(Roger Stone) – Arlen Specter, Philadelphia District Attorney, Special Counsel to the Warren Commission, and the only man to be elected to five terms in the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania died Sunday at age 82.
I had the privilege of chairing Senator Specter’s campaign for President in 1996, which was an exercise in principle at a time that social issue conservatives within the Republican Party started administering Litmus tests.
Arlen Specter was a strong believer in the separation of Church and State, a protector of the First Amendment, a Civil Rights Republican, father of modern stem cell research, and champion of a women’s right to choose.
A liberal Republican in the mold of Senator Hugh Scott, Specter was less concerned with ideology and more concerned with results and undertaking policies that made a difference in people’s lives. A crime-busting District Attorney, Specter saw things more in terms of right and wrong than right or left. Called on to campaign for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Specter happily did so. President Richard Nixon considered appointing Specter to the US Supreme Court, an idea nixed by then Attorney General John Mitchell who liked Specter, but thought him “too liberal.”
Even though Specter lost a bitter primary for the US Senate to Senator John Heinz in 1976, after Specter captured the Senate seat of retiring Senator Richard Schweicker, he worked closely with Heinz to bring home the bacon for Pennsylvania.
Few realize that Specter won his election to the US Senate in 1980 after losing races for Mayor of Philadelphia, District Attorney, Governor, and US Senator. Specter is matched only by Abraham Lincoln in the long list of contests he lost narrowly before winning his first major office. It is a testimony to Specter’s resilience and optimism. The most dangerous place in Washington was between Specter and a TV camera…until Chuck Schumer came along.
I told the Senator I thought the single bullet theory was bullshit. He would always smile and postpone the debate until cocktail time. Over drinks he could zealously debate his theory of JFK’s death by gunshot.
Specter was the last of a breed of US Senators who could reach across the aisle and work with Democrats to try to do the people’s business. It was only after Specter correctly concluded that the take over of the Republican Party by the religious right was complete that he abandoned the party of Lincoln but it was not before long fruitless attempts to argue for a broader, more inclusive Republican Party. To my Conservative friends, ever grumbling about Specter, I would remind them that Roberts and Allito would not have been confirmed to the Supreme Court without Specter’s skillful management of their confirmation.
Specter had a zest for political combat and a passion for the details of public policy. He enjoyed campaigning, a brisk game of squash, a slab of roast beef and an ice cold martini with a glass of ice on the side. The Senator would nurse his martini slowly adding ice cubes to keep it ever cold. I loved Arlen Specter and I will miss him.