Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quotes of the Day (Arlen Specter and David Broder, on Pennsylvania’s Senior Senator)

"Of course it does. What do you think I am, a mo-ron?"—Arlen Specter, when asked if the prospect of losing his Senate seat would really concern him, quoted in Katie Connolly and Daniel Stone, “Politics: Suddenly Seeking Specter: Why Both Parties Have to Be Super-Nice to a Senator Who Can Be Kind of Prickly,” Newsweek, April 13, 2009

“Specter's history shouts the lesson that he will stick with you only as long as it serves his own interests -- and not a day longer.”—David S. Broder, “Specter the Defector,” The Washington Post, April 30, 2009

It seems to me only yesterday that the Democratic Party wanted Arlen Specter’s head on a pike for being mean to Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. I also remember members of the party being a bit bent out of shape at Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman for sleeping with the enemy by speaking for the nominees at the GOP convention in the last two Presidential contests.

Now all is changed—changed utterly—by Specter’s decision to bolt from the GOP. Yes, he may be an SOB, the line of the day is now, but at least he's our SOB--the one who'll put us closer to the filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

Broder, the dean of DC reporters, has the most balanced perspective on Specter’s whiplash-inducing change of sides over the years: Yes, in one sense, the latest move testifies to the increasing enfeeblement of the Republicans in the Northeast, but Specter’s maneuvers have been motivated by nothing less than ambition and political survival.

First, Specter changed from his affiliation from Democrat to Republican in the 1960s so he could run against his boss as district attorney in Philadelphia. This year, trailing in polls for the GOP primary, he decided the best way to keep his seat would be to jump back to the Democrats.

Aside from the naked ambition on display, Specter’s decision is the most pathetic case I can think of related to the spiritual emptiness of those who occupy U.S. Senate seats. They now believe that, like Supreme Court justices, their seats are for life.

So here we have the spectacle of a man who, aged 79 and following a serious health scare, instead of thinking it might be a good idea to get better acquainted with his family after all these years and enjoy himself a little while he still has the time, can think of nothing better to do than to hold on to power at all costs.

Well, on second thought, maybe Specter’s family would rather not become better acquainted with him. That “mo-ron” quote says an awful lot about his equanimity, doesn’t it? Think he’s the easiest relative to have around at the Thanksgiving table? Didn’t think so.

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