Specter served as a liberal Republican for most of his career before switching to the Democratic Party in 2009 in an unsuccessful attempt to preserve his seat. But while Specter battled conservative icon Judge Robert Bork and helped deny Bork a seat on the Supreme Court, it's a later Supreme Court dust-up the Times and liberals refuse to forgive him for: His tough questioning of Anita Hill after she accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during Thomas's 1991 Supreme Court hearings.
In an obituary for former Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter on Sunday's NBC Nightly News, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell summarized his shift in political allegiance this way: "Specter's views, supporting abortion rights, immigration reform, and gun control, made him too liberal for the Tea Party movement...Under assault, he bolted to the Democratic Party."
Introducing O'Donnell's report, anchor Lester Holt declared Specter to be "a longtime voice of moderation in Washington, and at times a figure of controversy." As evidence of Specter's controversial nature, O'Donnell cited him questioning the credibility of Anita Hill during a 1991 Supreme Court hearing: "Specter angered many women over the spectacle around Anita Hill, who claimed Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her."
As former Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) railed against political extremists whom he termed "cannibals," CNN's Piers Morgan actually encouraged him to "start taking a few of them out for us" and "Bury a few more bodies." Specter had specifically referenced the Tea Party and the Club for Growth as "cannibals" he wrote about in his new book "Life Among the Cannibals" and repeatedly took shots at the conservative wing of the Republican Party, on Tuesday's Piers Morgan Tonight.
Just last week CNN's Piers Morgan condemned bigoted jokes and slammed conservative actor Kirk Cameron for his "deliberately inflammatory" rhetoric against homosexuals. However, he not only allowed Specter to label his enemies "cannibals" but joined in on the act. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
A seemingly befuddled Chris Matthews on Tuesday interviewed former Senator Arlen Specter, gleefully (and incorrectly) referring to the Democrat as a Republican. Downplaying the fact that Specter switched parties, Matthews bellowed, "Your party has become a right-wing party."
After mentioning the plight of Charlie Crist, who was defeated by Marco Rubio in a Republican senatorial primary, Matthews shrieked, "He lost the Senate race because he contacted [hugged] the President physically once. This is what is going on in your party." Again, the Republican Party is not Specter's party. Just getting warmed up, Matthews complained, "And so the party of Lincoln has became the party of Strom Thurmond, hasn't it?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Chris Matthews, during MSNBC's live election night coverage, was distressed at what he saw was the "death of the moderate wing of the Republican Party." After his colleague Keith Olbermann ran down the latest results of Republicans leading or winning in specific races Matthews bemoaned how such moderates like Charlie Crist and Arlen Specter were run out of their own party and even bellowed: "Mike Castle getting knocked out by the woman who said she's not a witch...is a joke, it's a joke for the Republican Party to lose people like Mike Castle."
The following November 2, outburst by Matthews was aired during MSNBC's live election night coverage:
Imagine if, in 2004, Karl Rove had offered then-Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) a cushy administration post if only he dropped his primary challenge of then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, whom the Bush White House was backing for reelection.
Surely the media would merely smell "stupid politics" rather then the stench of corruption and complain that Democrats making hay of the matter were cynically making a federal case out of something that happens in Washington all the time.
Of course both you and I know that's the exact opposite of what would happen. But when it comes to Joe Sestak's alleged job offer by the Obama White House, Time magazine's Michael Grunwald is peeved at Republicans, practically telling them in his May 27 "Viewpoint" post at Time.com to move along:
On his CNN program on Monday, John King pressed both Obama senior advisor David Axelrod and Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak on the latter's allegation that he was offered a job by the White House in exchange for getting out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary against Arlen Specter. Even though King pushed for an answer, Axelrod denied any wrongdoing on the White House's part and Sestak refused to explain further [audio available here; video below the jump].
The CNN anchor raised the controversy with Sestak 16 minutes into the 7 pm Eastern hour. Though King was late in pressing Sestak on the issue, given the politician made the allegation against the Obama White House in February, he tried hard to get the Pennsylvania Democrat to divulge further information. The congressman went beyond filibustering, rephrasing his vague answer and even trying to change the subject:
UPDATE: Later in today's show, a clip [displayed after the jump] was played of an interview from months ago in which Scarborough unequivocally put it to Sestak that he had been offered the Secretary of the Navy position, and Sestak seems to confirm it. So much so that after watching the clip, today's guest Jeffrey Sachs, an ardent Obama fan, had to laughingly admit that, yes, Sestak had been offered the Navy job
Does Chuck Todd understand the difference between offering, in return for a candidate's agreement to drop out of a race, a big federal job with its salary and perks, versus offering to support someone's possible future political campaign? Apparently not. For the NBC Political Director and chief White House correspondent this morning equated the Obama admin's apparent offer of a top job to Joe Sestak with Dick Cheney's reported offer to support Tim Pawlenty in a subsequent gubernatorial run if he would get out of a Senate primary against Norm Coleman. H/t reader Ray R.
Let's make this clear: offering a federal job which is within the offerer's power of appointment, in order to influence someone is a crime. Offering political support in a possible future race is neither illegal nor wrong: it is simply politics. But Todd shockingly equated the two during the course of a spirited conversation with Joe Scarborough on today's Morning Joe.
Viewers are encouraged to watch the extended clip, but here's the the crucial segment:
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday echoed White House talking points and attempted to prop up the beleaguered campaign of Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. Talking to Joe Sestak, who is opposing the preferred Senate candidate of the White House, the host said of Obama: "If the top Democrat in the country says he needs Arlen Specter in the Senate, why shouldn't Democratic primary voters listen?"
Stephanopoulos also played a commercial featuring the President and noted that Obama says he "loves" Specter.
Touting the Republican turned Democrat, the journalist enthused, "Voters have said they want politicians to work together across party lines and Specter has a record of doing that, doesn't he?"
As the conservatives in the Tea Party movement gained strength, the liberal media often predicted they would cause harm to the Republican Party and drive out all the moderates. Wouldn't the conservatives look too extreme to win over voters? (See Rich Noyes for more.)
Now that the MoveOn.org leftists are poised to remove an incumbent Senator or two, they might spread the idea that there is also a strong ideological base in the Democratic party -- on the left. But the media rarely mourn that they're driving all out the moderate Democrats in their quest for ideological perfection, and they rarely even whisper that the leftist base will make the Democrats look too extreme to the electorate. Notice the tone of Chuck Todd's piece for Monday's Today, and let's throw in that the graphic on screen only said the trend was "anti-Washington anger." The words "liberal" or "on the left" are not spoken:
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter could find himself out of a job Tuesday night, if his newly-adopted Democratic Party refuses to renominate the 80-year-old incumbent for a sixth term. For the establishment media, Specter’s chief value was as a Republican Senator they could quote espousing anti-conservative talking points usually uttered by liberal Democrats.
It will be interesting to see whether, if Specter is indeed rejected in favor of the more liberal Congressman Joe Sestak (late polls show a virtual dead heat), if that will trigger hand-wringing about the “fringe” of the Democratic Party drumming out a more “moderate” Senator.
A review of how the media have promoted Specter as more desirable than the rest of the GOP over the years, starting with Specter’s (brief) 1995 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination:
Someone submit the Morning Joe java to Henry Waxman for analysis. There seems to be something in it causing top Dems to experience serious delusions . . .
On today's show, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius claimed that the people of her home state of Kansas are "wildly supportive" of the substance of ObamaCare. Unfortunately, suggested Sebelius, they're just too ignorant to know what's in the blessed bill.
Later, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine didn't deny that the Obama admin had engaged in two sleazy patronage deals, involving Joe Sestak and Scott Matheson. Instead, the DNC Chairman laughed off the cynical, and possibly illegal, arrangements. "Life is life," smirked Kaine.
To Morning Joe's credit, the patronage deals and the Charlie Rangel situation were discussed throughout the show. The withdrawal of Dem Rep. Eric Massa from his re-election race, amidst allegations he sexually harrassed a male staffer, was also discussed, though not raised with Kaine. Would an RNC Chairman appearing on the show the day after the Mark Foley affair erupted have gotten a similar pass?
Most Republicans likely already think Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) is a joke, and Thursday evening he proved it when he took the stage at a Pittsburgh comedy club.
Appearing at the Improv in a benefit for Allegheny county's Music Festival Fund for children, Specter poked fun exclusively at Republicans including Bob Dole, Dan Quayle, Trent Lott, Alfonse D'Amato, and Howard Baker.
Proving just how much his allegiances have changed since his defection to the Democrats, although some of the material was taken from a previous routine he had done at the Washington Improv in 2007, a joke which back then involved Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden now featured Sarah Palin, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani (videos in two parts embedded below the fold, sexual content warning, h/t Huffington Post):
At the top of the 8:00AM ET hour of Wednesday’s Early Show, co-host Russ Mitchell cited protests at health care reform town hall meetings as evidence that the debate was "turning into a nasty national shouting match."
After playing a clip of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad opposing the health care plan, Mitchell observed: "Democratic lawmakers pushing reform are being jeered at testy town hall meetings. President Obama is urging Americans to ignore those who he says are trying to scare and mislead."
At the top of the show, co-host Harry Smith declared: "As President Obama takes his health care reform plan to the people, anger spills out all over the country." Smith later introduced a segment on President Obama’s Tuesday town hall: "First though, tempers boiled over again Tuesday in the heated debate over health care, nearly everywhere that is, except inside President Obama’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire."
After years of mainstreaming and idealizing antiwar protesters and marches supporting illegal immigrants as "grandmothers with canes, parents with children in strollers," dissent against a president's policies is no longer cool at the New York Times.
The Times finds the newest batch of protesters against Obama health care to be "angry," "irritable" crowds of whites taking marching orders from conservative talk radio and web sites.
Wednesday's front-page story by Ian Urbina and Katharine Seelye on protests at Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter's town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., "SenatorGoes Face to Face With Dissent." The front page of the Times showed a confrontation between a stiff-faced Specter and a shouting protester.
They got up before dawn in large numbers with angry signs and American flag T-shirts, and many were seething with frustration at issues that went far beyond overhauling health care.
During a segment on Tuesday’s Newsroom program, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez and correspondent Ali Velshi bizarrely agreed that the issues of illegal immigration and abortion, as well as the constitutionality of the ObamaCare proposal, had little to do the health care debate, after citizens raised those issues at a health care town hall with Senator Arlen Specter.
Sanchez led the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program with his questioning of the relevance of the abortion and Constitution issues to the health care debate, interspersed with clips from the Specter town hall: “A town hall meeting to discuss health care reform. But instead....children....the Constitution....the Gettysburg Address?...Overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly anti-Obama....Which party is being helped or hurt by this?” The first sound bite was of an unidentified participant who brought up the illegal immigrant issue, and stated “the illegals- they shouldn’t even be here.” The second clip was from another participant who brought up the abortion issue: “While that baby is in the mother, we don’t count that as a person.” The last clip came from someone who quoted from Lincoln’s most famous speech.
The CNN anchor then began the first segment by playing more complete sound bites from the Specter town hall. As he introduced the clips, Sanchez hinted that the only reason why the illegal immigrant and abortion issues were raised at the Specter town hall was because they were “wedge issues.” Out of the five clips, only one came from a participant who brought up an issue that was completely unrelated to the ObamaCare proposal- the planned closure of Guantanamo Bay.
As the confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court appointee Sonia Sotomayor are upon us, the left-wing attack machine had to take a few last shots ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Jeff Session, Ala., and the Republican Party as a whole.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow explained the junior Alabama senator would take over the spot after Sen. Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic Party on her July 10 program, suggesting his selection to the post was part of some rebranding by the GOP.
"Republicans have also decided to have Senator Jeff Sessions lead this battle for them," Maddow said. "When Arlen Specter defected to the Democratic Party, the Republicans had a choice of who should be their top senator on the Judiciary Committee. They overtly chose Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be that top Republican."
When Sen. Arlen Specter ran in a contentious primary against conservative congressman Pat Toomey in 2004, his slogan was "Courage, Clout, Conviction." The other day, when Specter’s pollster apparently told him he was going to lose to Toomey in a rematch, he promptly chucked that blather about his courage and conviction and narrowed his thinking to clout. In desperation, he switched to the Democratic Party.
Specter will say (and now do) anything to remain in power. So he tried to spin his way out of this shameless act of political self-preservation by attacking conservatives.
And the left-wing "news" media were there to help.
The nation's gaffer-in-chief Joe Biden really stepped in it last week with his remarks about how Americans should avoid flying and taking the subway to avert coming down with the swine flu. It's safe to say the conventional wisdom around the country and inside the Beltway is that Biden really blundered.
But not to Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom, which in the May 11-18 edition gave Obama's veep a mere sideways arrow, hinting that role in pushing Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) to become a Democrat mitigates his political foot-in-mouth disease:
Biden: Stupidly tells “Today” we shouldn’t travel. Stick to bringing GOPs across the aisle.
Of course, that presumes Specter as newly-minted Democrat is a master stroke, which is not necessarily the case. Indeed the evidence seems to point to the contrary.
Cancer is a terrible disease. It is a slow, painful way to die, and the best of modern medicine can only sometimes beat back its advances. Also notable: Cancer is a nonpartisan disease, attacking the Jack Kemps and Ted Kennedys of the world with equal impunity. Only a true cynic could see cancer as a political fundraising opportunity.
Enter the appropriately named Senator Arlen Specter, stage left. The media-beloved Specter has been the subject of much discussion recently, following his decision to switch his party affiliation to Democrat. Some in the mainstream media have painted Specter as a consummate moderate, while others have seen in his party switch the death-knell for the Republican party’s electoral aspirations in the Northeast.
Following controversial comments about the death of former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp by newly Democratic Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter on Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, neither Sunday’s CBS Evening News nor Monday’s Early Show made any mention of the remarks.
While talking to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, Specter suggested that if members of Congress had supported his legislative efforts on cancer research funding, people like Kemp may still be alive and certain cancers may have been cured:
And one of the items that I’m working on, Bob, is funding for medical research. I’ve been the spear carrier to increase medical research. And I’ve even established a Web site, specterforthecure.com, to try to get people to put more pressure on Congress to join me in getting more funding. This medical research has been a reawakening-- the ten billion dollars. We were about to lose a whole generation of scientists. And now they’re enthused. There are fifteen thousand applications to be granted. If we had pursued what President Nixon declared in 1970 as the war on cancer, we would have cured many strains. I think Jack Kemp would be alive today. And that research has saved or prolonged many lives, including mine. Now, as the New York Times pointed out in a column today, when you talk about life and death and medical research, that’s a much more major consideration on what I can do, continuing in the Senate, contrasted with which party I belong to.
Apparently, CBS did not see anything controversial in such a self-aggrandizing statement.
In his Monday “Media Notes” column, Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz addressed Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democrats and explored whether the media has a double standard in covering party-switchers: “little attention was devoted to this question: Was this a betrayal of the voters who elected Specter?”
Correspondent Carl Cannon, on AOL's new PoliticsDaily site, says conservatives are right in complaining that much of the media have "a double standard regarding party-switchers....When Republicans morph into Democrats, we tend to act like they finally saw the light, and quote them ad nauseam about how the Republican Party has gotten too narrow, etc., etc." But when a Democrat joins the GOP, "we concentrate on the tactical advantage to the party switcher."
Cannon recalled conservative disgust over the media celebration of departing Republican Jim Jeffords in 2001. Kurtz’s review of media coverage found a real lack of questioning Specter’s disloyalty to his party:
Commenting on Senator Arlen Specter's switch from the Republican to Democratic Party, Newsweek's Evan Thomas declared Republicans are now “exactly like the Labor Party in England in the 1970s. They're letting their extremists take them straight down.” As if that would upset Thomas and the Washington press corps -- whose very characterization of conservatives as “extremists” is only helping uninformed Americans to see Republicans and conservatives as outside the mainstream.
The assessment from Thomas about how conservatives are “extremists” came on Inside Washington, a weekly show produced and aired over the weekend by Washington, DC's ABC affiliate, but first broadcast Friday night on the local PBS station, Thomas, Editor at Large with Newsweek after stints as Assistant Managing Editor and Washington bureau chief, proposed:
I don't think the Republicans would appreciate the comparison, but they're exactly like the Labor Party in England in the 1970s. They're letting their extremists take them straight down. The same thing as going to happen -- they had to disappear for a while and when they reinvented themselves they did it with moderates, they did it with Tony Blair.
On Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele about Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic Party: "Alright, so you see red states going to blue, though, in this last presidential election...You look at percentage-wise, lower numbers of people who declare themselves to be actual Republicans...Where does the future of your party lie?...Is there room for moderates?"
Smith began the interview by asking Steele: "Olympia Snowe mourned his [Specter’s] loss earlier this week. Rush Limbaugh said he was dead weight, good riddance. Who's right?" Steele was unequivocal: "Rush. I'm sorry, I'm not weeping here. I'm sorry. You know, look, Harry, in 2004, when Senator Specter ran for re-election...he whined and moaned and groaned and convinced the White House, and Senator Rick Santorum, and the Republican leadership at that time, to save his seat, to help him get re-elected. So all this, you know, rank-and-file crazy noise about conservatism, he didn't mind it in 2004 when his seat was on the line."
Eleanor Clift is by no stretch a conservative apologist, but her reporting in Newsweek on the Specter switch exposes an angle that the broadcast networks are omitting: the Machiavellian maneuvers behind-the-scenes to coax Specter to jump the GOP ship.
Of particular interest is Clift's revelation that Gov. Ed Rendell's motive for pushing Specter to become a Democrat was to shut down a potential Democratic rival for the U.S. Senate, Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.) [emphasis mine].:
Those who know Rendell say he really wants the seat that Specter holds but would not run against his friend. The scenario that was unfolding had Specter losing in the Republican primary to Club for Growth President Pat Toomy, the favorite of Pennsylvania's conservative Republican base, and then had Toomy losing to a Democrat in November 2010. The Democrat suiting up for that task was Rep. Joe Sestak, a retired Navy admiral in his second term, eager to move up, and at 57 years of age, young enough to stake a claim on the seat.
A Sestak candidacy would derail Rendell's future plans.Keeping Specter in the seat at his age, which is 79, makes it far more likely that the seat would open up in the kind of timetable Rendell would hope for.
On Wednesday's "Today" show, NBC's Chuck Todd called the decision of Arlen Specter – a Republican senator who has such a liberal voting record and has been such a constant-thorn-in-the-side of his party that he faced probable defeat in his own primary – to leave the GOP, "devastating." In a piece about Barack Obama's first 100 days that trumpeted his own network's new poll showing high ratings for Obama, Todd buried the GOP: "But for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP."
Todd then aired a sound bite from a Philadelphia area radio talk show host Michael Smerconish who advised the best way for the GOP to win seats was to "clone" Specter.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, AUTHOR, MORNING DRIVE: The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O - Republican In Name Only.
The following is the full segment as it was aired on the April 29, "Today" show:
The evening newscasts on Tuesday night attributed Senator Arlen Specter's motivation for changing parties to how he realized he wouldn't win the Republican primary in Pennsylvania, but they also, just as they did with Senator Jim Jeffords in 2001, eagerly relayed -- without any challenge -- Specter's spin that, in the words of the TV journalists, he “had been driven out by the right-wing of the Republican Party,” the GOP's “increasingly conservative tilt” and “the fringe of the party.”
CBS framed its story around that convenient target as the Evening News showcased Specter's charge in its tease: “The party has shifted very far to the, to the right.” Katie Couric noted that Specter “acknowledged he cannot win the Republican primary, so he's becoming a Democrat. But as Chip Reid reports, Specter says there were other reasons behind the switch.” Setting up the same Specter soundbite as in the tease, Reid reported the “moderate” Specter “says he's leaving the Republican party because the Republican party left him.” Reid bolstered Specter's concern by asserting “200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans have registered as Democrats in just the past year. Specter blames the party's increasingly conservative tilt.” Specter exclaimed: “There ought to be a rebellion. There ought to be an uprising.”
On NBC, Kelly O'Donnell described how “he would be facing a much more conservative challenger” in the primary and “couldn't risk” losing, before she related Specter's rationalization “that voters who tend to turn out in the primaries tend to be on the fringe of the party, not a moderate Republican like he is.” ABC's Jonathan Karl highlighted how “Specter said he had been driven out by the right-wing of the Republican Party.” Then viewers were treated to Specter scolding conservatives: “They don't make any bones about their willingness to lose the general election if they can purify the party. There ought to be a rebellion. There ought to be an uprising.”