On page 49 of Monica Crowley’s Nixon in Winter, Richard Nixon tells Monica Crowley about a recent interaction that he had with George McGovern, who was his opponent in the 1972 Presidential election:
“‘Well, I’m sure you know about the McGovern thing,’ [Nixon] said…’On the shuttle home, I was reading before we took off and I heard somebody say to Jerry [Rosalia, his security escort for that day], ‘I know that guy!’ Well, it turned out to be [George] McGovern. So after we took off, I had Jerry see if he had an empty seat next to him, and we had a nice talk. He was thinking about running in ’92, damn fool! But he was always a very decent guy. He at least had the guts to stand up for what he believed in, not like the current bunch of clowns.'”
I loved this passage for a couple of reasons. First of all, Nixon was not very positive about McGovern in his memoirs, even though Nixon could speak highly of some of his political opponents. Nixon considered McGovern to be sanctimonious and lacking in leadership qualities, and he resented McGovern’s attacks on him during the 1972 campaign. I’m pleased to see that Nixon came to have a more positive view about McGovern. And, according to this wikipedia article, which appeals to an article about McGovern by William Greider, McGovern came to have a positive view about Nixon: “George McGovern, Nixon’s onetime opponent, commented in 1983, ‘President Nixon probably had a more practical approach to the two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, than any other president since World War II … With the exception of his inexcusable continuation of the war in Vietnam, Nixon really will get high marks in history.'”
Second, this passage reminded me of a passage in volume 3 of Stephen Ambrose’s trilogy on Nixon, a passage that I loved but did not write about. Ambrose said that Nixon respected the anti-war protesters because at least they were in the arena, unlike a number of rich people. Nixon spoke against the anti-war protesters when he was President, but he still respected that they were standing up for what they believed.