The Poor, Disrespected Arlen Specter

A couple years ago, my family and I took a road trip to Eastern Kansas for a wedding. As we trekked along I-70, we began to see a number of proud, colorful billboards touting the upcoming turn-off to the city of Russell, Kansas. In large lettering, the billboards read, “Boyhood Home of Senator Bob Dole”. Below it, in a strikingly smaller font were the words, “and Senator Arlen Specter”. It made me laugh because the perception it left was that while the town laid claim to having two long-term U.S. senators once live there, they were really only proud of one of them. The other was a mere footnote who was barely worth the mention.

It seems to me that the billboards outside Russell are indicative of the lack of respect Specter seems to believe he’s unjustly endured over the past couple of years. In his new book, entitled “Life Among the Cannibals”, the former senator complains that President Obama left him high and dry after he cast the 60th and decisive vote in the U.S. Senate to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). As some might recall, Specter left the Republican party in 2009 and became a Democrat. Months later, he changed his original position from being opposed to  Obamacare to a being strong supporter of it.

As a condition of his party switch and advocacy for the president’s agenda, Obama pledged his support in helping Specter’s re-election bid for a sixth term in office. That support never came. Once Specter’s usefulness had come to an end, Obama backed out of campaigning for him. Specter ended up not even making it past the Democratic primary, losing to fellow Democrat, Joe Sestak.

Months before the election, many of us remember the verbal lambasting Specter took over his support of Obamacare from an angry room of Pennsylvania constituents at a town hall meeting. The scene was played repeatedly all over the national news. One of the things that struck me most about the incident was the dumbfounded expression that Specter had plastered across his face while fielding questions, as if he was offended and confused over why the people were upset with him. He looked absolutely appalled that he was being treated in such a manner.

Poor Arlen Specter. He was the Rodney Dangerfield of the U.S. Senate during the last two years of his political career. And if the excerpts released from his book are of any indication, it seems that he still doesn’t claim any responsibility for earning that disrespect.

It’s hard to look at the Specter debacle without identifying the core problems with our leaders in Washington D.C. We vote our representatives into power to represent us, and I do think a lot of them start out truly wanting to do the right thing for their constituents. But when someone stays in power for as long as Specter did, they somewhere along the way start advocating only for themselves. The decisions they make are no longer about their constituency, but rather their own self-interests, their political career, and the massaging of their own ego.

What made Specter a little different than most is that he outright admitted it. When he joined the Democratic party and was asked at a press conference the reason behind his decision, he stated the absolute truth. He essentially explained that after the impressive Democratic sweep in the 2008 elections, he felt that his best chance of winning another term in office was to jump on board the Democratic bandwagon. In other words, it wasn’t about principles, ideology, or policy… It was about him. He acted as a pilot fish, swimming beneath the proud, fearless shark and collecting any scraps that fell from its razor-sharp teeth in order to survive.

It’s the same reason he did an about-face and latched onto Obamacare. It was merely the completion of a deal. When someone reverses their decision overnight on monumental changes to a sector that comprises 1/5 of our national economy, they can no longer make the case that they understand who they’re working for.

Specter became his own greatest fan. And like many fans, he found it nearly impossible to see the flaws in his idol.

My strong suspicion is that Arlen Specter’s memoir will be turning up in the bargain bin at your local Walmart soon after its release at the end of the month. Sure, there’s some significance in his tenure as a public servant, including his work on the Warren Commission following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But when people look at Specter today, they see someone without character and without principles. They see a man who shamelessly touted the extension of his own career as the primary argument for his re-election. Most importantly, they see a man that they cannot respect because he stopped respecting them.

If Specter understood any of that, he’d figure out why town-hall attendees excoriated him, Democratic primary voters rejected him, and the Obama administration discarded him.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website:
  • Rafael Kafka

    Specter was one of the 6 traitors who voted against Professor Bork (The father of Originalism) nomination to the Supreme Court in 87! Specter deserves to rot in Hell.

  • Drew Page

    You can’t say Obama did nothing for poor old Spector.  He did dispatch former president Clinton to try and bribe Sestak into not running against Spector, promising Sestak another government job if he would agree.  Once Sestak blew the whistle on the bribery attempt, the Obama administration quickly backed away from Spector.

  • FloridaJim

    Like far too many Republicans in congress they are out for themselves and forget about their constituents until they need their vote. Specter like McCain, Graham, Hatch, and Dole are not strongly conservative but strongly pro-them only. It is no wonder our country is in such sad shape with these people representing us. Term Limits would be more demanding on them and we would be better served without their lifetime appointments.

  • truevalues

    Right on the money , Bermie!   Arlen Spector is a disgrace to his office and he has let down the American people when he  abandoned his  priciples for personal gain  
    Another traitor to his pribciples may be Newt Gingrich who has changed his positions and sided with Democrats on global warming and other issues.  Now he’s messing up the Republican primaries by his selfish desire to stay in the race, even though he has no chance of winning the nomination.  He’s stealing votes that Santorum could have gotten.  Now if there’s a broker’s convention in August , it will be Gingrich’s fault – and if this causes the Republicans to lose valuable canpaign time, Obama would win by default.

  • Gdub

    Arlen Specter is a self-obsessed barely functional low-IQ dipshit.

  • Will Swoboda

    This is a perfect example of the need for term limits on all of our so called representatives. We are a government of the elected, by the elected and for the elected. We sure could use new ideas once in awhile. If the elected does not fulliful their job of representing us, we could be assure they would not be around to stick it to us again and again and again.

    • Roxiebell

      Term limits may be the only thing that saves this country.

  • MerchantofVenom

    Arlen Specter is Olympia Snowe in a dress.

    • Bruce A.

      Arlen is much prettier.

      • John Daly

         Careful Bruce. Statements like that will be cited as another example of The Republican’s ‘War on Women’.  😉

  • Burt Prelutsky

    It also explains why some of us find no reason to give the benefit of the doubt to Rick Santorum, who campaigned for Specter.


    • wally

      Burt: Did Santorum campaign for A. Spector after Spector jumped ship? If he did it doesn’t sound good. However, Santorum may have supported him because he thought or knew that Spector might be a democrat with some right leaning. If thats the case he really messed up. Regardless, it sounds like Spector was a real traitor.

      • Mike Jackson

        I don’t think anybody campaigned for Arlen Specter in the last cycle.

    • Roxiebell

      You know Burt I believe Santorum explained the reason why and that was to facilitate appointing Federal Judges. Rick is the most conservative candidate the GOP has so I’m certainly give him the benefit of the doubt.

    • Jamal Wilkerson

      Perhaps not, but then to which Republican candidate can we give the benefit of the doubt?  I say Gingrich, because we’d get something in return (fighting spirit and capability) for giving him the benefit of the doubt regarding his consistency.

  • Glen Stambaugh

    I know Senator Santorum credits him with facilitating conservative Supreme Court appointments, but such damage being the deciding “Affordability of Care” act vote. I regret that I couldn’t be there to hoot & jeer with his constituents. At least Obama, et al believe in what they’re doing. Arlen’s just a sell out.

  • Rick Johnson

    Specter, like so many who sell their souls, want someone else to take the blame.

  • Bruce A.

    Good one John. Many of us in Pennsylvania who did not vote for Arlen just felt it was time to go. Nothing personal, but he did overstay his welcome.