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Specter is an Unprincipled Hack (Really)

...which why his switch is deeply uninteresting on one level. On another, astute unprincipled hacks do know which way the wind is blowing these days.
Categories > Congress

Discussions - 23 Comments

Some bitter and snotty thoughts,

1. I have lost no respect for Arlen Specter.

2.A rule for The Club for Growth: If Ramesh Ponnuru thinks you are too rigid in enforcing conservative orthodoxy, you might want to rethink your actions.

3. This will likely set off a new round of pointless and destructive recriminations of the "good riddance to moderate rubbish" vs. "lets please stroke the moderates" variety. The problem is not that the Republicans have too many or too few moderates. It is that there is no popular and relevant conservative issue agenda or strategy for winning over new constituencies. Neither driving out the Specters not becoming more like them is the answer.

4. On a related note, most liberals I've been reading seem to assume that Pat Toomey is going to lose. The best conservative response I have seen is that it is a long time until November 2010. Fair enough but hope is not a winning strategy. The widespead assumption that a conservative cannot win statewide in state like Pennsylvania is a sign of the weakness of the conservative agenda of the moment.

5. The case of California under the Terminater demonstrates the fultility of liberal Republicanism - from a conservative perspective.

1. I have lost no respect for Arlen either...because I didn't have any.

2. I lost respect for the "Club for Growth" when they fraudulently attacked Mike Huckabee in the GOP primaries. Like every organization, they soon lose sight of principle and become vehicles carrying politicians to power.

3. Specter was a cancer, so removing him was good. Not all moderates are so powerful (judiciary committee chair during Bush) nor such a pain in the butt.

4. Hope was a winning strategy for Obama.

5. Pennsylvania has been moving left for some time, so merely b/c the wind is blowing one way in PA, doesn't mean the wind is the same elsewhere.

Clint, I don't know if I would say that Pennsylvania has been moving left for some time. The cities of PA have, but the rural areas are still solidly conservative. The problem is that the cities outweigh the rural areas living many that live in these parts of the state to feel as if they have no voice.

The local Erie new station was bashing Spector big time, so I don't think that his calculation is going to pay off. If you missed his little speech, he basically said that people that vote in primaries are too untrustworthy for him to risk loosing his 29 career over. Excuse me! I thought that our whole system was to allow the people to have a voice. This isn't sitting well with people in Northwest PA.

And lastly, I think that it is wrong for a candidate to switch their party (regardless of which way they go) in the middle of the term. Spector, for all of his liberal faults, was elected by Republican people in PA. He should be forced to stay Republican until the next term, at which point the people could vote for him as a new party man. But then, that would mean that he would have to listen to the people.

Clint, I think you might have missed the irony of point # 1. There was also a lot more to Obama's 2008 win than hope. There was also a carefully crafted rhetoric that energized the liberal base and was unoffensive to peruadables. There was also the unearned advantage of discredited Republican rule but there is nothing wrong with being lucky in timing, and he had done the hard work of being (politically) ready when the oppurtunity arose. When a conservative(or more conservative than Specter anyway) Republican has a chance of winnig statewide in Pennsylvania (or California, or Michigan), conservatives will know they have discovered a political formula for the present time. It isn't as crazy as it sounds. The late 70s tax revolt started reached national attention in the then unlikely places of California and Massachusetts.

Pete, I got it, but didn't want to put words in your mouth.

I agree it isn't crazy that conservatives will win again. Most of Obama's victory should be chalked up to the unearned part that you talk about. When conservatives win again, it will be largely b/c of an unearned boost caused by democrat failures.

Lori, yes there are conservative small towns in PA, but from a statewide perspective we both agree that the general electorate has moved left. Philly's suburbs and the growing part of SE PA have become increasingly democratic and the rest of the state is shrinking in relative population.

Clint I agree with you on 99% of your last post, but I would argue that when oppurtunity knocks again (you are right that it will probably come from Democrat failures), conservatives will have to have policies and strategies designed for the moment. Obama's victory was not simply neagative. I think that a Howard Dean loses the 2008 election to McCain because Dean was too rhetorically undisciplined and tempermentally too much of a turn off to persuadable voters. Obama was also a master at turning rhetorically to the right on some issues (like gun rights) amd taking the tax issue away from the Republicans to pick just two examples. Republicans didn't just lose, Obama won, and did so by running on a statist, socially liberal agenda. Conservatives can hope that we will get another oppurtunity, but oppurtunity alone will not be enough. Conservatives will need policies that speak to the salient issues of the moment and (demographics patterns being what they are)political strategies for winning over voters who have no history of voting for the Republican party and have not bought into the conservative narrative of the last forty years.

Lori Hahn, was Spector elected by Republicans in PA? I always assumed that "moderate" Democrats voted for him, too, giving him the office. My mother, a Democrat, thinks he is a fine fellow, principled and discerning.

Remember that this hack likely saved Clarence Thomas from going down ignominiously. It's good to have hacks on your side. Think of all those southern Dems who went over to the Reps, after Reagan. Bush-Rove made the Reps another redistributionist party, just more retail than wholesale. Specter's just doing what a politician does under pressure.

Old Arlen pretty much has guaranteed hiself re-election in 2010. As a democrat he can avoid a primary battle, and will then have every democrat voting for him in the general; government employees, union workers, blacks, hispanics, et al. He will also get the country club Republicans in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh who will not support a social conservative if they can help it. Pat Toomey will lose about as big as Rick Santorum did back in 2006 (if he is lucky).
Incidentally, the state hasn't really moved left all that much. The democrats' constituencies have gotten bigger, but Pennsylvania has only had on conservative senator, Republican or Democrat, in living memory (Santorum; and he was elected in the 1994 GOP landslide, and just barely re-elected in 2000). Past Senators, Democrat or Republican, have been liberal or middle-of-the-roaders.

The smart take on this is at -- John Podhoretz's post about the difference between a political party and an ideological movement. Specter is scum, but let's not allow this usual degree of betrayal blind us to the value of having more than a few moderates in the GOP, especially in states like PA where it can't otherwise win a Senate seat.

John Podherentz's post is solid realism, unfortunatly that doesn't do much for me or Clint I suspect. I also don't suspect folks would be calling him a snake or a traitor if he had not switched parties(us proles would still be unelightened about the truth) With the limited time I have to follow politics I don't even bother tracking politicians because I take the realist view articulated by Podherentz at face value...but I also don't believe in articulating a conservatism that can be wiggled out of. So I don't follow these guys, I don't need to. I give a glance at Gallup and know what I need to know...the political tracker could have guessed that Specter would defect...if he was a stock I would have already put him over on the other side...along with his voteing record and the challenge brewing in PA, all I need is the Gallup poll showing the Bernake democrat/republican cross. This to my mind is unthinkable, but predictable... The gap is essentially created by folks talking down the fiscal policies of team Obama, but there is no grounds for ever supporting Bernake or supporting Geitner when a republican was in charge and then changing course when a democrat is in charge. I mean these guys just aren't that political I promise. Our economic policy ain't going to change much because Macroeconomics ain't exactly as maleable as post-modernist might like to confuse folks about...I read the whole range and even the marxist/german historical school William Cunningham et al...those insights which would be incorporated are lumped together in the Chicago School project fusion of sociology and economics, representatives of these strains are on Team Obama.

Dr. Lawler it seems can't bad mouth both Specter and Locke...Specter is just staying true to his support of Bernake and Geithner in the malestorm of populist republican indignation over rampant Keynesianism(don't make me pull quotes). Look you guys create this crap...folks don't have time to follow politics so you get to craft the immage...fair enough there is no way I can keep up from my own private Idaho...Toqueville is right. But the truth is exactly what Ken Thomas is argueing in eight, albeit to be consistent and the only way to be so seems to me to affix yourself to an epistemology/policy skeleton or a way of thinking/organizing about an issue...if Specter really is a supporter of Bernake and Geithner then political pressure be damned the basic tennets of economics that these guys follow hasn't miraculously changed...what has changed is the republican support/spin. I am actually happy to see Specter defect, what I want is clarity about where politicians stand in regards economic policy...the sort of Gallup poll fluctuation in Bernake(which is as close to systematic/predetermined as politics gets.)

Look this stuff is super difficult and that is why I don't really trust our democratic/capitalist/socialist blend or congress...and what tipped me to the gallup poll was that I was asked the question, and I flat out told them that if I knew the answer to if Bernake was right or wrong my time would be too valuable to answer the damn phone call. But I gave him the thumbs up on the strength of the Great Crash.

But you guys just can't convince me to hate Bernake or Geithner when I am convinced that under McCain the policy would have been damn near identical the spin would simply have differed.

Dr. Lawler has no hope of convincing me that he can develop a blend of economics and sociology that isn't essentially traveling in the ruts of the Chicago School...but again that is why smart Catholics concerned with the economy more than reccurent life issues are supporting Obama.

Dr. Lawler is I guess at least partially mad at Specter for being astute, and maybe he is also a snake. But a problem with the defection of the "moderates" is that you really will be stuck with the other words you are either stuck with the general ideological reasoning behind the Bernake democrat/republican cross over or stuck with defecting like Specter.

But again this is probably wrong, I don't follow politics just political economy.

Were we carrying the Mountain West states as we should, then whether Specter stayed or went would be something of an irrelevancy. It's going to be difficult for Republicans to maintain a fillibuster ability by holding on to states from the Northeast. Such states go consistently for the Democrat nominee for President. The RNC should concentrate cash and resources into gaining the Mountain West states, and controlling them as we do the South. Then even were we not to have majority status in the Senate, we would still have the ability to thwart problematic legislation.

Ken. On the other hand, Specter also helped kill Bork's nomination.

Kate, a lot of Republicans in my part of the state (Warren--Northwest)voted for Spector, even though he was more moderate. Last fall he came to our area to hold town hall meetings and I took my AP class--the place was packed with conservatives who wanted to hear his ideas. My students were pretty impressed with him--after yesterday, however, they think he is a joke--and they will all be voting in the 2010 election!

At this point, the GOP might want to re-introduce the Schiavo legislation, just replacing the name “Terri Schiavo” with Republican.

I think the discussion above of Specter's political motives is pretty complete, so permit me to add some personal reflections regarding Specter. I was the national security adviser to Sen. Bob Kasten (R-WI) in the mid-80s. As such, I got to observe Arlen Specter up close. Politics aside, I thought he was one of the most odious individuals I had ever met. That judgment remains intact.

On numerous occasions, I saw him publicly humiliate his staffers. He frequently blamed them for mistakes he himself had made. His staff reminded me of a kennel full of whipped dogs. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of unpleasant characters in the Senate, but Specter was/is unique.

One of my favorite memories was watching David Chu make a fool out of Specter. The issue was the Marines' MV-22 Osprey. David, who at that time I believe was Director of the Pentagon's office of Program Analysis and Evaluation (PA&E), was critical of the Osprey, and DoD was close to cancelling it.

Since important components of the Osprey were built in PA, there was strong support for the program on the part of the PA congressional delegation. Specter announced that he was going to take Chu and the Pentagon down a notch. The hearing was indeed a bloodbath. But is was Specter whose veins were opened in the knife fight.

You see, Specter is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and David is one of those guys who, when he leave a room, lowers the average IQ there, and then raises it in the next room he enters.

On the one hand, as a Marine, I was a supporter of the MV-22. But as someone who loathed Specter, I was happy to see him get his ass kicked. In the long run, the Osprey survived, but no thanks to Specter.

Mac, a not rhetorical question: Was/Is he worse than McCain?

See Wheat and Weeds for a sober assessment:

"Sorry. I'm just a little grouchy that the Dems think they've elected the Messiah, the Republicans think they're the Remnant of Israel, and it's the American people who'll be undergoing the crucifixion. "

Many have spoken to the political probls besetting the GOP. But Obama is trying to push through an agenda that the people of the Mountain West states aren't likely to be fond of. How is Obama's agenda going to fly in the Dakotas, in Montana, in Colorado. So though Republicans have probs in a Pennsylvania that is increasingly subscribing to the attitudes of the Northeast, Democrats are going to have major probs trying to keep guys like Dorgan, Tim Johnson and others on board.

Obama is going to become something of a "sign," "raised" in political and cultural "contradiction." And I don't think the Democrat Senators from the Mountain West are going to be able to stay on board.

Specter wrote the "Magic Bullet Theory" for the Warren Commission - the investigation into the assassination of JFK. Looks like Specter just wrote himself another Magic Bullet Theory.

It doesn't even seem like the Democrats in PA are too excited about this...and now more democrats are stepping forward to challenge him in the primary--and they are going to use this party switch against him (and his old age). I don't see him winning in 2010.

Thanks for lighting those bulbs in my head, spector is the man behind magic bullet and the bushes went out of their way to help him a few years back knowing he was not going to strengthen the party. It is funny that you think he is a turncoat and a hack now though, i bet the bushes still see him as a good fellow. Is his defection any different than Liberman's? If this does anything it should show how far the corruption is (the guy switches parties so he can get reelected and keep the influence money coming in) and that the paradigm of right vs left may be a reality in the blog average joe world but it means nothing to the elite politician/finance oligarch crowd. Have you all gotten your pig vaccines yet?

I think Specter's going to face a hard fight in the Democratic primary next year, and will lose. It will serve the old weasel right.

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