Mad at Santorum over Specter? What Would Reagan Do?

What would President Reagan do if he had had a good conservative challenging Sen. Arlen Specter in a primary in Pennsylvania?  Former Sen. Rick Santorum is taking a lot of heat in his presidential campaign for backing the RINO Specter over true-blue conservative Pat Toomey in 2004.  We need more conservatives like Ronald Reagan. 

I agree.  But let's remember what Reagan actually did.  In 1982, Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) faced a possible challenge from Prescott Bush, Jr., elder brother of Reagan's vice president.  "God himself could not keep me from challenging Lowell Weicker," the Bush brother said.  But when the convention rolled around, Mr. Bush was obviously listening to someone else.  He dropped his challenge.

President Reagan came to New Haven that year and spoke to 10,000 Knights of Columbus.  Weicker was on stage with him.  The president, Sen. Weicker, and I were perhaps the only three "Prots" in the hall.  I was then working for a state pro-life group backed by the Catholic Church.  When the host announced from the podium that Sen. Weicker would be flying back to Washington on Air Force One with the president, there were boos and catcalls.  The announcer spoke over this disruption.  "The president will be dropping Sen. Weicker off in the capital," he said with authority.

Some witty Knight yelled back: "Drop Weicker on the Capitol!"  The audience cheered.  Weicker won that election and continued for another six years to be a burr under Reagan's saddle.  Some gratitude.

It's worth considering what President Reagan did when we beat up on Rick Santorum for backing the awful Arlen Specter.  Weicker showed his ingratitude from day one.  What could possibly justify backing Specter?

Well, how do we like Justice Clarence Thomas?  He's about my favorite member of the Supreme Court.  But it was Sen. Specter who cut Anita Hill's testimony to pieces in the Judiciary Committee hearings in 1991.  Without Specter's evisceration of Miss Hill's inconsistencies, it is highly doubtful that Thomas would have survived.

I'll never forget watching the confirmation vote on Justice Thomas from the Senate Visitors' Gallery that night.  Hollywood's Ted Danson was sitting right in front of me, gripping the brass rail.  His knuckles went white, and the large bald spot on the back of his head went red, as Thomas's nomination was approved by the thin margin of 52-48.

Later that night, Sen. Specter strode over to the den of that lion of the right, Paul Weyrich, to receive the plaudits of grateful conservatives.  I couldn't resist: "God bless you, Sen. Specter," I said as I shook his hand.  What did I just say?  How many times later did I ask God if I could take that blessing back?

So, what did Specter do after Rick Santorum endorsed him in 2004?  Do we remember the 2005 hearings for John Roberts and Sam Alito?  Chairman Specter skillfully guided both of those worthy gentlemen to seats on the Supreme Court.

I worked for both of those nominations, and I knew that it was by no means assured that they would get though the Kennedy-Biden-Leahy-Schumer gauntlet of the Judiciary Committee.

But they did.  And we can thank Arlen Specter for that.  He ruled the narrowly divided Judiciary Committee with a firm hand.  He put Ted Kennedy down, sharply.  That was a joy to see.  And all the while, Specter was undergoing chemo and radiation for a brain tumor!

I agree with all my conservative brethren.  I don't like Arlen Specter.  I wish we had not had to support him ever.  But Ronald Reagan backed the infinitely worse Lowell Weicker and got nothing from Weicker in return.

I'd say three Supreme Court justices is not bad recompense for holding our noses and backing the incorrigible Specter.  I campaigned for President Bush in Pennsylvania in 2004.  I had to swallow hard, believe me, to carry Specter literature with me.  But I did it.

I'm not at all confident that Pat Toomey could have carried Pennsylvania that year, as President Bush was losing the state to John Kerry.

When we ask what Reagan would do, it might be helpful to recall what Reagan actually did.  So now, if we get Rick Santorum in the White House, Pat Toomey in the Senate, and Arlen Specter in retirement, why can't we conservatives be happy?                                                                               

Chet Arthur is a nom de cyber for a veteran of the Reagan administration.

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