, I appeal best to
        people who have problems." Jack Newfield says "it was the most
        emotional adulation, I've ever seen in politics." McCarthy, on the
        other hand, had won very little support among African Americans and
        Latinos.

        No matter how people will judge him and his legacy, he will forever be
        one of the favorite sons of the liberal state of Minnesota.

        Ram
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