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Sunday, December 11, 2005

GENE MCCARTHY: A Reticent Senator Who Inspired: That's how David Broder remembers the senator from Minnesota who challenged an incumbent president in what remains one of the most tumultuous years in American political history. I was not yet in high school when Eugene Gene McCarthy announced his anti-Vietnam candidacy for president. He struck me then as a thoroughly decent man who somehow wasn't like the rest. McCarthy was ironic, enigmatic, cerebral, and quixotic — closer to a Greek philosopher than a contemporary political leader. I became less impressed with McCarthy in his later years, when he didn't seem to know how to step away from the limelight yet also seemed incapable of making a useful contribution to political conversations. Still, I write these words neither as a biographer nor a historian. I write as one who was moved to political life by a man who was as willing to spar with his own party as with the Republicans, who left the political wars to write poetry, and who inspired a generation to believe they could make a difference. Rest in peace, Senator McCarthy.