The Labor Day parade has begun to wind its way through downtown Denver, and Ellen Moran has to raise her voice above the brass band to explain how Dottie Lamm is going to beat Republican Ben Nighthorse-Campbell in the Colorado Senate race this fall. The presidential sex scandal may be the only thing on the minds of people in Washington, explains Moran, who is Lamm's campaign manager, but outside the Beltway voters still care about the Issues: education, crime, health care. Especially health care. According to Moran, Lamm spent much of the summer talking to "real people" and meditating on their demands for HMO reform. Just the other day, Moran says, Lamm spoke to a woman who suffers from "really bad acid reflux. The HMO changed her medication four times." That's the nature of the crisis in managed care, Moran explains -- "it affects everybody."
More resources for indigestion? This is the issue with which Dottie Lamm, a 61-year-old former airline stewardess who has never held elected office, is going to defeat an incumbent U.S. senator? No, says Moran, it's more than that. "This campaign is about Dottie and what she stands for."
What does Dottie stand for? Ordinarily it would be difficult to know, since apart from her years as the wife of Colorado governor Richard Lamm, Dottie Lamm has never been in politics. Thanks to her 17 years as a columnist for the Denver Post, however, what Dottie Lamm stands for can be known with some precision. Dottie Lamm is for ending human life.
In addition to unusually aggressive stands in favor of abortion, population control, and euthanasia (the last, she predicted in 1994, "will become the civil rights movement of the 2020s"), Lamm used her column to make frequent and relatively straightforward pitches for killing children. "I would disconnect every incubator from every baby with a birth weight of less than 1 pound, ten ounces," Lamm wrote in a 1992 column that was accompanied by a photograph of one of the babies she believed should die. "Should we keep thousands of tiny preemies alive to the tune of millions of dollars on life supports because there will be an occasional 'miracle'?" she asked. "No we shouldn't."
Lamm describes herself as fiscally conservative, and it's true that for almost two decades she warned readers of how expensive it can be when poor people are allowed to have children. In 1984, for example, Lamm noted that "it costs 15 times as much for a Medicaid patient to deliver a full-term infant and raise it on public funds for 17 months -- the average length of stay on welfare in Colorado -- as it does for her to abort." Four years earlier, Lamm had taken a trip to China and returned full of bubbly enthusiasm for the country's totalitarian family-planning policies, which she described as "first rate." The Chinese, Lamm wrote approvingly in February 1980, feel no need to pursue "an ethic of 'individual freedom' such as ours."
Nor, Lamm has implied, should they be allowed to. What the world "needs the most," Lamm wrote in early 1992, is "fewer people" -- specifically, fewer children in developing countries, where a "cultural mandate to reproduce" has driven birth rates to rat-like levels. "Population Boom: Control it now or perish from the Earth," warned the headline of a typical Lamm column on the subject.
But curiously, Lamm, who has two children of her own, is not at all concerned about birth rates in the United States, at least among white suburbanites. In a June 1986 column, Lamm proposed a kind of yuppie eugenics program in which young adults who might otherwise spend their money on "the condo, the car, the travel plans, the meals out" would be given financial rewards by the government for becoming parents.
"Because the fact is that many of the best and brightest working couples in our society are not having children," Lamm wrote. "I'm serious. (Or I would be if I were a legislator.)"
Twelve years on, Lamm is hoping to become a legislator, and columns like these aren't helping at all. How to account for published views that are both ghoulish and totally unacceptable to most voters, even in Colorado? The ideal response would be to claim some terrible mix-up, perhaps blaming another Dottie Lamm for writing them. Lamm's press secretary, Omar Jabara, does the next best thing: He pleads journalistic insanity. "She was a columnist," Jabara says, as if this explained everything. "Her job was to push the envelope. The standards for columnists and legislators are very different."
But what about the 1988 column in which Lamm suggested that legislators impose "a weight limit" on newborns "under which no heroics would be permitted"? Would she take the same argument to the Senate floor? And how about the column she wrote a year earlier in which she suggested that lawmakers "impose an age limit of 55 for public funding and insurance payments for the more expensive [organ] transplants"? How will that play with the AARP? Jabara doesn't miss a beat. "She would never, ever advocate legislation on that. That would be outrageous."
Not surprisingly, no one in the Lamm campaign wants to spend a lot of time talking about the candidate's former career as a pundit. Instead, Lamm is hoping to undermine Campbell's support by pointing out that as a senator he has moved steadily rightward since switching to the Republican party in 1995. During the 1992 campaign, for example, Campbell boasted of his "100 percent rating with the National Abortion
Rights Action League." (That year, NARAL spent at least $ 200,000 in his behalf.) Once he became a Republican, Campbell voted to restrict access to abortion for women on overseas military bases. Lamm describes this as a "flip-flop," and it may be. Yet few Campbell supporters are likely to care.
Campbell's popularity in Colorado seems to have more to do with his image as a western man of action than with specific votes he has cast. And Campbell's image is one thing that hasn't changed since 1992. Ads that ran during his first campaign stressed Campbell's tough early life and subsequent personal achievements. "Imagine this," began one such spot. "A young Native American. His mother the victim of tuberculosis, his father of chronic alcoholism." By the time the ad was over, viewers had learned about Campbell's experiences in an orphanage, as a Korean War veteran, schoolteacher, paramedic, Olympic athlete, military policeman, agricultural worker, husband, father, and rancher. Just when you thought Campbell's c.v. couldn't get more packed, the ad went on to say that Campbell was an Indian chief (of the Northern Cheyenne), as well as a committed environmentalist. The commercial ended with Campbell riding his horse across an open prairie.
It was a winning image, and the 1998 Campbell campaign is likely to emphasize that the senator is still the rough-hewn individualist he's been since the beginning. "I've always had motorcycles," Campbell told the Rocky Mountain News this summer. "I've always worn a ponytail. I haven't owned shoes since 1964 [only boots, one gathers]. Why should I stop all that just because I'm in public office?"
Dottie Lamm, meanwhile, is still trying to define her image for Colorado voters. The latest Clinton scandals may have helped. A longtime Clinton supporter, Lamm now says she would not welcome a fund-raising visit from the president, despite the fact her campaign badly needs the money. What the president did with Monica Lewinsky, she says, was simply too "immoral." And, Lamm explains brightly, "the whole theme of my campaign is moral values. We've got a crisis of moral values in this country."
Dottie Lamm as Bill Bennett. It may be the unlikeliest image of all.
Tucker Carlson is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD.