I was very sorry to hear today of Arlen Specter’s death.
There are few public figures on whom views varied so wildly. Maybe that’s because he wasn’t afraid to say what he thought, to say the truth as he saw it. Making him 25 years younger, can you imagine him as Romney’s running mate? I don’t think that partnership would have lasted long.
I thought the usual things a Democrat thought about Specter till I read his partial 2000 autobiography Passion for Truth. You’ve got to hand it to him, among today’s senatorial plutocrats, for the son of an itinerant Jewish scrap-dealer in Kansas, to have the career he did shows some character.
And courage. His account of cleaning up the justice system in Philadelphia is a real lesson on how to handle corruption wherever it lies. If the Democrats had let him run for Philadelphia DA as a reformer, he probably would have remained a Democrat for the rest of his life.
As for the magic bullet theory and the Anita Hill interrogation, the least you can say is that Passion for Truth explains in great detail why he did what he did. Every word is worth reading, whatever you think you would have done in his place.
Ultimately, everyone was mad at him at one time or another. To me, that shows he must have been doing something right–and very rare among today’s career politicians.