Arlen’s gone

Even though he was frequently infuriating, amoral, opportunistic and without doubt a corrupt S.O.B., I personally liked the funny old coot and enjoyed interviewing him at Netroots Nation. He was one of those politicians of whom it could be said, “Once you buy him, he stays bought.” He had his own form of integrity. Progressives probably see that as a bad thing, but there’s something to be said for that — especially these days.

Like many people, I always wondered what possessed him to push the single-bullet theory. I think it was Thom Hartmann’s JFK book that said he, like many witnesses, was most likely told they had to come up with an explanation that would not cause more pain for the Kennedy family or draw the U.S into a war.

It was probably something like that, because whatever else you could say about Arlen, he wasn’t stupid.

This will be one of the last of the old-time political funerals, the kind where rivals attend “just to make sure he’s really dead.”

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, the outspoken Pennsylvania centrist whose switch from Republican to Democrat ended a 30-year career in which he played a pivotal role in several Supreme Court nominations, died Sunday. He was 82.

Specter, who announced in late August that he was battling cancer, died at his home in Philadelphia from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, said his son Shanin. Over the years, Arlen Specter had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin’s disease, overcome a brain tumor and survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.

Specter rose to prominence in the 1960s as an aggressive Philadelphia prosecutor and as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, developing the single-bullet theory that posited just one bullet struck both President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally — an assumption critical to the argument that presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The theory remains controversial and was the focus of Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie “JFK.”

In 1987, Specter helped thwart the Supreme Court nomination of former federal appeals Judge Robert H. Bork — earning him conservative enemies who still bitterly refer to such rejections as being “borked.”

But four years later, Specter was criticized by liberals for his tough questioning of Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court nomination hearings and for accusing her of committing “flat-out perjury.” The nationally televised interrogation incensed women’s groups and nearly cost him his seat in 1992.

Specter, who had battled cancer, was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator when Democrats picked then-U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak over him in the 2010 primary, despite Specter’s endorsements by President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders. Sestak lost Specter’s seat to conservative Republican Rep. Pat Toomey by 2 percentage points.

It makes me think of that old Steve Goodman song, “Daley’s Gone.” One more round, Arlen’s gone…

One thought on “Arlen’s gone

  1. “He was a man, take him for all in all,
    [We] shall not look upon his like again.”

    Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

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