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The World According to Arlen

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

In an interview with Roll Call, Specter continued making the same case.

“Romney has had to move so far to the right that he’s changed his position on virtually every major issue: mandating health care, a woman’s right to choose — he was very much pro-choice in his early days — immigration issues,” said Specter, who happily accepted the help of conservative Sen. Rick Santorum when Specter faced then-Rep. Pat Toomey in a 2004 GOP primary.

Of Toomey, Specter writes that he “had also earned a reputation as being, foremost, out for himself.” 

At this point, the mind reels at what is surely an all-time, top-10 instance of the pot calling the kettle black.

Specter’s frankness is critical to his mission of painting a picture of roiling partisan rancor on Capitol Hill.

But some of the book’s anecdotes are cringe-inducing. “I was in the whirlpool at the Senate gym in 2008 ... when Ted Kennedy came over and climbed into the bath. ... It was as though a gigantic walrus had plunged into the sea, causing the level to swell,” he writes.

He also makes uncomfortable comments about 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, saying she “radiated sensuality.”

The book delivers an enlightening portrayal of how a career politician with a centrist bent views American politics today. Its central fault is that the portrait is such an unflattering one, and the author takes no responsibility for being part of the problem.

In “The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972,” William Manchester writes about Hugh Johnson, the head of the National Recovery Administration, one of the most powerful New Deal agencies. When Johnson was a kid, Manchester writes, he liked to chant, “Everybody in the world’s a rink-stink but Hughie Johnson and he’s alright.”

One gets the sense from Specter that he shares Johnson’s view of the world and that, like Johnson, he has never deigned to waste much time considering whether the world returns the sentiment.

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