October 21st, 2012
11:20 AM ET
10 years ago

Politicians react to McGovern's death

(CNN) - On the day of George McGovern's passing, President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and other political leaders on Sunday remembered the former U.S. senator from South Dakota and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.

See their reactions after the jump.

President Barack Obama:

George McGovern dedicated his life to serving the country he loved. He signed up to fight in World War II, and became a decorated bomber pilot over the battlefields of Europe. When the people of South Dakota sent him to Washington, this hero of war became a champion for peace. And after his career in Congress, he became a leading voice in the fight against hunger. George was a statesman of great conscience and conviction, and Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jill and I are profoundly saddened to hear about George McGovern’s passing. I was honored to serve with him, to know him, and to call him a friend

George believed deeply in public service. It defined him as a Senator and as a man. And he never stopped serving for his entire life – whether it was his courage in World War II, his time in Congress, or his fight to eliminate hunger at home and abroad.

Above all, George McGovern was a generous, kind, honorable man. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family today.

Former President Bill Clinton:

We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend George McGovern. The world has lost a tireless advocate for human rights and dignity.

We first met George while campaigning for him in 1972. Our friendship endured for 40 years. As a war hero, distinguished professor, Congressman, Senator and Ambassador, George always worked to advance the common good and help others realize their potential. Of all his passions, he was most committed to feeding the hungry, at home and around the world. The programs he created helped feed millions of people, including food stamps in the 1960s and the international school feeding program in the 90's, both of which he co-sponsored with Senator Bob Dole.

In 2000, Bill had the honor of awarding him the Medal of Freedom. From his earliest days in Mitchell to his final days in Sioux Falls, he never stopped standing up and speaking out for the causes he believed in. We must continue to draw inspiration from his example and build the world he fought for. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee and U.S. Sen. John Kerry:

"George McGovern was a voice of clarity and conviction at a time when America needed it most. He spoke to many of us who opposed the war but loved our country, because he was the genuine article, a soft-spoken, decent and gentle man who lived a remarkable life with humility, a decorated bomber pilot who never bragged about his own heroism, even as he ran into the buzzsaw of the negative and destructive politics that marked the Watergate era. He never stopped caring about things like peace, hunger, poverty, and fairness, whether they were in political fashion or not, and history will record, to paraphrase the old saying, that George McGovern may not have been President, but George McGovern was right."

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on CNN's "State of the Union":

He was a great statesman. I knew him quite well and I'm very saddened. I think he'll be remembers, obviously for his stance on the war in Vietnam, for his bomber missions. But also, for his contributions on agriculture, on hunger.

And then the Democratic Party, he transformed the Party, the primary system, getting minorities involved. He was a gigantic figure and a classy god, good guy.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on CNN's "State of the Union":

George actually was a very complicated person. He had served as a bomber pilot in World War II, he was not a pacifist and his argument over Vietnam was about that particular war.

He was a citizen; I remember being with him at the U.S. Embassy in Rome for dinner one night and talking about he and Goldwater, I mean, he said, one of the nice things about losing badly enough is you don't have lots of regrets about what one thing might you have changed.

And he had a very good sense of humor and he was a very down to earth guy who, later on in life, ran a small business, a bed and breakfast and wrote a great article on all the problems we had heaped up on small business through the regulations he had sponsored.

Just a great guy.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Just a thought

    Get over yourself Grinch! Nobody cares what pastey loser like you says. You know nothing except party affiliation

    October 21, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. Aja

    Gingrich is such a jerk. I mean, he can't muster up human decency even when a man who dedicated his life to this country passes away, just because he disagrees with his views? There's a reason why you aren't on the ballot this year Newt. Take a hint.

    October 21, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. H. L. Mencken

    RFK was assinated just on the cusp of a campaign that may very well have ended with him in the White House. And Nixon's cronies in the Watergate scandal made sure that McGovern's campaign was stillborn. Who knows where this country might have been today if either of these men had the chance to attain the presidency? Tragic, and a damned shame. RIP to a man of singular vision in troubled times. Thank you, Senator McGovern.

    October 21, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Willie Floyd

    Too bad he lost to Nixon-we all know how that turned out. Sort of reminds me of our current presidential hopefuls. Dems. are just more caring about the greater good-personal wealth is not their main goal in life,

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    October 21, 2012 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |