David Frum

04.03.12

How Arlen Specter Threw Away His Career to Stop a Depression

Today in the Huffington Post, D.R. Tucker reviews former Sen. Arlen Specter's new book, Life Among the Cannibals, which describes the plight of moderates in the modern GOP:

Despite the flaws of the book—and the author—Life Among the Cannibals is nonetheless a remarkable work, as Specter courageously chastises the Republican Party for its fixation on litmus tests. Specter—a veteran Republican who left the party in April 2009—is right to warn of the risks posed to America by hyper-partisanship.

Much of what Tucker writes is the familiar story of moderates increasingly being replaced by those at the ideological fringes. But perhaps most revealing is his quotation of Specter's reasons for voting in favor of President Obama's stimulus bill in 2009, a tough decision that would eventually end his career:

The thought of [another] 1930s depression was never far from my mind. I didn't want to be responsible for a repeat. The president's mandate also weighed on me. The American people had spoken. They were expecting the new president to take the lead. I recalled how FDR had brought Keynesian economics to take the lead.

With fewer and fewer moderates, it's growing increasingly harder to imagine any of those left in the Congress putting country over career the way Specter did.