Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter: What makes a Coat Turn?

[Andrew Napolitano, you are so lucky. Arlen and swine flu has postponed your colonscopy at my hands yet again. Lawd.]
Anyway, here's the usual crap on Arlen, from the right: "Senator Arlen Specter has been called many things by his former fellow Republicans over the years, but “classy” has never been a term they used for the man. His announcement today that after nearly 30 years in the Senate as a Republican he will cross the line to join the Democratic majority is the capstone on a career built not on ideological purpose or seeking after the right course for the country, but on service to the worst kind of personal interest, a lust for manipulative control of every situation, and the crass pursuit of power for power’s sake.
For months, Specter has insisted he would not switch. A few weeks ago, Specter was
bending NRSC Chair John Cornyn to his will, hitting opponent Pat Toomey for being too conservative to win a general election. Today, by his actions, Specter admits it is he who is out of step with his electoral base–not just in policy, but in manner–and only a political move this desperate could bring him any chance at the victory he craves. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Specter didn’t wait for his likely rejection in a primary–nor did he take the principled route of registering as a political Independent."
(Joe Lieberman--principled? Wait...wasn't this the Loserman of "Sore-Loserman?" Ah the hypocrisy of these folks. Ah how the worm turns...)
Look, Arlen was getting sick of Limbaugh-ism, Fox News lies, the let's brign back Ft. Sumter derangement which he'd done a good job of double-talking around or whitewashing with Kihl's primer for years. Nat has sources close to the Biden camp who'll confirm that there's principle afoot, not just self-interest. Perhaps that's what bugs the wingnuts the most--that there just may be a principle at stake. Obama's victory stripped the primer and the ugliness soaks through. Of course he's a self-interested self-aggrandizing careerist. Who isn't in our government. But that's the beauty of this move: his naked self-interest tells him even he can't keep the Oz like curtain over these lunatics in and around his party. They are distasteful, so here egotism and principle converge. Makes perfect sense to me. [n.b. Look for Susan Collins next, when the first Maine citizens start coughing from swin flu, and she's the poster child for a moderate Republicans being forced to carry wingnut water--it was she who was the public face of stripping pandemic funds from Obama's Stimulus.]
People switch up for all sorts of reasons. Most relate to a slight or reproach or threat, or egomania, or greed. So no, it often has nothing to do with tribalism or ideology. Benedict Arnold, Quisling? No complex motives there. What about Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell? He left the Democratic Party merely because of a silly parochial spat with local Colorado officials. Perhaps a person switches, snitches or remains with "the wrong side" because it's all he/she knows, and resistance is futile anyway. Note the slaves who dug trenches, teamstered wagons etc for the Confederacy. It's too facile to say "even the Robert E Lee had his coons." What makes a coon in the first place should be the point of analysis, not whether or not they exist. Coons are notoriously unhappy in their cooning. KGB mole Kim Philby and our own Benedict Arnold proudly went on to work for the Soviets and Brits, respectively, and yet died miserable despite the monetary rewards and accolades. What reward inured to the slave who sold out Denmark Vesey? Similarly, Clarence Thomas sports very interesting psychopathologies that shaped his attitude towards his own people and the law. He likewise nested in his adopted tribe's (e.g. the rabid white right wing's) good graces yet remains petulant rather than contented. Cooning as a form of turncoat behavior is complex, indeed. Regardless, there doesn't seem to be any principle at stake. Indeed, take the Neocons, born from Jewish liberal, even Marxist roots. Their figurative mom and dad, Gertrude Himmelfarb and Irving Kristol (and literal parents of Bill Kristol), turned-coat--hellbent on smashing all progressive views and creeds. There were a lot of triggers for their rebellion, even weird ones like Vietnam war protest, John Lindsay's kowtowing to unions in NYC, black ghetto denizens going batshit on all levels--and blaming Jews for it. So what was the "principle" here for abandoning liberalism for the mirror opposite creed? Disagreement over direction? Corruption in thought or of finance? Nope. It was that unworthy beings were taking over and challenging their intellectual hegemony. Time to gypsy off to the Gentiles and offer your services, like the nerd kids (often Jews) who're suddenly befriended by the cheerleaders and dumb jocks. That's hardly a principle.
Specter's not in those categories, in my opinion. He left because of, not in spite of Limbaugh, or Pajamas Media blogs, or Govs Rick Perry and Sonny Perdue, or crazy American redneck Taliban trying to take over legislatures in places like Louisiana or Florida. He's not John Quincy Adams trying to save the Federalists by turning them into National Republicans. He's not Lucifer in Pandemonium, making a Heaven of Hell because he revolted against God.
Think of another Jew named Josephus. Hero, general of the army of Judea in revolt against the Romans. The revolt's crushed and Josephus is a POW. He wants to keep the legions from more slaughter, destruction. So he collaborates. He gets no riches or commissions in the Roman army. He's not feted by the emperor or given an atta boy by the Herod-like conservatives who didn't want the revolt in the first place. Recall, he was a leader in the revolt. He tried to stop the violence. The Romans destroyed the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem anyway (some now say it was accidental, and a command/control failure). But without him, we wouldn't have known about this time period or this critical swath of Jewish history, about the siege of Masada, about the infant Christian movement or the Dead Sea Scrolls. His chronicle was his penance. There was principle here of having a culture survive, not merely saving one's ass.
Likewise, think of Werner von Braun. He wasn't an ardent Nazi, or a strident anti-Semite. No, he was worse. He was part of the majority of regular Germans who tolerated this crap. Who went along for the ride. And what a ride--unfettered resources flowed so he could realize his rocketry dreams. His dreams even clouded the sight of slave laborers building his launch and test facilities. But with defeat looming, he had a choice: serve the same type of regime (Stalin being on the flipside of the coin from Hitler), and hisown ego--or flee to the Americans and contritely renounce his opportunism of 1938-1945. Well yeah, self interest pushed the latter choice. But there was also principle in that move. Penance, subconsciously. Even his detractors admit so. And see what he accomplished for all mankind. Was it enough penance? No. Not for what he did 1938-45. But it was a start.
Specter, like Von Braun, overlooked and tolerated a lot sh*t bubbling from the loonies in his party for 30 years. As of 2009, that roiling mess can no longer be hidden or explained away. Now his balls are on the concrete. Self interest indeed dictates that you make a move. And yet even in it that, there's a higher principle. Arlen the cancer survivor has seeded his own penance...


Lisa said...

OK you really had me for a moment Nat!! Of course you "had" me at Specter switches parties. Which is the key. The motivation isn't important. It is who benefits. You are violating your rule: there is no good or evil, just who rules!! I am happy for this because I think Barack will benefit, and I think Barack benefit will help us ALL, even Barack's enemies, as America. I was unhappy with Joe Lieberman, and I do NOT think there was any principle there. Principle isn't at stake, however. Control of the Senate is.

I still liked your essay. You threw a lot of sources at me and you educate me on every post--good OR bad!!

Much love from the Midwest.

Anonymous said...

Some of this very interesting. Some of it has to be you going tongue in cheek!

tchaka owen said...

I have to disagree with Lisa's comment that principle isn't at stake. Sure there's more than just that, but principle is without a doubt a factor.

I pretty much consider myself a moderate and over the past decade and a half have found myself well-distanced from the Republican Party. It's been hijacked by the right wingers. They see their brand of conservative as what Republicanism stands for. Anything else is wrong/liberal/socialist/immoral/etc. Specter is a moderate-right person who has gotten sick of the our-way-only brand of today's Republican Party.

But the Republican Party will be back strong again......once the enlightened conservatives distance themselves from the wingnuts (word borrowed from Chris) and retake their party. Hopefully that won't be before 2016.

ch555x said...

I'll take a wait-and-see approach...

Robert M said...

You're thinking about this as though you were a third year poli sci major w/ a minor Hebrew history. Spector is a Kapo and he is using the Democratic Party like it is Odessa. His actions have always been those of a loathsome bigot for hire.
I do not know what Democrat wants to challenge Spector but they'll have my support.

Knute Rife said...

Specter's doing what I was forced to do in 1980. I grew up Republican, worked on campaigns, volunteered on congressional and gubernatorial staffs. Then came 1980. The Reaganites took over, and those of us to the left of Genghis Khan were marginalized. At best. I've always characterized it as an excommunication, because those folks were on a crusade, and it was only getting worse. So I left. It took me several years to cross the aisle because I had (and frequently still have) a hard time characterizing the organizational train wreck that is the Democratic Party as a political party, but I eventually got there. Because the Republicans had driven me out of their shrinking tent.

Just as what happened to me, Specter hasn't moved; the GOP has. Rather than change his position to pander to the GOP powers, he held his position and saw that it was now inside or close by the Democratic tent. I don't know, but that doesn't seem like selling out; it seems like sticking to your guns.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

The far right wing nuts in the Republican party are going to drive it right into the ground.

Christopher Chambers said...

LOL I was trying to give this move SOME positive underpinning beyond Arlen watching Arlen's ass.

Frankly I think the circus is roiling people like Henneman and Kopel, but rather than tempering it, they've reacted like children.

Hathor said...

Specter's home town folk have always voted for him, regardless of his affiliation, which always helped him win Pennsylvania. Unless the Governor would run, there isn't a Democratic candidate that would beat him. If his Republican opponent in the primary wins, we would have had another Democratic Senator, even if Specter had not changed parties.

Hathor said...

Tom Ridge entering the race might change what I just said.

Anonymous said...

As a 'far-right wingnut', you'all have swallowed the Kool-Aid on the Republican Party has been hijacked by the right wing. Gee, I must've missed that one, while I was in my bunker torturing puppies.

Can anyone give me specifics of these horrid, hateful, terrible right-wing policies undertaken by the GOP?

Hmmm, No Child Left Behind, Medicare Prescription Drugs, removing additional millions of lower income people from the tax rolls, support for Global Warming, inflating the housing bubble, billions and billions of aid for Africa, billions and billions and billions for AIDS in Africa....

Damn, where are these evil right-wing policies? I just can't find them, I guess I'm just a knuckle-dragger hating our Historic President, Obi-Won.

craig said...


No Child was a joke...the Medicare Drug benefit was a misdirection, set up for big pharma. Why are senior still on the lamb for "shopping trips" to Canada?

"Support" for global warming?
As for Africa...
Stop the madness, pal. You're snarky ass knows exactly how you've be hijacked. As Nat Turner said about Van Braun: goin' along for the ride.

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