The Art of the Double-Cross

Arlen Specter, one of our least-favorite politicians, is back in the news. He has authored a memoir called Life Among the Cannibals about his decades in Washington. It’s an odd title; Specter apparently enjoyed the “cannibals” so much that, when faced with a tough primary challenge at age 79 after 44 years as a Republican office-holder, he became a Democrat rather than retire to private life. According to The Hill, Specter complains in his memoir that the Democrats double-crossed him after he negotiated with them to provide the 60th vote for Obamacare:

Former Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) writes in a new book that President Obama ditched him in the 2010 election after he helped Obama win the biggest legislative victory of his term by passing healthcare reform.

Specter also claims that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not uphold his promise to grant him seniority accrued over 28 years of service in the Senate as a Republican. …

Specter laments that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden did not do more to help him in the final days of his primary race against former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who beat him 54 percent to 46 percent in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate Democratic primary.

Specter writes that Obama turned down a request to campaign with him in the final days of the primary because the president’s advisors feared he would look weak if he intervened and Specter lost. …

The snub was made all the more painful by Obama flying over Philadelphia en route to New York City a few days before the election and then on primary day jetting over Pittsburgh to visit a factory in Youngstown, Ohio, twenty-two miles from the Pennsylvania border, to promote the 2009 economic stimulus law. The painful irony for Specter is that his vote for the stimulus legislation, which was instrumental to its passage, hastened his departure from the Republican Party.

Specter was also disappointed that Biden, who was only a few blocks away at Penn University, did not attend a pre-primary day rally at the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park — a missed opportunity Specter attributes to a failed staff-to-staff request.

Just over a year before, Obama and Biden welcomed Specter to the Democratic Party with a press conference at the White House and promised him their full support.

Specter believes Reid acted with “duplicity” while managing the party switch. Specter said Reid promised him that he would be recognized on the seniority list as a Democrat elected in 1980 but failed to deliver on it.

Barack Obama, dishonest? Harry Reid, duplicitous? Say it ain’t so, Arlen! Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, offered Specter good advice. Specter should have taken it:

“When I told him I was going to change parties, he was visibly displeased but not ruffled. Mostly, he was taciturn,” Specter recounts. “McConnell and I had a serious discussion. He was very nice and very professional. ‘Don’t do it,’ he said. ‘It’d be a big mistake. Serve out your time as a Republican and retire gracefully.’”

It is hard to picture who Specter thinks his intended audience is. Who, exactly, will be sympathetic to a long-serving senator who sells out his party in a desperate (but unsuccessful) effort to hang onto his seat for one last term? Hardly anyone on either side of the aisle. It is fascinating to learn, however, that the passage of Obamacare–and perhaps the stimulus bill too–hinged, apparently, on a corrupt bargain which Obama and Reid abandoned as soon as they no longer needed Specter’s vote.

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