- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SPECTER’S ZIGZAGS

Sen. Arlen Specter’s move to the Democratic Party was not greeted with unanimous joy by liberals.

“When a politician switches parties, it’s customary for the party he’s abandoned to denounce him as an unprincipled hack, and the party he’s joined to praise him as a brave convert who’s genuinely seen the light. But I think it’s pretty clear that Specter is an unprincipled hack. If his best odds of keeping his Senate seat lay in joining the Communist party, he’d probably do that,” the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait wrote Tuesday in a blog at www.tnr.com.

“To be sure, Specter is a real moderate on some issues, but his contortions are so comical that no principled read on his actions is very plausible. Specter favored the Employee Free Choice Act favored by labor, turned against it when he faced a primary challenge, and then abandoned his party altogether when it became clear he couldn’t win his primary [in Pennsylvania]. In the meantime, he came out in favor of a Hooverite spending freeze after backing the stimulus bill,” Mr. Chait said.

THANKS, SUCKERS

Ben Domenech, writing at newledger.com, notes that the Republican establishment saved Sen. Arlen Specter from defeat in the Republican primary in 2004 - and Mr. Specter has now returned the favor by abandoning the party.

“The conservative movement is the victim here, poor wandering child that it has become - a victim as it so often is of gullibility and poor leadership,” Mr. Domenech said.

“The grass-roots supporters and donors deserve apologies from a number of people who supported Specter over his most recent opponent, Pat Toomey, and who could have prevented this drama from playing out over the past six years. They particularly deserve apologies from Rick Santorum, the pro-life leader who swallowed his principles to back the liberal abortion-defending Republican, from a bevy of movement leaders in Washington, co-opted by a pragmatic viewpoint and the lure of a permanent Republican majority, who betrayed their grass-roots followers, and from George W. Bush, whose last-minute endorsement of Specter (back when such endorsements were electoral positives) in the 2004 primary effectively decided the matter.

“These two men and the groups who followed their lead saved Specter’s career - but anyone who has seen Arlen Specter in action knows that this is how he returns a favor. America’s political right never seems to recognize the power of personal motivations for their elected officials - it fails to realize that there are some men who get into politics because they want to make the world a better place. And there are some men who get into politics because they like to see others grovel - because absent the trappings of electoral power, nothing would insulate them from the disrespect and loathing of their peers.

“Arlen Specter has said repeatedly that Pat Toomey is too conservative to win in the state of Pennsylvania. This is now a statement which will be definitively put to the test in 2010 in an election sure to mark a defining moment for the Republican Party, and what its future holds.”

OUTSOURCING

“Sen. Patrick Leahy [Vermont Democrat] wants a commission that will get to the ‘truth’ about torture. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [California Democrat] says she wants a truth commission too. And so does Rep. John Conyers [Michigan Democrat],” Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn writes.

“On CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday, Mr. Leahy said a truth commission would help get to the heart of how the recently released memos on CIA interrogation techniques were drafted. ‘I want to know why they did that,’ he said. ‘What kind of pressures brought them to write things that are so off the wall and to make sure it never happens again. That’s why I want [a truth commission].’

“Mr. Leahy overlooks a small point here: Under our Constitution, the truth commission is supposed to be Congress,” Mr. McGurn said.

“Our Founders didn’t look to outsource our most controversial public issues to appointees. They established institutions and arrangements that would hold those who have power accountable to the American people. And when the people’s lawmakers believed the people’s president was misinterpreting the law, the Founders expected the former to stand up and do something about it.

“Over the past few years, the Democrats have moved to ban waterboarding only when it was clear that such a bill would not pass - or would be vetoed by George W. Bush. In September 2006, Sen. Edward Kennedy introduced an amendment to the Military Commissions Act that would have effectively defined waterboarding as a war crime, and it was defeated largely along partisan lines. In February 2008, when Democrats were in control of Congress, they made a big fuss about sending a bill that would have limited interrogation to techniques found in the Army field manual. They did so knowing President Bush would veto it, and that he had the votes to sustain that veto.

“Today the Democrats have an even larger majority - plus a president who would sign such legislation. So why the call for a truth commission instead? The answer is a nasty one: If Congress made waterboarding illegal now, they would be making clear that it was not illegal before.”

ODD RESPONSE

“At a stop on his grand global apology tour this spring, President Obama was asked by a reporter in France if he believed in ‘American exceptionalism.’ This is the notion that our history as the world’s oldest democracy, our immigrant founding and our devotion to liberty endow the United States with a unique, providential role in world affairs,” James Kirchick writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“Rather than endorse the proposition - as every president in recent memory has done one way or another - Obama offered a strange response: ‘I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.’

“This is impossible. If all countries are ‘exceptional,’ then none are, and to claim otherwise robs the word, and the idea of American exceptionalism, of any meaning. Besides, American exceptionalism is demonstrable - Cuban journalists, Chinese political dissidents, Eastern Europeans once again living in the shadow of a belligerent Russia and, yes, even some Brits and Greeks look toward the U.S. and nowhere else to defend freedom.

“Viewed within the context of the first 100 days of his presidency, Obama’s nonsensical statement is part of a disturbing pattern. Since swearing the oath of office, our president has traveled the world criticizing his predecessor, confessing America’s supposed sins and otherwise flagellating the nation he leads on the altar of international ‘public opinion.’ ”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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