Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Former presidential candidate McGovern calls Iraq, Vietnam wars ‘unnecessary’

Sen. George McGovern told students that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be “excellent” presidents and said that the choice is theirs to vote for or against the war in the upcoming election.

The position on the Iraq war is the “clear difference” between John McCain and the Democratic candidates, McGovern said via satellite as part of the Cable Center and C-SPAN’s “Road to the White House” class April 17.

Although they were decades apart, the former South Dakota senator and Democratic presidential candidate drew parallels between the Vietnam and Iraq wars, saying that in both cases, those countries did nothing threatening against the U.S. to spark a war.

He spoke about the perception that Democrats are anti-defense, noting that neither one of the Democratic candidates are planning on “taking a dollar out of the military budget.”

McGovern, a World War II veteran, strongly opposed the Vietnam War and suggested making what he called “gradual” cuts in the military budget. McGovern lost the 1972 presidential election in a landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon.

Because of his military experience, McGovern said he “thought no one would question my commitment on military security, but they did.” Americans are still quick to question Democrats on that kind of commitment, he said.

McGovern ran on the issue that he would end the [Vietnam] war within 60 days if elected. When one student asked if he would have the same plan today regarding Iraq, McGovern responded, “Absolutely.”

He called the U.S.’s military budget excessive, claiming it is bigger than the combined military budget of the rest of the world.

Voters often get caught up in secondary issues, such as Obama supporting the right to bear arms, with much more important ones like ending the war and boosting our economy, he said.

The Cable Center’s class integrates students from DU, Pace University in New York and George Mason in Northern Virginia through teleconference and is hosted by C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully, who speaks to students live from his studio in Washington, D.C. The distance learning class began in 2002.

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