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McKnight column: Dole deserves more credit for her N.C. work

By David P. McKnight
An impressive array of editorial endorsements for Kay Hagan’s campaign have been made by many leading North Carolina newspapers. Taking nothing away from these editorial endorsement successes of the Hagan senatorial campaign, it can certainly be said that Sen. Elizabeth Dole has received very little editorial credit or publicity for many of the clear accomplishments in her first term.
Dole has even received criticism for her successes, such as spotting the developing problems in the nation’s banking and finance structure but not getting adequate support from her senatorial colleagues or, for that matter, in the press; serving her party unselfishly in a difficult leadership position for the 2004 senatorial campaign nationally, undoubtedly a thankless task for a former presidential candidate in her own right; working for recognition of the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County and southeastern North Carolina; successfully opposing potential closings of U.S. military bases in North Carolina; and protecting delicate wetlands and woodlands in northeastern North Carolina from ruination from an ill-advised Navy landing strip proposal.
Dole was faulted for not being more vociferous about the Navy project deliberations, but the first woman to have led two different cabinet departments surely knows the pitfalls of giving away her senatorial oversight prerogatives by getting too far out from the pier too early in the going. Meanwhile, the issue is still in play, and Dole has managed to defend the entire Albemarle region in the northeastern region of the state from federal targeting for this project, whereas others may have been content to trade one potential site for another.
Dole has hardly received any editorial commendations for these commendable leadership activities.
Either Kay Hagan or Elizabeth Dole can be a strong senator for North Carolina during the next six years in Washington. The Hagan campaign did achieve remarkable successes in the newspaper endorsements competition, but perhaps the North Carolina press has failed to offer at least a small measure of editorial approval for what Dole has in fact accomplished for North Carolina in the U.S. Senate since 2003.
As one who once ran for this same U.S. Senate seat in the 1978 Democratic primary, I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed following every turn on the trail of the journey in this 2008 Senate campaign. I am quite impressed by the qualifications and accomplishments of both the challenger and the incumbent. But as a former editorial writer myself, I prefer to see a little more evenhandedness in editorial assessments of such campaigns as this compared to what we have been reading recently in certain Tar Heel newspaper editorial pages.
So many of these liberal and progressive newspapers pine away for reasonable and forward-looking leadership from “the other party,” the Republican Party. Then when someone like Dole provides just such leadership as these newspapers have been calling for, they wind up omitting any substantial assessments of her political leadership contributions.
Some of the editorial endorsements for State Sen. Hagan have made Dole out to be an uncaring, absentee senator inattentive to the needs of the people of her home state, and all that can be said about this unjust portrayal of her term in the Senate is the old Broadway song refrain: “It ain’t necessarily so.”
– – –
David P. McKnight is a columnist who lives in Raleigh.

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