- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sen. Arlen Specter’s move from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party exposed the man for what he really is: a self-serving career politician who will do anything to try to keep his seat in the exclusive club known as the U.S. Senate. It also gives conservatives a better shot at his Pennsylvania seat.

In an editorial board meeting with us Tuesday, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, waved off Mr. Specter’s move as “convenient politics” and noted that the liberal Pennsylvanian, who had been a Democrat years ago, “was already on the other side anyway.” If there is a silver lining, Mr. Boehner suggested it is that Republicans finally can get a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who fights for conservative principles.

There is another upside. By switching parties, the turncoat will save former Rep. Pat Toomey the trouble and expense of another long, bruising primary challenge. As Mr. Toomey explains in an Op-Ed column on the facing page, with Mr. Specter out of the way, Republicans have a clear road to run a real conservative in next year’s Senate race in the Keystone State.

Mr. Specter’s double-dealing leaves some Republicans red in the face. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee, snubbed conservatives by making clear the party would endorse and support the liberal Mr. Specter against the conservative Mr. Toomey rather than stay neutral. It also leaves Pennsylvania’s conservative former Sen. Rick Santorum hanging in the wind, making his high-profile backing of Mr. Specter over Mr. Toomey in 2004 look terribly ill-considered. Mr. Santorum confided to us that he “can only hope that Arlen will be as independent a Democrat as he has been as a Republican.”

Mr. Specter’s announcement destroyed the myth he peddled for years that he was above politics and ideology and that his decisions merely reflected the will of his constituents. In the April 9 Newsweek, Mr. Specter assured, “I’m a Republican, and I’m going to run in the Republican primary and on the Republican ticket” and that he was “not considering” running as a Democrat. The only new factors are poll results showing him badly losing a Republican primary to Mr. Toomey. Next year’s Pennsylvania Senate contest will pit principle against political opportunism. The matchup favors Mr. Toomey.

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