Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania: a Profile in Political Expediency and Lack of Integrity

--Richard E. Vatz

Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter has announced that he will switch parties today to become a Democratic Senator. The switch is politically significant, as it will provide the Democrats with their filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority, despite the Senator’s claim in his statement announcing his intention that he “will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture.”

This article is not to say “good riddance;” it is just to say that Sen. Specter’s decision makes him just another politician without integrity. Political expediency is the motivating force behind his change; he faced a formidable challenge in the upcoming Pennsylvania 2010 presidential primary, and we shall learn soon enough what “incentives” the Democrats have promised him.

Revealingly, last month when there were rumors that he would become an Independent, he said, "To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican, and I am running for re-election in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket."

Part of the contract with the voters when you’re elected is that you are aligned with the party on whose ticket you ran for your full term. Many such voters base their vote partly or wholly on the party of their chosen candidate.

Sen. Specter disappointed Republicans when he supported the Democratic stimulus package, opposed the nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and many other examples provide further questionable credentials as a reliable Republican. No matter; he had no ethical obligation to hew to the party line. The changing of parties in mid-term, though, is a violation of implicit and explicit promises and statements made by Sen. Specter. It makes him simply deceptive.

For whatever full disclosure this opinion requires of the author, I was a big fan and an acquaintance of Pete Flaherty, the former, late Democratic Mayor of Pittsburgh, parenthetically a wonderful human being who never shied away from day-to-day conversation with his constituency and who ate daily in public restaurants. Sen. Specter defeated Pete in 1980 in a close election that this conservative wishes had gone in the other direction. I vote on political matters, but personal integrity usually trumps such considerations.

Just to reiterate: there is no integrity issue with Sen. Arlen Specter’s reputation as a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The ethical issue is the dishonesty in his self-representation as a Republican when he ran in 2004.

Professor Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University


justdafacts said...

Professor - Did you criticize incumbent Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama when he jumped ship after having been elected as a Democrat, deciding he wanted to be a Republican after the GOP gained control of both chambers of Congress in 1994?

- Steve Lebowitz

The Reaganite Republican said...

Actually, I would vote for Phil Spector over Arlen any day of the week- seems like a more stable and sensible choice, lol.

With all due respect, Senator- don’t let the door hit your butt on the way-out. And nobody on our side’s going to miss you.


streiff said...

All party changers are not the same. Shelby was philosophically out of step with the Dems long before he changed parties. If Specter has a philosophy, beyond "I-want-to-be-a-Senator", I'd appreciate someone pointing it out.

Even the left knows this, Steve


When a politician switches parties, it’s customary for the party he’s abandoned to denounce him as an unprincipled hack, and the party he’s joined to praise him as a brave convert who’s genuinely seen the light. But I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack. If his best odds of keeping his Senate seat lay in joining the Communist party, he’d probably do that.

lefty said...

Citing TNR as an exemplar of what the "Left" thinks is yet another example of mental instability, Bill. Been a lot of that lately, sad to say.

Is he a pain in the ass? Sure, no question. But now he's a Democratic pain in the ass, and will be more, not less, likely to vote with his party when necessary. Toomey gets the nomination and gets his ass kicked, and Specter keeps his Senate seat. Ain't no way to spin this as anything but a disaster for the GOP. Been a lot of that lately, too, perhaps causing a big part of that mental instability. Not sad about the GOP, though.

streiff said...

if you want to argue that TNR is not a mainstream left pub, that is up to you. I think you'll find yourself in a very small number of folks holding that view.

Be that as it may, Specter's change of parties basically happened when he delved into Scottish law during the Clinton impeachment. It was certainly in full bloom by his 2004 campaign distributing Kerry-Specter yard signs. When he voted for Porkulus it was obvious to all but the dimmest bulb that he was no longer a more reliable member of our caucus than Ben Nelson or Max Baucus.

Is this a disaster? If Specter was a liberal Republican who respected party discipline then I'd agree. But Specter has shown he will not stand with the caucus on tough issues, like Porkulus.

I think his new BFFs will discover that Specter's loyalty centers around himself rather than any set of values.

BTW, you seem to think we know each other. If so, contact me.