In forthcoming memoir, Arlen Specter reveals turmoil beneath exterior

December 26, 2011 12:00 am
  • Arlen Specter in Oct. 2005. Mr. Specter's memoir is set to be published in late March.
    Arlen Specter in Oct. 2005. Mr. Specter's memoir is set to be published in late March.
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Arlen Specter is a reasonably tough guy. He has survived two forms of cancer and multiple election losses with few public complaints.

But in his new memoir "Life Among the Cannibals," set for publication in late March, Mr. Specter, 81, acknowledges more than a few psychic bruises, including one incurred during a visit to Carnegie Mellon University in June 2010. Shortly after his loss to former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary for his U.S. Senate seat, he hitched a ride from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh on Air Force One, chatting with President Barack Obama near the end of the short flight.

As the president spoke on campus, Mr. Specter recounts, "I was a little surprised when he did not acknowledge my presence, especially when he started off thanking Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for meeting him at the airport, looking straight at Ravenstahl and me sitting together in the audience's front row. He acknowledged a number of people, but not me."

Mr. Specter describes the slight as more confounding because in his speech the president cited two of the administration's legislative priorities for which Mr. Specter's votes were crucial: the economic stimulus and health care reform. The incident reminds Mr. Specter of this maxim: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." But Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator adds, "I'd be less than candid -- and less than conscious -- if I didn't say that it hurt."

In Mr. Specter's retelling, that was not the most consequential of the slights from an administration that he had allied himself with after his stunning conversion from Republican to Democrat in the face of a repeat primary challenge from Pat Toomey.

Early in the book, Mr. Specter recounts a reporter's primary-night question: "Why didn't the president come to Philadelphia for you in the last few days before the election?"

"He probed an open wound," Mr. Specter says. "Some argued that the president had thrown me under the bus, suggesting that Obama thought our prospects weren't good."

Mr. Specter describes the closing days of the last of his many campaigns (he lost re-election in 1973 as Philadelphia district attorney) as filled with frustration over steadily eroding poll numbers.

Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562.
First Published 2012-02-09 18:45:38
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