Monday, October 15, 2012

Arlen Specter: 1930-2012

I heard the news of the passing of former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter literally 30 seconds before I went on the air yesterday.

Specter died Sunday died at his home in Philadelphia from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said his son Shanin. He was 82. Over the years, Specter had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, overcome a brain tumor and survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.

Ironically, I invoked Specter's name last week on my radio program. As part of a prize giveaway, my listeners had to answer a political trivia question to win. My question was which US Senator, in April 2009, helped the Democrats attain a 60-seat "super majority" by flipping parties? The answer of course was Specter. Seeing that he would not even going to survive a Republican primary challenge from Pat Toomey, Specter fled to the Democrat party to help them ram through the monstrosity that is Obamacare and thus continue his political career. One of the perks promised to Specter for switching parties was that he would maintain his seniority on all the committees which he served. Naturally weak character Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, reneged on that pledge. In the end, it turned out to be a moot point, as Specter was defeated in Pennsylvania's Democrat Senatorial primary by Joe Sestak in 2010.

I don't know if it was coincidental or not, but Specter seemed to become rather unhinged after he became a Democrat.

  • Specter was an advocate for government run health care even as a Republican. However, it was when he was on the Dem side that he essentially blamed his former party for the death of longtime GOP politician Jack Kemp. 
  • In January 2010, he acted like a complete buffoon when conducting a radio interview alongside Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. 
  • Then earlier this year, while conducting an on air interview with Jason Lewis, Specter became agitated that he had to hold through commercial breaks and ended up cutting his time short with an abrupt hang up.
Alas, it would be unfair to paint Specter as simply a veritable cartoon character.

Specter took credit for helping to defeat President Bill Clinton's national health care plan - the complexities of which he highlighted in a gigantic chart that hung on his office wall for years afterward - and helped lead the investigation into Gulf War syndrome, the name given to a collection of symptoms experienced by veterans of the war that include fatigue, memory loss, pain and difficulty sleeping. And following the Iran-Contra scandal, Specter pushed legislation that created the inspectors general of the CIA, which later exposed Aldrich Ames as a Soviet spy.

The former Senator is survived by his wife, Joan, and two sons, Shanin and Steve, and four granddaughters.


No comments: