Specter’s legacy

Times Chronicle - - OPINION -

Arlen Specter, who died this past week­end, has been cred­ited DERvH DOO ZLWK EHLQJ RQH WKLQJ: D VuUvLvRU. HH ZDV WKH SHUIHFW DDUwinian adap­tor to the cul­ture of tash­ing­ton, D.C., and the times he lived in. jore than that, he sur­vived health is­sues Ecancer, brain tu­mors, etc.F to which lesser men would have more meekly sur­ren­dered.

But Specter was so much more than a mere sur­vivor, be­cause he sur­vived to do im­por­tant things, not the least of which was be­ing a clar­ion call for a less par­ti­san, less poi­soned en­vi­ron­ment that still val­ued com­pro­mise over dead­lock.

For our money his most laud­able ac­com­plish­ment was his con­stant pur­suit of more fed­eral money for med­i­cal re­search.

then he be­came Penn­syl­va­nia’s ju­nior se­na­tor in 1981, the an­nual bud­get for the ka­tional fn­sti­tutes of Health was A3 bil­lion. By the time of his re­tire­ment Eat the hands of Delco Demo­cratic up­VWDUW -RH 6HVWDN) LQ 2010, WKDW fiJuUH KDG LQFUHDVHG 10-IROG. 7RGDy, kfH’s bud­get is just over A30 bil­lion.

tith the coun­try go­ing broke, it is hardly a good time to brag about fed­eral spend­ing on any­thing. But is it hard to think of a PuFK EHWWHU ZDy WR LQvHVW WDx GROODUV WKDQ LQ fiQGLQJ FuUHV IRU WKH sick and ways to keep Amer­ica health­ier.

Specter started his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer as a Demo­crat and ended on the same side of the aisle. fn be­tween he was a oepub­li­can who com­manded the at­ten­tion of both sides for his will­ing­ness to buck his own party to do what he thought was in the na­tion’s in­ter­est, not to men­tion his own.

HH ZDV EHVW NQRZQ QDWLRQDOOy IRU IRuU WKLQJV: HLV VLQJOH EuOOHW WKHRry in the gFh as­sas­si­na­tion; his “bork­ing” of Supreme Court nom­i­nee oobert Bork; his grilling of Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas con­fir­ma­tion hear­ings; and his cit­ing of Scot­tish law for his non-vote in the im­peach­ment trial of tilliam gef­fer­son Clin­ton.

These ac­tions came decades apart, but all of them re­vealed a man who was icon­o­clas­tic, cere­bral and brave.

Some would dis­agree. There were many who saw Specter’s ac­tions mostly as at­ten­tion-get­ting po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. They saw a man who al­ways had his eye on the next elec­tion and made sure he was prop­erly po­si­tioned to win it.

iate in his ca­reer E2004F, he had a very close call against a dOP in­sur­gent named Pat Toomey. He sur­vived it. But Toomey came back to haunt him six years later. To avoid an­other tough pri­mary against Toomey, Specter jumped par­ties. He was un­lucky enough WR fiQG DQRWKHU DPELWLRuV RI­fiFH VHHNHU ZDLWLQJ IRU KLP LQ WKH Demo­cratic pri­mary.

Af­ter los­ing to goe Ses­tak Ewho went on to lose to Pat ToomeyF Specter took up the hobby of per­form­ing as a stand-up comedian

He was no gerry Se­in­feld but he ob­vi­ously en­joyed him­self on stage and so did his au­di­ences. And un­like the fa­mous politi­cians who ap­pear at the an­nual Correspondents Din­ner in tash­ing­ton ev­ery year, Specter wrote his own jokes.

(2uU IDvRULWH: “, FDOOHG COLQWRQ uS RQ KLV 65WK ELUWKGDy DQG VDLG, ‘Bill, con­grat­u­la­tions on be­ing 65. How do you feel?’ He said, ‘2K, , IHHO OLNH D WHHQDJHU, WKH SUREOHP LV , FDQ’W fiQG RQH.’”)

He was the con­sum­mate po­lit­i­cal pro; a crea­ture of the Belt­way who never lost that dis­tinc­tive hansas drawl. Or his sense of hu­mor. He was an Amer­i­can and po­lit­i­cal orig­i­nal. Dead at 82. He has gone, we’re sure, to a less con­tentious and more peace­ful place.

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