The aging Senator leaned in on the dais, his right hand starting to show what arthritis can do. His digits flare downward slightly. It made me think about how uncomfortable it must be for a guy in his 80’s to be glad handing a crowd of a couple of hundred people.
His voice is still there enough to remind one of a figure who ran for president a couple of decades ago. He is clear with the standard stump speech and the obligatory one-liners.
Polite applause greeted the fact that he has visited Berks County close to 70 times during his Senate tenure. He talked about a long career in the senate where he chaired different committees and stopped the likes of Robert Bork. There were cheers to the projects put in place using the monies he had secured on the Senate floor.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about Senator Arlen Specter. I attended the Berks County Annual Dinner outside Reading, Pa. last Friday night as a guest of the Joe Sestak Campaign.
When the Senator switched parties earlier this year I held some hope and held my breath. The man comes with 29 years seniority in the Senate. Our state can’t get that very easily. It is not as though we can trade two congressmen, a mayor, and three future draft picks to Vermont to get a decent senator with seniority who can hit a curve ball. I was hoping when he changed his jersey we would have someone who cut a decent deal for himself that would benefit Pennsylvania in the long run. I expected to see a senator who would be dogged in his support of President Obama. We have our 60th Senator, why mess with that?
I wasn’t crazy about Joe Sestak getting into this race. He is my congressman. He could have the job for life if he wanted it. As far as I am concerned this candidate is manna from heaven. Normally, when I look at a candidate I ask what has the person done with their life? Would you talk to them in the grocery store about small talk? Do they run a successful business? Are they involved in their community in a special way? What do the kids look like? Do the people around them look sane? Getting a personable 3 star admiral who ran a carrier fleet who likes Philly sports with every member of his large family pulling for him, well, it is hard to go wrong.
As I start to exhale I am realizing, personally, that Specter is not right for Pennsylvania at this time. When he talked about stopping Bork, I thought about Specter allowing Clarence Thomas entry to the bench. If this were a Republican Dinner instead of a Democratic Dinner, would Specter have congratulated himself on allowing Clarence Thomas to the seated on the Supreme Court bench instead of stating he blocked Bork?
It is still not lost on me that Bush v. Gore was a 5-4 decision. I once silently stood with my back to Sandra Day O’Connor in protest as she spoke at a July 4th awards ceremony at Independence Hall a few years ago for the same reason.
When the movie JFK came out I had to be pulled off the ceiling of the theater when the Kevin Costner character revealed it was Arlen Specter that came up with the single bullet theory. I was blown away not only by the theory itself, but by how long Specter has been around. I don’t know the greater amount of time that has passed; when Specter became a Republican or when the Eagles (NFL’s version of the Cubs) last won a championship?
When Specter came over, he could not figure out how to put a Democratic uniform on. In front of the president, he stated that he would not go along with all of Obama’s policies. He was going to pick and choose. This guy is supposed to be a master politician. The Dems in the Senate, showing rare backbone, revoked his seniority status. No chairmanships, no clout for Pa.
Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is another spot where I scratched my head. If you read the law nowhere, I mean NO WHERE, does the law revoke a secret ballot. It appends methods to allow workers to organize.
Specter played games with this issue. I called his office in the spring and asked directly about EFCA and was told the Senator was towing the GOP line. I think he has since come over and is supporting EFCA, but he damaged the President by playing politics with this. He has allowed the president’s opponents space to work with to attempt to bring down this president.
Obama showed a great deal of class through this. He came to a fundraiser to help Specter in Philly. All the party mucky-mucks were there. I understand they got a solid seven figure take on the night. I get why the President has to do this. I get why the party hierarchy has to do this. The next time we get someone to switch parties; they can’t let them hang out to dry. They don’t want the prospective Democrat to say, “Well, look what happened to Specter.”
I sat in the room with the folks from Berks and listened as Specter talked about the 2009 local races and how the Democratic Ticket there would do well and how he would do whatever he could to help. It was met with a very nice, respectful applause.
I am feeling like I am not that far from the rank and file Dems with their feet in the trenches. We will respect the man and his office. When Specter’s remarks turned to 2010 and asked for help in his races next year.