Arlen Specter, the Senator from Pennsylvania who recently switched from Republican to Democrat, was the latest politician to be the center of attention of a spirited Congressional town hall on the subject of health care reform.
A lot of the raucous nature of the town hall meeting seemed to be the fault of Senator Specter and his staff. While he did answer questions from the audience, mostly from health care reform opponents, one man became irate at not being selected to ask a question and, after making a statement to Arlen Specter, had to be escorted from the room
According to Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey, Arlen Specter’s office admitted “his office needed to do better in adopting a process that allowed for live interaction in his meetings.” Of course one would suspect that this would be Constituent Service 101 for a man who has been in the US Senate for three decades.
Then, toward the end of the town hall, Arlen Specter angered the crowd by informing them how lucky they are for being in his august presence. Morrissey quotes from a clip being run on the College Politico.
Specter said, “I’m encouraging constitutional rights. I’m encouraging constitutional rights by coming to Lebanon to talk to my constituents. I could be somewhere else. I don’t get any extra pay – I don’t have any requirement to be here. But for somebody -“
At that point the crowd started chanting, “You work for us! You work for us!”
Ed Morrissey mentions, on the subject of extra pay, that Arlen Specter gets $175,000 a year, a very general health care package that he would keep under Obamacare, and an even more general pension should he leave the Senate while still alive.
Arlen Specter’s somewhat haughty response to the discontent at his town hall is symptomatic about what happens to a politician when he or she is too long in Washington. Arlen Specter seems to regard his office as an entitlement and not as a charge from the people who voted to elect him, a charge that can be withdrawn at any next election.
Some might suggest that Arlen Specter’s attitude is an advertisement for term limits. The idea of term limits, which achieved some popularity during the Gingrich Revolution in the early 1990s, would limit the terms of Congressmen and Senators. The theory is that they would not be in Washington long enough to become entrenched and out of touch. Also, the behavior of a Congressman or Senator would be altered should he or she be certain that he or she would be back in the private sector by a date certain.
Arlen Specter, by the way, is up for reelection in 2010.
Source: Specter: “I don’t have any requirement to be here”, Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, August 11th, 2009