It was 1972 and the Democrats had settled on Sen. George McGovern as their nominee for president to face off against former Vice President Richard M. Nixon. McGovern felt certain that Ted Kennedy or some other well known, prominent Democrat would readily agree to fill out the ticket in the VP spot. He was surprised that all of those whom he asked declined his invitation.
After culling through other possible Democrats, McGovern was advised by the Massachusetts head of the Democratic Party that he would support the candidacy of Sen. Thomas Eagleton (MO). The McGovern camp approached Eagleton who agreed to meet with the candidate for an interview. The two got on well and McGovern settled on his choice for the second slot on the ticket.
Shortly after he became the vice presidential nominee, news leaked that Eagleton had been hospitalized on three separate occasions for depression. During the course of his hospitalizations he had been given shock treatment to treat his condition. The prospect that, should he happen to become president, these conditions might impair his judgment as the nation’s chief executive, caused McGovern to remove Eagleton from the ticket, replacing him with Kennedy in-law, Sargent Shriver.
In the Electoral College, the only votes the McGovern/Shriver ticket garnered were cast by the Massachusetts and DC delegations. Remarkably, the senator did not even carry his home state of South Dakota.
There have always been frivolous if not outright deceptive comments made about a presidential candidate which emanate from the other side. Harry Reid made totally fabricated statements about Mitt Romney’s “non-payment of any taxes for ten years” and when he was confronted with the fact that Romney had delivered copies of his returns showing that he had paid income tax replied, “Well, he didn’t win did he?” That’s just politics at its slimiest – and who better to engage in that then the senior senator from Nevada.
There are serious matters of character which rightfully should be examined by the voting public. Naturally, people on one side will try to get maximum mileage out of any gaffe, slip or past indiscretion which they can attribute to the candidate of the other party. And the hyperbole of electioneering unfortunately allows people to make allegations which simply are untruthful. That’s why we now have “fact checkers” to correct mis-statements. But the fact is that while many of us might have seen the untruthful ad containing these assertions, few of us read the story that the information and accusations contained in them were lies. That’s why most political ads, at least the most effective ones, are negative in nature.
Back in 1972 there was not the immediacy with which information could be communicated. It was far easier for a candidate to fail to reveal a negative event or trait which was part of his background and hope to escape detection. That was the route that Eagleton took – failing to disclose his hospitalizations and the reason for them. But the information came out and that ended Eagleton’s short-lived berth as the number two person on the Democratic ticket.
McGovern acted decisively in having Eagleton step down. I never agreed with McGovern’s policies, but I do believe that he was a man of integrity. No doubt, taking Eagleton off the ticket was self-serving, a move which McGovern must have felt would improve his unlikely chance of winning the election. But I also suspect that he was concerned about the future of the country should something happen to him, Eagleton became the president and then have another of his depressive episodes.
Hillary Clinton is under scrutiny on issues that seem, at their root, to question her honesty and integrity. That is the case whether the question is about whether she failed to take appropriate steps that might have resulted in a different outcome in Benghazi; why she maintained a private unsecured server and then deleted half of her emails; and whether foreign donors and governments might have bought influence while she was Secretary of State. Those investigations should be conducted and the facts should be made public without the interjection of partisanship. The presidency of the United States is too important to hand over to anyone because they make nice speeches or belong to a particular gender. The past seven years have made that only too clear.
But, as with Eagleton, there is an even more fundamental issue that has been significantly neglected by the press – the question of whether Ms. Clinton is healthy enough to be president.
You may remember that she was to testify before the Benghazi Committee in 2014 but suffered a fall, injuring herself, and was granted a change in date because of this episode. In his newest book, “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary,” prolific political author, Ed Klein asserts that Ms. Clinton has experienced a number of small strokes and, as is not unusual with women her age, might be expected to experience more in the future. He describes her feeling fatigue as she hits the campaign trail and having bouts with insomnia.
In fairness to Ms. Clinton, Ed Klein could hardly be described as a fan of hers and I’m sure that the book is slanted to open questions into the state of her health. I would not accept his statements as absolute facts which are beyond dispute. But on the other hand, I’ve seen enough footage of Ms. Clinton stopping to make speeches and meet voters at small assemblies to have noticed that she does look rather haggard. That might be understandable were she in a hotly contested primary race – but that simply is not the case.
I would hope that the media would look into the state of Ms. Clinton’s health more thoroughly so that we don’t have another Thomas Eagleton moment on our hands. The people of this nation deserve a president who is, at the very least, healthy enough to discharge the duties of the office.
Whether Ms. Clinton fits that description – well, at the moment I’m maintaining a healthy skepticism.