Politics Is Not Fantasy

by Geraldo Rivera | May 31, 2013

There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings where my favorite character, the aging, battle-weary Théoden, King of Rohan is confronted with a profound dilemma.

Determined to honor his ancient oath and ride to the rescue of his ally the besieged nation of Gondor, he is told that his forces are insufficient to defeat the enemy, evil Mordor.

“No. We can not. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless,” Théoden answers grimly, doomed by honor and destiny to perish in what seems a lost cause. And he dies, but because of his sacrifice the good guys ultimately win.

Improbably that scene came to mind just now as I wrestled with whether to seek the Republican nomination for the Senate seat from New Jersey left vacant by the death of 89-year old, five-term incumbent Frank Lautenberg. Before the mocking birds flutter, let me explain. In New Jersey registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 700,000 votes, and no Republican has been elected senator since Clifford Case in 1972. Important Republicans have spent millions trying, including former congressman Dick Zimmer, state senators Tom Kean Jr. and Joe Kryllos and Heisman Trophy winning Army general Pete Dawkins. Further, the likely Democratic candidate Newark mayor Corey Booker is popular, flush with cash and buoyed by Hollywood, Silicon Valley and an adoring press. The electoral clash therefore will be as one-sided as Théoden faced when leading his riders against Mordor.

But for someone like me whose entire professional life has been a long shot that struggle appealed. Importantly, I am convinced that to survive and prosper the Republican Party must adopt a more centrist view of the world; one that maintains fiscal discipline and promotes personal responsibility, but which also recognizes that draconian policies on everything from gay marriage to abortion rights to immigration reform have no future in a changing America.

So I was juiced to make a run or at least give the prospect of running every consideration. Then Governor Chris Christie surprised the world by pulling his electoral stunt, scheduling a special October 2013 election that the New York Times correctly called “expensive, awkwardly timed and unlikely to help Republicans---other than himself.” Suddenly, the election originally scheduled for November 2014 was now just four months away. More urgently, the deadline for collecting signatures and filing the requisite documents of candidacy for the August 2013 primary is a mere four days away, Monday June 10th at 4pm.

Because of Equal Time and other restrictions, regulations and contractual commitments that would also be my last day as a Fox News correspondent and as a Cumulus Media syndicated radio host.

Over the last 24 hours I reached out to former GOP candidates, consultants, colleagues and friends frantically testing everything from my ideological viability to prospective budgets.     

Ultimately, I concluded that whatever else it is, New Jersey politics is not a fantasy novel. For one thing, the energetic and engaging Mayor Booker is not the Dark Lord. And while I may be willing to die for the right cause, I’m not willing to bankrupt myself in a vain quest that is more Don Quixote than Lord of the Rings. In a meeting Thursday night with my wife Erica and two adult daughters, 18-year old Simone and 20-year old Isabella, the ladies of my life argued strenuously against a campaign odyssey that would exhaust our finances and expose us to the ravages of unlimited Super PAC money and tabloid scrutiny.

For their sakes and mine, I have decided reluctantly not to run.

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