Thursday, April 30, 2009

Specter the Defector: Flip-flopping Like a Ten Pound Bass

"The one consistency in the history of Arlen Specter has been his willingness to do whatever will best protect and advance the career of Arlen Specter."
Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's been more than four decades since Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania, earned the nickname "Specter the Defector." With his decision this week to leave the Republican Party, he confirmed that it is indeed an accurate description of his political character.

I was a kid reporter for the New York Times back in 1965, when Specter's flip-flopping first attracted attention, and the report I filed recounts the circumstances that led to his unflattering nickname. Specter, then a Democrat, had been an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and he harbored an ambition to run against his lackluster boss, James Crumlish. The Democratic bosses of Philadelphia were not encouraging Specter because, as one of them told me, "We don't want another young Tom Dewey," the reform-minded New York prosecutor who launched himself into the governorship and two presidential nominations by sending a string of prominent officeholders of both parties off to jail.

So Specter, with the encouragement of such prominent Pennsylvania Republicans as Sen. Hugh Scott and Gov. William Scranton, said he would run against Crumlish on the GOP ticket. To hedge his bets, and to help himself gain Democratic votes, he waited until he won the race to change his party registration.

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