Sunday, March 25, 2007

Specter: "Hoping that it would all go away"

Now I know we've been a little hard on Senator Arlen Specter around here at p3. It's true, we've called him the Plumed Specter Cave Warbler, as well as a partisan hack and Bush button man.

And, of course we ridiculed him pretty much non-stop about his pattern of blustering and grousing about "getting to the bottom" of this or that outrage committed by the White House--and then caving in on cue, giving his party leaders everything they want and more.

But I just want to take this opportunity to say one thing:

He deserved every bit of it.

In fact, if anything, we were too nice. I think the proper analogy for Specter is not some exotic, preening bird. It's Grover Dill. Every bully needs a toady, and that's Specter to a T--the toady to the GOP leadership's bullies. (The analogy's a little deeply pitched, I grant you, but I think that with a little fine tuning I can get some good mileage out of it in the next couple of years.)

Will Bunch, from my favorite former hometown, picks up this amazing story about the Senate Judiciary Committee vote authorizing subpoenas for uncooperative White House aides:
After 90 minutes of heated debate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) went along with Republican requests not to hold a roll-call vote. So, Leahy ordered a voice vote and barked out for all those in favor of the subpoenas to say "aye" - and all 10 Democrats clearly yelled "aye", as did Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

Specter, who is advocating a compromise in which Rove would testify publicly but not under oath and without being subpoenaed, clearly opened his mouth and seemed to move his lips.

Then Leahy asked for the "nays", and Specter's mouth didn't open a sliver. Capitol Briefing convened a meeting of reporters afterward to decide whether Specter had voted in favor of the subpoenas. There was no clear answer, no one could actually confirm whether they heard him say "aye".

We pounced on Specter and demanded an answer. But Specter refused to say which way he voted. He said he did what he did and if we didn't notice he wasn't going to help us. After trying a number of different ways to get him to show his hand, we gave up and left.

But Specter had a change of heart and decided to clear the air, tracking down a few reporters. He did not deny that his mouth might have opened during the call for "ayes", but Specter denied saying anything, uttering any sound.

"The fact of the matter is that I did not say anything. I did not vote and say either 'aye' or 'nay'. I just sat there hoping that it would all go away through negotiations," he said. "Factually, I did not say a thing."

Amazingly, people still call Specter a "moderate," but I think that's simply mistaking Grover Dill, who lags back and only administers a couple of kicks to the breadbasket after the victim's already down, for Scut Farkus, who put him on the ground in the first place. Gingrich, DeLay, Barr, Sensenbrenner, Hastert, Hatch--at least those guys will look you in the eye while they stick the shiv in you. You always know where you stand with them. Only with Specter do you get the sad sight of someone who waits until the serious in-fighters have done the wet-work, and then comes in and pokes the body with a stick a couple of times.

MyDD traces the moment when any semblance of genuine (i.e., non-Dillian) moderation on Specter's part disappeared: When he pulled every lever available to make sure that Clarence Thomas's 1991 Supreme Court nomination was evaluated on anything but the merits.

Specter's announcing his candidacy for 2010 re-election in a couple of weeks. There's a race where I'm certain I'll PayPal some money to the Democratic candidate; the only question is whether I'll commute to Pennsylvania on weekends to ring doorbells and stuff envelopes.

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