Monday, October 19, 2009

Arlen Specter on Health Care

From Think Progess:
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who until late April of this year was a lifelong Republican, castigated his former party this morning on Fox News. Specter ripped the GOP for refusing to be a good-faith negotiator in the health care debate:

'On the Republican side, it’s no, no, no. A party of obstructionism. … You have responsible Republicans who had been in the Senate — like Howard Baker, Bob Dole, or Bill Frist — who say Republicans ought to cooperate. Well, they’re not cooperating.

Specter also indicated he would fight hard for the public option. “I’m not prepared to recede at all. I think the public option is gaining momentum,” he said. “I am not going to step back a bit. I am going to fight for the best public option."

The original story Think Progress blurb (linked above) includes a forty second video of Specter waxing querulous against the GOP. I was rather impressed in one sense. The quoted article included another link to this story. He sounds like an old line New Dealer promising Medicare For All in the Nixon administration when he gets on his ear. It's an amusing change of tenor. When Specter originally changed parties earlier this year he said, "I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture.'' Now he is promising to be a liberal lion on the health care issue.

Naturally there are political issues at stake. Specter represents a state where, by his own calculations when he himself changed parties, 200,000 of his constituents switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party on issues like labor and health care. He had been facing a challenge from a threatening primary challenger as a Republican and his core support base has gradually shifted parties. He is still facing a more liberal Democratic Party challenger this mid-term and so it certainly behooves him to be a strong liberal voice on health care in order to convince his new party that he would serve them better than a new face.

If it means a better health care bill, however, good for Arlen Specter. While I've never been certain I'd vote for him if I lived in Pennsylvania, I've always felt that he was a genuinely independent lawmaker who stood for his constituents over party ideology. Since the interests of many of his constituents are directly related to his new party's ideology on health care, he is likely much more comfortable as a Democrat.

Living in Tennessee, I'm not directly concerned in Specter's continuing political fortunes... but it is terribly difficult not to root for him just to spite the GOP.


Clint said...

Watching the footage from his health care town hall, he seemed very reasonable. But maybe that's because he was contrasted with some of the craziest people on the planet?

TRUTH 101 said...

I've seen many like Specter on a local level ER. I don't trust him for a second. If circumstances behoove him down the road I have no doubt he would either switch to the republican side or declare himself independent and caucus with the republicans.

I agree with you that he is making a scene about health care simply because he has to appeal to Democrats in Pennsylvania to win the primary. Loyalty to beliefs and ideals is important. Specter is not loyalto the ideals of the Democratic Party.

I hope you don't mind my visit and comment ER. Some bloggers and their regulars are sensitive about who comments. I don't want to violate any community that may exist here.

Success to you.

Chris Richards said...

Before getting meaty:

Truth 101, I don't have anything like a 'community' here yet. A few people read and some occasionally comment. I am glad to see comments and I try to respond to them all, because I think the whole point of a blog is the discussion. The article is just the beginning. So visit and comment as much as you like.

Now, to be on topic:

Clint, Specter has usually been pretty reasonable when it comes to his interactions with his constituents. There's a reason they've kept re-electing him.

My major beef with Specter as a Republican was his willingness to play the role too many moderates have been asked to play in the GOP over the years: hitman for the right. Clearly, that's not going to be an issue for the foreseeable future.

Truth, Ben Nelson and Heath Shuler are /less/ loyal to the 'ideals of the Democratic Party' than Specter. Specter's political principles have been fairly consistent over his career: he's a moderate defense hawk, a moderate fiscal conservative, and a labor liberal. He stuck to this even when the last was becoming extremely unpopular in the GOP. So to say he has no beliefs or ideals is tricky.

His shift to the left is pretty natural following a party switch. I agree it is primarily political, the man wants to stay in office. He IS genuinely representing the wishes of his constituents in a way that many senators in both parties do not, however. That's why he's been so politically successful.

Would Specter become a Republican again under the right circumstances? Probably, if the GOP became what he was once loyal to. If THAT happened, /I/ might even become a Republican again... but it's terribly unlikely in Specter's lifetime.

TRUTH 101 said...

In my small time experience, I find it much safer to go ahead and vote for a democrat than a republican who says he will vote as a democrat.

I just don't trust Senator Specter. I don't trust Nelson either. A democrat that votes with republicans on issues important to democrats.

Chris Richards said...

Well, Ben Nelson actually voted with the Democrats on the Medicare fix that more 'trustworthy' Democratic Senators like Jim Webb and Bill Nelson joined with Republicans in blocking by voting against cloture. 11 Democrats voted against cloture and none of them were Specter or Nelson. They were Claire McAskill, Mark Warner, Jim Webb and other 'trustworthy' Democrats.

I don't trust Ben Nelson either, and I don't like him. When he was first elected back in the Clinton Era he was a thorn in the Democratic caucus's side. He hasn't changed much since.

As an amusing note, however, when Specter was a Republican... he voted with the Democrats more often than Nelson.