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May. 17 2010 - 5:57 pm | 586 views | 2 recommendations | 23 comments

The White House bails out on Arlen Specter

WASHINGTON - APRIL 29:  U.S. Sen. Arlen Specte...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Apparently, a promise from the White House to back Arlen Specter’s candidacy in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senatorial primary in exchange for Specter’s switch from Republican to Democrat party came with conditions.

The marker was only good if Specter was sure to win.

Despite polls showing that the primary race between Arlen Specter and Congressman Joe Sestak is a dead heat, CBS’s Chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer is reporting that the White House has decided that Specter is going to lose – and is doing everything it can to put distance between the president and Sen. Specter.

I have been told on background that the White House is preparing for a Specter loss here, and that the president doesn’t want to be associated with that.
Via The Daily Beast

The evidence supports Shieffer’s report.

Despite the fact that the president is scheduled to fly right over Pennsylvania today on his way to Youngstown, Ohio, Obama had decided not to touch down in the Keystone state to make an effort to pull Specter across the finish line. Same goes for Vice President Joe Biden who will actually be in Pennsylvania today but will not put in an appearance on behalf of his candidate – despite the fact that it was Biden who is reputed to have personally persuaded Specter to make the jump to the Democratic party.

This strikes me as yet another lame political decision on the part of the White House, not to mention a real blow to anyone who believes that the president is a ‘stand up guy’ with the courage of his convictions.

While the polls have the candidates at a draw, there remains a double-digit undecided column. These are Democrats who could well be convinced by an appearance by Obama and/or Biden. Even if it was going to be a clear, lopsided loss for Sen. Specter, would we not want Barack Obama to show a little courage of his political convictions?

It’s hardly a secret that Obama has supported the candidacy of Senator Specter. And there is absolutely no chance that the GOP will allow voters to forget the Administration’s support should Specter go down to defeat. The fact that an investigation has been launched to determine whether or not the White House broke the law by offering Sestak a top administration post in order to get him out of the race is proof positive that the White House’s inability to provide coat tails this election season will remain a topic of broad discussion.

With this in mind, there appears to be, at this point, little in the way of a downside to Obama following through on his commitments to Senator Specter. Should Specter pull it out, the White House looks like big winners. If Sestak is the winner, it will not be a secret that the White House is the loser – not only in supporting the wrong candidate but in having absolutely no influence over Sestak going forward given the manner in which the Administration has treated his candidacy to date.

While I have no horse in this race, sometimes doing the right thing is the best course of action.

Obama needs to man up and stand up for those whom he promises to support. Turning tail in the face of defeat is not an attribute we admire in presidents.


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  1. collapse expand

    Hello Rick,

    I am not so sure that there is a real “down side” for the WH. If Sen. Specter loses, it is true that the WH will have “lost”. However, outside of Penn who will notice and even within PA who will remember this lose even a few weeks from now? More to the point, if Mr. Sestak wins in November, which is certainly possible, they will actually pick a more valuable ally than they lost. Mr. Toomey’s numbers are not looking too good for November against Mr. Sestak. It will be a small, short-lived loss at worst with a potential positive over the long term.

  2. collapse expand

    This strikes me as yet another lame political decision on the part of the White House, not to mention a real blow to anyone who believes that the president is a ‘stand up guy’ with the courage of his convictions.

    1) You don’t know that they promised anything at all to get Arlen Specter to switch parties. Specter switched to avoid a primary challenge from Tea Party candidates. If it turns out he’s going to lose no matter what party he runs for, that’s how politics work. He’s not entitled to his Senate seat. His value as the 60th Democratic vote evaporated when Scott Brown was elected. If PA voters would like someone else, tough.

    2) Even if they did, I’m struggling to see what greater ethical principle is at stake, here. Obama isn’t the President to make endorsements; he’s the President because we elected him to enact a certain agenda. I don’t see what’s gained by the loss of the political capital and face he needs to make that agenda work. Frankly this is just concern trolling on your part.

    Obviously, I’d like my politicians to be more scrupulous about keeping their promises, but I only care about the promises they make to me. Whatever promises they may have made to Arlen Specter? You don’t know about any, and why should I give a shit?

  3. collapse expand

    Obama can’t possibly have the “courage of his convictions.” One must first actually have convictions to stand up for. Obama has none, and neither do his “friends” in the Senate.

    Spector isn’t the first Obama friend to jump ship due to a primary. The only difference between Spector and Lieberman (his “mentor” in the Senate) is that Lieberman waited to lose a primary before leaving his party to better serve his own interests.

    The fact that both of these self-serving assholes were favored by Obama, rather than more progressive challengers, says all one really needs to know about his “convictions.”

    The white house favors whatever, and whoever they think will win at any given moment. Whether candidates or legislation, they support the probable rather than define, and fight for, the possible. And on and on it goes……..

  4. collapse expand

    There are many great corageous inspiring visionary leaders in our great nation. Among them, we cannot possibly include Barack Obama, Arlen Specter, or Joe Lieberman. All three men have proven repeatedly that they will do what they think is their own political best interests. People that admire men like these three are just plain gullible. A lot of my liberal friends often told me that they admired Ronald Reagan for doing what he thought was right. Ina act of conservative heresy, I often stuck up for Bill Clinton because he strove to balance the nation budget and resisted trade barrier demagoguery. America needs leaders with principles over people with political skills (regardless of where they exist on the damn near worthless red-blue continuum). Political power is a powerful narcotic. Washington is shooting gallery of people completely addicted to it.

  5. collapse expand

    I know this isn’t the point of the post; but guys like Specter & McCain are posterchilds for term limits in the Senate.
    I understand your point about standing up to your promises; but some fights aren’t worth fighting.

  6. collapse expand

    Is he a traitor or democrat now; why did they want him, another oil plot hoping to fuel more wrong reforms their side…. think more about this issue. http://cliveshome.blogspot.com

  7. collapse expand

    Obama can’t possibly have the “courage of his convictions.” One must first actually have convictions to stand up for. Obama has none, and neither do his “friends” in the Senate.

  8. collapse expand

    Is it possible that the deal to support Specter if he changed parties included certain expectations of support for administration policies that Specter didn’t follow through on?

    OTOH, maybe Specter pissed off Rahm. It’s not hard to do.

  9. collapse expand

    Does anyone really believe anymore that they can count on Obama? If you are counting on Obama, you’d better prepare yourself for a reality check or take the blinders off.

    Environmentalists, the LGBT community, those who wanted Guantanamo closed and our troops brought home, progressives and many others are realizing that Obama is not the friend and advocate they thought he was or would be. Conservatives saw Obama’s 180s and lack of experience (aka future unpredictability) before he was elected. But, progressives were so gleeful to get Bush out that they fell in love with “hope and change” and electing a minority.

    I think that we should talk to Obama’s longtime friend, Jeremiah Wright concerning how Obama treats someone when they are no longer valuable to him.

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