Lautenberg: Respect Your Elders, and Get Off My Lawn!
From one of the first articles I wrote for National Review Online, back on October 22, 2002:
The annual town fair in Metuchen, N.J., isn’t really known for bare-knuckle politicking. It’s usually marked by parents eating funnel cakes drowned in powdered sugar and children trying to win goldfish by tossing beanbags into baskets. In election years, the political action is mostly candidates showing up for a little handshaking and baby-kissing.
But fairgoers got some dramatic theatrics this year. Democratic Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg’s scheduled grip-and-grin was interrupted by the approach of his GOP opponent, Doug Forrester, dragging two podiums. Forrester challenged Lautenberg to make good on his earlier “any place, any time” debate pledge on the spot.
For about 15 minutes, Forrester asked the 78-year-old former senator to justify past votes against the 1991 Persian Gulf War and for military spending cuts, while Lautenberg, wagging his finger in Forrester’s face, brought up his opponent’s views on abortion and gun control. The exchange devolved into a shouting match by both men’s supporters, with Forrester’s backer’s chanting, “DE-BATE, DE-BATE!” and Lautenberg’s crowd countering, “WE WANT FRANK!” The scene ended when Metuchen’s mayor asked them to move, and the former senator walked away.
Hey, I just realized I passed my 10-year anniversary as an NRO contributor last year. Well, we were all a little busy last October . . .
Anyway, few would have expected that Lautenberg would still be on the political scene in 2013, much less acting indignant that any other Democrats in New Jersey might have an inclination to run against him in 2014.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who might face a 2014 primary challenge from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, said his fellow Democrat is “entitled” to run if he chooses to but suggested that he had to give a “spanking” to his potential rival for so openly coveting his seat.
Booker has already formed a 2014 campaign committee, prompting anonymous Lautenberg aides to rip the mayor to Politico, accusing him of being “disrespectful.” I asked Lautenberg about that characterization this afternoon.
“I have four children, I love each one of them. I can’t tell you that one of them wasn’t occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK,” Lautenberg said with a smile in his first public comments since Booker announced he was considering a run for Senate.
Lautenberg, who turns 89 on Wednesday, would not say if he intends to run for another six-year term in 2014.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do yet, serious things and we pride ourselves (in) my office and my team (on) getting things done. That’s the focus. I’m not thinking about the politics right now,” Lautenberg said.
Ah, an elderly white senator threatening to spank a younger black male politician for being too ambitious and not knowing his place. Ahem. I guess we should be glad he didn’t call Booker “boy” or threaten that a primary fight would result in a “whuppin’.” Say, mainstream media, you might want to take note of this, if you want to have even a shred of credibility the next time some no-name state lawmaker makes some racially insensitive comment and you demand every Republican in the country ritually denounce the unknown yokel in order to prove no racial maliciousness lurks in their hearts.
Strom Thurmond served until he was 100; perhaps Lautenberg is aiming to top that record.