The other US Senator from Russell, Kansas passed away on Sunday from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 82.
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Arlen Specter’s family moved to the small north-central Kansas town of 4000+ souls where he would graduate from high school.
Russell is better known for being former US Senator Bob Dole’s hometown and in addition to having a connection to a pair of senators, it also could claim a pair of presidential candidates when Specter made a brief and laughable bid for the GOP nomination in the mid-nineties.
Though Specter represented the distant state of Pennsylvania, he was for me the mascot of all that was wrong with the Republican Party nationally.
I was disappointed when President George H. W. Bush was defeated for re-election in November 1992 and was not exactly cheered much when I learned that Specter had slipped past Democrat Lynn Yeakal.
While Yeakel was to the left of Specter, at least she was an honest Democrat who could one day be replaced by an honest Republican. And in 2004, when Pat Toomey, who now holds his seat, challenged Specter in the GOP primary. Specter needed backing from President George W. Bush and his more conservative senate colleague Rick Santorum to just slip past Toomey. Ironically, Santorum would have to answer for that endorsement in his own presidential bid eight years later.
When Barack Obama became president and the Democrats retained control of the US Senate, Snarlin’ Arlen made his move, returning to the Democratic Party in advance of a renomination rematch with Toomey he could not win.
Apparently Democratic voters were more distrustful of him than Republicans, and ignored President Obama’s blessing and voted for a true member of their party.
John F. Kennedy received a Pulitzer Prize for the book Profiles in Courage, which included stories about senators who defied the politics of self-preservation to stand for what they believed.
The political life of Arlen Specter was not a profile in courage but of opportunism.
Specter will dountlessly be eulogized by the media as a tough independent who was the last of a breed of moderate Republicans driven to extinction by the TEA Party fringe., which fits perfectly within their narrative even if the facts don’t.
Specter may have been run off by conservatives but his political career was ended at the hands of liberal voters who did not find his politics compatible with their outlook of the world.
Credit Pennsylvania liberals for having better sense to ignore their president than Keystone State conservatives.
At the end of the day, Specter was in the game for himself with the two parties being affiliations of convenience for his advancement.