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Patriotism Is Nonpartisan | The Nation

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Patriotism Is Nonpartisan

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Another factor that made me a convenient punching bag was my effort to curtail some aspects of the Pentagon budget that appeared to be wasteful and needless. I frequently quoted President Eisenhower's great farewell address, in which he warned of the mounting power of "the military-industrial complex" and its unwarranted influence in our society. It seemed to me then, as it does today, that more is required for the defense and security of America than simply giving over what this year will be half of the federal discretionary budget to the Pentagon. But here again, a senator risks the political danger of being branded as weak on defense if he applies the same common-sense examination to military spending that is applied to other sources of American strength, such as healthcare, education, the environment or full employment.

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George McGovern
George McGovern, senator from South Dakota from 1962 to 1980 and Democratic candidate for President in 1972, is the...

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It was also politically troubling to critics that my maiden speech in the Senate forty-two years ago was aimed at our government's policy of isolating and boycotting Cuba--a self-defeating policy we still pursue. No such policy was pursued toward the Communist giants--Russia and China. Somehow our strategists thought it wise to seek détente with Moscow and recognition of China as a "most favored nation" trading partner--which, of course, it was--but unwise to build such a relationship with our little Cuban neighbor. What have we been so fearful of in Cuba--their cigars and rum? Or is it the oratory of Fidel Castro, who has outlasted nine American Presidents of both parties? Is common sense dead when it comes to our Cuba policy? Or is this the best way to carry Florida at election time?

Old-fashioned American liberals such as I are accused not only of being weak on defense but also weak on marriage and the family, the work ethic and reverence for religious faith. I resent such groundless political slurs. After all, I hold the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I have been happily married to the same woman for sixty-one years and am the father of five children and ten grandchildren--all of whom I love dearly, including dear, deceased Terry. As the son of a Wesleyan Methodist clergyman, I dare say that my life has always been enriched and guided by the Judeo-Christian ethic. Nothing has influenced my philosophy more than the Hebrew prophets and the Sermon on the Mount. Beyond this, I have worked hard at useful tasks throughout my life and thank God I still have the health and motivation to continue that work schedule at the age of 82. Of course, I share one of my father's oft-quoted biblical lines: "All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

So many challenges face us at home and abroad that we should not waste time, tolerance and good will debating which politician loves America most ardently, which one is most devoted to marriage and the family and which one is closest to the Almighty. I've never known a political leader in either party who was disloyal to America, or who scoffed at marriage and the family, or who disrespected God and religious faith. Republicans and Democrats alike are pro-American, pro-freedom, pro-life, pro-family and pro-God Almighty. When we are sworn into public office, we all place our left hand on the Bible while raising our right hand and swearing to uphold the Constitution. It is worth noting that this sacred ceremony requires each of us to use both arms--a left wing and right wing!

Recently, the officers and enlisted personnel of Ellsworth Air Force Base at Rapid City, South Dakota, in the magnificent Black Hills under the shadow of Mount Rushmore, named a B-1 bomber "The Dakota Queen"--the name of the B-24 bomber I flew in World War II, so titled in recognition of my wife, Eleanor. After a moving ceremony attended by Eleanor and me, one of the junior officers said to me, "Senator, I don't know whether it bothers you to be called a left-wing liberal, but just remember, a plane can't fly without both a left wing and a right wing!" That is the kind of common sense that prompts my admiration and to which I say Amen and God bless us one and all--even those of God's children who are unmarried, or have deeper love for those of their own sex than of the opposite sex. In the Methodist parsonage where I was reared I was taught that we should be cautious about judging one another. Such judgments are more properly left to the Almighty rather than to the political hustings and the quest for partisan advantage.

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