One thing you can say about Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and associate editor Dan Simpson (pictured at right) is that he is creative.
In his April 22 column, Simpson created a meeting with a certain Senator Arlen Specter in 1974.
Here's the relevant verbiage from Simpson's column ("Switch Sides, Sen. Specter"), the primary purpose of which is to lobby for the Keystone State Senator to become a Democrat:
The first time I met Mr. Specter was in 1974 as the state department desk officer for Rhodesia. The Nixon administration was trying to repeal the Byrd Amendment, which had America importing chrome from Rhodesia in opposition to most of the rest of the world.
Mr. Specter was representing a steel state and was not inclined to vote on the issue with the Republican president. I was told before seeing him that he was hard-minded and sometimes short-tempered. Nonetheless, he heard out the State Department argument, made no commitment and eventually avoided a vote. But he was fair and did not take the obvious position automatically. He was judicious.
There's only one problem, which was noted by Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web yesterday after alert readers caught it (bold is mine; link was in original):
We're a bit embarrassed to have missed this yesterday, but lots of readers called it to our attention. We quoted an anecdote from Dan Simpson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, according to which he, as a State Department official, lobbied Specter in 1974 to support the repeal of an amendment authorizing trade with white-ruled Rhodesia. According to Simpson, Specter "heard out the State Department argument, made no commitment and eventually avoided a vote."
As our astute readers noted, it would have been very easy for Specter to avoid a vote, since he didn't serve in Congress until 1981! The senator's official bio tells us that in 1974 he completed his service as district attorney of Philadelphia and returned to the private practice of law.
So what in the world was Simpson doing lobbying him? Was Specter impersonating a senator? Has he discovered the secret of time travel? Or is this like John Kerry's tale of spending Christmas in Cambodia, fighting "Nixon's war" before Nixon had been inaugurated? Is the experience seared, seared in Simpson's mind?
As far as I can tell, the experience of seeing its associate editor caught in a "misremembrance" that is at the very least very odd has, as of 11 a.m. this morning, not been considered important enough to be in need of a correction.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.