The faithful -- those who were for McGovern in 1970-71 when he stood at 3% in the polls, who cheered his primary victories, who stayed up all night to hear the stirring ""Come Home, America"" acceptance speech, who could still weep when he overwhelmingly lost last November -- will read every word of Gary Hart's insider memoir of that campaign, enjoying the descriptions of the astonishing organization McGovern built during his two-year quest for the nomination (Hart was the first full-time staff member), agreeing happily with the characterization of Muskie as a centrist ""Searching, like Diogenes, for the lost consensus,"" and learning with relief that McGovern always resented the ""decent"" label (""After all, which candidate told a heckler to kiss his ass?""). Most of this deals with the effort to nominate McGovern (the constant money problems, coordinating the primaries, the Humphrey debates in California -- after the first confrontation George said of the $1000 plan, ""I wish that I had never heard of the goddamn idea""), but the latter fourth of the book reviews the presidential campaign, ""a Joycean experience part nightmare, part vivid recollection, a jumbled montage of absurd, painful, ridiculous, irrational, petty, bitter, tragic, and comic experiences""; in Hart's opinion the whole ball of wax was lost with Eagleton (""We could not win with him or without him""). There are no astounding revelations here -- Hart describes himself as a ""planner"" and that's what we get -- the McGovern strategy and glimpses of the people who pulled the levers. And for sheer flat-out interest, Hunter Thompson's quite different book on the same events, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign 1972 (KR, p. 373), wins by a landslide. Still, the diehards, those who lived and breathed the McGovern phenomenon, will scrutinize Right From the Start as a welcome late return.
Pub Date: June 15, 1973
Page Count: -
Publisher: Quadrangle--The New York Times Book Co.