Saturday, August 29, 2009

McGovern and Dean

As I’ve said many times before, one of the most wonderful things about living in Los Angeles is that you never know who you might see on the street or as part of an event. A case in point:

While reading the newspaper Thursday morning, I noticed a small blurb about a book-signing at the Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood, a few minutes west of UCLA. The featured authors were Watergate informant John Dean and former senator George McGovern, the Democratic presidential candidate in 1972.

Tim and I had seen Dean before when he was promoting his book Worse than Watergate, about the Bush presidency. But it had been 37 years since I’d seen McGovern.

I turned 18 the year 18-year-olds were given the right to vote. Encouraged by my aunt, who was a powerful influence in my young life, I jumped with both feet into the McGovern campaign, attending rallies whenever possible, while she worked the phones from home. I remember waiting on line with my aunt before the polls opened so I could vote before running off to class. I also remember staying up late for the election returns, only to have my heart crushed when Nixon won by a landslide. I learned then that as passionate as my family was, I was looking at a lifetime of pain if I remained a Democrat. Nevertheless, I’ll probably stay true to the party till the day I die!

I arrived at the Diesel Bookstore almost an hour early in hopes of getting a good seat. The bookstore itself is tiny—not much bigger than our living and dining rooms combined. I couldn’t imagine how they were going to accommodate a huge book-signing.

I started walking around the small shopping center and eventually stumbled upon an open courtyard, where people were already sitting on benches and chairs facing an unoccupied microphone. I figured this must be the place and claimed my seat. Most of the people there were much older than me and, as soon became apparent, were there specifically to hear George McGovern.

John Dean is entertaining, especially when he tells stories about Nixon and Watergate. His delivery is polished and self-assured and looks a lot younger than he is. Eighty-nine-year-old McGovern, on the other hand, looked frail, but was much more spontaneous and authentic. When a woman, who was asking him a question, was jeered for taking too long, McGovern calmly encouraged her to finish her query and then answered it sincerely. Though he admires Obama, he thinks the president was wrong to send more troops into Afghanistan. He also said Congress should investigate the Bush administration’s role in prisoner torture. My favorite quote of the evening, though, was when he said, "Liberalism is just plain ol’ common sense."

Half-way through the evening, the woman sitting next to me whispered, “Can you imagine how different the United States would be if he had been elected president?”

And I thought to myself, “Yes. I’ve imagined it many, many times.”

No comments: