George McGovern schooling John McCain about service to one's country.
The following is transcribed from Sen. McGovern's speech Saturday night
at the McGovern Day dinner in Sioux Falls.
This is the greatest country on the face of the earth, I still
think that. But what a tragedy to have our reputation brought to the lowest
level that any of us can remember. I'm sometimes charged with being a softie
about war and national security.
Well, let me take one minute on that. When I was 19, Pearl Harbor
was attacked. A few days later, I dropped out of college and volunteered to fly
in the Army air corps and flew 35 missions over the most heavily defended
targets in Europe. I've always been proud of that service in World War II; I've
never had one day of regret that I participated in helping to smash Hitler's war
machine. And let me just add this. There's never been a day in my adult life
when I wouldn't have gladly sacrificed that life if America was faced with a
genuine threat to our national security.
Some years ago, I was on one of the networks with former Secretary
of Defense Robert McNamara, one of the chief architects of the war in Vietnam.
But the reason I was on television that night is he had just come out with a new
book saying that the war was not only it was a mistake, in his words it was a
tragic mistake. Well, in the course of that three-way discussion, which included
in addition to Secretary McNamara and myself, Sen. John McCain. And in McCain's
first opening remarks, he said, well we all know that George McGovern knows
little about national defense.
Let me tell you what I would say to John McCain: neither of us is
an expert on national defense. It's true that you went to one of the
service academies but you were in the bottom of the class. It's true that you
were a pilot in Vietnam, that you were shot down and spent most of the war in
prison and we all sympathize with that and honor you for your courage. But
you and I both had these battle experiences, you as a Navy fighter plane, I as
an army bomber. I am not going to criticize your war record and your knowledge
of national security but I don't want you criticizing mine either.
If I'd be allowed just one little dig at Senator McCain, since he
gave me. I would say, 'John, you were shot down early in the war and spent most
of the time in prison. I flew 35 combat missions with a 10-man crew and brought
them home safely every time.'