RIP: Eugene McCarthy, 1916-2005

Former Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy died yesterday at the age of 89. Reactions here.

Last June, Patrick Buchanan asked, “Who is the Eugene McCarthy of this generation?” In a June 2004 interview with, McCarthy explained his decision to challenge LBJ on an antiwar platform:

    I thought someone ought to challenge this ridiculous war, and I also thought a great deal about the domestic agitation and confusion. And I realized the Senate wasn’t going to do it when [it failed] to repeal the 1965 Tonkin Gulf Authorization. The repeal got five votes. That was in ’67; it wasn’t like 1965 when people still believed the Tonkin Resolution was the real thing. And I said, I guess a number of times, that one of the principal responsibilities the Senate had is to be involved in a serious way in foreign policy, and that the ultimate act of foreign policy is war. Therefore the Senate had a special responsibility when war comes to say, “Do we want it? Is it in the interest of the country?” And I thought that we’d reached that point and passed it and, well, it sounds self-serving, but if the Senate wouldn’t do it, that didn’t excuse me for not doing it. Because one senator could take responsibility for the whole body if he wanted to fulfill his constitutional duties.

John Nichols eulogizes the poet-statesman here.