In the Democratic primary for US Senate in Pennsylvania, incumbent Arlen Specter and challenger Joe Sestak are running dueling campaign ads featuring presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both praising Specter. Going on the attack, Sestak’s ad features Bush saying “I’m here to say it plainly as I can, Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate… I can count on this man, see, that’s important. He’s a firm ally when it matters most.” Specter has been defending himself with an ad featuring Obama saying “I want to say a few things about Arlen Specter. He came to fight for the working men and women of Pennsylvania… Because you know he’s going to fight for you, regardless of what the politics are.”
Of course, Bush and Obama are right. Whether serving as a Republican or Democrat, Specter is a lifelong establishment man who such presidents could always “count on,” “regardless of politics” or party. When Specter switched from Republican to Democrat last year he didn’t take some grand ideological journey, but simply quit Burger King to work for McDonald’s—where he could offer up the same low quality product, just under a different brand. Pennsylvania Republicans have been asking Specter for decades, “Where’s the beef?” Pennsylvania Democrats will continue to ask the same should Specter remain their senator.
People are tired of having to ask for substantive change or positive results, and what many pundits are describing as some sort of cruel and unusual “anti-incumbent mood” is actually a sign of long overdue of sanity amongst voters. Predictably, some in the establishment media continue to portray establishment candidates as pitiful souls who are being treated too harshly by their constituents. Writes Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker of senate veteran Bob Bennett of Utah, who was defeated in a Republican primary this month:
“(I)n purging impure Republicans from the ranks, Tea Partyers ultimately may manage to further shrink the GOP by alienating those repelled by purity tests. Nothing dissuades like righteousness. And though Tea Partyers pledge allegiance to no party, Republicans clearly are more aligned with Tea Party principles than are Democrats… If good-faith, conservative legislators such as Bennett fail to pass muster, who will be brave enough to legislate?”
That “bravery” for Republican legislators could mean remaining true to conservative principles, even in tough times, is not considered. Parker seems to believe that not only was Bennett’s support for TARP no big deal—but that it was generally a good idea. Of her definition of conservative bravery, Parker writes:
“Bennett committed the ultimate sin in Tea Party circles. He voted for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), a.k.a. ‘bank bailout…’ Never mind that a Republican president proposed the bailout, or that many Republicans and free-marketers felt TARP was crucial to keep the economy from capsizing… What was the alternative? What might have happened without TARP?”
In defending TARP and Bennett’s support for it, Parker sounds a lot like fellow establishment guardian and former Bush speechwriter, David Frum. Frum agrees with Parker that TARP was the right thing to do, and takes his critique a step further by portraying the Barry Goldwater-style fiscal conservatism of Rand Paul as somehow disingenuous, when compared to Paul’s supposedly more realistic and willing-to-spend opponent, Trey Grayson. Frum wrote of the Republican primary for US Senate in Kentucky, for The Week:
“Conservatives do not want to believe that the bank bailouts averted a financial collapse… In today’s Republican mood, politicians who explain practical limits are rejected as weaklings and sell-outs. When Trey Grayson explains that a Republican majority will not be able to balance the budget in a single year — or that some of the anti-drug programs funded by federal dollars are saving lives — he loses support. When Rand Paul announces that he will never vote for an unbalanced budget, today’s angry Republicans hear a man of principle not a petulant grandstander.”
Grayson is a former Democrat who switched parties in the same manner as Specter, and was as loyal to Bill Clinton as Specter once was to Bush. The “conservative” Bennett is far closer politically to Republicans like Specter and Grayson than Tea Party heroes like Senator Jim DeMint or Congressman Ron Paul, both of whom did not vote for TARP and no one expected them too. What Parker, Frum and even Specter are essentially saying is this: The status quo must be maintained at all costs because voters don’t understand what’s good for them.