“I just spoke at Dartmouth on health care, at the medical school — or not — I guess it wasn’t actually on the campus but people from the medical school were at the — I want to be clear, I’m not going nuts.” Thus spake presidential contender Joe Biden on a recent campaign stop. The former vice president has given supporters good reason to suspect that he might be going nuts, or as President Trump says, “not playing with a full deck.”
Biden is on record that “we choose truth over facts,” and that “poor kids” are “just as talented as white kids.” He’s not sure when he was vice-president and also seems uncertain of where he happens to be at any given moment. In this state, Biden recalls a previous campaign when mental illness led a Democrat to purge his candidate for vice president.
In 1972, the Democrat candidate for president was George McGovern, a veteran of 35 flying missions in World War II. After that conflict, Stalin’s USSR retained half of Europe and by 1948 McGovern had become an appeaser. That year, instead of fielding their own candidate, the Communist Party USA backed former FDR vice president Henry Wallace of the Progressive Party.
McGovern opposed what he called President Truman’s “aggressive anti-Soviet policy,” which he considered “dangerous,” and became an enthusiastic Wallace supporter. Wallace won zero electoral votes and 2.4 percent of the popular vote, but as Ryan Cooper noted in The Nation, McGovern “never abandoned his belief in the basic correctness of Wallace’s domestic- and foreign-policy ideas.”
In 1962, McGovern won a Senate seat in South Dakota. About that time, the Soviets were moving nuclear missiles into Cuba, which McGovern did not consider an aggressive act. His first speech would be published by the New York Times Magazine headlined “Is Castro an Obsession with Us?” McGovern considered Castro his “friend” and made seven trips to the Cuba between 1975 and 1994.
McGovern offered little if any criticism of Castro’s Sado-Stalinist regime. Likewise, Soviet internal repressions, the crushing of democracy movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and foreign expansion proved of little concern to the Senator, who fought for cuts to the U.S. military budget. Despite this decidedly leftist record, the Democrats judged McGovern the best candidate to take on Richard Nixon in 1972.
As National Public Radio notes, McGovern managed to “alienate the party’s old guard” and stalwarts like Abe Ribicoff, Gaylord Nelson and even Ted Kennedy declined to be his running mate. McGovern also “alienated big labor and working-class Catholics,” so the candidate turned to Thomas Eagleton. The Senator from Missouri, a Harvard law grad, was “a devout Catholic and a strong opponent of abortion.”
McGovern regarded Eagleton as the perfect candidate and backed him “1000 percent.” Then came an anonymous call about Eagleton’s background. As it emerged, on three occasions during the 1960s Eagleton had been hospitalized for depression and undergone electroshock treatment. As Eagleton explained, he drove himself too hard and that resulted in nervous exhaustion and fatigue.
During the Cold War, this brought on concerns about the stability of the “finger on the button.” Eagleton never showed confusion about his location, never chose truth over facts, and was not prone to gaffes. Even so, after 18 days, McGovern dumped Eagleton for Sargent Shriver, husband of Eunice Kennedy and part of Democrat Party royalty.
Nixon crushed McGovern by 23 points, the widest-ever margin of victory in the popular vote, and the South Dakota leftist won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. McGovern ran again in 1984 but dropped out after the New Hampshire primary. In 2011 he made another visit to his “old friend” Fidel Castro, calling anti-Communist Cuban exiles “foolish” and railing against the U.S. embargo as “stupid.” McGovern died the following year, a faithful leftist to the end, and as 2020 approaches, his party has a problem that recalls 1972.
The contenders include socialist Bernie Sanders, who honeymooned in the USSR, endorses AOC’s Green New Deal, and wants to impose government monopoly health care. According to fake Cherokee Elizabeth Warren, if you have a business, you didn’t build that. And Beto O’Rourke blames the United States for civil wars in Central America, and drought in Guatemala. And so on.
Joe Biden is allegedly the more mainstream, centrist candidate, the one who can beat Trump. Yet the former vice president doesn’t know what state he’s in, chooses truth over facts, and can’t recall when he actually was vice-president.
Even with depression and shock treatment, Thomas Eagleton never claimed that the Soviets were “not bad folks,” then warned about the threat they posed to the United States. Biden recently pulled that switch with China. This is the man who tells anybody who will listen “I’m not going nuts.”
Despite talk of curtailing his public appearances, nobody is calling for the party to dump Biden, as George McGovern tossed Thomas Eagleton in 1972. Eagleton served two more terms in the Senate but was never much of a national figure. He died in 2007 and, safe to say, devout Catholics and strong opponents of abortion, no longer feel at home in the Democrat Party.
In 2020, as President Trump likes to say, we’ll see what happens.