Awful Specter Stalking Rick

Veteran Capitol-watchers are abundantly aware that former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter of PA was never terribly shy about drawing attention to himself. So it’s not terribly surprising that with Mitt Romney’s campaign and Super-PAC mentioning Rick Santorum’s 2004 GOP primary endorsement of his then-colleague about every five minutes, Specter himself has weighed in.

It could be a lot worse for Santorum: Specter could endorse him right back, which would be deadly. But instead, the wily old pol is simply saying his buddy Rick is a crazy conservative who should not be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office. To those conservative GOP primary voters who are the target of Team Romney’s Specterganza, of course, Rick’s crazier views, especially on the cultural issues Specter is talking about, are just aces. So they have to be wondering all over again how Santorum could have ever backed him against a fine young cannibal–er, excuse me, constitutionalist–like Pat Toomey (now in Specter’s old seat, and making all sorts of cooing and billing noises towards Mitt Romney).

Once upon a time Santorum could easily defend himself by mentioning the fact that the then-President of the United States, a Republican regarded in 2004 as a conservative movement hero and perhaps a world-historical colossus, also backed Specter. But now that the Bush era has been revealed to conservatives as a veritable cesspool of Big Government heresy if not outright liberalism, it doesn’t cut much ice. Rick should have realized that you cannot go wrong in the Republican Party (certainly if you want to run for president) by tacking hard right and never, ever looking back.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.