I've never written much about PA-Sen because, unlike most of the Netroots, I've been inclined to support Arlen Specter. No more.
Specter has added his name to those of Johnny Isaakson and the Swift Boat Veterans for "Truth." He went lower than low this week, airing a new ad that attacks primary opponent Rep. Joe Sestak's service as a retired three-star Admiral.
Like many veterans, Dr. Sestak (he's also got a PhD) is too modest to list his decorations on either his Congressional webpage or his campaign biography, but per Wikipedia he has earned the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, two Legion of Merit awards, two Meritorious Service Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals, and the Navy Achievement Medal. According to Specter, however, the only thing you need to know about Sestak's Naval career is that he was removed from one of his assignments for creating a "poor command climate." That claim only gets a couple seconds' mention in Specter's new ad, but it's also the very first thing in the ad and is accompanied by your stock grainy photo, ripped headline, and spooky voice. I'm not going to dignify the disgraceful spot by posting it here, but you can watch it on YouTube.
I am shocked that Specter would be stupid enough to think he could get away with this kind of unpatriotic smear campaign in a Democratic primary. I was supporting Specter, but now I'm going to donate $20 to Admiral Sestak's campaign.
Credit to Vote Vets for bringing this shameful attack on a dedicated American serviceman to my attention via a press release posted on their Facebook page.
The largest progressive group of veterans in America with over 100,000 members, VoteVets.org PAC, today slammed Arlen Specter for his latest ad attacking Congressman Joseph Sestak's service to America in the Navy, and called on Specter to prove his charges, or pull the ad.
Jon Soltz, Iraq War veteran, graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, and Chairman of VoteVets.org said, "This ad is even beneath Snarlin' Arlen Specter, and he should be ashamed of himself for attacking a man who spent most of his adult life in military service. It's the kind of low, slimy swift-boat tactics used by the extreme right-wing against veterans, and it's shameful that Specter would adopt those right-wing tactics."
"This ad makes charges about Sestak's service based on unattributed hearsay contained in a single article, that offers no evidence in support of the charge. Baselessly attacking a veteran's service has no place in our politics, or our nation. Specter should pull this ad immediately," he added.
Nominees for the U.S. Department of Justice are rarely high-profile enough to warrant attention in an election. Not so in this year's Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Joe Sestak, who is challenging Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic nomination, sent an e-mail to supporters today about Dawn Johnsen. Johnsen, an Indiana University at Bloomington law professor, is President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and last year Specter helped delay Johnsen’s nomination. Specter was the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.
Republicans, including Specter at the time, have criticized Johnsen for her writings about abortion and civil liberties, and her stalled nomination has become a leading cause for advocates of abortion rights. Johnsen’s supporters say they might have enough votes for confirmation if the Senate’s Democratic leaders decide to take the time to break the GOP filibuster.
Just a few hours after being challenged by Congressman Sestak, his opponent in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, Republican-turned-Democratic Senator Arlen Specter responded:
A statement from Specter's office: “After voting 'pass' (which means no position) in the Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor.”
With Republican Richard Lugar, Johnsen's home state Senator, already committed to backing her nomination (update: and confirming his support), it appears that Johnsen should now have sufficient support to make it through the Senate (even with conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in opposition). The special election in Massachusetts could potentially alter this math, but if the Democratic caucus remains at 60, and both Lugar and Ben Nelson vote as expected, a filibuster could not be sustained.
Indeed, once her nomination hits the 60-vote mark, I would expect it to get more support than that on a cloture vote as Senators like Judd Gregg, Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch -- Republicans who tend to vote for cloture on nominees even if they eventually vote no on the final vote (as they did in the case of the nomination of Harold Koh as legal advisor to the State Department) -- jump on board.
This afternoon I was able to participate in a progressive blogger conference call with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, the (relatively) newly minted member of the Democratic caucus in the chamber.
I wasn't able to catch all of the call, but I did manage to get into a bit of a conversation with the Senator about filibusters and the judiciary. To start, I asked which Specter we would see if reelected in 2010 -- the one who was instrumental in keeping Robert Bork out of the Supreme Court, or the one who was equally instrumental in helping Clarence Thomas get there. Specter didn't come off as particularly contrite or remorseful for his role during the Thomas hearings, defending the line of questioning he pursued at the time. For the purposes of the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, where Specter will face Congressman Joe Sestak next year, the Senator might consider finessing his answer here a bit (especially considering that Justice Thomas isn't exactly the most popular jurist among Democrats or progressives).
To pivot, I asked more concretely what Specter would do to ensure that more of President Obama's nominees make it to the bench. Specter was stronger here, saying that it is time to go back to the way it was when he first arrived at the Senate when members were forced to actually speak ad infinitum if they wished to filibuster, whether on a nomination or a piece of legislation. (Specter added, too, that Republican obstructionism is one of the reasons he bolted the party earlier this year.) During the time when Howard Baker was Senate Majority Leader, Specter recalled, the Senate would be held open in all-night sessions until the business before the chamber was completed, forcing those in the opposition to actually filibuster rather than merely threaten it.
Asked whether it would be worth it to change the rules of the Senate to lower the threshold of the filibuster from 60 votes to, say, 55, Specter noted that it is more difficult to change the rules than to overcome a filibuster today (with a rule change requiring two-thirds support rather than just three-fifths). When I tried to allude to the rules change in 1975, when the Senate lowered the threshold for cloture from 67 votes to 60 on just a bare majority vote (rather than a two-thirds majority normal rules change vote), Specter did not appear to be familiar with the unorthodox tactic (which isn't unreasonable considering that it took place before he was elected to the chamber and isn't being widely discussed today).
Nevertheless, Specter does appear focused on helping get President Obama's judicial nominees through the Senate, which is an issue of concern to me as it is I'm sure for others. And he certainly can tell a story. Whether this will be enough for Pennsylvania voters next year, however remains to be seen.
The man who beat non-Democrat Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut urges you to stand with the man who will beat non-Democrat Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
In his 45 years as a Republican, Arlen Specter cast thousands of votes for his party and against Democratic principles. In the last eight years, he voted more than 2,000 times with the Bush Republicans. So when he claimed at Netroots Nation, "I'll stand behind my votes one by one," it makes one wonder, "Really, Arlen?"
From the War in Iraq to the economic policies that created this savage recession, many of our current problems can be ascribed to one man: George W. Bush, who Specter voted for in 2000. Given the chance to correct that vote and help put John Kerry in the White House, what did the Real Arlen Specter do? Co-Chair Bush-Cheney '04 in Pennsylvania and vote for him a second time.
Now you can chose which one of these actions by the long-time Republican Senator is most egregious. Vote in our poll on this page and check back to see which vote was the worst of the worst. We will call on Arlen to stand behind the winner.