Lantos has cancer, won't seek re-election

January 2, 2008 7:40:25 PM PST
Bay Area Congressman Tom Lantos revealed today that he has esophageal cancer and will not seek re-election.

His current term expires in January of 2009. Lantos plans to serve it out as he battles cancer. He has spent 27 years in congress, rising to chair the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs . He told me he had hoped to use that position to help shape U.S. foreign policy and to fight for human rights.

Tom Lantos has been on the floor of congress for most of three decades. He is a dedicated champion of human rights with a background and authority.

"He is a very unique individual. He is a walking history," says Tom Campbell, Former Congressman (R).

Campbell was on the other side of the aisle from Lantos. They were the only Bay Area representatives to push for the U.S. to go after Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War.

"We believed it was wise and necessary to use military force to drive Saddam Hussein back out of Kuwait and that was not a popular view in the Bay Area."

Campbell says it was Tom Lantos' experience as a native born Hungarian that shaped him. He witnessed Hitler's march into Hungary, escaped twice from Nazi death camps, and his family was killed in the holocaust.

"No one could talk with more authority on the issue of suffering tyranny and our moral obligation to help those who are oppressed than Tom Lantos," says Campbell.

We saw it just a few weeks ago as Lantos grilled the chairman of Yahoo for cooperating with the Chinese government by providing identity information on dissidents.

Lantos told me he wanted to return the U.S. to a place that was admired and respected among the nations of the world. He felt the best way to do that was to fight for human rights, regardless of the political or economic consequences.

"I believed that of him. I believe that of him today and that will be very hard to replace in the House of Representatives," says Campbell.

Tom Lantos learned that he had esophageal cancer a few days before Christmas. After getting a second opinion and talking it over with his family, he made the decision not to run for reelection.