Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Puppet Theater": The Specter Spectre

"There is no news. There is only the truth of the signal. What I see. And, there's the puppet theater the Parliament jesters foist on the somnambulant public." -- Mr. Universe in Serenity, 2005.

There is an old joke in the British army about the sergeant major of Highlanders who enquired of the druggist how much it might be to replace the regimental prophylactic. Upon being given a price, he left the shop, only to return the next day. Placing a tattered specimen of condom on the counter, the sergeant major announced, "The Regiment has elected to have this one repaired."

I thought of this miserly exercise the other day when I was going over the ridiculous excuses offered by Sebastian and the Lairds of Fairfax about why the NRA cannot spend their alleged "political capital" in the fight against Eric Holder. Their political and moral bankruptcy could not be more apparent.

For its part, Gun Owners of America has declared its opposition to Holder and has sent out an alert to its members as David Codrea reports here.

The hearing is tomorrow and more evidence is leaking out that it is all, in Mr. Universe's words, "puppet theater." Bob Barr and Orrin Hatch have already endorsed this stench in the nostrils of free men and women. The permanent political class protects its own. Only the most unobservant are truly astonished by this. Yet "Single Bullet Arlen" Specter has been making anti-Holder noises. Now we find in this story that it is all "puppet theater."

The story:

Specter’s Dilemma

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., has a bit of dilemma on his hands. It’s the kind of problem that has the potential to snowball and create an avalanche of political issues, depending on how he handles it.

As the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Specter will have a front-row seat to what could become a political spectacle: the confirmation hearings of President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr.

Specter’s pivot point is not whether he decides to grill Holder, but how. Go overboard as many perceive he did with Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation, and he alienates the left; give Holder a pass, and he pushes the right even further away.

Specter was first elected as the junior senator from Pennsylvania (Republican John Heinz was the senior) on the coattails of Ronald Reagan in 1980. At 78, he is gearing up for a sixth run. His last big political battle (and there have been many) came in 2004, not at the hands of a Democrat - but within his own party, which he has always had a love-hate relationship with.

Pat Toomey, then an outgoing congressman from Eastern Pennsylvania, “primaried” the senator with a piece-mill grassroots operation. Specter outspent him nearly 5-to-1 and beat him, barely, with less than 7,000 votes between the two men.

It is unclear whether Toomey, now president of the D.C.-based The Club for Growth, will challenge Specter again or shoot for a run at the governor’s mansion.

In a General Election, the “name” challenger on for the Democrats, MSNBC Hardball personality Chris Matthews, dropped out last week. That moves a couple congressmen in line, Patrick Murphy and Allison Schwartz, as well as state representative Josh Shapiro, all hailing from Eastern Pennsylvania.

Specter’s dilemma comes because he needs to protect his right flank and shake off a possible primary from Toomey. But If he goes too far right … he is hurt in a general.

The only answer is for Specter to be fair at the hearing, but not political.

“Nobody is a smarter politician or works harder than Arlen Specter,” said David W. Patti, president of the Pennsylvania Business Council. “He started working the conservatives immediately after the 2004 Primary and hasn't stopped since.”

Now that Matthews is not running, Specter has more space on the left. That is, he can be more conservative in the primary because the Democrat (insert name here) will not be as strong and might actually be moderate to conservative.

And a Toomey primary run is not a sure thing. He may well be exploring lots of options of which only one is the U.S. Senate. Right now, Toomey is doing a good job of testing his influence by writing a recent op-ed on the “card check” vote and other partisan issues, making Arlen hear “footsteps”.

Here is another thought: If you're the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, do you spend cash trying to beat Specter when you have 60 votes and he votes with you sometimes anyway? Or, do you win Florida, defend Illinois, and go for Ohio? That may give Specter room to be slightly more conservative.

“Specter's between a rock and a hard place but he has mastered the fine art of wiggling between them,” said former University of Pittsburgh political scientist Bert Rockman.

Rockman says that Specter looks like he is going to be tough on Holder on the premise that he’s got to please his party constituency first.

“You cannot get to second base until you pass first base," Rockman said. "The primary comes first. It’s possible he could win running as an independent but it’s much better to have the party nomination.”

The Republican leadership in the state, whatever their distance from Specter, are not keen on losing the seat, which is a likely outcome if Specter loses in the primary.

“But the party activists would happily see Specter go,” said Rockman. “Purity above all.”

Many politicos on the Hill say when Specter made it public last week that he would be tougher on Holder, he was sending him a signal that this is all for show, so be prepared. (Emphasis supplied, MBV)

Pennsylvania primary elections, especially in off years, tend to disproportionately bring strong partisans to the polls. They are after all, the people most interested in politics, so they bias both left and right. Republicans tend to be ideologically more cohesive and so exert a marginally greater rightward pressure than the Democrats’ primary electorate does from the leftward side.

Rockman says that Specter may become to Pennsylvania Republicans what Joe Lieberman is to the Democrats in Connecticut: “Hold your nose, but it may be better than the alternatives.”

Nice puppet theater, with none playing the marionette better than the NRA. The sick thing about the Lairds of Fairfax is that they affixed the strings to their arms themselves.

But yet we know when we truly scream, the politicians get cautious. Witness the Amnesty for Illegals fight, which was thought to be a foregone conclusion.

We must fight this fight like every other one that comes our way. All out. No compromises. No surrender. We'll get beat, rise and fight again. In the end, we'll defeat the enemies of the Founders' Republic, one way or the other.

1 comment:

Skullz said...

Specter was on Faux this morning. He of course said "I'm open minded, I don't oppose Holder, I just have a lot of important questions for him".

He went on to say that he wanted to make sure that Holder knew that he had questions and give Holder an opportunity to prepare - kind of like studying the script, eh?