Pseudo-Republicans for Kerry

Apparently desperately angry over the highly publicized endorsement and campaigning that George W. Bush is receiving from Democratic Sen. Zell Miller (Ga.), the Kerry campaign has expended considerable effort on scrounging up and trotting out trotting out Republicans who are crossing party lines for the Democratic nominee. But finding a “cross-endorser” of the stature of a sitting U.S. senator is very difficult and there is no one approaching a Miller among the Republicans for Kerry.

One of the earliest GOPers to break ranks for the Democratic nominee was liberal Rita Hauser, New York lawyer, foundation head, and socialite. Hauser last made political news in 1980 when she resigned from the presidential campaign committee of John Connally after the Texan became one of the earliest American politicians to support a Palestinian homeland. Another defector is retired Gen. John S. D. Eisenhower, former ambassador to Belgium and son of Ike, who has never been active in the GOP (Kerry bragged about Eisenhower’s endorsement in the first presidential debate).

The latest Republicans-for-Kerry are two elderly past liberal governors from the Midwest: William G. Milliken, governor of Michigan from 1969-82, and Elmer L. Andersen, governor of Minnesota from 1960-62.

The liberal media have lavished much attention on the backing given Kerry by the 83-year-old Milliken and the 95-year-old Andersen, both of whom denounced Bush and the conservatives around him in strongly worded terms. “Pandering to the extreme right wing,” is how Michigan’s Milliken described the agenda of the son of the man he supported for President against Ronald Reagan in 1980. “[He] has exacerbated the polarization and the strident, uncivil tone of much of what passes for political discourse in this country today.” Specifically, the former governor told the Traverse City (Mich.) Record-Eagle that he disagreed with Bush on starting the Iraqi war, pushing tax cuts, and blocking what he called “meaningful” stem cell research.

In an open letter he posted on-line that has been widely published, Andersen charged that Bush “has led us into an unjustified war–based on misguided and blatantly false misrepresentations of the threat of weapons of mass destruction” and claimed that “this country is in the hands of an evil man: Dick Cheney. It is eminently clear that it is he who is running the country, not George W. Bush.”

Andersen, retired head of the Fortune 50 H.B. Fuller Co. and ECM publishing company, did not explain in his letter why he felt Cheney was evil.

Strong medicine from the two men all right. But to anyone who knows them, this is just par for the course for both politicians from the past.

Asked if he was surprised Milliken was backing Kerry, veteran Michigan Republican campaign consultant Dan Pero responded, “About as surprised to find out the sun’s coming up in the East and setting in the West. Milliken’s Republican Party isn’t the Republican Party of everyone else here. His is “Democrat Lite.” Pero recalled how Milliken has long disagreed with conservatives on cultural issues and that in the 1970s and ’80s he was a vocal supporter of abortion while the leading pro-life voice in Lansing was that of Democratic House Speaker William A. Ryan.

“But Milliken has never been a team player for Republicans,” Pero said, recalling how he couldn’t get the former governor to sign letters for GOP legislative candidates. Pero added that Milliken’s support of Kerry “is not unexpected, when one considers his lack of support for Republicans here.” Indeed, he noted, Milliken never supported 1982 GOP nominee Dick Headlee, Republican Gov. (1990-2002) John Engler, or ’02 nominee Dick Posthumus, who narrowly lost the statehouse to Democrat Jennifer Granholm. In all of the gubernatorial campaigns since ’82, the former governor’s wife Helen supported the Democratic candidate, Pero noted.

Minnesota’s Andersen became an overnight political star in 1960, when he unseated Democratic Gov. (1954-60) Orville Freeman, who had placed John F. Kennedy’s name in nomination for President at the Democratic convention that year. In 1962, however, Andersen was turned out of office by Democrat Karl Rolvaag by a 91-vote margin. His assistant Ani Sorenson, who told me the former governor “was having a busy day” and couldn’t come to the phone. However, she pointed out that his support of Democrats was nothing new, and that he had even contributed to a number of Democratic candidates in recent years. Which Democrats? “[’02 gubernatorial nominee] Roger Moe, [the late, far-left Sen.] Paul Wellstone, and [present Sen.] Mark Dayton. Gov. Andersen contributed to all of them,” she said.

These then are the latest “Republicans for Kerry.”