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168 CHAPTER 12 With Strauss and On My Own I would need every bit of recharging because August 1972 through the election in November was a blinding blur of activity. Even with the best lists and Rolodexes it took time to organize this national campaign, because we had to plan and execute trips involving multiple senators and representatives. The good news was that the Democratic Congressional leadership cracked the whip. Most members knew the majority Senate could be at risk, so for the most part they did what they were asked to do, as did governors and others. It wasn’t that all or some of them were against McGovern. He was a fine man, a World War II hero and a patriot. But his team was amateurish and suspicious. At the convention he delivered his acceptance speech to practically no one, given the late hour. He selected Senator Tom Eagleton (whom I admired a great deal) as the vice presidential candidate, only to ask him to resign when it was discovered that Eagleton had had electroshock therapy for depression. McGovern was tagged as the candidate of “amnesty, abortion, and acid.” It was quickly going straight downhill. Sometime during those weeks the Dade County sheriff showed up in DC to serve O’Brien again. In all of the post-convention blur I had forgotten about the damn watches. I hadn’t seen the things but I still had the money I had raised to pay for them. I had a briefcase full of unfinished business, including bills that had arrived after the convention. We went over to McGovern headquarters and paid for the watches, taking three that were not inscribed. During this period we also began to hear more about the Watergate scandal, and the sense of its utter stupidity grew. Nixon would have beaten McGovern in almost any scenario, except one in which he was pegged as being the small-minded and vengeful With Strauss and On My Own 169 head of a gang that couldn’t shoot straight. The president and his minions managed to keep the lid on their secrets until after the election. At some point, at the bar at the Madison Hotel, Bob and I talked long into the night about his running for chair of the Democratic National Committee. The pluses far outnumbered the minuses except for one thing. Bob was from Texas. Bob’s close friend, John Connally, was backing Richard Nixon. We decided that we had to back McGovern and raise some money for him. So in the middle of everything else, I got on the phone and raised $10,000 or so, and Bob looked for an audience for a pro-McGovern speech. Before long he told me that he secured a forum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. I knew that Bob was from Dallas, and I knew that he had power and finesse, but why did he pick SMU, which was conservative and not particularly credible as a national forum? I was quietly skeptical. A week went by, then late one night he called. “Bristol, Bob the genius calling.” I could tell he was pleased with himself. “What happened?,” I asked. “I thought SMU would have a small, conservative crowd, but when I got there the place was packed with hippies and antiwar young people, and they more or less sat on their hands when I was introduced. I knew my little patriotic speech was not going to fly, so I threw it away. ‘Ladies and gentleman,’ I said. ‘I want to tell you why I’m for George McGovern. In World War II this brave patriot was a B-24 bomber pilot. He flew over Germany and bomb-bomb-bombed those bastards. They shot him down. He escaped. He got in another plane and he bomb-bomb-bombed ’em again.’ Bristol, there was dead silence. Then the biggest, hairiest sumbitch you’ve ever seen stood up, started clapping, and yelled, ‘We’ve been had by the master!’ Then they all start clapping and yelling, and I got in the swing of things and start clapping back. Pure genius, George.” I had to agree. Only Strauss could have pulled that one off. Later in life he and George McGovern would become good friends. From then until Election Day we scrambled. As I remember we arrived at the conclusion that we needed to concentrate on twenty-five to thirty candidates—incumbents who were in trouble or non-incumbents who...


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