Presidential Primaries 2008 / Tom Lantos 1924 - 2008: A Democrat and a Hawk

He loved both America and Israel. His love for them "stemmed from the same values," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said yesterday in her eulogy on Capitol Hill for Congressman Tom Lantos.

The long journey of a Jewish child from his Hungarian homeland, through Nazi work camps, to safe haven in a gentile home, to an American university and on to Congress, reached its final destination yesterday.

"A real American hero," American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called him at the memorial service Congress held for the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, his friend for many years, was there. So was Rice, the UN secretary general, Livni and the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Sallai Meridor.

On Lantos' last visit to Israel, Livni and he saw a movie together in which American-made Israel Air Force planes flew in formation over Auschwitz. Last August he celebrated his 80th birthday in Israel - six months before the real date, as though he knew he would not be able to make it this year. Former ambassador Dan Ayalon, a friend of the family, celebrated with him. On Passover the two sat together in Ayalon's house in Israel.

When a distinguished visitor came to Lantos' office - Morocco's foreign minister, for example, or Hungary's prime minister - he would call Ayalon, who was then ambassador, to sit in the office with him. When the visitor arrived, Ayalon would rise to leave, but before he left Lantos would introduce him. That was his way of showing the visitor how important Israel was to him.

But Lantos devoted his main energies to the war for human rights throughout the world. This is why singer activist Bono, the front man and main lyricist of the Irish rock band U2, also attended the ceremony.

Lantos was a Democrat, but also a hawk. In the campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, hawks like him tend to support Clinton. Even President George W. Bush, a hawk from the rival party, listed the candidates he preferred this week in this order: McCain, Clinton, Obama. Bush believes that Clinton herself is hawkish enough not to fold the flag in Iraq, even if now, for political reasons, she says otherwise.

Clinton yesterday released her first negative campaign broadcast against Obama. Anyone who thinks the race is over has apparently forgotten how persistent she can be, or how many tricks she still has up her sleeve.

In the broadcast she blasts Obama for refusing to confront her in Wisconsin, where elections are to be held next week. But she is mainly concerned over the vote in Ohio and Texas, on which she is counting not to eliminate Obama but to stop his momentum. All Clinton wants is to make sure that Obama, like herself, does not reach the required number of delegates for nomination. Neither of them appears likely to achieve that number, which means that the superdelegates will have to determine the nomination.