Commentary Magazine


Topic: Anita Hill

Specter Did Specter In

Margaret Carlson has two smart observations about the political demise of Arlen Specter. First, on top of his general toxicity to Democratic candidates, Obama helped do in Specter by nominating Elena Kagan, “which reminded people of that long-ago performance by Specter as he slammed Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Not too long ago, before Specter pledged Democrats his troth, Specter voted against the White House nomination of Kagan for solicitor general. Not surprisingly, he had a hard time finding takers for his reasons why she wasn’t qualified for that job — but should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court.”

In this we saw vintage Obama as well as classic Specter. Obama didn’t have a care in the world that his Kagan selection (which has gone over like a lead balloon with his base) would highlight Specter’s lack of core convictions. And Specter was at his typical squishiness in trying to disguise his true motives in these confirmation battles: ensuring his own re-election.

And then, unlike Campbell Brown, Snarlin’ Arlen went out in true form: “Specter did not go quietly into that good night, conceding in the shortest of speeches with no kind words for Sestak. He could have gone out gracefully but so few do — because losing is a little like dying for some.” It was one more reminder that Specter lacks both principles and class.

Politicians don’t often get their just desserts. The crooked ones often avoid prosecution. The ones who go back on campaign promises are rarely held accountable. In sleazy backroom deals, while supposedly representing “the people,” all too many secure comfy jobs on K Street that can benefit their own financial future at the expense of the taxpayers. But once in a while, a clarifying and fully satisfying moment comes along. This is one of them. And on this there is bipartisan agreement: Specter’s forced retirement is good for the Senate and good for the country.

Margaret Carlson has two smart observations about the political demise of Arlen Specter. First, on top of his general toxicity to Democratic candidates, Obama helped do in Specter by nominating Elena Kagan, “which reminded people of that long-ago performance by Specter as he slammed Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Not too long ago, before Specter pledged Democrats his troth, Specter voted against the White House nomination of Kagan for solicitor general. Not surprisingly, he had a hard time finding takers for his reasons why she wasn’t qualified for that job — but should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court.”

In this we saw vintage Obama as well as classic Specter. Obama didn’t have a care in the world that his Kagan selection (which has gone over like a lead balloon with his base) would highlight Specter’s lack of core convictions. And Specter was at his typical squishiness in trying to disguise his true motives in these confirmation battles: ensuring his own re-election.

And then, unlike Campbell Brown, Snarlin’ Arlen went out in true form: “Specter did not go quietly into that good night, conceding in the shortest of speeches with no kind words for Sestak. He could have gone out gracefully but so few do — because losing is a little like dying for some.” It was one more reminder that Specter lacks both principles and class.

Politicians don’t often get their just desserts. The crooked ones often avoid prosecution. The ones who go back on campaign promises are rarely held accountable. In sleazy backroom deals, while supposedly representing “the people,” all too many secure comfy jobs on K Street that can benefit their own financial future at the expense of the taxpayers. But once in a while, a clarifying and fully satisfying moment comes along. This is one of them. And on this there is bipartisan agreement: Specter’s forced retirement is good for the Senate and good for the country.

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Will a Pro-Israel Record Save Specter, Sink Sestak?

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

One of the sidebar stories of the battle for Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nomination is the way in which incumbent Arlen Specter has tried to use his support of Israel in order to fend off the challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak.

Despite his many other failings as a veteran political weather vane devoid of an ounce of principle, Pennsylvania’s senior senator has been a fairly reliable supporter of the Jewish state during his three decades in office. As such, he has been able to command the support of the mainstream pro-Israel community, in all of his re-election battles. Indeed, in 1992, when, in the aftermath of his tough questioning of Anita Hill, Specter had his toughest general-election challenge, his victory over Democrat Lynn Yeakel could well be credited to the Israel factor. Yeakel, a liberal Democrat whose prime motivation for running was to get revenge for Specter’s rough cross-examination of Clarence Thomas’s accuser, was defeated in no small measure because of her membership in a Presbyterian church that was a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement. Yeakel refused to disavow her pastor or the church (a lesson that Barack Obama might well have profited from when he eventually disavowed Jeremiah Wright), and Specter, with the active assistance of local pro-Israel activists, clobbered her for it and was returned to Washington.

Since then the bond between pro-Israel activists and Specter has stood the test of time. Not even Specter’s bizarre championing of the Assad regime, which he repeatedly visited over the years to the consternation of both Republican and Democratic presidents, diminished his ability to rally his co-religionists as he routinely grabbed the lion’s share of the normally monolithic Democratic Jewish vote.

Indeed, though Specter’s party switch last year to save his political skin in the face of certain defeat in a Republican primary left a bad taste in many voters’ mouths, most Jewish Democrats rejoiced that the man that they had voted for as a Republican could now be supported on the more familiar Democratic line. And though Jewish Democrats in Pennsylvania are not numerous enough to be able to swing any election, high Jewish turnout in a primary where turnout is expected to be low cannot be dismissed as a non-factor.

Specter also could count on his Democratic challenger Joe Sestak’s far from sterling record on Israel. In 2007, Sestak spoke at a fundraiser for CAIR – the pro-Hamas front group that was implicated in the Holy Land Foundation federal terror prosecution. And he has signed on to congressional letters criticizing Israel’s measures of self-defense against terrorists and refused to back those bipartisan letters backing the Jewish state on the issue of Jerusalem. Though his stands on other foreign-policy issues, such as continuing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, are better than those of Specter (who tried to curry favor with the left by backing a policy of cutting and running in Afghanistan), Sestak seems to be J Street’s idea of a model congressman.

But the question facing Specter as Pennsylvania Democrats headed to the polls today in the rain is whether even a solid pro-Israel record will be enough to convince Jewish Democrats to stay with him despite a rising anti-incumbent tide. And if, as recent polls indicate, Sestak wins tonight, the stage will be set for a true test of the Jewish vote in November. If the general-election match-up turns out to be a race between Sestak and the conservative but impeccably pro-Israel Pat Toomey, Jewish Democrats who care about Israel will then be forced to choose between their party loyalty and the need to keep a Senate seat in the hands of a friend of the Jewish state. A full-page ad that appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent last week lambasted Sestak for his record on Israel and asked voters to “not allow Joe Sestak to represent you in the U.S. Senate.” The ad seemed to draw a line in the sand for some of the prominent Jewish Democrats listed as having signed the statement. If the polls are right and Specter’s long career is now at an end, then those Democrats will have a difficult time explaining a decision to support Sestak against a man like Toomey who can be counted on to stand up to a White House whose animus for Israel may be a major issue in the coming years.

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Specter’s Lesson: Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth Is an Ungrateful Abortion Lobby

Consistency on the issues has never been one of Arlen Specter’s character traits as a politician. Yet for all of his flips and flops on just about everything, not to mention his two changes in party affiliation, there is one issue on which the ultra-cynical senator has been fairly consistent: abortion. Indeed, if there is any one point of contention that defined him in his Senate career as a “liberal” Republican, it was his “pro-choice” beliefs. But despite three decades of such a stance and the fact that he has now joined the party that generally treats the backing for abortion as a litmus test, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the premiere pro-abortion lobby, is throwing Specter under the bus in the midst of his life-and-death struggle to hold on to his Senate seat.

NARAL endorsed Specter’s opponent Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday in a statement that dismissed the senator’s decades of work without so much as a backward glance. Indeed, far from treating the question of which pro-choice Democrat to back in the primary as a dilemma, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president Nancy Keenan stuck the proverbial knife in the back of her group’s erstwhile loyalist by saying: “Many Pennsylvanians are under the impression that Arlen Specter might be a reliable pro-choice voice, but his record says otherwise. Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who considers being pro-choice a position of conviction, rather than a position of convenience.”

Ouch! Reading that, you have to sympathize a bit with Snarlin’ Arlen. You might well say that such a swipe at his character would be justified if you were talking about anything else, but it’s hard to argue that his stand on just about the only issue on which he has been consistent was merely a matter of convenience.

What’s NARAL’s motive? Is it belated payback for Specter’s roughing up of Anita Hill? Maybe. But according to its release, it’s the fact that Specter voted for Republican court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito and at one point voted, along with many Democrats, in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortion. But Specter’s record on court nominations has been anything but consistent, given his participation in the vicious attacks on Robert Bork in the 1980s, which pleased NARAL, and his vote in favor of the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor last year.

But the real answer may be elsewhere in the statement, where Keenan claims, “Joe Sestak is the candidate who is best positioned to defeat an anti-choice opponent in the November general election.” Which is to say that she has read the polls, which show that Specter’s lead over his opponent has evaporated and that Sestak may be a tougher opponent for likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey. Now that he really needs them, Specter is finding that NARAL, like every other political entity, prefers backing likely winners to helping out old friends.

But just to show that ingratitude and extremism aren’t confined to the pro-choicers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the long-shot challenge to Toomey in the Republican primary next week is also motivated by abortion. Activist Peg Luksik thinks that the former congressman isn’t sufficiently fanatic on the issue because despite his consistent pro-life record, he believes there should be exceptions to any potential ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Luksik’s claim to fame is that 20 years ago, she won 46 percent of the vote in a failed attempt to deny a GOP gubernatorial nomination to Barbara Hafer, a pro-choice Republican. Since then, she twice ran as a third-party candidate for governor against Tom Ridge.

Toomey is a prohibitive favorite and doesn’t have much to worry about in the primary. But looking ahead to November, he does seem to have a firm grasp on the difference between running against Specter and running against Sestak. While claiming that either would energize the Republican base, the Inquirer quotes Toomey as summing up the contrast between the two in this way:

“If Joe Sestak wins the nomination, I do think it will be a much more substantive discussion about policy, whereas if it was Arlen Specter, it would be a series of personal, negative ads trying to smear character. That’s the way he’s always operated.”

Consistency on the issues has never been one of Arlen Specter’s character traits as a politician. Yet for all of his flips and flops on just about everything, not to mention his two changes in party affiliation, there is one issue on which the ultra-cynical senator has been fairly consistent: abortion. Indeed, if there is any one point of contention that defined him in his Senate career as a “liberal” Republican, it was his “pro-choice” beliefs. But despite three decades of such a stance and the fact that he has now joined the party that generally treats the backing for abortion as a litmus test, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the premiere pro-abortion lobby, is throwing Specter under the bus in the midst of his life-and-death struggle to hold on to his Senate seat.

NARAL endorsed Specter’s opponent Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday in a statement that dismissed the senator’s decades of work without so much as a backward glance. Indeed, far from treating the question of which pro-choice Democrat to back in the primary as a dilemma, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s president Nancy Keenan stuck the proverbial knife in the back of her group’s erstwhile loyalist by saying: “Many Pennsylvanians are under the impression that Arlen Specter might be a reliable pro-choice voice, but his record says otherwise. Pennsylvanians deserve a senator who considers being pro-choice a position of conviction, rather than a position of convenience.”

Ouch! Reading that, you have to sympathize a bit with Snarlin’ Arlen. You might well say that such a swipe at his character would be justified if you were talking about anything else, but it’s hard to argue that his stand on just about the only issue on which he has been consistent was merely a matter of convenience.

What’s NARAL’s motive? Is it belated payback for Specter’s roughing up of Anita Hill? Maybe. But according to its release, it’s the fact that Specter voted for Republican court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito and at one point voted, along with many Democrats, in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortion. But Specter’s record on court nominations has been anything but consistent, given his participation in the vicious attacks on Robert Bork in the 1980s, which pleased NARAL, and his vote in favor of the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor last year.

But the real answer may be elsewhere in the statement, where Keenan claims, “Joe Sestak is the candidate who is best positioned to defeat an anti-choice opponent in the November general election.” Which is to say that she has read the polls, which show that Specter’s lead over his opponent has evaporated and that Sestak may be a tougher opponent for likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey. Now that he really needs them, Specter is finding that NARAL, like every other political entity, prefers backing likely winners to helping out old friends.

But just to show that ingratitude and extremism aren’t confined to the pro-choicers, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the long-shot challenge to Toomey in the Republican primary next week is also motivated by abortion. Activist Peg Luksik thinks that the former congressman isn’t sufficiently fanatic on the issue because despite his consistent pro-life record, he believes there should be exceptions to any potential ban on abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Luksik’s claim to fame is that 20 years ago, she won 46 percent of the vote in a failed attempt to deny a GOP gubernatorial nomination to Barbara Hafer, a pro-choice Republican. Since then, she twice ran as a third-party candidate for governor against Tom Ridge.

Toomey is a prohibitive favorite and doesn’t have much to worry about in the primary. But looking ahead to November, he does seem to have a firm grasp on the difference between running against Specter and running against Sestak. While claiming that either would energize the Republican base, the Inquirer quotes Toomey as summing up the contrast between the two in this way:

“If Joe Sestak wins the nomination, I do think it will be a much more substantive discussion about policy, whereas if it was Arlen Specter, it would be a series of personal, negative ads trying to smear character. That’s the way he’s always operated.”

Read Less




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