- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 15, 2009


Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter wrote a book on health care. His fellow Democrats, fresh from routs in New Jersey and Virginia, may never forgive him.

Like an unexploded political and literary roadside bomb, Mr. Specter’s book sits quietly in bookstores across America. “Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate” (St. Martin’s Press, 2008) appeared a year ago. The paperback version has been issued and is in a bookstore near you.

In Section 330 of the bill just passed by House Democrats, members of Congress exempt themselves from the controversial public option, which many analysts say eventually will force millions of Americans out of their private plans into the arms of a government-controlled plan.

Mr. Specter has had several bouts with serious illness, all of which he has surmounted. The latest was a battle with what the book advertises as “the most advanced state” of Hodgkin’s disease. Surviving after a hellish fight, the triumphant Mr. Specter wrote his book, a book clearly designed to inspire others.

The book does that, detailing the ghastly physical and psychological effects of the disease and the rigorous treatments and toughness of mind and spirit needed to defeat it.

But the book also tells another story - a story that wasn’t a story when the book was written and first published in 2008. “While there are lots of deterrents to a career in elective politics,” Mr. Specter mused in blissful ignorance of how this sentence would read a year after it was published, “an underestimated benefit is access to better health care.”

Mr. Specter writes of privileges now specifically protected in Section 330 that will drive many voters little short of stir crazy.

c Suspecting a cancer problem, Mr. Specter’s doctor recommends a physician at Philadelphia’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The doctor is a protege of “one of America’s pre-eminent oncologists.” Mr. Specter says no. He wants the top guy, asking: “Why settle for the protege when the mentor is within reach?” The senator gets his man.

c Concerned about the public perception of seeing the doctor in the hospital, Mr. Specter asks for and is granted a special house call, which lasts three hours as the “pre-eminent oncologist” examines Mr. Specter head to toe in his own bedroom.

c With government-rationed health care at the core of today’s health care debate, Mr. Specter never says a word about asking how much his treatment will cost or whether he is covered for a particular treatment. The senator does reveal that he said only: “Tell me what I need to be cured.” There is no mention of cost, much less whether at 75 years of age, this kind of care should be rationed by the government, given instead to a younger patient, as it surely would be under the public option.

c Mr. Specter provides a veritable ticktock of expensive treatment given to him because he has, as a holder of elective office, “access to better health care.” The pages are chock-full of health care goodies served up to Mr. Specter. Positron emission tomography (PET), computerized tomography (CT), chemotherapy, anti-nausea medications, a “battery of tests,” magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a visit to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania to receive a shot of Aranesp to increase his red hemoglobin count.

In a passage that surely will drive many voters to madness, Mr. Specter writes as he begins his chemotherapy treatments that he requests his chair be rearranged so he can look out the window at the “view of my beloved city” of Philadelphia. The nurse obliges the senator.

Mr. Specter’s own increasingly dire poll ratings (the latest Franklin & Marshall College Poll has his approval at a dismal 29 percent) will not be helped when voters discover Section 330 - and then read his book. It is a revealing, if unintended, look at what, in the charged political climate surrounding the just-passed House health care bill, will be read instantly as “quality health care for me but not for thee.”

Mr. Specter may have a best-seller on his hands - with the Republican National Committee buying the book in bulk.

Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director, an author and a contributing editor of the American Spectator.

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