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.