The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, February 27, 2003  

The Inquirer Profiles Senators Dumb and Dumber

Just in case you missed it, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently published a rather unremarkable piece about Pennsylvania's two thoroughly unremarkable U.S. senators -- Sens. Arlen Specter (More-R-Than-You-Think) and Rick Santorum (More-R-Than-Almost-Anyone) -- the paper following up unawares on a post published here on February 5.

Now that I look at it again, I see that the article was published in the Inquirer's Sunday edition, making it, I suppose, a "thought" piece of some kind, as they say in the business.

Reporter Peter Nicholas writes (in "Pennsylvania Senators Are Uneasy Allies"):

[T]hey are by no means close. In his 574-page memoir, Passion for Truth, published in 2000, Specter barely mentioned Santorum and offered no opinion of the state's junior senator, good or bad. In contrast, Specter wrote that he and his former Pennsylvania colleague, the late Sen. John Heinz, enjoyed a "close working relationship and friendship."

That paragraph has me wondering two things: First, how on earth did I miss the great publishing event of 2000? And second, how in the world did Specter come up with 574 pages about himself? Oh, and a third question: Who, if anyone at all, bought this stupid book?

Here's another choice quote from Nicholas, one that speaks volumes about both lawmakers:

In his 1996 presidential bid, Specter won the endorsement of a single senator: Santorum.

And then there's this:

On some of the most high-profile issues coming before the Senate, the two have taken polar positions. They've clashed on abortion. They disagreed on [former President] Bill Clinton's removal from office (Santorum for; Specter against); on President Bush's 2001 tax-cut package (Specter favored more modest cuts); on cloning embryonic stem cells for medical research (Specter for; Santorum against); and on a campaign-finance overhaul (Specter for; Santorum against).

"Specter has said repeatedly that he and Santorum agree on 85 percent of the issues," said [a] former Specter aide. "Well, that other 15 percent covered a lot of ground."

This month, the nonpartisan National Journal analyzed the voting patterns of senatorial "odd couples."

Of 36 states whose senators belong to the same party, only Arizona Republicans Jon Kyl and John McCain compiled a more disparate voting record than Specter and Santorum.

Appropriate enough, I suppose, for a state that has been described as "Philadelphia on one end and Pittsburgh on the other, with Alabama in between," a characterization that I've yet to decide is slanderous or generous with respect to that southern state, and one that strikes a casual equivalence between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that I find dubious at best.

Nonetheless, the residents of the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, whether they reside in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or that vast and varied swath in between, deserve far better than these two.

And for reasons not clear, Nicholas did not refer to Sens. Specter and Santorum as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Perhaps those labels ended up on the editor's floor. I don't care. I for one am sticking with them: I know they're going to catch on eventually. And to the rest of America I say, on behalf of all thinking Pennsylvanians: I'm very, very sorry.

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