Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Arlen Specter and Barack Obama: Perfect Together

Thanks to dailykos, here is video of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter explaining on MSNBC's Hardball on Tuesday evening why he voted for McCain-Palin rather than Obama-Biden:

And thanks to the MSNBC website, we have the transcript to read the response of Republican-turned- Democrat Specter when Chris Matthews asked him for whom he had voted:

I thought that they were the better choice. And I was trying to work within the Republican party, and trying to bring moderation to the Republican party. The decisive step I took was when I heard President Obama early this year say we were on the verge of sliding into a 1929 Depression, and a new president with a new mandate. And I voted for the stimulus package.

And when Matthews wouldn't accept that answer at face value and asked him whether he was comfortable trying to place Sarah Palin "a heartbeat away from the presidency," Specter respnded:

Chris, I didn't exactly think my vote would be decisive. But when you're in a party and you work for a party and you're trying to work within the structure to moderate the party, I think that's the correct thing to do.

But parties change. Look here, Ronald Reagan changed parties. Winston Churchill changed parties. Phil Graham, Dick Shelby. It's not so unusual. And in my case, I think there was good provocation to do it, and I think it was the right thing.

Now, up until then, Biden and Rendell and a lot of people had been trying to get me to become a Democrat. When I voted for the stimulus package, I had more Republicans urging me to become a Democrat than the Democrats. And the effort to bring moderation to the Republican party was not successful. And I feel very comfortable as a Democrat.

It's hard to figure out why trying to "moderate" the party would entail voting for John McCain and, especially, Governor Palin, and Specter never explained. He does remind us that he voted for the stimulus package, though neglecting to remind us that he first (successfully) worked to weaken it. But he never concedes that he made a mistake voting for McCain-Palin- if in fact he thinks he does- or even that he finds Democratic/liberal ideology preferable to the reigning ideology of the Republican Party. Only that he "feel(s) very comfortable as a Democrat," which might mean only that he's more at ease when he actually has a chance to win re-election.

Pat Toomey, the former president of the right wing libertarian Club for Growth who very likely will be the Repub nominee for the Senate seat in 2010, had it right when he appeared immediately before Specter on Hardball and observed

Chris, Arlen Specter is whatever he thinks the political calculus suggests he should be at any moment in time.

Right now, that means liberal Democrat, because he's got a primary challenge from the left. If-if he manages to get by that, which I don't know that he will, but, if he does, he will be something else again. This is a guy who has made a career out of being on both sides of as many issues as he can.

It's not likely that Toomey, former chairman of the right-wing/libertarian Club for Growth, has seen the bar graph posted Wednesday by Moulitsas on his dailykos site. It seems hardly coincidental that Arlen Specter voted with the GOP most of the time when he belonged to that party, then voted primarily with the Democrats after his switch, then veered sharply left once it became clear he'd be challenged in the Democratic Party by Joe Sestak, who announced Tuesday that he would enter the race.

And the stance of President Obama, whom Specter apparently is still satisfied he voted against? As the New York Times reported, the day after Mr. Opportunistic announced his change of party

Mr. Obama pledged enthusiastic support for Mr. Specter’s candidacy as a Democrat in 2010, saying, "We are confident that Arlen Specter is going to get a sixth term."

No doubt the President has believed all along that Arlen Specter would be a valuable supporter as a Democrat of his agenda. And so he has been, and will be until, if planned, he is re-elected, at which time his political calculus will shift. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to view President Obama campaign for the incumbent against two-term U.S. Representative Sestak, the highest ranking former military officer in Congress. Sestak is a little different than Specter, having been a critic of the Iraq War, supporter of gun control, and an original co-sponsor of the pro-labor Employees Free Choice Act, which Senator Specter still opposes. And someone who has cast a vote for for Barack Obama.

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