The Rittenhouse Review

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2003  

Arlen Specter: A Conservative in Conservatives' Clothing

In a remarkable display of stating the obvious, Chris Mondics of the Philadelphia Inquirer for Monday's paper penned a piece entitled, "Specter Observers Sense a Shift Right."

Mondics's hook: A lunch meeting two weeks ago between Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), described by the reporter as one who is "normally viewed as a moderate Republican," and Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Mondics reports:

Specter said the purpose was to talk about ways to bolster support for Israel on Capitol Hill.

But the sighting of Specter…with one of the nation's best-known religious and cultural conservatives has played into speculation that Specter is seeking to highlight his more conservative views ahead of next year's election.

According to Mondics, those who see a rightward shift in Sen. Specter's politics point to the impending primary challenge from Rep. Patrick J. Toomey (R), a conservative congressman from Allentown, Pa. And that, the reporter says, "has raised concerns among some liberal interest groups that the senator may be taking more conservative positions to solidify his primary chances."

Mondics cites such organizations as the Clean Air Council and the Sierra Club, though I suspect many more organizations -- and individuals -- could readily have been found to raise questions about Sen. Specter's voting record and public statements this year.

As for Sen. Specter, he told Mondics, "I'm a pragmatist."

Well, that's one way of looking at it. Douglas Johnson, legislative director of National Right to Life, an important interest group in this campaign given Sen. Specter's claim to "moderation" relies almost entirely on his record on abortion, put it another way: "I would say he is inconsistent." I'd say that's something with which almost anyone, Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, would agree.

In the same interview with Mondics Sen. Specter said Democratic strategists "are trying to undercut the support I get from a lot of Democrats. They are trying to find a candidate and trying to develop a case that I am vulnerable, and so far, they don't have any takers."

We'll see about that.

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