Saturday, January 14, 2006

I don't know how to love him, what to do, how to move him

We had a friend many years ago who suffered, and eventually died, from Cystic Fibrosis. It's a bitch of a disease, and, like AIDS, doesn't kill you directly but by allowing opportunistic infections to do its dirty work.

She commented one time that she felt she could be refreshingly honest and blunt in her dealings with other people because she metaphorically "had a tumor." In other words, when one has a deadly disease, one has the freedom to speak their mind. After all, who is going to criticize someone who "has a tumor?"

Which brings me to my point. From this NYTimes editorial:
There was a telling moment at the start of the Alito hearings when Senator Arlen Specter, the committee chairman, offered Judge Alito a way out. He asked whether Judge Alito believed, as some commentators do, that the Supreme Court's 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, strongly reaffirming Roe, made Roe a "super-precedent" - and therefore rendered the judge's 1985 views obsolete.

But Judge Alito would not give Senator Specter, who supports abortion rights, even that small bit of comfort, saying he did not believe in super-precedents. All of that should make things hard for Senator Specter and for three moderate Republicans - Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine - who have said they will oppose any nominee committed to overturning Roe.
. . .
The single most important thing a senator can do to support abortion rights is to vote against Supreme Court nominees who would take such rights away. Given Judge Alito's record and his testimony, it is hard to see how Senators Specter, Chafee, Snowe and Collins - or any other pro-choice senators - can call themselves strong advocates of abortion rights if they support him.

What I'm wondering is, what's in this for Spector? He figuratively and literally has a tumor, and has already been beaten up by the Bush administration for not exactly playing by their rules. See this in the National Review:
Specter's unhelpfulness on the presidential level also showed itself in some very concrete and visible ways. Most striking were the "Kerry and Specter for Working Families" signs posted around Southeastern Pennsylvania. Was the culprit some particularly ambitious freelance ticket-splitter? The signs were created, paid for, and posted by a 527 created by Roger Stone, chairman of Specter's 1996 presidential campaign.

Dick Cheney went to Pennsylvania in the final week before the election, and NRO's The Corner caught the priceless transcript:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The president and I are delighted to be part of a great Republican ticket here in Pennsylvania this year. I want to thank Congressman Tim Murphy for his kind words and the great leadership he provides. (Applause.) And I also want to put in a good word for Senator Arlen Specter, although he couldn't be here today.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: This is a tough crowd.

A poll released on the day of Cheney's appearance showed Specter up by 20 points, and yet Specter didn't have the time to help the top of his ticket, which was trailing by five that same day.

So what's the deal? He already has one of the plum committee chairs. He is old and not in great health, and certainly not telegenic enough to run for higher office. I can't think of anything the administration has to offer the old fart, and he really seems to dislike Bush & Cheney. Chaffee, Snowe, and Collins, on the other hand, have political futures. We can deplore, but also understand their backing down on deeply felt convictions because, well, that's what Republican politicians regularly do.

So is Spector's support for Sam "can't comment on Roe" Alito based on any principles other than sucking up to an administration that has already slapped him silly (see: McCain, John) or is it something deeper; could it be that his Choice stance was simply pandering to the Pennsylvania electorate? Either way, he looks less like a warrior of conviction who faced the White House down, and more like a buffonish sidekick in a TV Western: snickering in the background when his boss does something dumb, but bowing and scraping to his face.