Eugene McCarthy

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I'm kind of an accidental instrument, really, through which I hope that the judgment and the will of this nation can be expressed.

Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy (29 March 191610 December 2005) American politician from the U.S. state of Minnesota, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1949–1959) and the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971 and playing a major role in the 1968 presidential election, unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic nomination on an anti-Vietnam War platform.


  • Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important.
    • "Washington Post" (12 November 1967)
  • Have you ever tried to split sawdust?
    • Response to accusations that he had split the US Democratic Party by campaigning for president. NBC TV (23 October 1969)
  • The two-party system has given this country the war of Lyndon Johnson, the Watergate of Nixon, and the incompetence of Carter. Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life-rafts.
    • Chicago Tribune (10 September 1978)
  • The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty.
    • Time magazine (12 February 1979)
  • We do not need presidents who are bigger than the country, but rather ones who speak for it and support it.
    • The New York Times (11 December 2005)
  • I'm kind of an accidental instrument, really, through which I hope that the judgment and the will of this nation can be expressed.
    • The New York Times (11 December 2005)


Selected poems online

  • The maple tree that night
    Without a wind or rain
    Let go its leaves
    Because its time had come.
    • "The Maple Tree"
  • Now it is certain.
    There is no magic stone.
    No secret to be found.
    One must go
    With the mind's winnowed learning.
    • "Courage After Sixty"
  • The glove has been thrown to the ground,
    The last choice of weapons made.
    A book for one thought.
    A poem for one line.
    A line for one word.
    • "Courage After Sixty"
  • "Broken things are powerful."
    Things about to break are stronger still.
    The last shot from the brittle bow is truest.
    • "Courage After Sixty"
  • I have left Act I, for involution
    And Act II. There, mired in complexity
    I cannot write Act III.
  • "Lament for an Aging Politician"


  • "a light rinse" would be sufficient. Said in response to wikipedia:George Romney's claim that he had been "brainwashed" by the US military leaders in Vietnam. It is not clear where or when exactly the quote was supposedly said. See this entry from MediaMythAlert.

External links[edit]

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