Every time I've ever seen a politician say something along the lines of, "I probably shouldn't say this, but....," that invariably means he probably shouldn't have said it. This isn't as dumb as Gordon Brown calling a (former) supporter "a bigoted woman," but I believe this comment is going to hurt Arlen Specter, who's been on track to win next month's Democratic primary but hasn't really sealed the deal:
Now as a Democrat, that role has vanished. For that reason alone, Specter has questioned his storied party switch.
''Well, I probably shouldn't say this,'' he said over lunch last month. ''But I have thought from time to time that I might have helped the country more if I'd stayed a Republican.''
Specter mused that perhaps if he'd remained in the caucus he could have persuaded one or two of his GOP colleagues to support health care reform. Not one Senate Republican voted in favor of it, but he swears he would have regardless of party affiliation.
This is a fantastical rewrite of history on many levels. I find it hard to believe that Specter -- who you may recall wasn't even supporting the public option until Rep. Joe Sestak's primary challenge put the fear of God into him -- would have broken ranks with his entire caucus or brought Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins along with him. Snowe and Collins and John McCain and Lindsay Graham haven't deserted party line votes on any major issue (unless you consider the $15 billion jobs bill major) since in the last 14 months, and it defies human nature to believe that Specter (who was convinced to praise Sarah Palin, after all, after votiing for most of the dreck laws of the Bush Cheney era) would have split ranks in the current climate.
Someone politically savvy as Specter should know that health care would have never passed if he hadn't become the 60th votes for the bill that passed in December, before the arrival of Sen. Scott Brown. What's more, it's stunning that he didn't realize this comment will cost him primary votes on May 18, when he doesn't have that many votes to spare.
(h/t Dave Weigel)