Eugene McCarthy Quotes

Eugene McCarthy, 1916 – 2005

Born: 29 March 1916, Watkins, Minnesota
Died: 10 December 2005, Washington City

After graduating from St. John’s University, McCarthy taught high school until the start of World War II, then served as an intelligence officer. After the war he ran for Congress and served five terms before running for the Senate in 1958. He fiercely opposed the Viet Nam War and though he eventually lost to Hubert Humphrey it was “Clean Gene” that focused public opinion on the war and led to Lyndon Johnson’s withdrawal from the 1968 presidential campaign. McCarthy retired from the Senate in 1971 and went back to teaching and writing, but he mounted presidential campaigns (not always as a Democrat) in 1972, 1976, 1988, and 1992. Always a maverick, his campaigns were fun to watch.

Eugene McCarthy quotes:

As long as the differences and diversities of mankind exist, democracy must allow for compromise, for accommodation, and for the recognition of differences.

Eugene McCarthy
Being in politics is like being a football coach; you have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it’s important.

Eugene McCarthy

Washington Post (12 November 1967)
Broken things are powerful.
Things about to break are stronger still.
The last shot from the brittle bow is truest.

Eugene McCarthy

“Courage After Sixty”
Have you ever tried to split sawdust?

Eugene McCarthy

NBC TV (23 October 1969)
I can still smell the tear gas in the Hilton Hotel.

Eugene McCarthy
I may have been prejudiced against lawyer members of Congress, having run against one or two and having been threatened politically by a few others, and also because my own professional background was academic, principally in the liberal arts. Good lawyers, I asserted in campaigns, can be found in the yellow pages of the telephone books. Good historians, or political and social philosophers, are not so easily found or classified.

Eugene McCarthy
If any of you are secret poets, the best way to break into print is to run for the presidency.

Eugene McCarthy
I’m kind of an accidental instrument, really, through which I hope that the judgment and the will of this nation can be expressed.

Eugene McCarthy

The New York Times (11 December 2005)
In 1968, the party became a kind of unrelated bloc of factions … each refusing accommodation with another, each wanting control at the expense of all the others.

Eugene McCarthy
In politics one may remain aloof and become irrelevant or get involved and get corrupted.

Eugene McCarthy
It is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember.

Eugene McCarthy
Let us pick up again these lost strands and weave them again into the fabric of America, sort out the music from the sounds and again respond to the trumpet and the steady drum.

Eugene McCarthy
Never say anything in a national campaign that anyone might remember.

Eugene McCarthy
Nixon is the kind of guy who, if you were drowning twenty feet from shore, would throw you a fifteen-foot rope.

Eugene McCarthy
No man could be equipped for the presidency if he has never been tempted by one of the seven cardinal sins.

Eugene McCarthy

Now it is certain.
There is no magic stone.
No secret to be found.
One must go
With the mind’s winnowed learning.

Eugene McCarthy

“Courage After Sixty”
One thing about a pig, he thinks he’s warm if his nose is warm. I saw a bunch of pigs one time that had frozen together in a rosette, each one’s nose tucked under the rump of the one in front. We have a lot of pigs in politics.

Eugene McCarthy
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.

Eugene McCarthy
Remember that the worst accidents occur in the middle of the road.

Eugene McCarthy
The maple tree that night
Without a wind or rain
Let go its leaves
Because its time had come.

Eugene McCarthy

“The Maple Tree”
The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.

Eugene McCarthy

Time magazine (12 February 1979)
The Senate is the last primitive society in the world. We still worship the elders of the tribe and honor the territorial imperative.

Eugene McCarthy
The tamarack tree is the saddest tree of all;
it is the first tree to invade the swamp,
and when it makes the soil dry enough,
the other trees come and kill it.

Eugene McCarthy

“The Tamarack”
The two-party system has given this country the war of Lyndon Johnson, the Watergate of Nixon, and the incompetence of Carter. Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life rafts.

Eugene McCarthy

Chicago Tribune (10 September 1978)
There is a long-standing tradition in America of scoffing at poets, especially if they show any interest in politics.

Eugene McCarthy
There is danger in the concentration of control in the television and radio networks, especially in the large television and radio stations; danger in the concentration of ownership in the press…and danger in the increasing concentration of selection by book publishers and reviewers and by the producers of radio and television programs.

Eugene McCarthy
This is, I say, the time for all good men not to go to the aid of their party, but to come to the aid of their country.

Eugene McCarthy
Vote against anything introduced with a “re” in it, especially reforms, reorganizations, and recodifications. This usually means going back to something that failed once and is likely to do so again.

Eugene McCarthy

“Ten Commandments for New Hill Members” – Washington Post (4 January 1981)
We do not need presidents who are bigger than the country, but rather ones who speak for it and support it.

Eugene McCarthy

The New York Times (11 December 2005)

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