What's All This Then?

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

As visitors to this blog have noticed, the author is on a quasi blog sabbatical - sometimes writing only two or three times a month. Other tasks are taking up too much of my time to write on a more regular basis - but occasionally issues arise that can’t be ignored by a serious observer of the passing parade - no matter how busy one may be with other matters - and torture and the specter of a "Democratic" Specter are such compelling issues. For today, the subject is Specter the "Democrat."

President Obama has disappointed me a few times since he assumed office and his open arms embrace of Arlen Specter’s political conversion is one of them. He knows as well as anyone that the Specter Switch has nothing to do with a new found political philosophy. To his credit, Specter didn’t try to hide his reasons. He admitted that he’s switching because he wants to hold on to his seat - and that he has a better chance of doing so as a Democrat than as a Republican. Provided of course that someone doesn’t challenge and defeat him in a Democratic primary race - an outcome which I sincerely hope will come to pass. I am no fan of Arlen Specter the Republican or Arlen Specter the Democrat.

It was bad enough when the president welcomed Joe Lieberman back to the Democratic fold with open arms after that worthy did everything he could to deny him a presidential win - at times in what to me was an unforgivably disparaging manner - but at least Lieberman had served most of his Senate career as a Democrat - even if it was in name only. But to promise to campaign for Specter? What if, as I have indicated, there is a primary challenge by a popular Democrat? Would Obama be committed to supporting Specter up to and including actively campaigning for him? Knowing why Specter switched - wouldn’t it have made more sense to have confined his pleased reaction to one of general welcome and not make a commitment that might be difficult to fulfill two years from now?

From what Specter has been saying , his supportive vote on some of the president’s key issues is far from assured. In fact, he has already said that he cannot be counted on to deliver a 60th vote for cloture - if indeed he becomes the sixtieth vote for the "good" side. What the president may have with a "Democratic" Specter is another Lieberman - someone with the ability to support or kill key legislation and who could hold the administration hostage with his one vote.

Republicans in the Senate can usually be counted on to vote in unison on most issues. Obama can’t count on the same kind of support from the Democratic side - so one has to wonder if the addition of the new junior Democratic senator from Pennsylvania is really something to celebrate. He is "junior" isn’t he - being the newly self selected Democratic Senator from his state? Or does his senatorial service as a Republican count toward seniority status in his new role? It was a question I raised when Lieberman got re-elected as the Party of One Senator from Connecticut. Did his seniority begin all over again or did his past service as a Democratic Senator count toward his overall seniority? And in Specter’s case, he’ll be joining Bob Casey who has been the one and only, legitimately elected Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania since January, 2007. That’s 28 months longer than Specter’s Democratic service. Wouldn’t that make him subservient to Casey in seniority - at least in Democratic party membership?

Specter is supposed to be - or supposed to have been a "moderate" Republican and so, the conventional wisdom goes - wouldn’t have too much trouble going along with a Democratic agenda. I suppose compared to someone like John Kyl or Jim Inhofe you could call Specter a moderate - but then compared to those two, you could call almost anyone a moderate. What I would call Specter is unreliable - someone who might talk a good game and sound reasonable but who can’t be counted on to put his actions where his mouth is. I penned my opinion of the man and his qualities once before - on January 31, 2007 under the title of The Spectre of Specter - hence the title of these comments. And in my view, the Specter I wrote about more than two years ago is the same Specter I’m writing about today - except for one thing.

Although there are eleven Senators of Jewish ancestry - as am I - Specter was the sole Republican Jewish Senator after Norm Coleman was defeated. And now - if you can believe his conversion - there are none. But in giving up membership in the Republican party, he automatically became a member of a different group of Senators who happen to be of Jewish descent - those who value preservation of their Senate seats above all else Above party loyalty. Above principle. Other members of this group are Joe Lieberman - who lost a Democratic party primary and then ran and won as an "Independent Democrat" - and Norm Coleman - the Jewish Senator from Minnesota who plans to appeal to the Galactic Supreme Court to prevent Jewish Comedian Al Franken from taking the seat he won from him by some 300 odd votes.

What is it about these Jewish Senators who won’t give up their seats until hell freezes over? Maybe not even then. And no. I’m not being anti-Semitic. Just observational. As one Jew about three others - none of whom would ever get my vote for unpaid, volunteer, deputy assistant dog catcher.