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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

What Must Specter Do?

Tomorrow’s apparently the big day when Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) must “make his case” to his GOP colleagues about why they should allow him to ascend to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, as dictated by the seniority system. Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist laid out a pretty high hurdle for the prickly Pennsylvanian: to preside in a way that reflects “the feelings, the beliefs, the values, the procedures that are held by the majority of that committee.” In other words, Specter must have the courage of other people’s convictions.
It’s hard to imagine what sort of servile gesture would suffice for Specter at this point. Agree to weild a papier-mache gavel? Get himself wired up with one of those instructional devices that George W. Bush was suspected to have worn during the first presidential debates? Recuse himself when any actual business comes before the Judiciary Committee?
About the only thing I can think of that would do the trick is for Specter to dramatically announce a conversion: no, not just to Movement Conservatism, or to the views of the Right to Life Committee, but to Christianity. Imagine the cries of joy that would ensue in Virginia Beach and Colorado Springs and other precincts of the theocratic Right! It would be like that scene in The Apostle when Billy Bob Thornton succumbed to the Call just as he was preparing to bulldoze Robert Duvall’s church! Victory is mine! Victory is mine!

Like the president himself, Specter would be forgiven his decades of “youthful indiscretions,” such as his career-long support for abortion rights.
But such are Specter’s sins that I would not recommend a mere recitation of creeds or a high-church “sprinkling.” Nothing short of a Full Immersion will likely convince his critics. Imagine the scene: the Senate Republican Caucus gathers on the banks of the Anacostia River, and robed in white, the senior Senator from Pennsylvania, accompanied by Brother Frist and Brother Coburn and Brother Santorum and Brother Novak, wades into the greasy waters….
If, as France’s Henry IV was reported to have said upon agreeing to convert to Catholicism to become King, “Paris is worth a mass,” then perhaps Arlen Specter must decide whether “Judiciary is worth a swim.”

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