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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Does Specter's Defection Mean?

A little over six years ago, former Northampton County GOP chair Charlie Roberts gave me a call. He's known me since I was a little kid growing up in Hellertown. His family lived across the street. Once, he picked up my sister Ellen after school and drove her home, thinking she was his daughter. Seeing a kindred soul, my Dad adored him after that.

When Charlie called me, Senator Arlen Specter was in a very tight race against Far Right Poster Boy Pat Toomey. Charlie knew I had a soft spot for Snarlin' Arlen, and asked me to switch parties and help defeat Toomey. I agreed and was even able to talk a few fellow Dems in joining me. Specter won his primary, 51% to 49%.

This time around, it's Specter who has switched to Democrat, sounding a possible death knell to the Reagan Big Tent that tolerates moderate views. This is no surprise. Just weeks ago, Lehigh County Republicans were squabbling amongst themselves over some movement to censure Specter. At the time, blueblood Charles Snelling warned that "if we don't find ways to work together as a party, we will cease to be a party." But ideologue Joe Hilliard blames "[t]he tiny minority that advocated the 'move to the Left' strategy just to win elections ... ."

Specter's defection, though clearly an act of self-preservation, will continue to marginalize the Far Right. His move to the Democratic party is actually a move to the center, where he's most comfortable.

With Specter and Al Franken, Dems now have the muscle to stop a Senate filibuster. But don't expect to see that muscle flexed. Just as he has infuriated Republicans for years by supporting Democratic initiatives, Specter will have no trouble swinging away from the left. Sooner or later, everyone gets mad at him. That's why I like him.
Morning Update: According to the White House press office, Senator Specter, VP Biden & President Obama met the press this morning in the White House's Diplomatic Room. Obama and Biden pledged their "full support" in the Democratic primary. For his part, Specter added that "I can be of assistance to you." Specter claimed he represents the people of Pennsylvania, not the Republican party. He also warned, "I will not be an automatic 60th vote."

And then they all sang a song.


Lady Rep said...

Every time Republicans stop acting like Republicans, we lose. That is why Congress ended up switching majorities. If Reps had not spent like they were Democrats, they'd still be in power. If a Democrat can choose between one of their own or a Republican acting like one of their own, they'll stay with their own blood. In fact, Democrats will stick with their own even when they're being indicted. That's the difference between the voting blocks.

I'd rather lose sticking to my principles than pander to the ideology of bigger government and more spending.

However it all ends...bye-bye, Arlen!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lady Rep, Did you catch Olympia Snowe's op-ed at the NYT? Her view is that the Republicans need conservatives, but they need moderate voices, too. Ronald Reagan himself said that Rs should tolerate disagreements among themselves. Olympia claims that, instead of a tent, you've become an umbrella.

Lady Rep said...

There's a difference between having differences and signing onto a bill that is the antithesis of everything that we stand for. My tent has personal responsibility, enforcing good oversight, less taxes, spending and government, a strong military, and maintaining Constitutional rights. That's quite large enough for me. Our own Party wasn't standing up for those particular values. If Olympia doesn't like it, she's free to leave too.

Anonymous said...

Bernie -

I'm a conservative Republican and I'm all for the so-called "Big Tent". However, I do believe that the "Big Tent" should not include those who will vote (or support voting) for a massive spending bill without even reading it.

It will be interesting to see if Republican moderates believe that the "big tent" works both ways. Now that Specter has defected, will the moderate old-boys club that runs the GOP rally around Toomey or will they scramble to find a Specter replacement?

My guess is the latter, since the monied few who control the party (particularly locally) really only care about maintaining their level of influence. Until that problem is solved, the Republicans will continue to elect candidates who are actually Democrats.

Anonymous said...

"Once, he picked up my sister Ellen after school and drove her home, thinking she was his daughter."

Hope you made this up, but it works.

Not so casual observer said...

Specter had two choices. He could have run as an independent, as did Joe Liberman, and continued to caucus with whomever he pleased. That would have left at least one small road block to prevent one party control of all governemnt. That is the high road. Instead Arlen Specter decided to change party in mid stream so that he could regain his committee chairmanships (a purely political power play) and get cash and campaign help from Rendell and Obama. This was the lowest of low roads and he chose that.

It was self preservation with a complete disregard to the people who worked for and supported him for 30 years.

No the party is not moving further right. Specter came in with the Reagan Big Tent, and the balance inthe party now is about the same as it was then. What has happeend is that Arlen SPecter has become about only Arlen SPecter, country be damned!

Charlie RObert two weeks ago refused to attend a meeting with Specter, doesn't that tell us something about Arlen!

Uncle Grinny said...

He's a liar. Support him at your peril.
"I am staying a Republican because I think I have an important role, a more important role, to play there." Arlen Specter, 3/17/09

Anonymous said...

It means we might finally get universal healthcare like every other industrialized nation in the world and will rise from 37th in the world for quality of healthcare according to WHO to at least somewhere better than Slovenia.

Lighthouse said...

“Big Tent” has been more self-deception than reality the past twenty years in the GOP. And it is hypocritical to be claiming it now. Some are so quick to label anyone who doesn’t follow the party line as RINO, even when that line goes against their own rhetoric. When the GOP was itself in charge of the House, the Senate, and Presidency (how soon we forget), those in power did as they wanted. Back in 2004, I actually supported Toomey in protest at what I thought then was irresponsible deficit spending of the GOP majority. Yet, supporting Afghanistan but being against the Iraq war, brought charges of RINO in my own little fish bowl. How dare the Bushies be challenged!

After 25 years as a Republican, I switched parties myself last year. The diversity of the Democrats has been both their weakness and their strength. I voted for Obama, am supportive (so far) of his foreign policy, but am gravely concerned about the financial sovereignty and solvency of our country. Agree on some issues, disagree on others, but at least no fanatics are running around calling me a DINO in some sort of hypocritical purging.

Like most of the 200,000 who switched parties, I don’t plan to go back. If pushed, next stop might be “independent.”

I don’t think it took a rocket scientist for Specter to see that the PA GOP is going to be in a drought for a few years.

not so casual observer said...

Anonymus 8:06 The health care systems in Canada, France, England and Germany are broke and rationing care to people over 60, and there are life threateneing long waits for tests, surgeries and services. THey do not count people over 60 in their atats becasue they are expendable and therefore not treated in most cases. Why is it if our system is so bad everyone comes here for treatment? My dear friend broke her ankle in London at 2 PM Friday and could not get an xray unitl 10 AM MOnday. She walks witha limp and lives in pain. By the way the saying "wait until you see how expensive free healthcare is" is true.

Universal health care is NOT what it looks like on the surface.

It will perhaps happen with Arlen's vote becasue Arlen will now vote the way he is told so that he can be the chairman of a committee andhave the Dem money campaiging for him.

Anonymous said...

Specter is a chameleon-type survivor with no beliefs that aren't up for bid. His fundamental philosophy is staying in office by whatever means necessary.

He did his usual conservative-type thing on card check prior to the official Toomey announcement. He's known for temporary conservative leanings going into his primaries. This time however, nobody bought it and after two reputable polls showed him easily smoked in the primary, he did what politicians do for self-preservation.

He embodies everything voters have come to loathe about politicians.

Anonymous said...

It was a smart move by Specter. What other choice did the Republicans leave him? Now he just has to hope that Ridge doesn't run.
That would be a real challenge. Toomey is a pathetic right wing joke who has absolutely no chance in a general election. In fact if Ridge does run, Toomey won't get past the primary, again..However,
as a Democrat I would like to profusely thank his Club for Growth for knocking out all of these moderates Republicans nationwide. They now have 40 Senators. Thank You Pat!!!!

Anonymous said...

Bernie, how do you call yourself a democrat? your blog is nothing but propaganda that supports lehigh valley republicans. the fact you were going door to door for spector years ago makes me wonder were you a registered republican then? Are you a self-proclaimed democrat just to try and gove yourself some credibility as being a "news" source here?

Why don't you just admit your blog is nothing but a Lehigh FOX NEWS??? If you admit you're a republican, then everyone will know what I know, from reading your blog, that this blog is right wing propaganda.

The republicans can have you, Rush, and Britney Spears.

You can't fool us.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, how do you call yourself a democrat? your blog is nothing but propaganda that supports lehigh valley republicans. the fact you were going door to door for spector years ago makes me wonder were you a registered republican then?" --

Hold on there, bippy. Who said anything about going door to door for Specter? I sure as hell never did that. I said I have a soft spot for him and switched parties six years ago to keep Toomey from getting the R nod. I also convinced some of my Dem friends to make the switch.

I do happen to be a Democrat but refuse to be a lever puller. I vote for the person, not the party. More often than not, that person tends to be a Dem. But I will and have supported Republicans.

I actually prefer to vote for candidates who are more informed than others and who approach issues reasonably. That's why Dent (an R) and Cunningham (a D) have appeal to me. They can work with both parties.

I support Ron because political labels are meaningless in local office, he stands for open and accountable government and is very well informed.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Hope you made this up, but it works."Completely true.

Anonymous said...

what it means is that we get to hear the right say "good, you can have him" and beat their chests about how ideological purity is what will save the party.

and then we get to watch them sink further into irrelevancy.

Anonymous said...

Great news. Now I don't have to hold my nose and vote for a Republican. I think Specter is the only GOP I've ever voted for on a state or national level, and I've voted for him each time he's run in the general election.

Anonymous said...

it's the 60th vote comment that defines who specter is and why the hard right couldn't stand him. he didn't see the world in absolutes of black and white. he saw gray. He was willing to part with the party when it wasn't right and he was willing to defend it when it was. He is certainly a shrewd and hard-nosed pol, but his unpredictablility is what makes him so fascinating.

Consider this: pa has a conservative D and a recently converted but still moderate D serving in the senate. any reason to doubt that such a configuration won't persist. Toomey and his supporters are proving to be tone deaf.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I admire the man. I admired him as an R and will admire him as a D. You are right. His warning about not being an automatic 60th vote defines exactly who he is and what I admire most - his independence.

Bush, for all his flaws, appreciated Specter. When Specter would tell him he could not go along on a specific issue, Bush responded, "We'll get you on the next one."

I think it is a big mistake to ostracize and demonize him based on one vote.

He will not be the Democrats' or the Republicans' man - he will be his own. We could use a few more independent thinkers just like him.

Anonymous said...

He is absolutely the 60th vote. Does anybody not believe there were detailed negotiations leading up to this? The naivete is astounding here. He is not to be believed. He has consistently lied, flip-flopped and back-tracked.

Joe Lieberman showed class and integrity. Arlen Specter showed neither of these. He quit when the game showed he'd lose his precious seat in the primary. It's a numbers decision. Period.

Anonymous said...

unpredictability = philosophically vacant, populist whore

Anonymous said...

A recent poll done in Canada showed that only 3% of Canadians wished they had our healthcare system. That should tell you something. I for one would like to live longer than Europeans and canadians. There is no reason for profit to be in healthcare. In the 1800s in this country, the fire depts were run by the insurance companies and were for profit. That's why people posted the emblems on their houses. You can still see them in Bethlehem and Easton. Rival fire companies would block other fire companies from putting out fires and people without fire insurance would have their houses burn. The French and the British were the first to turn to municipal tax paid fire companies and it took us (as usual) a long time to catch on. Luckily, we did before the whole country burned down. People's arguments were the same. "You can't let the city run the fire dept. Are you crazy? Fire outages is for profit-based individual fire companies to take care of. Now put this emblem on your house so your particular company can find you if you have a fire." There's more to life than money and profit. Health and family come first.

Anonymous said...

Casual Obs 8:28, Thank you on behalf of the Pharmacutical Industry. As long as Faux News parrots like yourself are out there, we will continue to grow at double digit inflation rates year after year.
My daughters new BMW is beautiful, thanks for that too.

Joe Pfiser

Anonymous said...

Does this mean Arlen is a "Joe Long Democrat"?

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:06 wrote:

"However,as a Democrat I would like to profusely thank his Club for Growth for knocking out all of these moderates Republicans nationwide. They now have 40 Senators. Thank You Pat!!!!"

So now there will not be a true democrat in the Senate race in 2010, just an aging Senator who voted with Bush 90% of the time and a conservative republican.

To me that means that after the election in November 2010, the worst that republicans will be left with is what they had before.

Why do I feel like we've been fooled?

Anonymous said...

I think some of this frustration on the part of Reps is misdirected. Specter might be dressing as a woman to get on the lifeboat first, but it was W who drove the Republican Titanic into the iceberg. Where are all the W bumperstickers now?

Bill Leiner Jr. said...

For Rush and his ditto heads, Pat Toomey, Michael Steele, Mike Savage, Gunther, Shawn Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and all the other right wing echo chamber folks, and lost right politicians ......... the light at the end of the tunnel apparently is the train coming the other way. As a person interested, in passing, with politics, I am astonished at the swift demise of the GOP. I would have never predicted this. If you are "name called" by the extremists in your party - Rhino (Republican in name only)now is the time to re register either Independent or Democrat. As a conservative Democrat, there is room in the Donkey's house for you Rhinos. Bernie, I never thought of you as a Democrat ??? If you are, welcome to the Donkey's house. There is room. The major difference between the Dems and the Reps is that in our party we try to respectfully agree to disagree. With the Rs, if you do not tow the extremist right party line, its divorce, eviction and elimination. Verbal water boarding. Wait 'til Charlie Dent re registers Demo .... it is coming.

Anonymous said...


You nailed the Bush responsibility, but incorrectly assume Bush enjoyed some sort of Reagan-like support from conservatives.

Conservatives supported Bush as the lesser of two perceived evils. Did anyone think they'd vote for Gore or Kerry out of frustration with Bush? Bush's legacy among philosophical conservatives was expected to be checkered and turned out worse than that.

Keep in mind, however, that four years ago, Bush won re-election handily and Rs, bucking historical trends, solidly increased House and Senate majorities. The presidential election was a judgment on the war and wartime economy and Bush won solidly. Rs had it all.

A lot can change in a short time. And this D-controlled Congress has lower favorables than the IRS and dentists.

Anonymous said...

"I admire the man."

I guess there are a few of you out there. Specter has never been accused of being a great statesman or leader. He's been most often accused of being a bait-and-switch survivor throughout his career.

I think four of the last six Senate defectors have been Ds turned R. It happens regularly and usually follows a recent switch in party control. In sports it's called "bandwagon jumping."

I don't admire guys who do that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 326pm and Anon 518pm, agreed. In my opinion Bush was a terrible domestic policy President, and he absolutely was a fiscal liberal.

Unfortunately, those who think Specter flipped due to some honorable reason are wrong - he flipped because Toomey would beat him in the primary. His own words reflect it - "I am unwilling to have my 29-year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."

It's also a given that he'll flop on "card check," probably right before the general election so that the unions come out to support him.

Veering OT -- By the way, if I am a current R Congressman or Senator, I'm introducing line-item veto legislation today. Make Obama back up his pledge against pork and wasteful spending rather than being able to hide behind "it's not perfect but it's the best we can do" language.

Oh, and then the line-item veto will be there for the next fiscal conservative president where it can accomplish some real good.

The Banker

Anonymous said...


Obama held a huge presser to announce his slashing of cabinet budgets by $100 million. Can't you see that he's a demonstrated budget hawk? He SLASHED exactly 17 seconds worth of federal spending! Those budgets must be down to ribs-and-dick at this point. Some people are never satisfied ;-)

Anonymous said...

Anon 6pm, that's LOL funny! I'm so happy Washington is suffering with the rest of us - that 17 seconds will be pure hell!

The Banker

Anonymous said...

specter will do to the democrats what he did to the republicans.he talks from both sides of his mouth.he's a liar period. 79 years old time to give it up! he doesn't know what he wants.

Pamela Varkony said...


I don't know anyone with an R behind their name who hasn't wanted line item veto power for a long time.

Just how, with the Dems in control of both houses, do we get that legislation passed?

Anonymous said...

wasn't the line item veto approved, signed into law and tossed by the supreme court?

Lighthouse said...

I recall from history that Nixon had pushed the then past practice of impoundment so far that Congress reacted and legislated severe restrictions on that (kind of funny when you think of W's "signing statements").

Its late in this blog cycle, so long story short, yes, during the Clinton-GOP Congress years of the 90s, a line item law was passed only to be struck down by the SupCrt. I won't get into why I disagree with the decision (Art. I, Sec 7), but the net result would be, it would likely take a Constitutional amendment to give the President the power. But that very thing was done when Congress/President passed the first income tax. Courts struck it down, so they amended the Constitution (16th).

Ironically, you would have thought when the GOP controlled both Congress/Pres during the first six years of W, that it would have been an ideal time for Congress to propose. Since most (if not all) states have, probably would have been ratified....but the reality is, it doesn't matter which party controls the "cookie jar", they both want the power to raid it when it's in their possession. So Congress will never propose it despite all the occaisional rhetoric for it.

Anonymous said...

Lighthouse, thanks for the information re consitutionality. And unfortunately you're right, pork is an equal opportunity addiction...

Pam, my thought is to propose it as a bipartisan gesture to help Obama honor his commitments (that'd play well). Then keep it in the fore publicly every time wasteful spending is brought up.

At some point Obama would sign something and try to hide behind the 'imperfect' language. The R rebuttal is that they tried to give him a tool to deal with it.

From my perspective this is not just "politics" as I believe it's needed no matter who is in office. There has to be a check against unnecessary spending - from a practical perspective, right now there is none.

And who knows, maybe Obama pushes for it? Stranger things have happened...

The Banker

Anonymous said...

P{lease help Toomey get the nomination. Dem's hope for the event. It will be one of the greatest beat downs in political history.
Toomey will be mutilated in a general election.
Problem is Toomey will never get there. Now that Specter is gone, real heavyweights will take a look.
Good job Pat! You drove out Specter to be knocked off by Ridge, hahaha. Twilight Zone stuff.
Toomey was a joke as a congressman and all he has left is his man love connection with Bobby Gubber Walsh.

Anonymous said...

he is the best thing to happen to the Dems since Ira Einhorn.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing Bernie would come up with the single bullet theory, er I mean "Big Tent" theory while he was typing this topic... perhaps he had one in his pants. :):):):)