Monday, February 21, 2005

The President-Reject

He puts on a brown overcoat, shuffling toward the door, then stops abruptly. Over his shoulder, hung in a hallway, is a framed photo of himself on the cover of what appears to be the November 13, 1972, issue of Newsweek magazine -- or a News-week from a parallel universe. The headline says, "THE GREAT UPSET." Beneath those words, alongside the candidate's beaming visage at age 50, is the cover's subtitle: "President-Elect McGovern." Newsweek prepared the cover, McGovern explains, just in case he beat the odds and won the '72 race. It is one more reminder for him of what might have been.

...He strolls onto the small campus of about 700 students, a few of whom mutter hello to him on their way to classes. If he had become president, McGovern knows, it would be different. Students would crowd around him, and the Secret Service, talking into wrist radios, would be ready to pry off any huggers who wouldn't let go. There would be university officials to greet and maybe a political candidate hoping to squeeze into a photo op. "It would be hectic," McGovern says, not relishing the thought, "and it would be harder just to pick up a phone and walk over to somebody's office."

- From What Might Have Been: In which George McGovern, the senior member of a rare and burdened tribe, reveals just how long it takes to get over losing the presidency, in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine.

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