Monday, March 05, 2007


The year was 1986, and Thomas F. Eagleton was in Springfield, stumping for Democrats running for office and recalling his life in politics. He would be leaving the U.S. Senate in a few months, so his mood was reflective.

A reporter, too young to have tact, asked Eagleton about his political legacy, and how it would be written for history in The New York Times. Eagleton nodded.

"You know the answer," he said. "First paragraph will read, 'Thomas F. Eagleton, former U.S. Senator who briefly ran for vice president before ...'" He didn't need to continue.

Monday's New York Times published this lede:
Thomas F. Eagleton, a former United States senator whose legislative accomplishments were overshadowed by his removal as the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1972 after revelations of mental illness and electroshock therapy, died yesterday in Richmond Heights, Mo. He was 77 and lived outside St. Louis in Clayton, Mo.
George McGovern, the doomed presidential candidate in 1972, said last year that he was wrong to remove Eagleton from the ticket. “If had it to do over again, I’d have kept him,” McGovern said. “I didn’t know anything about mental illness. Nobody did.”

Tom Eagleton did. He deserved better.

Ever-resourceful Sniderman gets the point, besting AK by 20 minutes, with Jim and Matt coming in late.


mit said...

As I recall, a farewell tour of the state was incorporated into that 1986 campaign swing. As is always the case, there was some mud-slinging during that campaign season and during his news conference at the Springfield Regional Airport conference room, Eagleton was asked what he thought of the nastiness. An already shakey Eagleton became quite agitated and, while clutching a lit, non-filtered Pall Mall, he pointed at the various media members and nearly shouted that the media was to blame for the vicious mudslinging. He was kind of scary.

Anonymous said...

Kind of scary, and kind of right, too. It's a shame we don't have more people in elected public service who are as unafraid to speak the frightening truth as Tom Eagleton was.

In retirement he penned some 30 columns for the Post-Dispatch that were syndicated in other newspapers, including the News-Later on occasion. Read through them now, and they'll illustrate just how prescient and scary and dead-on brilliant he was about foreign and domestic policy alike.

mit said...

no, man. I just meant that he was kinda scary waving his arms around and flinging cigarete ashes on everyone. I'm not kidding. He was on the verge of losing it. Maybe it had been a long day of flying around the state. I remember him as a nice and kind man. I first met him in 1966 when my fifth grade class took a field trip to Jeff. City. Eagleton welcomed our group into his Lt. Gov's office and spent at least a half hour telling us about his job, the Capital building and just plain visiting.

Busplunge said...

The Senator was a class act.