Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It

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9781250003683: Life Among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing As We Know It


A revealing memoir of how Washington is changing---and not for the better

During a storied thirty-year career in the U.S. Senate, Arlen Specter rose to Judiciary Committee chairman, saved and defeated Supreme Court nominees, championed NIH funding, wrote watershed crime laws, always staying defiantly independent, "The Contrarian," as Time magazine billed him in a package of the nation's ten-best Senators. It all ended with one vote, for President Obama's stimulus, when Specter broke with Republicans to provide the margin of victory to prevent another Depression.

Shunned by the GOP faithful, Specter changed parties, giving Democrats a sixty-vote supermajority and throwing Washington into a tailspin. He kept charging, taking the first bursts of Tea Party fire at public meetings on Obama's health care--reform plan. Undaunted, Specter cast the key vote for the health plan.

In Life Among the Cannibals, Specter candidly describes the battles that led to his party switch, his tough transition, the unexpected struggles and duplicity that he faced, and his tumultuous campaign and eventual defeat in the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic primary.

Taking us behind the scenes in the Capitol, the White House, and on the campaign trail, he shows how the rise of extremists---in both parties---has displaced tolerance with purity tests, purging centrists, and precluding moderate, bipartisan consensus.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER, son of Jewish immigrants, grew up in Kansas, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania, served as an editor of the law journal at the Yale Law School, and was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. As an Assistant Counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President Kennedy, he developed the Single Bullet Theory. As Philadelphia District Attorney, he created a national model for the modern prosecutor's office, sought life sentences for career criminals and realistic rehabilitation for first offenders, and trail-blazed prosecutions for police brutality. During thirty years in the U.S. Senate, he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. He presided over the confirmation hearings of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, and his questioning of Judge Robert Bork, by many accounts, prompted the Senate to reject Bork's nomination. He led successful efforts to triple funding for the National Institutes of Health. In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the Ten-Best Senators. He currently practices law in Philadelphia, lectures at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and recently hosted a pilot of PBS's Arlen Specter's The Whole Truth, a public-affairs television program that cuts to the heart of the day's toughest national political issues.

CHARLES ROBBINS served as Senator Specter's communications director in his Senate office and on his presidential campaign. He is the author of the novel The Accomplice as well as coauthor, with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, of The U.S. Senate, and coauthor of Senator Specter's Passion for Truth. A former newspaper reporter and Navy reserve officer, he is a graduate of Princeton University, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and the master of fine arts program at Queens University of Charlotte. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE
THE NEW SUPER TUESDAY
 
 
On May 18, 2010, which the media had dubbed “the New Super Tuesday,” CNN anchor T. J. Holmes opened the network’s 9 a.m. newscast from Atlanta:
We’ve got a test going on today of the nation’s anti-incumbent fever.... It is a big deal for the country and it could change the balance of power down the road. These primaries we’re talking about today are going to measure something much larger. A nationwide uprising of anger and disgust with Washington ...
Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent, burst onto the screen from Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. Over her left shoulder, Independence Hall, where the founders had adopted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, glowed through a gray mist. “Here in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter—he has been in the Senate thirty years,” she intoned. “That is a lot of power, that’s a lot of seniority, that’s a lot of sway.” President Obama’s agenda was also at stake, Crowley said.1
Across town in East Falls, I walked alongside my wife through a cold morning rain to my polling place at Alden Park Manor, a historic complex of apartments and gardens. Behind the Jacobean revival building, seven television trucks and vans clogged Schoolhouse Lane and the nearby greenery, their tires gouging the soggy soil.
In a day the press was billing as a referendum on the president’s power, the Tea Party, incumbency, and the political center, my Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary was the marquee contest. Reporters from the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and a slew of other major papers had descended on Philadelphia. MSNBC was broadcasting live from the Loews Hotel. Even Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV sent a camera crew to Pennsylvania.
The worst was happening, as predicted. Whatever chance I had hinged on heavy voting in the African American wards. The rain, which had been pelting Philadelphia all morning, could snuff that turnout.
Just inside the polling place door, a battery of TV cameras idled. I was eighty; this might be my last primary, either way. I used to joke about beating Strom Thurmond’s record: the former Dixiecrat served in the Senate until age one hundred. But another run at eighty-six seemed speculative at best.
I shrugged out of my tan topcoat, presenting myself in basic Senate dress uniform of navy suit over white shirt and red tie. My wife slipped off her black military-style raincoat. Joan, a former four-term Philadelphia city councilwoman, was a prime political adviser. She also softened my prosecutor image. This guy can’t be all bad if he has a nice wife like that, critics have said over the years. Joan and I had begun dating as teenagers in the late 1940s, when I was a University of Pennsylvania sophomore and she was a stunning blonde with a mouth full of braces. We had campaigned for each other. I once took a bullhorn to an Eagles game for her. Most people had never seen a sitting U.S. senator working the Veterans Stadium aisles. “Joan Specter for city council,” I called. “Support Joan Specter. I do.” At a recent fund-raising event, I announced that Joan and I had just celebrated fifty years of happily married life. When the applause ebbed, I said, “Not too bad, out of fifty-seven years of marriage.”
We waded into the media mass. I usually tried to count the cameras, but there were too many and the lights were too bright. This was the first Democratic primary ballot I would cast since 1965. For the forty-five years between those elections, I’d been a Republican. But I was the guy Time magazine had featured as “the Contrarian” in the leadoff profile of a Ten Best Senators package, someone who had never hewn to orthodoxy—of either party. Who had, the Washington Post wrote, turned blurring political lines into an art form.2
When I had arrived in the Senate in 1981, that independence—making judgments and decisions as each vote and issue arose—had placed me snugly within a cabal of centrists. Those moderate senators made the deals that kept the country moving—on highways, health care, domestic violence, and a slew of other issues over the years.
But over the decades, the rise of extremists—in both parties—replaced tolerance with purity tests. For several years, the fringes had been purging centrists, applying screens in which the old Ivory Soap standard of 9944/100 percent pure wasn’t pure enough. Senators began actively campaigning against members of their own caucuses. And they did it with relish, like cannibals devouring colleagues with condiments. “Extremism” was no longer sufficiently extreme to describe what was going on. The quest for ideological purity was destroying comity and compromise and bringing government to a standstill.
With the rise of the intolerant right and the incompetent left, centrists became an endangered species, especially in the GOP. The moderate Republican Wednesday Lunch Club, once nearly two dozen strong, shrank over the years to “the gals from Maine”—Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins—and me. Our lunches moved to my small Capitol “hideaway” office and we became known as “the Mod Squad,” a takeoff on the Vietnam-era counterculture TV series.
Still, coming into the cycle for this race, I had a clear shot at re-election to a sixth term. Former congressman Pat Toomey, who had nearly unseated me in a 2004 Republican primary, had announced a bid for governor. Then, in February 2009, Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill came up for a vote. The stimulus, I became convinced, offered our only chance of averting a 1930s-style depression. I had lived through the Great Depression and was determined not to see it happen again. I took the Republican lead in negotiations, and wound up one of only three Republicans in the entire Congress to vote for the stimulus, and the only one of that trio facing re-election. That was the margin of passage.
As the Republican furor swelled, political pundit Chris Matthews cataloged the demise of GOP moderates and told me, “Now you’re almost the last of the Mohicans, you and Senators Snowe and Collins. Has the party got to change?”
“I believe there has to be more accommodation to different points of view,” I replied, “and not to assert a philosophy which says we’re not going to yield even in the face of enormous problems.”3
But those changes didn’t come. And the backlash to my stimulus vote raged, fed by Tea Party vitriol and my other apostasies from Republican orthodoxy over the years, such as torpedoing Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court, championing stem cell research, and pressing to increase the minimum wage and extend unemployment compensation. Toomey abandoned his gubernatorial campaign to run against me. My poll numbers looked bleak.
I wasn’t going to put my twenty-nine-year career in front of that jury, in a closed Pennsylvania Republican primary. I had edged Toomey in 2004, but since then 200,000 moderate Pennsylvania Republicans had become Democrats. I decided in April 2009 to join them. That left only Snowe and Collins as GOP moderates, but they no longer acted consistently centrist; they couldn’t afford to. The Republican center had died. The Democratic center was healthier, but no longer had a common meeting ground.
I had arguably been the Senate’s last Republican independent. Now I awaited another verdict on my career, this time from Democratic voters whose party I had opposed for half a century.
As Joan and I voted and fielded questions from the press, my chief of staff, Scott Hoeflich, and two other aides worked BlackBerrys, tracking the weather across Pennsylvania and the national news. They scrolled for updates on a hotly contested Arkansas primary in which fellow centrist Democrat Blanche Lincoln was fending off a union-funded challenge. Throughout the day, Hoeflich was also swapping data with state and national pooh-bahs, including Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a former Democratic National Committee chair and one of my deputies when I was Philadelphia district attorney. Rendell had barnstormed the state with me the past few days and was deploying what Politico called “one of the most storied political operations in the country” to re-elect me.4 My aides weaved through the polling place, coiled to spring at any news, danger, or summons.
My stimulus vote, which had set off this latest round of trouble, was one of ten thousand Senate votes I’d cast and one of countless acts of defiant independence. I’d done it my way successfully for decades, and I thought I could succeed again. But that vote was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It landed atop a mound of other troubles I’d invited over the years. My former law partner Mark Klugheit once said I’d be remembered for believing in a theory that most people doubted when I developed the Single Bullet Conclusion as a young lawyer on the Warren Commission, and for doubting a woman most people believed in my questioning of Anita Hill at Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. I’d added to that legacy by killing Bork’s nomination and voting “Not Proven” on President Clinton’s impeachment, among other acts that alienated sizable slabs of the electorate.
Several weeks earlier, I had enjoyed a double-digit lead among Democrats, before my challenger, Congressman Joe Sestak, began running TV ads. The former three-star admiral advanced steadily as he first aired a biographical spot and followed it with a slashing, negative ad. The final major polls all showed the race too close to call, with Sestak and me tied or within the margin of error. My own tracking polls showed me ahead 43–41. My approval rating had recently hit 65 pe...

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Book Description Thomas Dunne Books. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Hardcover. 384 pages. Dimensions: 9.3in. x 6.2in. x 1.4in.A revealing memoir of how Washington is changing---and not for the betterDuring a storied thirty-year career in the U. S. Senate, Arlen Specter rose to Judiciary Committee chairman, saved and defeated Supreme Court nominees, championed NIH funding, wrote watershed crime laws, always staying defiantly independent, The Contrarian, as Time magazine billed him in a package of the nations ten-best Senators. It all ended with one vote, for President Obamas stimulus, when Specter broke with Republicans to provide the margin of victory to prevent another Depression. Shunned by the GOP faithful, Specter changed parties, giving Democrats a sixty-vote supermajority and throwing Washington into a tailspin. He kept charging, taking the first bursts of Tea Party fire at public meetings on Obamas health care--reform plan. Undaunted, Specter cast the key vote for the health plan. In Life Among the Cannibals, Specter candidly describes the battles that led to his party switch, his tough transition, the unexpected struggles and duplicity that he faced, and his tumultuous campaign and eventual defeat in the 2010 Pennsylvania Democraticprimary. Taking us behind the scenes in the Capitol, the White House, and on the campaign trail, he shows how the rise of extremists---in both parties---has displaced tolerance with purity tests, purging centrists, and precluding moderate, bipartisan consensus. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Bookseller Inventory # 9781250003683

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