Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From Top of the World to An Ignoble Fate

In the Year of Our Lord 1801, fate claimed Benedict Arnold. He lived his life for fame, wealth, and respect, chasing those shadows of dreams across the war tossed United States. Despite victories and loyalty to the American cause, the cranky Arnold always saw others getting his accolades, such as Horatio Gates after Saratoga. Pushed by mounting expenses, his vivacious wife, and general surliness, Arnold switched sides.

In Europe, the term is Quisling. In America, Benedict Arnold has become a byword for ignominious treason. Among Republicans, Arlen Specter shines as the brightest example of outright duplicity. Between 2004, when George W. Bush absorbed a lot of criticism from conservative circles for faithfully backing him, until 2008, we are led to believe that Specter became disenchanted with the party that he joined so many years before (after election to the Senate.)

Arlen Specter saw what he thought was a clear indication of where the American voter would go for a very long time. He joined the GOP when it was fortuitous in the 1980s and rode a wave of Reagan conservatism, even though he did not quite meet the standard. When the tide seemed to start to shift in 2006 and 2008, Specter sensed that staying with the Republican Party might cost him the seat he held over two decades.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held out the honey pot for him and Specter dove right in. He abandoned the Republicans, whose cause he only barely supported anyway, with the promise of instant seniority and a chairmanship. Specter believed that the Democrats would strive to their utmost to keep him in place.

Alas, the seniority never happened. Reid allowed it to be publicly stripped from him like stripes off of a demoted soldier. When Specter counted on the support of Democratic heavyweights, such as Obama, they were nowhere to be found. Specter endured the humiliation of a primary defeat and saw his old Republican rival Pat Toomey ascend to the place he once held.

And now Specter has a book. He lays out the case for his career and exposes Democratic Party duplicity. It is certainly amazing that the Democrats humiliated Specter as they did. Certainly this won't encourage many other turncoats from the GOP.

Arnold died in 1801 a broken man. He never gained the fortune that he felt that he deserved. The British used his information and services for the extent of the Revolution, then tossed him aside. Arnold begged for a commission to fight the French in the 1790s, but none came. He earned the worst fate possible for a man of his ambition and vanity. Arnold ended up neglected, then forgotten.

As will Arlen Specter.

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