New Yorker Editor: Shriver 'Was a Magnificent Candidate'

January 20th, 2011 9:41 PM

"Postscript: Sargent Shriver" appears on The New Yorker's Web site today.  In it, senior editor Hendrik Hertzberg writes:

In 1972, when George McGovern’s original running mate, Senator Thomas Eagleton, had to withdraw, Shriver defied the family pecking order by taking Eagleton’s place on the ticket. The Democrats had their problems that year, but Shriver wasn’t one of them. He was a magnificent candidate.

It's doubtful that the late Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill (D-MA), who knew a thing or two about campaigning, would have agreed.

Scott Stossel, deputy editor of The Atlantic, wrote the 2004 "Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver."  Included in the book was this anecdote, as recorded in the April 9, 2004 Atlantic Unbound:

(A) campaign-trail legend from 1972 places Sargent Shriver, the dashing Democratic candidate for the vice presidency and the former director of the Peace Corps and the War on Poverty, in Youngstown, Ohio, chatting up voters in a working-class tavern. Shriver is his usual genial self, and seems to be connecting with the assembled steelworkers, who will form part of a vital voting bloc in the general election. As the merrymakers call for another round, people shout out the names of their favorite beers. Not to be outdone, Shriver eagerly joins the chorus: "Make mine a Courvoisier!" For Congressman Tip O'Neill, who had been traveling with Shriver, this faux pas was the last straw. "That's it," said O'Neill, stepping away from the bar. "I'm getting back on the plane and going back to Boston. There's no hope here."

O'Neill, of course, was right. There was no hope.  McGovern and Shriver won only Massachusetts. 

Mr. Shriver may well have had many admirable qualities.  Being a magnificent campaigner wouldn't seem to have been one of them.