M. Spencer Green / Pool via Reuters
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a prayer service for former Senator George McGovern at the First United Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Lamenting the "beating" taken by the late Sen. George McGovern because of his vehement opposition to the Vietnam War, Vice President Joe Biden remembered the deceased 1972 Democratic nominee Thursday night as "the father of the modern Democratic Party."
Speaking at an intimate Sioux Falls prayer service for McGovern, who died Sunday at the age of 90, Biden called him "a hero" whose courage to speak against the war inspired a generation.
"Your father stood there and took all that beating," Biden told McGovern's children. "Your father was characterized by these right-wing guys as a coward, unwilling to fight. Your father was a genuine hero."
The vice president recalled McGovern's statement that he was tired of "old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in," adding in a hoarse and emotional tone, "I still feel the same way."
The former Democratic Sen. George McGovern, who lost the 1972 presidential election to Richard Nixon and gained fame throughout his career for his devotion to fighting hunger and opposing war.
McGovern, whose 1972 rout by Richard Nixon was a low point in Democratic electoral politics, served with Biden in the Senate for eight years. His subsequent work to fight hunger won him international praise.
Biden said that, while many had asked him how he could come to the decidedly non-swing-state of South Dakota for the service when the presidential election was mere days away, that the question to him should be, "How could you not come?"
The VP's remarks were not devoid of Bidenisms. At one point, he apologized to the assembled priests for saying that his extensive years in the Senate were "a hell of an indictment." Laughter ensued as he crossed himself reverently.
And he couldn't resist tying in his recent performance in a heavily publicized debate against Paul Ryan.
"It was a great honor to serve with your dad," he told McGovern's children. "It was a great honor to know your dad. It was a great compliment when (McGovern's grandson) Matt told me his grandfather watched my debate with Paul Ryan and said "I wanna call Joe."
(An aide says that the two men did not end up speaking after the debate, as McGovern was so close to the end of his life.)