Arlen Specter, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, is one of three Senate Republicans who voted for the stimulus bill. That fact has made a lot of people in Pennsylvania angry and perhaps increased the likelihood that Specter, a perennial survivor, will be booted from office this year. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
I got a taste of how Specter and his staff operate when I ran for Congress last year. As a moderate Republican running in Specter's home district, I thought I would receive at least symbolic support. Instead I was treated to a rambling discourse from staff members on how Specter was the only Republican who knew how to win in Pennsylvania; how politics was about power and not ideas; and, in essence, that I would have to come up with $100,000 of my own money for the race before the Senator would demonstrate any interest. When it became apparent that I wouldn't do so I was effectively shown the door and none of my later phone calls was returned. No one expressed the slightest interest in my ideas, proposals, or anything else I might offer as a candidate. This treatment is, apparently, par for the course: as one high-ranking Republican put it, "Arlen looks out for Arlen." Specter himself opened a website and scheduled numerous fundraising events, two years ahead of schedule, while McCain and other Republicans remained starved for immediate cash.
It has been suggested that Specter is a "moderate" who voted his convictions in favor of the stimulus bill. The correct term is "opportunist." Specter voted for the 1981 Reagan tax cuts when conservatism was in vogue and for whatever other conservative legislation has suited him. His goal is, was, and always has been to be on the winning side and at the center of power as long and as often as possible. He is as close to a wholly unprincipled politician as there is in Washington, and that is saying an awful lot. He is likely to be removed this year either in a primary (he almost lost last time) or the general election, where few Republicans are likely to lift a finger for him. It's about time.