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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, very well-written book
The story of George McGovern's first vice presidential running mate in July 1972 is one of the saddest chapters in modern American politics on many different levels. Tom Eagleton was recommended to McGovern by several respected politicians and advisors and seemed to have lots of enthusiasm and drive to accomplish results. Unfortunately what very few people knew was that...
Published on July 24, 2012 by Midwest Reviewer

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed, but not journalisitc
A bit more like a dissertation than a journalist's report.

Would have appreciated, for example, reading about the selection process after Eagleton is gone.

Appreciated the effort -- and I learned much more about McGovern than Eagleton -- but hard for these figures to "come alive" in this style.
Published 24 months ago by John Myler


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, very well-written book, July 24, 2012
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
The story of George McGovern's first vice presidential running mate in July 1972 is one of the saddest chapters in modern American politics on many different levels. Tom Eagleton was recommended to McGovern by several respected politicians and advisors and seemed to have lots of enthusiasm and drive to accomplish results. Unfortunately what very few people knew was that Eagleton had mental health problems, to the extent he had been hospitalized for those problems and treated with electric shock therapy, a history that the national media could not help but quickly and ultimately uncover and dissect relentlessly, which would virtually ensure significant damage to the McGovern presidential campaign after it was revealed. It didn't take long for Eagleton to be placed under the microscope and his entire vice presidential candidacy lasted fewer than three weeks.

I remember when these events occurred 40 years ago right after the Democratic convention wrapped up. However, the author of this book reports new information as to how Eagleton ultimately stepped down from the ticket, that when the storm of controversy over Eagleton's fitness to hold high office ensued, McGovern and Eagleton had a meeting in which Eagleton phoned his psychiatrists and turned the phone each time over to McGovern. According to the author, both doctors told McGovern that Eagleton was not fit to be president: "I don't like to think about that prospect" responded one doctor; the other doctor expressed amazement that Eagleton had managed to hold up thus far after four years in the Senate plus the last week of controversy after his psychiatric history was revealed. (This differs from prior accounts of the conversations between McGovern and Eagleton's doctors, and McGovern told the press he was satisfied with Eagleton's health.) At this point Eagleton told McGovern he would remove himself from the ticket if he would be a detriment. The impression in these pages is that he knew that he was never fit to run on a national ticket and the game was up. The author points out McGovern had no ability to actually terminate Eagleton as his running mate.

Eagleton's motives are confusing. I think anyone studying this will believe that Eagleton was highly motivated, but obviously knew based on his past "exhaustion"/depression episodes and hospital treatments that he needed to be strongly in control of his own pacing, not having others setting the course, and thus would realistically be unable to bear the weight of the presidency. Other sources reported that Eagleton's wife asked him before the call came from McGovern to be the VP nominee if he didn't expect that the press would reveal his past psychiatric treatments and he responded "probably." In recent years it was also disclosed that in April 1972, Eagleton was the then-anonymous source cited by columnist Robert Novak, who told Novak McGovern's true nature wasn't known and called him the proponent of "Acid, Abortion and Amnesty", which was widely repeated and detrimental to McGovern's image. If Eagleton had that type of perspective toward McGovern just a few months before the convention, and felt his psychiatric history would "probably" come out during the course of the campaign, he obviously didn't have much concern about how this would damage McGovern's candidacy. Eagleton was ambitious and obviously he wanted to advance himself, and being elevated to a vice presidential level would be an honor. The problem is that this personal opportunity for him was just that, without consideration of the office, the nation or the presidency. Whether Mankiewicz quickly asked Eagleton if he had any "skeletons" in his background or had several additional questions doesn't matter, Eagleton responded "no" to the main question, which was a lie that cannot be explained away. Reading White House transcripts from the Nixon oval office released in later years, the sad truth is that Nixon and Haldeman accurately summed up the situation, that Eagleton lied to McGovern and that he was unstable and unfit for high office.

Despite this sudden calamity, McGovern really was trying to be decent to Eagleton in the face of media revelations, which is shown repeatedly in these pages, initially supportive of Eagleton despite almost immediate calls by campaign officials for Eagleton to step down. He suffered a lot of the blame in the press at the time for both his selection of Eagleton after his medical history was discovered, and for the days he then spent listening to people on both sides of the issue and taking the time to ask questions. He was slammed for his handling of the affair, but this all happened so quickly over a few weeks that it's difficult to claim McGovern was "indecisive" on the matter when such a short amount of time passed between disclosure and Eagleton's resignation from the ticket. McGovern didn't make a knee-jerk decision as some would have had him do, which is actually the quality of a leader. While McGovern was taking this in, Eagleton was cursing McGovern privately ("screw McGovern...I'm going to tell everyone he's a no-good son of a bitch") and insubordinate in conversation with McGovern ("don't shit me, George!"). What does a presidential candidate do just a few weeks after the convention when the man you selected is suddenly discovered to have these type of issues?

Ultimately, if in fact Eagleton's psychiatrists informed McGovern the devastating information that Eagleton was not mentally capable of handling the weight of the presidency, and warned of the consequences of his even running for Vice president, what other option remained? The author says McGovern never revealed what the psychiatrists told him at the time and tried to preserve Eagleton's career in the process, to his own detriment.

Author Joshua M. Glasser has done an outstanding job researching and assembling all this information about McGovern and Eagleton's brief political partnership. I see he is only age 25, born 15 years after the 1972 presidential campaign, so it's all the more impressive. His writing style is excellent. The book is totally engrossing and I was unable to put it down as I continued reading from start to finish, in a couple sessions. It's filled with interesting background information on McGovern and Eagleton both before and after July 1972, and both men are treated fairly here. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in the 1972 McGovern campaign, and all those who enjoy history on the presidential electoral process.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, in-depth survey of a bizarre several weeks in American politics, May 24, 2013
By 
Garry Boulard (GAINESVILLE, FL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
The very young Joshua Glasser who was born in 1987 and so was obviously not around to soak up the currents of the 1972 presidential campaign has done an excellent job here putting together the almost hourly melt-down of the 1972 Democratic presidential campaign.

I was a student volunteer for McGovern, and remember very well the sense of disappointment that registered inside his campaign when he dropped Eagleton from the ticket. There had been a sense, up to that point, that McGovern was a different kind of politician, refreshingly honest--always honest--and incapable of the kind of manipulation that we associated with Richard Nixon.

No one really had a great solution to McGovern's dilemma of how to get rid of a running mate with a documented history of mental illness. But how McGovern did it, telling the world for days that he was solidly behind Eagleton and then suddenly announcing that Eagleton was off the ticket, just seemed phony and heartless.

The funny thing about all of this is that McGovern never really had a chance of winning the election anyway. By the time of the 1972 Democratic Convention, Nixon had pretty much wrapped things up by visiting both China and the Soviet Union, putting increasing military pressure on the North Vietnamese, and stabilizing the domestic economy through a series of wage and price control acts that today would be viewed as almost socialistic.

At best McGovern was 10 points behind Nixon before the Eagleton catastrophe. After it, he was more than 20 points behind and never saw daylight again.

None of this mattered, of course, to the hard-core McGovernites who hated Nixon in a way that George W. Bush and Barak Obama have never been hated. It just seemed inconceivable to them that McGovern would lose, or to put a more accurate spin on things, that Nixon would win.

And to some extent their hopes were based on a thin reading of recent history: Hubert Humphrey four years before had come from a 15-point deficit against Nixon to an almost even-draw in the election. So why not McGovern?

The answer was only obvious after the defeat: Humphrey represented a much wider swath of mainline Democrats and was greatly helped by the fact that third party candidate George Wallace was siphoning off voters from Nixon from the right. McGovern was no Humphrey, and had no Wallace in the general election to work on Nixon from the other direction.

One on one against Nixon, McGovern was doomed to defeat. But his campaign could never quite believe that--thus their shock when the bottom fell out after Eagleton's exit.

In retrospect, one thing seems clear: the McGovern staff should have done a much better job of vetting. They declined to follow up on hints that Eagleton had earlier been institutionalized for mental exhaustion and also allowed Eagleton in subsequent interviews to fudge the whole thing.

McGovern also made a weird mistake in not reviewing potential running mates well before the convention. The last-minute frantic nature of the selection added to the feeling that the McGovern campaign was always and forever amateur night. McGovern later said that he thought it would have been presumptuous to interview potential running mates when it was not clear that he had the presidential nomination wrapped up. But clearly he should have been more proactive and put the weeks between the his California primary win and the Democratic Convention to a better use.

Glasser has done a perfect job of giving readers a sense of the chaos and disorganization of the McGovern campaign. His reporting includes interviews with most of the top insiders in both the McGovern and Eagleton campaigns. My only complaint is that I wish the author had also included more of the popular response to the McGovern-Eagleton meltdown. It was true that McGovern was doomed in the South by this time, but still I would have enjoyed reading some of what the Southern press had to say.

That's a small complaint. Otherwise, I think this is one of the best chronicles of a presidential campaign--admittedly one that is falling apart--I have ever read.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eagleton redux, August 5, 2012
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
"The Eighteen-Day Running Mate", a superb new book by Joshua M. Glasser, is a must read, not only for those of us who well remember those weeks but for a younger age group also...younger adults who can view through this prism the way a sloppily vetted candidate can be chosen...to wit, Sarah Palin. As bad as the 1972 McGovern nomination had gotten off the ground, his selection of Eagleton turned the campaign into a nightmare.

Except for those with the most jaded view, George McGovern never had a chance of unseating Richard Nixon. As Glasser points out, McGovern's weaknesses were his moralistic and ambitious qualities combined with a sense of decency that even his opponents acknowledged. The "trust" issue went to Nixon that year...one of the great ironies of the time.

The tension that builds in Glasser's book is terrific. After Ted Kennedy turned McGovern down for the second spot, several viable candidates emerged but it was until well past the eleventh hour that Tom Eagleton was selected. The author discusses some of the feelings about depression, electroshock therapy and mental illness within the context of the early seventies. It's one of the many high points of the book. McGovern was careful to try to balance not putting a man overboard for illness and a new revelation, that McGovern and members of his family had also sought help along some of these lines, is startling. (I had known about his daughter Terry's struggles and eventual death) But the real sizzler is the contentiousness between McGovern and Eagleton...and their staffs...as the days groaned on. In the end, Eagleton had to go, but after his departure from the ticket he continued to be a popular politician...much more so than McGovern.

So little is remembered about McGovern-Eagleton that Glasser's book is a refresher...a walk down memory lane for some of us. It's an eye-opener for new things about which we didn't know. As we enter another vice presidential selection process, "The Eighteen-Day Running Mate" would be a good place to start and see how sometimes the vice presidential selection process works well and other times it turns out disastrously.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Doomed Mr. Eagleton, July 25, 2013
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
Any book focusing on an eighteen day period of time had better be thorough and it had better show how that small time period was significant. Glasser accomplishes both in this exhaustively researched account of Senator Tom Eagleton's ill-fated run as George McGovern's running mate. The character of McGovern comes across evenly, as does that of Senator Eagleton. Far from exhonerating either, Glasser illustrates how their temperaments and past experiences led to the debacle that was the 1972 Democratic ticket.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes you back years, September 6, 2012
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Norma (Grand Rapids, MI, United States) - See all my reviews
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As someone who, along with other members of my family, worked on the McGovern campaign this was a very revealing book on that time. It gives a portrait of the two men that was not possible then. This is not a "screed", but a thoughtful, well researched book. Leaves one with the feeling "what would I have done?"
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Topic, February 24, 2013
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
This is a great and fairly lightly explored moment of political chaos at the highest levels. It's an interesting dive into the lowest point in McGovern's seeminly predestined doomed campaign
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating Telling of a Remarkable 18 Days, October 24, 2012
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This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
This story of two complex men, their strengths, weaknesses and and decisions is very well told. At times, some of the details overwhelm the flow of the story but they are brief interludes and worth reading.
Provides an insight into decision making at the highest level and how 2 well meaning, decent men are victims of their weakness and of the times.
If you have any interest in this period of US history, this is a must read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 18 day running mate, September 6, 2012
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Amazing tale of a largely forgotten public servant worth remembering. Glasser does a fantastic job telling the tale of the days after the 1972 democratic convention.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, fast-moving, detailed, September 4, 2012
This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
I've read other books that addressed the Eagleton Affair, but not in as much detail as this book, which focuses just on that event. Very well-written and fast-moving.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attitudes Are The Real Disabilities, September 17, 2012
This review is from: The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis (Hardcover)
McGovern's campaign was troubled at the start. The Vietnam War was ongoing and he was disliked by the Party establishment. The South Dakota Senator was too 'extreme' for their tastes.

Attempting to move on from these hurdles with a presidential campaign, McGovern quickly settled on Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri as his Vice Presidential running mate.

Unfortunately, this was the era when little was seriously understood about depression and mental health. Considerable public stigma still existed about receiving psychiatric care. And in 1972, there were no non-discrimination laws on the books for Eagleton's protection. He became a victim of the times.

Discovering that a prospective Vice President had undergone electric shock therapies and was taking medication made American society very uncomfortable. People had to concede that there was a possibility that they could end up depending upon Eagleton for leadership, guidance, and protection--from a still running Cold War. The assasination of Kennedy was still very much in the public's mind, and one of the duties of the Vice President is to take over if something is to happen to the President.They did not believe he was capable of performing these actions only because of what conditions he was previously treated for.

Society was not accepting that he would be potentially capable of performing duties even if he had obtained and/or successfully was undergoing mental health treatments. And the ticket itself was not doing much to alievate the concerns how Eagleton would perform in a high-pressure leadership role.

There was only so `far' this this ticket was willing to actually extend itself. Tickets too are shaped by the era they have grown up in.

Initially backing his Vice Presidential candidate, McGovern caved into the dropping public poll numbers. After it had been released that Eagleton obtained treatment and the press additionally continued referencing the type of treatment, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket on August 1. Eagleton was encouraged to resign so the press--and voters would hopefully then see McGovern as 'capable'.His campaign oddly did not think of performing counterarguments on behalf of it's candidate.

Because our handling of candidates with disabilities and expectations of 'ability' has comparatively changed since 1972, this book is an important---but challenging--read. The general public today sees a missed opportunity where the 'progressive' McGovern saw sickness and failure.

A Vice President (or even President) with disabilities in our era could have educated the public about mental health care issues. They would use their own position to successfully advocate for better health care programs. It would be an important opportunity--especially with the media then unavailable in 1972.

This book is highly recomended for scholars of political science and disability studies. It's also important for a campaign/campaign staff, certainly including people with disabilities.
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The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis
The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis by Joshua M. Glasser (Hardcover - August 1, 2012)
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