Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Intolerant Democrats Strong-Arm Lautenberg Challenger

Democrats love paying lip-service to the notions of tolerance and diversity. Yet watch how they behave when one of their sacred cows is taken on in a primary.

All of a sudden they're screaming about unity.

It's curious to see how Rep. Ron Andrews is being treated now that he's taking on 84-year-old Frank Lautenberg in the Democrat Senate primary.

Even more amusing is seeing how Lautenberg spins the age factor, considering he made age a central theme of his 1982 Senate run against then 72-year-old Millicent Fenwick, when he questioned her fitness for office. Considering Lautenberg would be 91 if he serves another full term, his age is fair game, especially when you consider the endless stories about John McCain being 71 years old.
It was a moment worthy of fanfare: the opening of a new district office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in New Jersey last month.

Federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials and members of Congress, including Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, assembled at the federal building in downtown Newark, a city plagued by gun violence.

But soon after Representative Robert E. Andrews arrived, an organizer took him aside, at the urging of Mr. Lautenberg’s assistants, and asked him to leave. He retreated, as his colleagues headed to the microphones.

This is what life has been like for Mr. Andrews since early last month, when he startled the Democratic establishment by mounting a primary challenge against Mr. Lautenberg, the state’s senior senator. Mr. Andrews has waged an aggressive campaign, raising questions about the 84-year-old Mr. Lautenberg’s age and barraging him with tough television advertising.

In turn, his fellow Democrats in the state’s Congressional delegation are shunning him, avoiding teaming up with him on legislative work and seldom speaking with him.

And in ways that are striking even in the rough-and-tumble of New Jersey politics, his colleagues are pressuring others to shun him, too, sending word to lobbyists and industry executives that if they donate to the Andrews campaign, they could find their access to other members’ offices cut off.

“This is the kind of old-school politics that I decided to stand up and fight against,” Mr. Andrews said.
Lautenberg lamely spins the age issue. You'd have to think Democrats wouldn't mind seeing this fossil fade away into the sunset, but are probably more concerned Andrews could lose in the general election.
The fight is more bitter than many contests between candidates of opposite parties. Mr. Andrews, 50, has released ads resurrecting Mr. Lautenberg’s famous attack on 72-year-old Congresswoman Millicent H. Fenwick in 1982, when he questioned her fitness for the office. The ad suggests that the same question can now be asked about Mr. Lautenberg.

In the interview, Mr. Lautenberg, who was 58 when he ran against Ms. Fenwick, said the issue he was raising then was not so much her age as her state of mind and effectiveness.

President Ford called her eccentric,” Mr. Lautenberg said of Ms. Fenwick.

Behind the scenes, the battle is equally intense, with donors saying they are getting none-too-subtle messages to get behind Mr. Lautenberg.

In an interview, an executive in the telecommunications industry said his company received a call last month from the office of another New Jersey congressman, Frank Pallone Jr., strongly discouraging contributions to the Andrews campaign. The executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation, said he felt “we were being strong-armed.”

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