Editorial: A congressman for all seasons

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos is a somewhat rare bird for the Bay Area, a basically liberal Democrat who has always been militarily hawkish and fiscally opposed to unbalanced budgets. His early enthusiastic support for dismantling Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship brought a chorus of disapproval from the local Left, yet he won with 68 percent in 2004.

Lantos has since become an angry critic of the Bush administration’s post-invasion choices in Iraq, Afghanistan and homeland security. His consistent support for an activist U.S. foreign policy presumably dates from youth as an escapee from a Nazi forced labor camp in his native Hungary andhis departure for the United States in 1947 only a few weeks before the Communists took over.

Lantos is the ranking minority member of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, and if the Democrats really do win the House next month he would chair the important panel. He always has been particularly strong on international humanitarian issues, often championing causes that do not grab headlines.

He was a longtime foe of the repressive Myanmar (Burma) regime and is currently among the strongest congressional voices seeking to end the holocaust in Darfur. In April he was arrested for picketing outside the Sudanese embassy.

Lantos always earns 100 percent (or near) ratings from organizations tracking favorite issues of Northern California progressives such as civil rights, gun control, health care access, labor, consumer protection, women’s right to choose, environmentalism, transportation, gay rights, education and even animal welfare.

As a professor of economics for 30 years before entering politics, Lantos is a firm opponent of deficit spending. However, with 26 years of congressional seniority, he is highly experienced at the Washington fiscal game. And he is not at all shy about seeing that the Bay Area receives a fair share of available federal spending.

Lantos was instrumental in bringing funding into the Bay Area that made it possible to build the tunnel at Devil’s Slide and the BART extension to the San Francisco International Airport. He successfully pushed numerous other regional projects such as expansion of the Golden Gate Recreational Area, conservation of San Bruno Mountain, the Brisbane wastewater plant and more.

In a way, it seems almost a waste of space to be printing an endorsement of Tom Lantos. He will obviously win re-election to his 14th term by an impressive margin and almost certainly will continue winning easily for as long as he seeks to representthe 12th Congressional District.

At the age of 78, Lantos goes for daily exercise swims and long walks with his wife of 56 years, and he obviously still displays a boundless mental energy and enthusiasm. Southwest San Francisco and most of adjacent San Mateo County are likely to have Lantos as their congressman for some years to come, which is not a bad thing at all.

Part of the San Francisco Examiner's 2006 Election Coverage.

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