Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis

Joshua M. Glasser. Yale Univ., $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-300-17629-2
Glasser’s examination of the low point of George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign offers a gripping account of the political earthquake that ensued when Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton, the hastily picked and poorly vetted vice-presidential candidate, was forced to disclose a history of hospitalizations for depression and treatments that included electroshock therapy. This proved disastrous for the Democrats, after a bitterly contested convention in which South Dakota senator McGovern, whose reputation for basic decency—but weakness in delegating and exercising authority—was tested by the scramble to secure the nomination. McGovern’s agonizingly indirect process of dropping Eagleton from the ticket is meticulously described by Glasser, a researcher for Bloomberg Television. Glasser maintains an even tone in his well-researched recounting of the nomination process, which included a failed bid to bring scandal-plagued Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy onto the ticket, but points out “wishful thinking and arrogance alone cannot explain the McGovern campaign’s lack of planning for the vice-presidential choice.” As reporters hustled to ferret out the details of Eagleton’s hospitalizations and (generally effective) electroshock therapy, American voters confronted the issue of mental illness. While Eagleton’s reputation became one of strength and resilience, there was considerable support for the notion that “the Eagleton affair indelibly tainted perceptions of McGovern,” resulting in Richard Nixon’s landslide win. Agent: Kathy Robbins, the Robbins Office. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
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