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Pols need to stand on principle


Editorial


May 13, 2009
There still are a lot of principled politicians, but the words "principled" and "politicians" are becoming less and less associated with one another. The most recent example came a couple of weeks ago courtesy of Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

The five-term senator jumped ship to the Democratic Party after a late-April poll showed him trailing former Congress-man Pat Toomey by 21 points in a potential Republican Party primary matchup in the spring of 2010.

Specter said all of the right things.

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," he said in a statement. "Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Repub-licans."

Specter's statement is disingenuous. The Repub-lican Party hasn't moved to the right; if anything, it's moved to the center, if not the left, in the past few years.

Former President George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" certainly wasn't fiscally conservative, and Repub-lican politicians everywhere were left to pay the racked up debt. The GOP just ran a candidate for president who fits Specter's model of a moderate Republican, and he lost handily.

The key part of Specter's statement is his mentioning of more than 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans switching their registration to become Democrats. Likely not all of those are sincere (remember Rush Limbaugh's lamentable Operation Chaos campaign from a year ago?). Either way, Specter is doing whatever he believes he needs to do to ensure political survival and a third decade in the U.S. Senate.

Specter, however, isn't the only senator with problems when it comes to principle. Many Democrats were up in arms when incumbent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, after losing in the Democratic primary in 2006, registered as an Independent so he could run in the fall general election.

Just as it likely will for Specter, it worked for Lieberman, who, despite being an "Independent," still caucuses with the Democrats. It wasn't ideology or principles that prompted his decision to become an Independent; it was his desire to do whatever it takes to win.

Locally, we haven't seen the same types of shenanigans, but many politicians still are too consumed with staying in office rather than standing on principle. How many times has a member of a board voted against an issue, whether it be funding for a project, extending a school superintendent's contract or giving the go-ahead for a program, without saying why?

Those elected by the public should explain their votes to the very people whom they represent. Instead of worrying about the next four years, they should be concerned with doing the best job possible during their current term.

If re-elected, Specter will be serving his sixth six-year term in the Senate, while Lieberman is in the middle of his fourth. Their actions certainly bolster the argument for term limits.

Enough is enough. Politicians everywhere need to stand up for what they believe, explain their positions to the voters and not be afraid to let the political chips fall where they may.

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