Flitting Specter

>> Thursday, April 30, 2009

Do I even need to link to a news story about Arlen Specter crossing ranks to become a Democrat? By the time this entry posts, the whole story will be done to death, no doubt.

But it seems to me an occasion worth observing, not so much for whatever numerical or strategic gain it nets the Democrats (or perhaps loss--Glenn Greenwald suggests Specter will be another Lieberman, pulling the party to the right without embracing many, if any, classic Democrat positions). No, the thing that's curious to me is that while I don't agree with Specter on a lot, and often had occasion to be disappointed in him when he did talk the talk without walking the walk, Senator Specter was nonetheless the guy I could readily point to as "oh no, there are some good Republican politicians in Washington--Arlen Specter is alright." This is, of course, why Republicans liked to call Senator Specter a "RINO" (a "Republican In Name Only," if you somehow missed that acronym); he was known to step out of sync with his party enough times that Democrats and even a few liberals liked or even sorta grudgingly respected him as a man of principle....

At least relatively speaking, I might say. It's pretty evident that Specter jumped ship when he realized he was going to get bludgeoned in a primary by his party-of-the-last-four-decades. So his principles perhaps take a back seat to his urge to stay in office; indeed, it appears Mr. Specter became a Republican so he could get elected to an office in the first place, switching parties to run for District Attorney in Philadelphia after the Democrat's political machine up there blew him off. But, you know, he's a Senator; was it Mark Twain who suggested Congress comprised America's criminal class, or Will Rogers?

Specter's defection assuredly relegates him from his position as a tolerably-good Republican to routinely-disappointing Democrat, I'm afraid. And meanwhile, who can I point to in the party to say, "Well, there's somebody who's sort of reasonable"? If Specter is only a symbolic and numerical gain to the Democrats (if Al Franken is certified for a Senate seat, the Dems will have a magical sixty votes, which will allow them to absorb all of the psychic energy of every Congress ever and grant them the ability to read thoughts and, at long last, have children and someday grow old and die), he's a devastating loss for the Republican camp, since he may have been the last gentle silverback in the monkey house. I'm sure many Republicans won't see that--the ones who have considered Specter a Judas in their midst for years will be glad he's gone, I'm sure--but his departure really does mean that the crazy, screechy poo-flinging monkeys have finally taken complete control of the Republican party. No, really: the only people who are left are the sort who want the GOP to vote on the Democrats' new name.

Okay, they still have John McCain, but (a) Rush wants him gone, and Rush is sort of the party boss or something, and anyway (b) McCain kinda showed a staggering lack of judgment during the 2008 election campaign.

There's one more point in all of this that the conservatives are likely to miss: Specter's former "RINOhood" and quick embrace by the Democrats is less a sign of how liberal Arlen Specter is than it is a sign of just how centrist/conservative the Democrats really are. There are exceptional Democrats, of course--Representative Kucinich, for instance, is actually a liberal. But the frequent accusation of the right that Democrats are ultra-left socialists or some such is absurd, and if there were anything to it I don't think you'd see any Democrats clambering to embrace Specter's defection. Specter will mostly fit in with his "new" friends because the Democrats are largely the party of the intelligent right and the Republicans are increasingly the party of the lunatic fringe.

18 comments:

Leanright,  Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 2:11:00 AM EDT  

Yes, the party of Al Sharpton, and Jesse Jackson are the normal ones out there.

My dear beloved, Ayn Rand, is starting to roll over in her grave. She warned us that this would happen.

Mr. Specter is an ass, and now, quite literally. You can have him. I'm sure the Democrats will dig themselves quite a hole over the next couple of years. I tell you, they had better nail it, because eventually, they have to stop blaming Bush for everything from the war to leaving the cap off of the toothpaste.

Something tells me there will be a fuck up or two along the way. I'm sure the Messiah will fix it though.

Good Bye Specter, Fuck you very much.

Janiece Murphy Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 9:30:00 AM EDT  

"Well, there's somebody who's sort of reasonable"?

Michele Bachmann?

What?

Leanright, how come you're holding the new administration to a higher standard than Bush's? From what I can see, the only thing he "nailed" while in the White House was Laura, and yet holding him accountable for his incredible lack of judgment and mile high deficits seems to rank just below your sex change operation on your priority list.

*cough*double standard*cough*

And for the record, I, too, am sick and tired of listening to President Obama talk about what he "inherited." Shut the hell up and get to work, say I.

Nathan Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 10:32:00 AM EDT  

...eventually, they have to stop blaming Bush for everything from the war to leaving the cap off of the toothpaste.Bush has been gone for a little over three months. I think I can blame him for his legacy for just a little bit longer, thank you very much. Actually, while I'm thinking about it, I promise to let Bush completely off the hook the same day people stop excusing Nixon's Vietnam policies because "it was JFK's fault we were there in the first place".

And no. I'm not trying to make this into a Vietnam argument. Specter's defection will make ZERO practical difference in anything except for his possibility of retaining his seat. He'll continue to vote the way he always has...sanely sometimes and batshit crazy some other times. Good luck predicting which way he'll go on any particular day.

Leanright,  Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 12:57:00 PM EDT  

I'm not necessarily holding Obama to a higher standard, but come on...Those around him, the MSM, his loyal following, or deciples, if you will, have really attempted to create a president who is larger than life, almost Christ-like. If his zealots are going to say his first 100 days are the greatest ever, by the greatest man to ever hold office, then I actually feel sorry for the man. Who on earth can live up to that standard? Perhaps after all, he is NOT of this earth!

Sure, his approval ratings are high. He has begun to implement his policies right away, and now a guy like Specter can help anything go through, completely uncontested. If fixing the economy was as easy as turning on the money printing-presses, then why does it not happen EVERY recession? BECAUSE, any relevant economist knows that we end up like Zimbabwe, a nation full of homeless-millionaires. We will have inflation, no doubt. What congress is proposing and Obama is signing creates more national debt than the entire time between Washington to Bush II. Even the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that in the long run, this will be detrimental to the nation. It's plain scary. Cutting the deficit in half by increasing spending 4-fold. (THAT's fuzzy math). Stating that his administrations work will "Save" 2.5 to 3.0 million jobs....I have a finance and economic background, and have never found a way, or known anyone who has, been able to measure that. So, let me get this straight....Every day that I don't get fired is a job saved by Barack Obama? Really? Today, my office has 27 people it it. I guess Obama is responsible for those 27. Plus, all of the other offices in our building....Thank you Barry. He and his people have created a completely win-win situation. If it works, it's because of Obama, if not, it's because of the previous 8 years. Baffles my mind, but then I'm a Christian-Conservative-Capitalist....a REAL simpleton.

So, in the end, enjoy Specter. He's a real hoot.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:06:00 PM EDT  

Janiece: on the "get to work front," it's just easier for me to quote a paragraph from Joan Walsh at Salon earlier thise week:

Reviewing Obama's accomplishments since Jan. 20 makes even me tired: pledging to close Guantánamo; staff ethics reform; an equal pay bill; an ambitious if not big enough stimulus plan; strong initiatives on healthcare and climate change; trips abroad to repair relationships with Europe, Russia, China and Latin America. Yes, he made some bad moves on state secrets and the bank bailout, but anybody who criticizes Obama's pace of change is being paid to be a crank.

Except, of course, Ms. Walsh also accidentally overlooks Obama's reversal of Bush policies on endangered species, stem-cell research, releasing documents relating to possible crimes committed by the CIA and/or at their direction and abortion. And I'm probably overlooking something.

Change we can believe in? Yes we can. The reality is that while I profoundly disagree with the President on several issues that have been discussed in this blog (perhaps ad nauseum), the amount of sleeves-rolled-up work the Administration has done has been staggering. To the point that what Walsh says is right: some pundits must be paid to be cranky.

Obviously, some initiatives take time. And some of the Administration's issues may very well fail: I really don't know if the stimulus package is the right thing, the best thing, or enough of a thing (neither does anybody else, so all'y'all right-wing economists can go ahead and shut up until/unless your time comes to say, "Well, I coulda told you that was going to fail"; I'm not trying to stifle dissent with that, by the way, it's that I already know what some of you are going to say because you've said it, and unless you have something new to add, we get it, thanks).

And some of the Administration's initiatives and early accomplishments are things that people like Leanright just hate. The problem is there's a disconnect in the reality circuit for a lot of them: you're either leading the U.S. down the road of "socialist fascism" or you're doing nothing, and it's fair to say you don't like what's been accomplished but at least try to be consistent (and a little smarter than the Bachman Twitchy Overdrive wing of the party, eh?).

While Obama has given the left a few things to be displeased about, the balance of the first hundred days has been that the President has been active and at work. The "he just blames Bush" meme that started on Fox News seems to have wafted into the MSM like the lingering odor of a toxic fart, but that may be because the Administration's efforts have been so constant as to be almost numbing: before you can process that he's released CIA memos, here he is rolling back emissions standards to pre-Bush-EPA levels and before the ink is dry on that he's talking about getting Congress to do something about predatory lending by credit cards (and by talking, mind you, I don't mean idle chatter, I mean he's talking about schedules and meetings and who he's spoken to in Congress).

He's not the messiah, but he sure is one cool, bad-ass motherfucker, and he's been busting his ass for America during the past three months and two days. I'll take him to task for missteps on secrecy and human rights violations, but I do need to give him the man some praise.

Leanright,  Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:21:00 PM EDT  

Eric, you don't always have to call me "Leanright". Go ahead and call me Dave. Leanright is my porn name.

Anyway, I never said the man wasn't a "roll you sleeve up and get to work" kind of president. Perhaps the success of the result will match the success of the implementation.

I agree with him holding credit-card companies to task. The flip side to that will be, MUCH more difficult for people to GET credit. Perhaps like to poor folks who took home loans they couldn't pay for, this will be a GOOD thing in the long run.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:27:00 PM EDT  

LR, you wrote in while I was writing my last response. Let's point something out, because you've now said it at least twice: where in the world do you get the impression that your loss of Specter is the Democrat's gain? (And let me also repeat this: I'm a liberal independent, I mostly vote Dem because they're usually a little left of the Republicans, but anyone who thinks the Democrats represent the American left needs to check the batteries on their carbon monoxide detectors or roll the windows down or something).

It's really the Democrats' loss as much as it is the Republicans'. The Republicans lose a human credential (however flawed). The Democrats lose one of the last people they could reach across the aisle to. The Republicans gain an ideological purity that Americans roundly rejected in the last Presidential and Congressional elections, and the Democrats gain a centrist conservative who won't vote with the party on crucial issues like labor relations.

Also, LR: I'm not going to dispute what I think is an inaccurate characterization of the jobs issue, because I think your sarcastic point is actually right in a way you don't intend. Whether a job saved should be counted as a job gained, I'm quite pleased over my friends who have thus far avoided layoffs and quite worried about my friends who have already felt the axe. The present reality is that even traditionally "recession proof" jobs in industries such as government and law are seeing cutbacks, furloughs, layoffs and dropped contracts. I don't care whether you should be grateful to Obama that you haven't been shitcanned--you probably don't need to be, frankly--but you should certainly be happy for every day you're not getting pinkslipped.

I think it's unlikely you'll see Obama ducking responsibility; he's shown a willingness to be a mensch and to admit slip-ups so far. You could be right, of course, we'll see--but I'd say you assume too much.

Lastly, one minor, intriguing point: I don't care how you refer to the President Of The United States. In our citizen's republic, we ought to be on a first name basis with our leaders. And yet why do I have the feeling--perhaps mistaken, but there it is--that if I referred to Mr. Bush as "Georgie" you'd see it as a sign of disrespect and contempt, Leanright? Okay, so I do have a great deal of disrespect and contempt for the former President--and I won't say I've never used his first name in a condescending way, I probably have. But you do realize I've referred to him as "President Bush" or "Mr. Bush" more consistently than you've referred to the sitting President in a similar manner, don't you?

It's just interesting, is all. Here I am, a liberal who believes Presidents are just dudes (or, one day, ladies), suggesting to someone who's ilk usually complains about lack of respect for the Office Of The President that their tone is more than a little disrespectful. In fact, maybe you should forget I said anything at all. Be as condescending to the leader of the free world as you'd like--I'm sure he can take it, I'm sure he doesn't care, and anyway the point of not having royalty is admitting we're all just plain folks regardless of title--but at least try to be consistent. E.g., the next time you say the Obama administration is blaming Bush, you should say, "Barry keeps blaming Georgie Jr." or something like that.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 1:29:00 PM EDT  

P.S.

Sorry, Dave--you gave me permission to address you by name while I was writing the last bit, which is sort of ironic considering the last point I had to make.

-Eric.

Leanrigh,  Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 2:00:00 PM EDT  

Not sure if you read a previous post in your blog a couple of months ago, but I gave Michelle my bio. I'm a REAL LIVE BOY!

Perhaps I should address the president with the dignity and respect of the office. No terms like "Bush the Lesser", (Who said that?). Bush has been called a facist, a monkey, "King" George, etc... In fact, I never heard a president insulted an mocked more than Mr. Bush was. And he took it, and I believe in his own way, he left office with his head held high.

Now don't get me wrong, He was not the best president the GOP has ever elected, and I only 51% like what he did while in office. I found his border policy horrendous (you'd REALLY have to live in a border state to feel what we feel), His polices regarding bailouts and TARP-awful. Where I will give him credit: After 9-11, he said one of his goals was to make sure America did not get attacked again on our soil. We did not. If we look at that in it's most simple form, THAT was a success. I'm MUCH more of a Reagan conservative.

I manage my own one-man investment business called Danbury Financial Services, and I subcontract through Compak Asset Managment. I can't be "pink-slipped" unless I do it to myself. I eat only what I kill, and pay for everything from my travel to my paperclips. I DO feel for those whom have suffered the most. California has been affected tremendously, and say what you will, some of us do have hearts.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 3:39:00 PM EDT  

Fair enough on the "Bush The Lesser" call, Dave--I did say that. You won't find me calling him a "fascist" because I consider it a precise term that loses meaning when it's abused.

You're old enough, if I'm not mistaken, to remember Clinton being called "Slick Willie" and accused of murder, and possibly to remember the "More Mush From The Wimp" headline that appeared in a prominent newspaper after a Carter speech. You may or may not remember the treatment Nixon received, tho' it's my personal opinion he earned every bit of it.

Mr. Bush's treatment, whether justified or not, was never worse than some of his predecessors in both parties, and it's a revisionist canard that it ever was. Bush wasn't even treated worse in eight years than he treated Senator John McCain in the 2000 primaries, frankly. I'm almost willing to call any rough treatment Bush received as a tie with the abuse that was heaped on the Clintons (as with Bush, some of the abuse heaped on the Clintons was justified by their own faults and misbehavior, and likewise some of it simply wasn't).

I have to admit: I'm not entirely sure I can drop "Bush The Lesser": it hearkens back to older times in a way, "Pliny The Elder" and all that sort of thing. If we don't escape dynastic politics, it might be a necessary thing to use phrases like that to distinguish between some of our elected officials, unfortunately (e.g. there are obviously Greater and Lesser Kennedys--or should that be "Kennedies", and possibly ones that are spotted or duck-billed or greater-beaked or wingless, for all I know).

Janiece Murphy Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 4:43:00 PM EDT  

Dave, you are holding Obama to a higher standard - we're not talking about the MSM or his "deciples" or zealots or whatever you want to call them - we're talking about you. You said "they had better nail it." That's a very high standard, and those are your words if I'm not mistaken. Unless you're channeling Rush, in which case I would say, "begone," because he's simply not worth the effort. Don't blame the left for your own expectations, especially when you already fully expect the man's administration and policies to fail.

Eric, I wasn't clear in my complaint, and I apologize. I know what Obama has accomplished his first three months in office, and (for the most part) I heartily approve.

What I'm sick of (to the point of wanting to vomit), is his constant commentary about his policies in light of "this deficit we inherited, this war we inherited, this crappy carpet we inherited."

I voted for the man, both in the primary and the general election. I know what a fucked up mess it was before his arrival - why do you think I voted for him, if not to fix it? His constant reminders insult my intelligence as one of his supporters, because they imply I wouldn't know what a crap-fest it was before his arrival if he didn't tell me constantly.

I hope that's clearer.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 6:07:00 PM EDT  

Janiece: it is. The take on that I've read elsewhere is essentially that he's trying to explain to the kids in America's collective backseat why we aren't there yet. Given that most Americans expect these things to take time, that may be gratuitous and mildly condescending on his part.

Random Michelle K Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 8:43:00 PM EDT  

In fact, I never heard a president insulted an mocked more than Mr. Bush was.

You're kidding right?

"I have committed adultery in my heart" got plenty of play, and until a few years had passed and he became an elder statesman, there were few people who had any respect whatsoever for Carter.

"I am not a crook" is just plain infamous.

Clinton has already been discussed.

I believe that LBJ to a hell of a lot of abuse--do you really think "monkey" is worse than "baby killer"?

Random Michelle K Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 8:45:00 PM EDT  

Given that most Americans expect these things to take time

I think you're assuming entirely too much about most Americans.

We may recognize that things take time, but I wouldn't give most Americans that much credit.

Eric Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 9:39:00 PM EDT  

Michelle: that statement was based on the much-discussed results of a poll done by the New York Times in January of this year. Of course there are lies, damn lies and statistics, but anecdotally-speaking I'd say the Times results are accurate and still good three months later.

In any event, the statement wasn't based on blind faith or a mere assumption. Sometimes we're not as awful a People as one would think--so buck up and have some faith, gentle heart! :-)

Leanright,  Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 11:38:00 PM EDT  

When I said "he'd better nail it", wasn't MY standard. I certainly don't expect him too. It's for Mr. Obama's sake. His legion of followers seem to have expectations of him beyond what any mortal man should have. If he doesn't "get there", it may affect his approval. The expectation he has is greater than ever. I actually almost feel sorry for the man. He seems to have nowhere to go but down!

Incidentally, why does my Mac still underline Obama as a word? It seems that Mr. Jobs, et al, have not gotten the memo.

Eric Friday, May 1, 2009 at 12:01:00 AM EDT  

Dave: we'll see. But--and I almost hate to have to say this--I think your conservative perspective really is blinding you to something that's been discussed here before: that liberals tend to question everything anyway.

In the present context, what that means is that liberals are perfectly capable of criticizing the hell out of Obama and respecting him. I realize there are folks on the right who will eventually admit (as you did earlier in the post) that they only agree with a Republican some percentage of the time but they support him anyway, but that's not really the same thing.

It's sort of like the way we liberals can be extremely critical of American actions or policies and then flummoxed when those on the right say we're traitors. Questioning what our leaders do and expressing a degree of irreverence is part of the Enlightenment tradition that spawned liberalism in the first place.

That can produce an illusion of dislike. I mean, if you went through the posts on this blog I suspect you'd statistically conclude that I don't think much of Obama because most of what I've written since he was sworn in has found fault with his policy on state secrets and/or war crimes prosecution. And I can utter a pretty caustic stream of invective on Obama's performances in these areas. And yet, perversely enough, I support the guy and think he's doing a great job.

I think the left is more flexible and allows more play like that. Conservatism is conceptually based on respect for tradition and liberalism is conceptually based on treating every day like a new data set. Someone like Limbaugh sees liberals jumping on Obama as a turning tide--respect for tradition means if you showed your love yesterday you show it today or you no longer love. And so that's the message Limbaugh sells. But that's just not how a liberal approaches things.

Polling data and anecdotal evidence suggests that a hell of a lot of Americans understand the country's in a mess that will take time to fix. The same data indicates that most people who aren't Fox pundits are just happy to have someone obviously smart who seems to have a cool head in charge (Obama is what the late Douglas Adams might have called a "hoopy frood who always knows where his towel is," actually, which doesn't mean anything messiah-like at all--Zaphod Beeblebrox is a hoopy frood and a blithering idiot--and should make perfect sense to HH2GG fans in the crowd.)

The "nowhere to go but down" meme is true in a sense--with numbers as good as Obama's, there's more room down then up. But it's also a certain amount of wishfulness by Fox News and others: when Obama's numbers do go down, I don't know that it's going to reflect the blistering disappointment the Fox News types think it will. I've said it before: the conservative pundits remind me of the Grinch on Christmas morning--they're anxiously awaiting the moans and weeping from Whoville, and are going to be disappointed when everybody else in the country deals with "disappointment" by holding hands and singing (metaphorically speaking), because that's really the zeitgeist we're in the midst of right now. People will be critical of Obama and cool with Obama, disappointed and okay with that.

I think. We'll see, obviously.

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