A closer look at Representative Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey’s decision to challenge Richard Nixon for the 1972 Republican presidential nomination due to Nixon’s failure to bring the Vietnam conflict to a conclusion reveals some intriguing aspects of the relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy during the U.S. experience in Vietnam. In breaking the GOP’s “Eleventh Commandment”—the exhortation to not speak ill of fellow Republicans—McCloskey acted on the courage of his convictions in opposing the war and his party’s sitting president. For McCloskey, Vietnam transcended politics; it was a moral issue on which he was willing to sacrifice his political career—unlike most other members of Congress and politicians in successive administrations during the Vietnam era. Moreover, McCloskey’s failure to gain traction with voters in the GOP primaries with his antiwar stance presaged George McGovern’s struggles against Nixon in the fall campaign in 1972.
Breaking the Eleventh Commandment: Pete McCloskey’s Campaign against the Vietnam War
Andrew L. Johns is an associate professor of history at Brigham Young University and the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies. He is the author or editor of six books, including, most recently, The Price of Loyalty: Hubert Humphrey's Vietnam Conflict (2020).
- Views Icon Views
- PDF LinkPDF
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Andrew L. Johns; Breaking the Eleventh Commandment: Pete McCloskey’s Campaign against the Vietnam War. California History 1 February 2021; 98 (1): 3–27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2021.98.1.3
Download citation file: