The first presidential campaign we were eligible to vote in was the 1972 election.
There was a clear-cut issue - should the war in Vietnam be prosecuted as it had been for the last three administrations? Or should there be a basic admission that the whole premise of the war was wrong?
On one side, favoring continued prosecution of the war, was the incumbent (hawk), Richard Nixon. On the other side, favoring withdrawal of our troops from that war zone, was the dove, George McGovern.
Except that if one delved into the histories of the candidates, there was a paradox: Richard Nixon had never served in combat, George McGovern was a World War II bomber pilot. He was a combat veteran. How could past and present roles be reversed? How could the hawk of World War II become the dove of the Vietnam War?
The only way to overcome the obvious intellectual advantage McGovern had in comparing the two wars was, of course, advertising. McGovern, first of all, was savaged for not being the first one in the fight against the war. Eugene McCarthy had first challenged the premise of the war in the 1968 elections. When that challenge gained traction by Bobby Kennedy's entrance into the race, it gained a legitimacy it had lacked.
But. Bobby was assassinated. Nixon won the 1968 election. And the war continued for another four years. McGovern gained the mantle of the anti-Vietnam War candidate as the 1972 campaign came to the front.
It was a fight McGovern was ill-prepared to wage. He was a gentleman and a war hero. He was savaged as a pacifist afraid to fight his country's enemies. He was portrayed as a coward.
He lost in a landslide to a president who was forced to resign barely one-and-a-half years after the election. Granted, the prosecution of the war was not the reason for the resignation, but it reflected the difference in the personas of the two men.
On one side was a bona fide hero. On the other was a candidate armed with unlimited money and no restraint in how to spend it.
Yes, that was 42 years ago. But, the rule is still true - beware of candidates armed with unlimited funds and no psychological restraint on how to spend them.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.