Sunday, November 4, 2012

Arlen Specter, R.I.P.

Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter,
the Keystone State's longest serving senator, died after
a long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of
cancer. He was 82.

A liberal, Specter first ran for public office as a Democrat
in Philadelphia in the early 1960s, running for the office of
District Attorney after having made a name for himself as
an assistant D.A. by sending six Teamster union officials
to prison on charges of corruption.

A native of Kansas, he came to Pennsylvania
to attend the University of Pennsylvania, then
settled in the state after graduation, getting involved in
politics. After switching parties, he won his first term in
the U.S. Senate, benefiting from Ronald Reagan's long
and broad coattails along with many other Republican
office seekers nationwide.

In the thirty years Specter was in the senate he voted
many times with Democrats on various bills, often incur-
ring the wrath of the Republican leadership and the
consternation of GOP Presidents Reagan, Bush 1 and
Bush 2. Although he had switched parties, he didn't
switch ideologies. He became a legislative ally of Big
Labor, despite his prosecutorial past in Philadelphia.
Specter also helped "Bork" Judge Robert H. Bork,
denying him a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court when
he was put forward by President George H.W. Bush.
But he made up for that particular action by grilling
Anita Hill mercilessly when she attempted to disgrace
then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with
allegations of sexual harassment, accusations which
held no water where the truth was concerned. Liberals
were enraged by Specter as a result.

In the 1990s Specter helped defeat President Bill Clinton's
bid to establish a national health care plan. A few
years later he ran for President but dropped out of the
race for the GOP nomination before the first primary
due to a lack of funding for his campaign and low poll

In 2010 Specter returned to the Democrat Party, thinking
he had a better chance of getting into the general election
that way, as he was far behind the eventual GOP nominee
(and senator-elect) Pat Toomey, a candidate he narrowly
beat out for the GOP nod six years earlier, in the polls. 
He lost in the Democrat's primary to Joe Sestak, who went
on to lose to Toomey in the general election.

Specter could be quite arrogant with those whom he
disagreed with on political matters; your connected Peasant
heard him be condescending to conservative radio talk show
host Laura Ingraham on her show, taking offense at her
direct and probing questions in an interview with the
liberal Republican senator. He shot back at her with
"Now listen, young lady ... " as if he were addressing a
10-year-old girl railing against not being allowed to go
to the local mall with her friends. He could also be
stroppy with colleagues and constituents who would
fail to agree with him on the issues. But sometimes he
could, as I have mentioned a few paragraphs earlier,
cooperate with the Republican leadership and assist
in achieving a legislative or other political goal, whether
he did so because he saw the light on the matter or
he felt the heat from his colleagues and/or his consti-

He was a fairly interesting character; he could be a pain
in the backside, he could make one throw up one's hands
in despair, he could make one ask "What's he doing in
the Republican Party with his Democrat views?" But in
the end, he proved to be too liberal for one party and
too conservative for the other. He died a man without
a political home. So ends an interesting life filled with
many twists, turns, and not a few ironies. May he enjoy
peaceful repose.


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