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It’s As Close as He’ll Get to Being President

AP’s Hillel Italie had such a good opening line that it bears repeating: “George McGovern was never elected president, but at least he gets to write a book about one.” The president in question is the much-written-about Abraham Lincoln, who will be the latest subject for Times Books’ series of presidential biographies. “President Kennedy thought that only the president could understand the exact pressures and responsibilities of the job, and I felt that George’s defeat in 1972 would give him a sense of the kinds of decisions a president has to make,” said former Kennedy aide and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the series’ general editor.

McGovern wasn’t the first choice – both E.L. Doctorow and Bill Clinton were considered but turned it down due to other commitments. Times Books editorial director Paul Golob said he expected McGovern to be finished a year from now and hoped to have the book out by February 2009, the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth.

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