McGovern was the second major-party nominee with a Ph.D., which he earned at Northwestern University under Arthur Link, the foremost biographer of the first such nominee, Woodrow Wilson. Like Wilson, McGovern was a minister's son. Wilson brought moral zeal to "the war to end all wars." McGovern's anti-war passion — in September 1963 he became one of two senators (Oregon's Wayne Morse was the other) to oppose U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the Kennedy administration — was honorably acquired in the next great war: He flew 35 missions over Germany, where half the B-24 crews did not survive and suffered a higher fatality rate than the Marines on the Pacific islands.
In 1917, Wilson inserted America into the whitewater rapids of world politics. In 1972, with the Cold War still being waged, McGovern prematurely suggested retrenchment. Four decades and 10 presidential campaigns later, however, the nation is near a semi-McGovern moment. Both of today's candidates seem to know this.
George Will's email address is email@example.com.
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