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George McGovern Gets the Last Laugh

Al Eisele: As George McGovern celebrates his 85th birthday, history has proven he is no longer one of the biggest losers in American politics, but one of its biggest winners.
This post, written by Al Eisele, originally appeared on The Huffington Post

Thirty-five years after losing a landslide election to Richard Nixon and winning only one state -- Massachusetts -- that branded him as one of the biggest losers in American politics, George McGovern claimed his place in history as one of its biggest winners.

It was only appropriate and fitting that he did so with the help of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the famed duo of reporters who disproved Nixon's claim that "I'm not a crook."

Woodward, speaking at a luncheon honoring McGovern on his 85th birthday on Saturday, said that after listening to hundreds of hours of secret Nixon White House tapes, "You realise that the character of Nixon becomes clearer. You see not only the criminality of his abuse of power but you see the dog that never barks, which is that he never says what would be the right thing to do, what would be good for the country?'"

McGovern, by contrast, Woodward said, illustrates "the irony of American politics," that he "asked exactly that question, 'What do the people want, what do they need, what would be good for the country?'"

Bernstein, Woodward's raffish former partner who is fresh off a revealing biography of Hillary Clinton, said, "There is so much in our political system and in our journalism that is about George McGovern, his legacy of decency, his absence of cynicism, his civility. ... We see where there's still hope and that's the life of George McGovern. Obviously, we need those McGovern rules more than ever today. ... I'm grateful for that lesson, and I think we all are."

McGovern, basking in the adulation of former aides and campaign workers,called this "the best day of my life, except maybe for the day I was nominated." Still recovering emotionally from the recent death of his wife Eleanor, the former South Dakota senator said, "I feel love in this room and it means more to me than anything."
Albert Eisele, Editor-at-Large of The Hill, has been involved in journalism, government, academia and business for nearly four decades.