The New York Times' editorial endorsement of Frank Lautenberg comes as little surprise. After all, the NYT board has endorsed the junior-senior-junior-senior senator from the Garden State since he first ran for the seat back in 1982.
What is a bit puzzling is their new cut on the age issue.
In 1982, the NYT board called Millicent Fenwick a "passionate advocate, with a long record of public service. She speaks out for the poor, minorities and older citizens and is strong on environmental issues, (10/27/1992)."
But they went on to say this: "Then there is a delicate question of age, one that few people mention out loud but that many whisper about. At 72, could Mrs. Fenwick be expected to serve more than one term?"
And last year, in an editorial headlined "The Ages of Mr. Lautenberg" (7/29/07), The Times resurrected Lautenberg's thinly veiled references to Fenwick as a "national monument". The Times called Lautenberg's comment "a none-too-subtle suggestion that at 72 she might have been too old for the job."
In the same editorial, the NYT board opined: "There is little doubt that age will be an issue in the campaign. The veteran Democrat will be obliged to take it head-on in debates and interviews so that voters can judge for themselves whether he will be up to another six years in office."
But the vigorous debates and interviews The Times once thought were so necessary didn't occur and Lautenberg seemed to fall short on specifics at other editorial stops along the campaign trail.
In its endorsement on Tuesday, The Times claimed Rob Andrews failed to make "a convincing case on the age issue…"
Too bad, Mrs. Fenwick didn't get that same pass.