Monday, June 03, 2013

I have a Frank Lautenberg story

New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg passed away today, the last WWII veteran in the Senate.  Despite his unfortunate choice of political parties, he was a great man: a war hero, a successful businessman, and an advocate for the people of New Jersey.

Back in 1988, I was a junior at Rutgers and Frank Lautenberg was running for re-election against Republican Pete Dawkins.  Dawkins had a dream resume: he had won the Heisman Trophy for West Point in 1958, became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, got his PhD from Princeton, became a Brigadier General in the Army, won two Bronze Stars in Vietnam, and then became a partner on Wall Street.

The man had done it all.  But the peripatetic trappings of a life in the military meant that Dawkins didn't have deep roots in New Jersey and the Lautenberg campaign ran a commercial (can't find it on YouTube) that just cut him to the core.  I remember it was a video of Dawkins responding to a question about running in NJ and the awkward answer concluded with a black screen and an exasperated voiceover: "C'mon Pete."  It was devastating and Dawkins lost the election by eight points. 

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