Page 41 article text (OCR)
McGovern Gently Self-Sufficient Sunday Cu/.Â»u'MtaJl MIAMI BEACH-The face is not exactly what you would chcjse for the prow of a ship or even for the cluttered statuary of American heroes in Washington, D C It is too heavy and worn, with deep lines and a protruding dimpled chin which, when he stands in the wrong light, makes him seem much older than he is without seeming more distinguished. The voice, which is uncoached, sounds crisp and sweet, with the hint of a lisp, when he is inspired on the platform, his voice deepens and gathers strength but, even m his best speeches, he occasionally squeaks when he ought to be soaring. The comic impersonators make him sound'like the Liberace of politics. These unheroic physical qualities belong, of course, to the man whom the Democratic party has chosen for its leader, George Stanley McGovern. They are, by now, well known to the political fraternity, if not to the public at large. McGovern won the nomination despite his lack of glamor, or maybe, as he believes, partly because of it. "Maybe that's a plus now," he said during the primary campaign. "I think people are a little suspicious of people who come on too slick, too strong. I think they over-estimate the charisma factor which most of my supporters think is superficial." IN ANY CASE, A LOT of disappointed Democrats who wrote off McGovern as a Â·winter-book loser, too nice to win, too dull, too far-out on the issues, must now reopen their minds to the man and try to get to know him better. What they will find is a public figure who confuses the convenient shorthand used to describe politicians. He seems so mild, yet he says such provocative things. His humor and language are homely, sometimes corny, like his prairie origins. Yet he dresses like a New York jet setter and is familiar to that super-sophisticated circle. And beyond the public man, getting to know George McGovern becomes terribly more complicated. He is a very private person, whose personality follows some internal logic that does not come clear immediately to casual observers or even to those who are constantly close to him. One of the heavyweight operators in his campaign confessed: "I worked for McGovern six months before I could tell when he was mad. He has a very narrow emotional band. He never goes up, he never goes down." Another campaign aide observed: "He always keeps this cushion of reserve, he never lets himself out." A third description of the same thing came from an old friend and political adviser, who goes back to McGovern's earliest campaigns in South Dakota: "The things that many of us would express emotionally, George uses on -hard work." That quality is unsettling to some who have come to know McGovern, partly because they don't fully understand him, partly because they are so used to presidential candidates whose glandular feelings are always showing. This is especially true, it seems, for Democrats, who remember the grace and steel of the 'Kennedys, the epic thunder of Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey's passionate emoting. 'love" the candidate, the way many of them were drawn to the Kennedy cause, serving with a devotion that transcended any issues or ideas. Most of the people around McGovern were attracted by what he stands for. They respect him, they are awed by his energy and his intuitive political judgments. But like Nixon there is no romance. Mostly, they tell little anecdotes about the Democratic candidate which make him sound like St. Francis of Assisi feeding grain to the birds. Only the stories are true. McGovern is a considerate man in a business where brusqueness from on high is common. In the California campaign, McGovern's staff was assembled one evening in his hotel suite to talk strategy. Someone ordered a meal for McGovern, but he By William Greider Â®1972 The Washmgton Post driven one of these Cadillacs before. Do you mind if I drive a while?' George got behind the wheel and went whooom. And we made the rally on time." THAT GENTLENESS WITH other people, according to aides, sometimes complicates McGovern's executive decision-making, especially on personnel matters. Kirby Jones, the press secretary, said? "He'll give six guys his speech to write. He'll pick this and pick that and probably they will all think they're writing the speech." If someone isn't performing, McGovern often uses a sideways technique to move He is still that way in some gatherings--though never on a'public platform. "George is so tentative," one friend wisecracked, "that when he orders a drink, he hesitates on the V in vodka." What makes his character perplexing is that this gentleness exists alongside an enormous ambition and a power of concentration that is awesome. The man makes small talk rather poorly, but he will plunge into serious conversation about his campaign performance with anyone who's interested. This intense appetite is reflected in his career. After flying a B24 bomber over Europe, McGovern went to the Methodist pulpit, then quickly switched to the college lecture hall (a Ph.D. in history), then to political organizing for South Dakota's tion of old speeches, memos, position papers, notes to himself. McGovern would reach into the bag for ideas. Sometimes his final decisions emerged from a process of private thought that remain mysterious to his closest advisers. "The most significant thing to know about him," said one who has watched that process, "is that he is very self- confident, very self-confident, and he has a conceptual framework for dealing with problems that is already established. He knows who he is and what he wants." Weil summed up the contrast which confuses so many: "People wonder how a mild, considerate, soft-spoken man can be a tough, ambitious, successful politician. I think the answer is that the toughness has to be internal." Again, one could wander through PAST AND PRESENT BLK I) AS MrGOVKR.V ACCEPTS NOMINATION Massive Photos of Assassinated Kennedy Brothers for Background THE AMAZING THING about McGovern is that, after all the tumult of the campaign, the Democrats have nominated a man whose opaque personality reminds people of his Republican adversary--President Richard Nixon. Â· Like Nixon? The point can be pushed too far, but the resemblance is reflected in the staff people around the man. They do not refused to eat a bite until meals arrived for everyone else. ' The campaign plane was approaching a landing in Fresno when the staff discovered that no one had prepared a press release for that stop. Instead of anger and recriminations, -McGovern took pad in hand and wrote it himself. George Cunningham, McGovern's administrative assistant for many years in the Senate office, remembers a campaign episode from years ago when McGovcm was en route to a speaking engagement, chauffeured by an old friend who refused to drive his limousine faster than 50 M.P.H. "Instead of complaining," Cunningham recalled, "George said, 'Gosh, I've never the personout with a minimum of bad feelings and confrontation. Or he might put someone else alongside in the same job and hope the person gets the message. Some of that is going on now as he reshuffles his organization for the fall campaign. Lots of his troops are changing jobs, but not many of them think they are being demoted." "Sometimes," one adviser said, "he tries to play ostrich. He just ignores someone and hopes they go away." The scarce of this personal politeness probably lies buried somewhere in his childhood of South Dakota, raised by a gentle mother and a strict preacher for a father. He was so shy as a child that one teacher thought he was backward. anemic Democratic party, then to elected office for himself. He never stayed for long on any single rung of that ladder. "He operates very much on two levels," said Gordon Weil, his executive assistant. "When he's talking, he's always thinking of something else." "He really believes in himself," said another aide. "There's never any of this self-questioning, like, Gee, can I do it?" McGOVERN'S SELF-SUFFICIENCY is s y m b o l i z e d by the canvas bag that followed him around throughout the primary campaign. It contained a colleo- July 16, 1972 rgna i * IB McGovern's biography looking for explanations on how he got that way. Perhaps it was his solitary political career in South Dakota--a "one world" liberal Democrat campaigning without a state party organization, all alone in a conservative Republican state where virulent anti-Cornmunist, not peace, normally won elections. "He listens," said one top adviser. "Normally, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference. He makes up his own mind. He sort of disappears into his own self- sufficiency." This rare mixture in McGovern's personality, the tough mind and the mild disposition, raises some questions which those around him cannot answer. One of them put it this way: "George McGovern is eool enough. He can't. contrive that. He is ploddingly sincere. He's very much the Protestant ethic, just when some of us thought it was going out of style. Hard-working, a little bit repressed. You have to wonder what it costs to hold it in all the time.' SOMETIMES, OF COURSE, he doesn't hold it in or he can't. The rare incidents when George McGovern explodes are more fascinating just because his self- control usually prevails. The public saw one of those moments two weeks ago when McGovern flashed righteous indignation over the Credentials Committee ruling that took away 151 California delegates. His wrath was memorable on Sept. 1, 1970, when the Senate rejected the McGovern-Hatfield amendment to end the war in Vietnam. McGovern turned on his colleagues and declared: "This chamber reeks with blood." A favorite anecdote from the campaign, which happens to be true, recalls how McGovern apologized to the passengers on an airplane whose departure was delayed for him. He was going up and down the aisle, when an elderly lady stopped him with a burst of insults. He apologized, But she continued the insults. McGovern learned over close and gently told her she was "a horse's ass." Afterwards, he savored the moment, like a fighter remembering a great punch. In the Florida primary, when a voter called him a Commie and a traitor, McGovern kept his cool, but just barely. Said one aide: "It was obvious the guy was ready to punch McGovern. What I could see was that McGovern was ready to land one on him too." The staff people debate among themselves whether such episodes are real outbursts or controlled displays of feeling. "A lot of his so-called temper losses are really a lot more calculated than people suspect," one aide insisted. "I think he's trying to break out of his quiet, reflective business to hammer his point home. He does not use his temper without any purpose in mind." In any case, McGovern's brilliant campaign performance was not without its share of minor flaws, which might also say something about the man. When Lt. William L. Galley was c o n v i c t e d of murder last year, McGovern's first response was sympathetic. A few days later, after the public reaction had shifted, particularly among McGovern's left-liberal constituency, the senator switched his own tone and attacked President Nixon for letting the lieutenant out of the stockade. Last fall, his political intuition failed him when he was asked on a TV interview show about the possibility that % conservative colleague, Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, would be nominated to the Supreme Court. McGovern praised him warmly as a man who would "bend every effort fo become a great justice."' The next day, after some politictl counseling, McGovern clarified his position by announcing that he would vote against Byrd, who is an anathema to civil rights groups. Some aides fear that his intuitive responses may produce some more gaffes this fall. Please turn to page 5D. HowIWbn the Nomination --By George McGovern I don't think the outcome of the Democratic National Convention would have surprised Galileo. What happened was simple. While some of the candidates and their advisers spent last year reading the polls and making projections, my supporters and I decided that polls taken a year in advance probably indicated only which candidates were most widely known. So we spent last year developing an organization and learning the lay of the land. While some candidates were content with armchair speculation, we went out in the field to determine what the country was like and what it really wanted. It was simply a triumph for experimental science over flat earth science. We found some interesting things: the A m e r i c a n p e o p l e h a v e b e c o m e astonishingly cynical about their elected leadership. Most people simply assume t h a t a p o l i t i c i a n is a crook and a scoundrel. They don't rise up and vote the rascals out only because they assume that it would mean voting a new set of rascals in. And one crooked rascal is. after all, no better than another. So I raised the issue of the disclosure of personal finances and campaign contributions. The flat earth scientists in the armchairs would never have tried it, and the wise men who write the syndicated columns thought it would never work. But large numbers of voters thought otherwise. In many parts of our country, property taxes are increasing at 10 per cent a year. In fact, many homeowners are finding that their property tax payments are larger than their mortgage payments. This fact seems insignificant until you go out in the field talking to people. So I made an issue out of property tax relief. The armchair scientists could have tried it, but they didn't. ANOTHER interesting discovery we made is that people are plainly disgusted with their government. The national pollsters found this out, too, but the armchair scientists d i d n ' t take the pollsters' conclusion seriously enough. Instead of soothing people by pretending that things can get better without change, I made sure people realized that I think things have to change. Most people don't think about politics often enough for their disaffection to be conspicuous (after all, this is one form of their alienation) but on election day and at the convention they thought about politics and they voted for McGovern. And we discovered that the voters are more independent-minded this year than in previous years. It isn't necessary to follow the beaten path, as long as you say things that make sense. In fact, that path was crowded during the early primaries, and it was an advantage not to be trekking it. In the same way, it wasn't nearly so great a disadvantage this year as it had been in the past to be a little-known underdog at the start of the primaries and to be ignored for the most part by the press. Those who followed the campaign closely may recall specific moments during the campaign when these discoveries were critical. ' In San Diego, I was campaigning at an aerospace plant, walking alongside a wire fence and shaking hands with some of the workers, and the reception I was getting wasn't very enthusiastic. And I wasn't feeling very good about what was happening either. Then a man stuck out his hand and said, "I need my job, but I need my country more. I'm for you." In California military spending was an important issue, and I was heartened that a worker would put love of couniry above his own job. Three days before the Wisconsin primary I was visiting a senior citizens home in Milwaukee when a woman in her late 70s shriveled up in a wheelchair came up to me and said, "We need to turn this country around." It wasn't exactly the place I expected to hear that type of comment and it gave me an indication on just how deeply the dissatisfaction with the status quo is running. WE THOUGHT about these things and we developed what turned out to be quite a successful plan. But obviously I couldn't have carried out this plan by myself; I couldn't have carried it out without a staff. The McGovern staff, otherwise known as the McGovern organization, is widely known for its size. What has not been so widely recopiized is that the McGovern staff is effective on a per capita basis. It would be easy, for instance, for 30.000 people working on the California campaign to duplicate each other's work, alienate half the voters and accomplish nothing. One reason our campaign staff is so effective is that I trust it. I haven't tried to supervise everything that has been done; instead I found people I felt I could rely on, and I gave them a great deal of. autonomy. People who were running the individual state primary campaigns had the responsibility for winning elections. The people in the state knew that state best. There were many states I hadn't even been to. So what did I know? When people from the national campaign want to help out in a state, the staff from the state told them what to do. The people from the individual states rnad e the important decisions. When we knew who was going to run the different campaigns, I tried to approach them on a one-to-one basis. I simply told them, "Look, I'm relying on you. You have the responsibility to win the election." I gave them but one instruction directive: "Just win the damn thing." Many of the people running the individual state campaigns used the same policy on a smaller scale. Instead of trying to do everything themselves, they found people that they could count on. The danger of this--that, for example, a town coordinator might fail to do his job--is largely illusory, since the state headquarters can always make a special infusion of manpower in the last week in places where the campaign is not working. Running the campaign this way did require, of course, that I have a great deal of confidence in my supporters. Since I have Hart Would Serve, But Has Bad Points MIAMI BEACH-Durinjf the nomination speeches Wednesday night, a rumor spread through the convention hall that Sen. Philip Hart of Michigan was George McGovern's vice presidential choice. Hart, whw is a delegate, was on the floor anrf when asketf about thÂ« possibility said it was just not true. Then he added "I'd be an okay vice president but a basket case in 90 days as president I have a beard, my wife won't pay her income tsct- es, I'm for basing and against grass." been campaigning on a promise to trust the American people, it seems to me that it was only fair that I should have to begin by placing an unusual degree of trust in my own supporters. 1 would recommend to other presidential candidates, especially those who begin as underdogs as I 'did, that they place some real trust in their supporters. It is an investment that will bring real returns in the long run. These are thethings that the campaign did that were most important to our success. And, incidentally, I suspect that the general election campaign will shape up in much the same way. It will be a contest between a well-financed top-heavy bureaucracy that holds meetings and gives and takes orders and a loosely organized, relatively improvization. THE STORY of how I won the nomination would not be complete without a discussion of the new party reform rules and how they affected my campaign. Of course,, there has been a great deal of comment about how the delegate selection process was changed almost beyond recognition this year by the new rules. However, there has been surprisingly little attempt to judge what impact the- reform rales actually had on the way the campaign developed. It seems to me that I won the-nornination because I did well in critical primaries in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Ohio, Nebraska, California and New York. The more important reform guideline in its impact on the outcome of the nomination was the requirement that hi mnpHnury states the delegate selection process be open to partrajwtkn by afl Democrats, This had already been the practice in a few nonprimary states, including Iowa and Minnesota. I certainly did much better in the non-primary states under the new rule guaranteeing free participation in delegate selection, but the backbone of my strength at the convention came from the large delegations from California, New York, Massachusetts and a few other primary states. Those delegates would have been there even under the old rules. The most striking differences between this year and previous years were the greater number of candidates, the greater number of primaries and the requirement for affirmative action to assure greater representation for young people, women- and minorities. For the greater number of candidates (which was an index of ambition)-and the greater number of primaries (which was decided by the individual state legislatures), the reform rules can claim no credit. The reform rules obviously were responsible for greater representation from groups that had not participated so widely previously, but since every candidate nad wonien, young people and members of minority groups supporting him, this affected the tone of the delegate selection process and of the convention more than it affected the outcome of the presidential race. The Democratic Party certainly does not want to maintain permanent specifications for the proportion of representation of different segments of the population, but I think that the guidelines this year counteracted a history of exclusion and resulted in a more representative convention. la short, I would My that I won the Democratic nomination through hard work, careful planning, a wtilbtjae* to more ahead decisively, greater public participation and a determination to take nothing for granted. And this n just the way I intend to win the presidency.