Sen. George McGovern’s death on Sunday morning could be seen as a final revenge had the 1972 presidential candidate been a vengeful man. It came, after all, on the eve of the foreign policy debate between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. Even in death, the ever-faithful McGovern rendered another public service to his country. To consider how right McGovern’s anti-war policy was regarding the disasters in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and to reflect on his heroic role as a bomber pilot in World War II and to then accept that someone like George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office as President is to understand how colossally important elections are.
So upon McGovern’s death with a national election days away, there is no quarrel about President Obama’s success in foreign policy and why he should remain in the White House. Successfully prosecuting Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and the war on terror just as McGovern pursued Axis bombing targets in Germany and Italy, Obama has extracted us from Iraq and is doing so from Afghanistan. McGovern would have done the same in Vietnam, which should have been the last of this country’s interventionist imbroglios had Bush not taken us down a similar path. If Mitt Romney is elected and another set of bumblers take office with him, no lesson will have been learned.
The debate tonight should be about the economy, not about Romney rattling the sword on Iran, Syria and China in the guise of talking about Benghazi. Without a strong economy, we cannot have the only foreign policy that matters: How to be able to pay for the defense of the country in the future. The debate should be about how to keep our increasingly expensive powder dry, not about rushing into Damascus.
The debate tonight, more pointedly, should be about the fiscal cliff the country is facing in three months. Nothing will affect the foreign policy of the country more than a world plunging again into a new global recession that would take longer to correct and, in the process, cost the country more than jobs. A new recession would serve to erode further America’s military might. Making sure the economy grows so that we can invest in education, infrastructure and defense research is tantamount to our flying bombing missions over Europe. The country needed men like George McGovern to bomb Hitler; it needs us to build shelter.
The heroism needed today is for a war on the fiscal debt the country owes, a war that President Obama has continued to try to prosecute with Republican opposition. McGovern would have understood the danger of the debt and might have helped HispanicLatinos understand that each percentage change in the composition of the national population makes the national debt ultimately the HispanicLatino debt.
For HispanicLatinos, the mission should be clear: How to support reducing the debt and yet build a community destined to be the central pillar of America’s future. That is a tall order, especially when many Americans fancifully think the country is making its way toward a presumed post-racial future. Instead, a post-fiscal fate should be everyone’s concern – the time when we get the nation past the financial threats that put in jeopardy its continued viability and that put in doubt the U.S. remaining a beacon for the rest of the world.
The legacy of a clean-cut McGovern flying bombing missions over Europe to defeat fascism and later heroically trying to end the war that a partying Bush escaped by cheating the draft is the history of a country paying a heavy price for being misled – first, in the 1972 presidential campaign by Richard Nixon and then in 2000 and 2004 by Bush.
Equally important to me is that not one – one! – prominent HispanicLatino has emerged making it his or her mission to focus and speak out in a leaderly way about the fiscal crisis the country faces.
HispanicLatinos – along with many more Americans – are in danger of being absent in a way that the good and decent George McGovern never was for his country.
Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.