Thirty-five years ago, the standard-bearer for the Democrats, of course, was Senator George McGovern, who campaigned on a far-left platform of heavy taxation, a greatly expanded role for government in the daily lives of Americans, and a major retreat from America's commitments in the Cold War.
I'm not sure that quote fully conveys Cheney's attack on McGovern and Democrats, but, in any case, George McGovern responded with:
Vice President Dick Cheney recently attacked my 1972 presidential platform and contended that today's Democratic Party has reverted to the views I advocated in 1972. In a sense, this is a compliment, both to me and the Democratic Party. Cheney intended no such compliment. Instead, he twisted my views and those of my party beyond recognition. ...
Cheney said that today's Democrats have adopted my platform from the 1972 presidential race and that, in doing so, they will raise taxes. But my platform offered a balanced budget. I proposed nothing new without a carefully defined way of paying for it. By contrast, Cheney and his team have run the national debt to an all-time high.
He also said that the McGovern way is to surrender in Iraq and leave the U.S. exposed to new dangers. The truth is that I oppose the Iraq war, just as I opposed the Vietnam War, because these two conflicts have weakened the U.S. and diminished our standing in the world and our national security.
In the war of my youth, World War II, I volunteered for military service at the age of 19 and flew 35 combat missions, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross as the pilot of a B-24 bomber. By contrast, in the war of his youth, the Vietnam War, Cheney got five deferments and has never seen a day of combat — a record matched by President Bush.
Cheney charged that today's Democrats don't appreciate the terrorist danger when they move to end U.S. involvement in the Iraq war. The fact is that Bush and Cheney misled the public when they implied that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks. That was the work of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda team. Cheney and Bush blew the effort to trap Bin Laden in Afghanistan by their sluggish and inept response after the 9/11 attacks. They then foolishly sent U.S. forces into Iraq...
There is one more point about 1972 for Cheney's consideration. ... I won the Democratic presidential nomination. I then lost the general election to President Nixon. ... But lest Cheney has forgotten, a few months after the election, investigations by the Senate and an impeachment proceeding in the House forced Nixon to become the only president in American history to resign the presidency in disgrace.
Who was the real loser of '72?
The vice president spoke with contempt of my '72 campaign, but he might do well to recall that I began that effort with these words: "I make one pledge above all others — to seek and speak the truth." ... I never broke my pledge to speak the truth. ... In contrast, Cheney and Bush have repeatedly lied to the American people.
It is my firm belief that the Cheney-Bush team has committed offenses that are worse than those that drove Nixon, Vice President Spiro Agnew and Atty. Gen. John Mitchell from office after 1972. Indeed, as their repeated violations of the Constitution and federal statutes, as well as their repudiation of international law, come under increased consideration, I expect to see Cheney and Bush forced to resign their offices before 2008 is over.
Aside from a growing list of impeachable offenses, the vice president has demonstrated his ignorance of foreign policy by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for visiting Syria. Apparently he thinks it is wrong to visit important Middle East states that sometimes disagree with us. Isn't it generally agreed that Nixon's greatest achievement was talking to the Chinese Communist leaders, which opened the door to that nation? And wasn't President Reagan's greatest achievement talking with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev until the two men worked out an end to the Cold War? Does Cheney believe that it's better to go to war rather than talk with countries with which we have differences? ...
There's more, but let's augment this by going back to 1972 and seeing what George McGovern actually said. This is from McGovern's acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination for president given on July 14, 1972. I'll let you judge whether Cheney's portrayal of those views as dangerous and reckless is accurate. Though the focus at the beginning is on the war, the speech also talks about jobs, housing, single-payer health care, welfare reform, tax reform, and other issues:
George McGovern Acceptance Speech, July 14th, 1972, Miami Beach, FL: ...This is the time for truth, not falsehood. In a Democratic nation, no one likes to say that his inspiration came from secret arrangements by closed doors, but in the sense that is how my candidacy began. I am here as your candidate tonight in large part because during four administrations of both parties, a terrible war has been chartered behind closed doors.
I want those doors opened and I want that war closed. And I make these pledges above all others: the doors of government will be opened, and that war will be closed. Truth is a habit of integrity, not a strategy of politics, and if we nurture the habit of truth in this campaign, we will continue to be truthful once we are in the White House.
Let us say to Americans, as Woodrow Wilson said in his first campaign of 1912, “Let me inside the government and I will tell you what is going on there.” Wilson believed, and I believe, that the destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people then in the conference rooms of any elite.
So let us give our – let us give your country the chance to elect a Government that will seek and speak the truth, for this is the time for the truth in the life of this country.
And this is also a time, not for death, but for life. In 1968 many Americans thought they were voting to bring our sons home from Vietnam in peace, and since then 20,000 of our sons have come home in coffins.
I have no secret plan for peace. I have a public plan. And as one whose heart has ached for the past ten years over the agony of Vietnam, I will halt a senseless bombing of Indochina on Inaugural Day. There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out schools. There will be no more talk of bombing the dikes or the cities of the North.
And within 90 days of my inauguration, every American soldier and every American prisoner will be out of the jungle and out of their cells and then home in America where they belong. ...
This is also the time to turn away from excessive preoccupation overseas to the rebuilding of our own nation. America must be restored to a proper role in the world. But we can do that only through the recovery of confidence in ourselves. ...
Now, it is necessary in an age of nuclear power and hostile forces that we’ll be militarily strong. America must never become a second-rate nation. As one who has tasted the bitter fruits of our weakness before Pearl Harbor in 1941, I give you my pledge that if I become the President of the United States, America will keep its defenses alert and fully sufficient to meet any danger.
We will do that not only for ourselves, but for those who deserve and need the shield of our strength -- our old allies in Europe and elsewhere...
Yet I believe that every man and woman in this Convention Hall knows that for 30 years we have been so absorbed with fear and danger from abroad that we have permitted our own house to fall into disarray. ...
National strength includes the credibility of our system in the eyes of our own people as well as the credibility of our deterrent in the eyes of others abroad.
National security includes schools for our children as well as silos for our missiles. It includes the health of our families as much as the size of our bombs, the safety of our streets, and the condition of our cities, and not just the engines of war. If we some day choke on the pollution of our own air, there will be little consolation in leaving behind a dying continent ringed with steel...
We must also make this a time of justice and jobs for all our people. For more than three and half years we have tolerated stagnation and a rising level of joblessness, with more than five million of our best workers unemployed at this very moment. Surely, this is the most false and wasteful economics of all.
Our deep need is not for idleness but for new housing and hospitals, for facilities to combat pollution and take us home from work, for better products able to compete on vigorous world markets.
The highest single domestic priority of the next administration will be to ensure that every American able to work has a job to. That job guarantee will and must depend on a reinvigorated private economy, freed at last from the uncertainties and burdens of war, but it is our firm commitment that whatever employment the private sector does not provide, the Federal government will either stimulate or provide itself.
Whatever it takes, this country is going back to work. America cannot exist with most of our people working and paying taxes to support too many others mired in a demeaning and hopeless welfare mess.
Therefore, we intend to begin by putting millions back to work and after that is done, we will assure to those unable to work an income fully adequate to a decent life.
Now beyond this, a program to put America back to work demands that work be properly rewarded. That means the end of a system of economic controls in which labor is depressed, but prices and corporate profit run sky-high.
It means a system of national health insurance so that a worker can afford decent health care for himself and his family. It means real enforcement of the laws so that the drug racketeers are put behind bars and our streets are once again safe for our families.
And above all, above all, honest work must be rewarded by a fair and just tax system. The tax system today does not reward hard work: it’s penalizes it. Inherited or invested wealth frequently multiplies itself while paying no taxes at all. But wages on the assembly line or in farming the land, these hard – earned dollars are taxed to the very last penny.
There is a depletion allowance for oil wells, but no depletion for the farmer who feeds us, or the worker who serves as all.
The administration tells us that we should not discuss tax reform and the election year. They would prefer to keep all discussion of the tax laws in closed rooms where the administration, its powerful friends, and their paid lobbyists, can turn every effort at reform into a new loophole for the rich and powerful.
But an election year is the people’s year to speak, and this year, the people are going to ensure that the tax system is changed so that work is rewarded and so that those who derive the highest benefits will pay their fair share rather than slipping through the loopholes at the expense of the rest of us.
So let us stand for justice and jobs and against special privilege...