On November 30, 1967, Eugene McCarthy announced that he would enter the Democratic primary, challenging Lyndon Johnson over the escalation of the Vietnam war. Below is the full text:
PRESS CONFERENCE OF SENATOR EUGENE J. McCARTHY
SENATE CAUCUS ROOM, WASHINGTON, D.C., NOVEMBER 30, 1967
I intend to enter the Democratic primaries in four states: Wisconsin, Oregon, California and Nebraska. The decision with reference to Massachusetts, and also New Hampshire, will be made within the next two or three weeks. Insofar as Massachusetts is concerned, it will depend principally upon the outcome of a meeting which is being held there if they finish their work this weekend--a meeting of the Democratic State Committee.
Since I first said that I thought the issue of Vietnam and the issues related to it should be raised in the primaries of the country, I have talked with Democratic leaders from about 25 or 26 states; I have talked particularly to candidates for, re-election to the Senate (Democratic candidates), to some House members and also to students on campus and to other people throughout the country.
My decision to challenge the President's position and the Administration's position has been strengthened by recent announcements out of the Administration--the evident intention to escalate and to intensify the war in Vietnam and, on the other hand, the absence of any positive indications or suggestions for a compromise or for a negotiated political settlement. I am concerned that the Administration seems to have set no limit to the price which it is willing to pay for a military victory.
Let me summarize the cost of the war up to this point:
--the physical destruction of much of a small and weak nation by military operations of the most powerful nation in the world;
--100,000 to 150,000 civilian casualties in south Vietnam alone, to say nothing of the destruction of life and property in north Vietnam;
--the uprooting and the fracturing of the structure of the society of South Vietnam, where one-fourth to one-third of the population are now reported to be refugees;
--for the United States--as of yesterday--over 15,000 combat dead and nearly 95,000 wounded through November.
--a monthly expenditure in pursuit of the war running somewhere between $2 and $3 billion.
I am also concerned about the bearing of the war on other areas of United States responsibility, both at home and abroad:
--the failure to appropriate adequate funds for the poverty program here, for housing, for education and to meet other national needs, and the prospect of additional cuts as a condition to a possible passage of the surtax tax bill;
--the drastic reduction of our foreign aid program in other parts of the world;
--a dangerous rise in inflation; and one of the indirect and serious consequences of our involvement in Vietnam --the devaluation of the British pound, which in many respects is more important east of Suez today that the British Navy.
In addition, there’s a growing evidence of the deepening moral crisis in America: discontent and frustration, and a disposition to take extra-legal--if not illegal--actions to manifest protest.
I am hopeful that this challenge which I am making--which I hope will be supported by other members of the Senate and other politicians--may alleviate at least in some degree of this sense of political helplessness and restore to many people a belief in the processes of American politics and of American government; that on the college campuses especially and also among adult, thoughtful Americans, it may come to the growing sense of alienation from politics which I think is currently reflected in a tendency to withdraw from political action, to talk of non-participation, to become cynical and to make threats of support for third parties or fourth parties or other irregular political movements.
I do not see in my move any great threat to the unity and strength of the Democratic Party--whatever that unity may be today and whenever that strength may be.
The issue of the war in Vietnam is not really a separate issue, but one which must be dealt with in the configuration of other problems to which it is related. And it is within this broader context that I intend to make the case to the people of the United States.
Let me say that—as I am sure I shall be charge—I am not for peace at any price, but for an honorable, rational and political solution to this war; a solution which I believe will enhance our world position, encourage the respect of our Allies and our potential adversaries, which will permit us to get the necessary attention to other commitments--both at home and abroad, militarily and did not militarily--and leave us with resources and moral energy to deal effectively with a pressing domestic problems of the United States itself. In this total effort, I believe we can restore to this nation a clear sense of purpose and of dedication to the achievement of our traditional purposes as a great nation in the twentieth century.
Thank you very much.
Source: McCarthy for President Press Release
Eugene J. McCarthy Papers, Elmer L. Anderson Library, University of Minnesota