Friday, 01 May 2009 18:20

Arlen Specter: Opportunist to the End

The Democrats may have won the election. But thanks to the likes of Rendell, Reid, Markos Moulitsas, Jane Hamsher, and Thom Hartmann, they are still in search of their souls, writes Jim DiEugenio.

The announcement came down on April 28th. Former Warren Commission counsel and longtime Senator Arlen Specter decided to switch parties. He will run for re-election next year as a Democrat, not as a Republican. This surprised many. But it shouldn't' t have. Especially if you know Specter and have contacts on the ground in Pennsylvania. And as my review of Legacy of Secrecy showed, CTKA does.

specter obama
Specter and Obama

Specter had a difficult time getting through his GOP primary in 2004. In fact, he barely beat former Representative Pat Toomey, besting him by just 17,000 votes. In a state as large as Pennsylvania, that is a narrow victory. The so-called Club for Growth had backed Toomey. This is a very conservative and very wealthy group of businessmen who are fanatical free marketers of the Milton Friedman stripe. For them Social Security is socialism. Their ultimate goal is to repeal every aspect of the New Deal. Which is not very economically or politically practical. But if you have that kind of money, practicality doesn't matter. Someone will take up your marker. As Toomey did in 2004.

But here's where it gets interesting. According to our sources, Toomey had sworn off running this time around. But when Specter was one of the three Republican senators to back President Obama's stimulus package, the Club for Growth took notice and didn't like it. At all. To keep the Republican Party in check, they gave Toomey the OK to announce another run against Specter.

This put Specter in a difficult situation. In 2004, he had a tough time of it against Toomey. But now it would be even worse. Why? Because the Democratic primary for president in Pennsylvania last year lasted almost seven weeks. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went at it mano a mano in every town, village and city across the state. In the process, they switched over 150,000 voters from the GOP ranks to the Democratic Party. This trend was evident even in traditionally conservative enclaves like Lancaster. Obviously, the great majority of those switching had to be moderates and not bedrock Rush Limbaugh type conservatives. Consequently, the defections hurt Specter and helped Toomey. What makes it worse is that Pennsylvania primaries are closed: Only Republicans can vote in the GOP primary. Specter saw the handwriting on the wall. He was going to have to face a very well funded challenger in a very hard fought primary. And now the make up of the electorate had drastically changed. An early Rasmussen poll had Toomey with a substantial lead.

Putting his finger in the wind, he nevertheless found a way to draw the defection as a matter of principle. (He always does.) Specter said, "I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party." Being a bit more candid, he added "I am not prepared to have my 29 year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."

If you know anything about Specter's career, this is not really surprising. Here is a guy who really didn't care much about the death of President Kennedy. He saw very early what the heavy hitters on the Warren Commission wanted. He went ahead and gave it to them. And they sensed he was so eager to do their bidding that they gave him free rein over the medical and ballistics evidence. And after several meetings, Specter got the Kennedy pathologists to go along with the unbelievable and nonsensical Single Bullet Theory. Which he has stood by since, knowing the MSM will back him up on it. After that disgraceful performance, when he couldn't win the Philadelphia DA's office as a Democrat, he switched to the Republican Party. And he stayed on that side for forty years. As long as he stood a good chance of winning. But now he doesn't. So he tries to paper that over by saying its really about philosophical differences.

What is surprising to me though is that the Democrats seem eager to accept this guy. In addition to being a cover up artist in the Crime of the Century, here is a man who backed the shameful Vietnam War. Who voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. Who was the appointed attack dog in the absolutely nauseating Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings. Who was part of the GOP lynch mop in the goofy impeachment hearings against President Clinton. And in fact, just a little over a month ago, he told the Washington political newsletter The Hill that he would consider running for re-election as an independent, but not as a Democrat. Since if any GOP senator would switch, the Democrats would have control of all Congress, and he didn't find that an appealing prospect.

Yet Governor Ed Rendell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Obama are eager to get him on board. For instance, Reid said, "I welcome Senator Specter and his moderate voice to our diverse caucus." (AP story, 4/28) And Rendell-a Democrat-- suggested a meeting in Washington this week so the party leadership could endorse Specter's candidacy. (ibid) What is incredible about this last statement is that it came from Specter. So Rendell and he have been talking about this at length. Which of course, tells you something about Specter. Here is a guy who will be 80 years old next year. Yet five terms in the Senate is not enough for him. He feels entitled to the seat for life.

My question to Obama, Reid, and Rendell is simple: Why? The ostensible reason seems to be that the Democrats are salivating at the chance to get a sixty-vote majority in the Senate. And when Al Franken is finally sworn in to the senate seat from Minnesota, with Specter, they will have the sixty votes. But at what cost? As one can see from the record above, Specter is not a Progressive dream of a Democrat. He is very damaged goods. Further, the Democrats will almost certainly win that Pennsylvania Senate seat next year, against either Toomey or Specter. So in actuality, Specter needs the Democratic Party more than they need him. Bottom line: Do the Democrats really want or need another Joe Lieberman in their party?

The answer apparently is: Yes. They would rather back someone like Specter than have an open Democratic primary. That would risk the prospect of having a progressive, e.g. Joe Hoeffel, Barb Hafer, or Chuck Penacchio win the race and beat Toomey. Rendell is an old style party boss in Pennsylvania-think Richard Daley. He backed Clinton in the primary last year and forced the major city mayors to jump on board, or he would cut them off from party funds. In 2006, he forced Hoeffel and Hafer off the senate ballot to clear the way for the moderate Robert Casey. And the early reports off of MSNBC, say he cut the same deal for Specter. Which is probably why Specter now finds running as a Democrat "an appealing prospect" when he didn't just a month ago. Imagine promising a free ride in the Democratic primary to a Republican with a track record like Specter's. So from the early indications, it appears that Rendell and Clinton probably worked behind the scenes to invite the Warren Commission mastermind inside the party he helped kill. And of which he was a member at the time.

This is the man the Democrats plan to back next year. In a race they could win easily on their own with a real Democrat. First, Kirsten Gillibrand and the NRA in New York. Now Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission in Pennsylvania.

The Democrats may have won the election. But thanks to the likes of Rendell, Reid, Markos Moulitsas, Jane Hamsher, and Thom Hartmann, they are still in search of their souls.

- Jim DiEugenio

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