1972 Nixon VS. McGovern

"Young Vets"


Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate
"Young Vets," McGovern, 1972

CHRIS JACKSON: I'm Chris Jackson.

TOM GREENWOOD: Tom Greenwood, Milwaukee.

McGOVERN: Good to see you.

JOE SIMPSON: Joe Simpson, Battle Creek, Michigan.

McGOVERN: Joe, were you with the Third Marines division?

JOE SIMPSON: No, I was with the...

McGOVERN: I had a son-in-law who...

MALE NARRATOR: Most of them were still safe in grade school when this man first spoke out against the war, risking political suicide in the hope they might be spared. For them, his early voice is now being heard too late. If the shooting stopped tomorrow, they would still have to face the long road back, rebuilding shattered lives and broken dreams. And they're looking for all the help and understanding they can find.

McGOVERN: ...housing, transportation...

YOUNG VETERAN #1: That parking lot down there - that's especially for wheelchaired people. It's got ice on the road. How far do you think you can get in - you can't get studded snow tires on this thing!

YOUNG VETERAN #2: The fact is, the veteran is returning home, and I think that they do need this help. We come home and we've got this lost feeling. You don't know where to turn. You go to a contact officer, you go here, you go there...

McGOVERN: You know, I benefited from the G.I. Bill of rights at the end of World War II. I was able to go to Northwestern University. I went through and got a PhD at the government's expense. But I'd been a combat bomber pilot for three years, and a lot of the people I was with didn't come back from that war, and I didn't feel the government was giving me anything for nothing. I felt that I had earned that. Now, I'm going to recommend - and I'll fight for it - that we give every veteran an opportunity to go on to advanced education. And the benefits will be generous enough so that they can afford to do that. Now if he didn't want to take advantage of that opportunity, he should be given a guaranteed job, even though the government might have to come in. If we couldn't find it in industry, we would provide public service employment.

YOUNG VETERAN #1: There are jobs the government could offer us right now. There should be - they should be the ones that hire us first. They hire other people. There are people that have disabilities, stuck in these things, and they don't want to be here. Some of them can't use their arms and fingers, but that doesn't make them a non-productive individual.

McGOVERN: You love your country, there's no question about that. But I bet you're about halfway mad at it, aren't you.

YOUNG VETERAN #1: Believe me, when you lose the control of your bowels, your bladder - your sterility, you'll never father a child - when the possibility of you ever walking again is cut off for the rest of your life, you're 23 years old, you don't want to be a burden on your family - you know where you go from here? To a nursing home. And you stay there until you rot. Why isn't there places like this that the government could set up. Nobody thinks of a disabled veteran, or a disabled anybody, but another disabled person. If you fall out of your wheelchair, you know who's the first one to come try to get you some help? A guy in a wheelchair. And not somebody who's walking.

McGOVERN: I think it's one of the most unconscionable facts in this country today is what you've just said. That there are people who are desperately in need of help that can't qualify for it under the present system.

YOUNG VETERAN #1: To stay alive.

McGOVERN: That's right. I love the United States. But I love it enough so I want to see some change is made. The American people want to believe in their government. They want to believe in their country. And I want to be one of those that provides the kind of leadership that would help restore that kind of faith. I don't think I can do it alone - of course I can't - but the president can help set a new tone in this country. He can help raise the vision and the faith and the hope of the American people. And that's what I'd like to try to do.

YOUNG VETERAN #1: I'd like to get a president that we can believe in.

McGOVERN: Well I hope I'll be that kind of president.

MALE NARRATOR: McGovern. For the people.

[TEXT: McGovern]

MALE NARRATOR: The people are paying for this campaign with their hard-earned dollars. Send what you can to McGovern for President, Washington, D.C.


"Young Vets," McGovern, 1972

Maker: Charles Guggenheim

Video courtesy of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1972/young-vets (accessed June 21, 2024).


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1972 Nixon McGovern Results

In 1971, President Nixon’s approval rating fell below 50 percent. Despite his 1968 promises to end the Vietnam War, the conflict was dragging on. At home, inflation and unemployment were rising. Nixon restored his popularity through several actions: he took unprecedented diplomatic trips to China and Russia; stepped up efforts to end the war by ordering the bombing of Hanoi; instituted wage and price controls; and ended the draft, partly because of the recent lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18. Nixon’s opponent, South Dakota Senator George McGovern, who won his party’s nomination with a grassroots campaign sparked by the antiwar movement, called for withdrawal from Vietnam and a significant reduction in military spending. McGovern named as his running mate Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, who, shortly after the convention, revealed that he had been hospitalized for depression and had received shock therapy. McGovern dropped him from the ticket and replaced him with former ambassador R. Sargent Shriver. The incident created an impression of ineptitude. McGovern was also unable to convince the public of any connection between the Nixon administration and the June break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex.

Richard Nixon for president
Spiro Agnew for vice president

"President Nixon. Now More Than Ever"

No incumbent president has used television advertising more effectively than Richard Nixon in 1972. His ad campaign was a two-pronged attack depicting Nixon as a successful world leader and McGovern as a reckless liberal. Nixon’s positive ads used documentary techniques to give voters a glimpse inside the White House, with scenes of Nixon at state dinners, in meetings with world leaders, and at work in the Oval Office. The documentary style gave the spots a feeling of intimacy and authenticity, and created the impression that voters were getting a privileged view. The ads also attempted to humanize Nixon, who was widely perceived as cold and humorless, by showing him in relaxed moments playing the piano for Duke Ellington, dancing with his daughter at her wedding, and joking with Chinese translators.

Nixon’s most effective commercials, however, were attack ads. One spot ridiculed McGovern’s proposed defense cuts by using the stark image of a hand sweeping away toy soldiers, planes, and warships. Another claimed that McGovern would put 47 percent of the country on welfare. Though created by the Republican campaign, these ads were credited to "Democrats for Nixon," a strategy meant to create the impression that McGovern’s liberal views put him outside the mainstream of his own party.

Nixon’s ads were produced by the November Group, a virtual all-star team of advertising executives headed by Peter Dailey, who ran his own Los Angeles agency, Phil Joanou from Doyle Dane Bernbach, William Taylor from Ogilvy and Mather, and an advisory board of executives from many top agencies.

George McGovern for president
Sargent Shriver for vice president

"McGovern. Democrat. For the People"

The style of McGovern’s ads reflected the populist nature of his campaign. The candidate was filmed in informal encounters with voters in factories, meeting halls, hospitals, and senior-citizen centers. The spots were produced by Charles Guggenheim, the documentary filmmaker who had made many of Adlai Stevenson’s ads in 1956. In his commercials for McGovern, Guggenheim used cinéma vérité techniques. Photographed with a handheld camera and portable sound equipment, the ads were designed to look casual and spontaneous in deliberate contrast with the stately aura surrounding Nixon’s presidency. The ads succeeded in portraying McGovern as compassionate, but they did not make him look presidential.

McGovern had wanted to avoid negative ads, but he changed his mind late in the campaign in reaction to his poor standing in the polls. The attack ads against Nixon were delivered with a "crawl" of white text against a black background. This stark presentation of claims in a seemingly neutral style is now a common technique in political and product advertising.

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