Politics & Policy

Gop Vs. Nr

Club leaders defend Arlen Specter.

I’m flattered that every GOP Senate leader since 1981 has signed a letter in response to my recent article on Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter — thanks for reading, guys! But I’m also surprised they would describe Specter as “one of the best senators in promoting Republican values and policies.” Has Sen. Dole forgotten that in 1986 and 1987 Specter was actually more likely to oppose President Reagan’s policies than support them, according to Congressional Quarterly?

With Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

Fortunately, we don’t have to go back to the Reagan era to assess Specter’s lifetime voting record, which has earned a dismal score of 42 percent from the American Conservative Union. Just a few days ago, the senator boasted of his “independence” from “the idealistic wing of the party” (according to this story in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat). Substitute the word “principled” for “idealistic” and it’s a pretty accurate statement.

The leaders, however, go beyond generalities and challenge two specific items in my article. First, they say an anecdote about Specter trading an appropriations vote for the promise of two Trent Lott fundraisers is “false.” I’ll begin by pointing to another story from the invaluable Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, in which Specter says the following in response to my reporting: “To be sure that there is nothing wrong with my memory, I called Trent and read the quotation.” Apparently the story isn’t so beyond the pale that Specter can dismiss it out of hand. I’ll do it for him: I stand by my impeccably well-positioned source on this one. Senator, there is something wrong with your memory.

Next, the leaders claim the article is “factually incorrect” in saying that Specter is behind the judicial nomination of Leon Holmes going to the Senate floor without a recommendation. In this case you don’t have to take it from me. Check out this analysis from the newsletter of a liberal group opposed to Holmes: “On May 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted (10-9) to send the nomination of Leon Holmes to the full Senate without recommendation. Instead of voting on his nomination … the committee took the unusual step of moving the Holmes nomination without recommendation — likely to address Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R., Pa.) concerns.” According to my sources, you can delete the word “likely” from that account.

The leaders call Specter a “team player.” They are entitled to this opinion. Yet they are in fact the real team players, rushing to the defense of a worried incumbent who faces a serious and deserved primary challenge from conservative congressman Pat Toomey.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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