Snarlin’ Arlen leaves the Senate.
If Pennsylvania’s forcibly retired senior Senator was in the holiday spirit, he was cleverly hiding it under a guise worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge. Biding adieu to a 30-year career in the Senate, Specter produced enough whine for a vineyard as he lashed out at the political opponents who toppled him:
In his final speech on the Senate floor, the outgoing Republican-turned-Democrat sounded off on the tea party, the rise of partisanship in Congress and the “judicial activism” of the Supreme Court.
“Defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism,” the Pennsylvania senator said of the tea party activists who worked to defeat GOP centrists.
Specter bemoaned the loss of a Senate where both parties seemed to be interested in finding compromise, and he was especially critical of lawmakers who campaigned against their fellow members.
“That conduct was beyond contemplation in the Senate I joined 30 years ago,” Specter said. “Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone simultaneously out to defeat you, especially within your own party.”
In other words – bah humbug!
Specter’s comparison of the GOP to a Uruguayan rugby team has earned him the standard media designation of ex officio Republican division expert due to his status as, well, an ex officio. Lost in the shuffle seems to be Specter’s actual defeat at the hands of the party that he left 45 years ago when he began his career as Philadelphia’s District Attorney. By Specter’s own experience, if Republicans are cannibals, then Democrats are toasting Arlen’s farewell speech with Soylent Green.
But in his final mixing of geritol with vitriol, Specter showed precisely why the electorate’s of both major parties found little use for him. As a man famous for tying his ideological moorings to helium balloons, Specter’s complaint that “senior Republican senators have recently abandoned long-held positions out of fear of losing their seats” rang as hollow as his partisan affiliation.
Some of Specter’s greatest criticism came towards his colleagues who vigorously campaigned against him, apparently violating sacrosanct Senate rules of civility. Or Scottish law. Regardless that the leadership in two parties attempted to squeeze him through two different primaries, Specter cast a pale over the lack of Senate comity, stating that such an atmosphere made crafting legislation impossible.
Undoubtbly dying in politics is easy; comity is hard. But what veterans of the Senate like Specter fail to understand is that most of the comity coming from Washington in recent years is decidedly unamusing to most voters. From the Patriot Act, to Immigration Reform, TARP and everything in between, almost all the bipartisan solutions have produced bipartisan disgust. Even the most recent tax compromise has left no one happy and the federal deficit a trillion dollars fatter. When even Lindsey Graham finds such legislation a “capitulation”, you know the fetish of compromise has reached its nadir.
Specter dubbed his final address a “closing argument.” But in truth, his parting shots were more a case for the prosecution as what Specter really issued was a petty defense of Senate priviledge – and himself.