Once again, Chris Matthews produced a provocative, substantive interview. What is it with this guy? I want to view him as some caricature but he simply isn’t choking lately.
He had Joe Sestak on as well. The entire discussion was about Arlen Specter and the repercussions of his switcheroo. Sestak acts skeptical and critical, but somewhat open-minded about this realignment: “[I am] waiting and seeing. If he has got the right answers then he can be the man, I am not opposed to it… but right now… I am worried it is more about political survivability. Too many people lost their jobs to worry about his.” He persists, “At the end of the day, Arlen Specter found it was too hard to run against someone. That’s not what politics is about. It is what you are running for.”
For his part, Matthews offers Specter no quarter, saying “We have no idea which way Arlen Specter will go on any issue, you never can predict him… He’ll do what he thinks will work politically” and Sestak laments, “But it shouldn’t be true. That isn’t the point of politics.” The Statue of Liberty just stood up straight with pride.
Admiral Joe insists, “Look, I don’t think politics is a sport. And I don’t think that President Obama (who I have such respect for) really can dictate what happens… There aren’t any kings, there aren’t any kingmakers.”
Matthews bemoans how he feels this situation “protects an incumbent from the electorate” and tries to pin Sestak down once and for all: will he run for Senate now or is he turned off? This is a guy who won in a district that is 53% GOP / 36 % Democrat, who is independent-minded and didn’t even know what the DCCC was when he first ran.
Sestak replies he is truly not sure, but says he will listen and decide within the quarter. He gives a specific timeframe: who does that?!
The audience is not so naïve as not to see he’s doing these appearances to begin wedging himself into the race should he follow through, but he also treats the audience maturely enough to let us know that upfront too.
Let’s step back to the fuller chess board now: if there is one thing people who dislike them, like them, and the press (oops, that’s redundant) agree, it’s that the Obama people are smart, savvy, and do not rush into things hastily. What else is at play here? Why did they blindly throw their full support behind a guy that just joined the party?
Obama’s campaign spoke a lot about compromise, pragmatism, and reaching across the aisle. My best guess is that is what is at play here. The Administration takes a bit of a PR hit, but they win Specter over as a constituent and have a strong first year and a half to get their big issue agenda (health care, climate change, economic recovery) going. Come the fall of 2010, they’ll see what happens.
Not for nothing, but Sestak’s 57. With his background plus a Senate term, he could be a spry 65 and mount a credible run for president.