Lyndon LaRouche has been back in the news. Not only is the leader himself on trial for the political equivalent of credit card fraud, but in Illinois the two LaRouche candidates who managed to torpedo Adlai Stevenson’s gubernatorial campaign are both running again.

LaRouche is, so far as we can tell, an unlikable crank without principles or policies. Still, we wish the press would quit referring to him as “political extremist Lyndon LaRouche.” In a country that has learned to accept politicians at their own valuation, why isn’t LaRouche simply an idealist or a visionary? After all, Harold Washington is now widely described as a political reformer, Mario Cuomo is the tough and principled hope of the Democratic Party, Lowell Weicker and John Warner both claim to be Republicans in good standing. Jack Kemp says he is a conservative, Paul Simon claims to be a Missouri Synod Lutheran while voting consistently for abortion rights, and Jim Wright talks to Daniel Ortega on behalf of the people of the United States. Does LaRouche have that much less integrity than, say, the Rev. Jesse Jackson? Are his ideas that much more absurd than either the Democrats’ or the Republicans’ proposals for welfare reform or federally subsidized day care? Is the average member of Congress more principled in his financial affairs? After all, LaRouche just scams his followers’ credit cards: he doesn’t take “donations” and “speaker’s fees” from companies hoping to influence legislation.

If we wonder why a crackpot like LaRouche can attract enough followers to annoy people in airports, it is because there is hardly a politician in the country who is willing even to talk about the concerns that most decent citizens have on their minds. (TF)