Thursday, December 12, 2013
From news service reports
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Arlen Specter, who spent much of his pugnacious 30-year career in the U.S. Senate warning of the dangers of political intolerance, lost a battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at a time when Congress is more politically polarized than anyone serving there -- or living in America -- can remember.
Then-U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter speaks in Philadelphia as he campaigns on May 17, 2010, the day before he lost in Pennsylvania’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary. He said he never changed his moderate style during his 30-year career because “I am what I am.”
2010 File Photo/The Associated Press
IN SPECTER'S CAREER
1959: Hired as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia.
1964: Serves on the Warren Commission, which concludes that a lone assassin killed President Kennedy.
1965: Runs successfully on Republican ticket for Philadelphia district attorney, even though he was a Democrat.
1967: Loses election for Philadelphia mayor.
1969: Elected to second term as district attorney.
1973: Loses bid for third term as district attorney.
1976: Loses Republican Senate primary.
1978: Loses Republican gubernatorial primary.
1980: Wins Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.
1986: Elected to second term in Senate.
1987: Helps defeat President Reagan's Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork.
1991: Aggressively questions Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
1992: Elected to third term in Senate.
1995: Announces candidacy for president. Suspends campaign later that year amid fundraising difficulties.
1998: Elected to fourth term in Senate.
2004: Beats U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., by 17,146 votes, or 1.6 percentage points, in party primary. Wins fifth term in November.
2005: Begins two-year term as Senate Judiciary chairman.
February 2009: Votes for Democrats' economic stimulus package, inflaming Republican sentiment against him.
April 15, 2009: Toomey announces he will mount another challenge to Specter in 2010 Senate Republican primary.
April 28, 2009: Specter announces he is changing party affiliation from Republican to Democratic.
Aug. 4, 2009: Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak announces his Senate candidacy.
May 18, 2010: Sestak defeats Specter in Democratic primary.
Dec. 22, 2010: Specter takes last vote in Senate.
Jan. 3, 2011: Senate term ends.
Oct. 19, 2011: In speech, Specter blames the tea party for removing Republican moderates, says Washington gridlock has become "like a war."
Aug. 28, 2012: Confirms that he is battling cancer again, calls it "another battle I intend to win."
Oct. 14, 2012: Son confirms Specter's death at his Philadelphia home of complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
– The Associated Press
Specter, 82, who died Sunday, is remembered as one of Congress' best-known moderates.
He was a member of both major parties during his career, and even mounted a short-lived run for president in 1995 on a platform that warned his fellow Republicans of the "intolerant right." Now, two years after he was voted out of office, his death coincides with a finding by political scientists that Congress is more polarized than at any point since Reconstruction.
ONE VOTE COST HIM HIS CAREER
Specter lost his job amid the very polarization that he had repeatedly attacked: He crossed political party lines to make the toughest vote he had ever cast in his career when, in 2009, he became one of three Republicans to vote for President Obama's economic stimulus bill.
Republican fury drove Specter to the Democratic Party, where he lost the 2010 primary.
"When he cast a vote on the stimulus, I think he knew he had no future in the Republican Party," said Ed Rendell, a former Pennsylvania governor who began his career in public service as a deputy district attorney under Specter in Philadelphia.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served six terms in the U.S. House and as President George W. Bush's first homeland security secretary, said he thinks a serious third party could emerge on the national stage in 2016 unless bipartisan agreement is reached on major issues, including the debt and immigration.
"I think the American public is fed up with the inability of both parties to find common ground," Ridge said Sunday.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who served four years with Specter and is seeking re-election as a moderate, said Sunday that he believes moderates can still bring people together.
"It's not going to happen naturally or by accident," Casey said. "Each individual member of Congress has to take on personal responsibility. ... He has to keep the poison out of the water to avoid the kind of demonization that happens when people debate issues."
Specter, Casey said, was one of those people who could disagree without demonizing.
The other two Republicans who supported President Obama's stimulus are Maine's two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The three negotiated with the West Wing to cut the price tag of the controversial stimulus to less than $800 billion in exchange for their critical support.
Snowe announced in February that she wasn't seeking re-election. She said she was frustrated by "'my way or the highway' ideologies."
On Sunday, Snowe recalled how she and Specter were part of a group of moderate Republicans who were "dedicated to bridging the partisan divide" and met regularly for lunch.
"Over Arlen's remarkable career spanning three decades in the Senate, time and again he reached across the aisle to build consensus on vital legislation to advance his beloved Pennsylvania and the nation," she said in a prepared statement.
"Serving as chairman of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Arlen was driven by a common-sense pragmatism that advocated for a revitalization and advancement of the political center," Snowe said.
'HE WAS A MASTER POLITICIAN'
In one study of congressional polarization, University of Georgia professor of political science Keith Poole mapped the political polarization of Congress by charting votes. He found that the parties are more divided than at any time since Reconstruction after drifting further apart in the last 40 years.
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