Insight. Antics.

Sestak Attacked!

In Politics on July 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Joe Sestak on Meet The Press on 3/18/07 - Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the PressRemember how I covered Congressman and former naval officer Joe Sestak talking about how he was considering running against Arlen Specter for Senate in Pennsylvania?  Well, Sestak hasn’t even officially declared his bid but Specter attacked him anyway!  And of all things… for not being a true-blue Democrat!  This is astounding in its irony and lack of forethought.  Here’s Specter’s opening salvo:

“Congressman Sestak is a flagrant hypocrite in challenging my being a real Democrat when he did not register as a Democrat until 2006 just in time to run for Congress.  His lame excuse for avoiding party affiliation, because he was in the service, is undercut by his documented disinterest in the political process.”

It takes a certain kind of cajones to call out a fellow member of your state’s delegation for not being a real party man when you yourself have just staged a monstrous coup of overt political expediency: re-affiliating as a Democrat for the first time since 1965 to win a nomination.  When President Obama was 4 years old.  It’s true Sestak raised questions of where Specter lies on the political spectrum after the senator switched parties back at the end of April, but isn’t that a given when a guy hasn’t been a Democrat in 44 years?

In addition, Sestak has made comments publicly and written privately suggesting he is highly likely to run, but many outlets have jumped the gun.

It’s also accurate that voting records show Sestak voted in just 12 out of 35 elections from 1971-2005, didn’t vote in any primary elections in that period, and that he officially registered as a Democrat in February 2006.

Sestak defended himself, saying he was an Independent while in the Navy because he felt “military officers should be nonpartisan.”  Pretty understandable rationale.  He also said he voted frequently, but that military votes often go uncounted because they arrive late.  Not an airtight excuse, but it’s hard to get your absentee ballot in on time through the post when you are floating on a destroyer in the Cold War.  Then, Sestak went on:

“We’ve learned today that Arlen Specter can abandon his party, but he just can’t quit making Republican swift-boat attacks on the integrity of Democrats who served in our military.  My question to Arlen Specter is this: do you regret voting for George Bush and John McCain?  Why should Democrats support someone like you who actively campaigned as recently as last year for politicians with values like George W. Bush?”

For someone who is new to this whole politics business, Admiral Joe just took apart a 30-year veteran in one deft move.  Oh, snap!  He even got in the swift boat meme! (Ironic to hear a Navy man dis someone by talking about boats though.)

Is it wise to make a well-spoken, two-term Democratic Congressman with 31 years of military experience defend his credentials?  He has a NARAL rating of 100%, an NRA rating of F, and he just voted in favor of the global warming bill. He led a 30-ship aircraft carrier battle group 7 years ago.

The guy is a golden boy. The only bad things I have seen about Sestak are that he works too hard and demands his staff work insanely long hours.  But I guess if it’s not you doing the work, that’s what you want your representative and his/her staff to do.

Arlen Specter - Photo for Reuters by Kevin Lamarque

Nonetheless, Specter shot back:

“I read with amusement Cong. Sestak’s diatribe in response to my brief statement.  After going negative against me for months I am a little surprised that Cong. Sestak can dish it out but he can’t take it.”

Props to Specter for smoothly using words like “lame” and “dish it out” in context; only being 20 years behind modern slang is impressive for a 79-year old.

Still, am I missing something?  What is Specter thinking?  Is he trying to make this campaign into a war of attrition?  He looks immensely hypocritical in all this and Sestak has a respectable reason for not wearing his politics on his sailor’s sleeve.  Most importantly, Specter’s attacks get Sestak name recognition, which he sorely needs.  Early polls show Specter leading Sestak (though almost half of respondents are undecided) and having slightly higher favorables than him, and that appears to be due to lack of awareness of Sestak statewide.  It’s hard to have a “very favorable” opinion of someone you’ve barely heard of.  Moreover, Specter’s lagging in popularity and support recently.

Sestak has a decent $3 million stash in leftovers from his re-election campaign last fall, and is about to report that he built on it with another million this spring.  He’s behind Specter’s $6.7 million but he can do some damage with that money.

Fun times.  And lest you forgot, this is just for the primary.  The election is 16 months away.

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