McGovern makes first post-health-scare public appearance

George McGovern speaks Monday at the McGovern Conference in Mitchell. (Photo by Tom Lawrence/Republic)

George McGovern made an appearance this morning during the McGovern Conference at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. As far as I know, it was his first public gig since being hospitalized recently for fatigue.

During a speech of about 20 minutes or so to open the conference (during which he stood the entire time), he promised that doctors at the Mayo Clinic gave him a clean bill of health and said he’ll be fine as long as he slows down and starts acting “like a normal person.” They also told him to stop drinking alcohol, which he joked was the “severest” advice he received. He told the audience that he passed along the health information to assure everyone he would not faint during his speech.

One other fascinating health tidbit: He said he ran across former Gov. Bill Janklow at the Mayo Clinic, and the two “hugged.” Janklow is there to undergo treatment for brain cancer, though his prognosis is not good.

After the opening comments about his health, McGovern was back in prime form, discussing politics and world affairs. He pressed some themes from his new book “What It Means to Be a Democrat,” including his call for a return to political civility and his disdain for the tea party. He said although the tea party would have us believe everything federal is evil, projects such as the interstate highway system, Medicare, Social Security and the GI Bill are examples of federal projects that have made lasting positive impacts on America.

McGovern also offered a unique take on the situation in the Middle East, in response to a question from the audience. He said taking out Saddam Hussein — “an S.O.B.,” McGovern called him — was not all that great strategically, because it removed what had been one of the primary limiting factors on Iran. Without Hussein in the way, McGovern said, Iran may be more emboldened to carry out its radical agenda.

Anyway, that’s a quick take from the morning session. Back to editor stuff for me. Our assistant editor, Tom Lawrence, will have a couple of stories about the conference in tomorrow’s Daily Republic.