Aaron wants to know why I don’t hold Santorum’s endorsement of Specter against him. I’ve explained that very thing at this site several times, but as briefly as I can, let me do so again.
Context is everything. First, there are certain unwritten rules of politics. One of them is that if both US Senators from a state are of the same party, the other one ALWAYS endorses his fellow incumbent for re-election. Period. I cannot think of a single case where this rule didn’t hold. Even at the time, therefore, it didn’t bother me that Santorum endorsed Specter, but I was furious at Bush for doing so, rather than staying out of the race. It was beneath a president’s station to get involved in that way in an ordinary primary battle. Pat Toomey himself has said he does not hold it against Santorum. Frankly, I myself was 100% on board in wanting Toomey to win, but the Santorum endorsement didn’t faze me. (Santorum himself had benefitted in 2000 from Specter’s strong endorsement of him. There is such a thing as loyalty in politics.)
Second, as somebody who was intimately involved with the judicial battles at the time, I knew that Santorum was the single hardest fighter in Senate party leadership, and a harder fighter even than some of the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee, on behalf of conservative judicial nominees. Figuratively speaking, Santorum really bled for the cause. He and his staff were superb on the issue. When he said then that he wanted the sure thing of a Specter victory over the iffy chance of a Toomey victory, in order to ensure a key Republican vote for judicial nominees, it made sense to me. What I didn’t know at the time was that (as Santorum claims now, and from my knowledge and sources the claim is ENTIRELY believable) Santorum actually secured a pledge from Specter to this effect: Specter would support all Bush nominees unless they were ethically challenged; i.e., would not oppose any of them for philosophical/issue reasons. Santorum also knew that cover from a “moderate” Democrat like Specter could help provide the “bridge” or “cover” necessary to get a few moderate Dems not to oppose a nominee. That’s how the Senate works.
How did that pledge turn out? Actually, well. Specter opposed not a single nominee. Indeed, his support for Sam Alito may well have made the difference between the Dems merely opposing him and the Dems instead actually filibustering his nomination to death — which, thank goodness, didn’t happen. I myself fought hard for nearly three years to get the excellent Bill Pryor of Alabama confirmed for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals; Specter’s aid, in 2005, ended up being crucial for that to happen. Meanwhile, by virtue of being chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Specter surprised me as well: It turned out that his moderate image and refusal to castigate the Dems actually added credibility to the proceedings so the media amazingly did NOT portray the various nominees’ hearings as a railroad job.
(By the way, Specter was NOT part of the infamous “Gang of 14.”)
So, on judges at least, and for that matter on most subjects for four years, Specter actually moved rightward. Look at his voting record from 2005 through 2008, and I believe you’ll see it was significantly right of where it was from, say, 1992 to 1996. None of which made Specter any less of a Snarlin Arlen, but it is testament to the fact that until Obama got in and Specter ran for the hills, he actually was far more helpful than not to conservatives, after the Santorum endorsement helped him get re-elected.
Finally, by way of context, I cannot think of a single other time when Santorum really “stuck it” to conservatives. (Of course he may have cast an unwelcome vote or two, but so does everybody.) For 16 years he was one of the most consistent, stalwart conservatives in Congress, a real fighter for the cause both publicly and privately. One endorsement doesn’t negate that record. Likewise, if Gingrich’s only major political sin against conservatives had been his endorsement of Scozzafava, it would be not a huge deal. But when he not only did it, but INSULTED conservatives in doing so, and then added to it by so many other insults and/or betrayals of conservatives (which I won’t recount again, because I’ve done so several times in previous weeks), it certainly becomes relevant.
For Santorum, in other words, the “bad” endorsement was the proverbial exception that proves the rule (the rule being that he is a reliable and effective conservative), whereas for Gingrich the “bad” endorsement was part of a long-running pattern of objectionable behavior, making the objectionable behavior the rule for Gingrich, not the exception.