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April 28th, 2009
02:42 PM ET

Arlen Specter and our 3 a.m. wake-up call

Program Note: Tune in tonight to for full coverage of the day's events on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Barclay Palmer
AC360° Senior Producer

Is Sen. Arlen Specter finding himself philosophically under the Democratic tent, or at least outside the GOP tent, as he says in his announcement today about his decision to switch parties? Or, after representing the people of Pennsylvania as a Republican senator for 29 years, is he sticking it to the GOP for allowing another tough primary challenge from within the party.. Or, as he trails in a primary race, is he trying to save his Senate career? Or all of that and more...

If Al Franken finally takes the Senate seat in Minnesota, free of court challenges, he and Specter could give the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate. That would mark a major political shift for this country... and, perhaps, a 3a.m.-style wake-up call for the no-to-stimulus-leaning GOP.

Then there's that swine flu, now infecting at least 79 people in six countries, including five U.S. states. Different story, right? Yes, but there's a common thread.

The economic stimulus bill had included $780 to fund preparations to fund a pandemic, but moderate GOP senators, including Specter, criticized the provision, mainly saying it wouldn't be the job generator that the stimulus bill was designed to be.

Well, without a vaccine for this strain of flu, and questions about whether our stockpiles of Tamiflu could protect us in a real pandemic, the swine flu is a wake-up call - for all of us.

But will we wake up - and mobilize to take care of our domestic needs, or will we resort to political squabbling? Perhaps a clue: we're at war, but this ain't World War II.

Pop quiz: How many of America's bridges - federal engineers say 77 thousand of them are "structurally deficient" and need repair - have been fixed since the Minneapolis bridge collapsed nearly two years ago? Do you remember how the death of 13 people and injury of 140 more that day, and the horror of dozens of cars plunging into the Mississippi River, was termed a wake-up call to a different kind of homeland security threat?

Or how about this one: How many people were kidnapped in Phoenix last year? Yes, another sudden lane change. But again there's a connection.

The answer: 366 kidnappings in Phoenix in 2008, most allegedly linked to Mexican drug cartels. Do you think the fact that more than one person a day was kidnapped from Phoenix is a wake-up call about our drug problem - and the reach of Mexican cartels into our own country?

Turns out we've been getting a few 3 a.m. wake-up calls lately. How many times do you think we'll hit the great American snooze button?

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Cindy

    He may have a hard time explaining his flip flop when he told Pennsylvania a month ago that he was sticking with the GOP. But then I seem to recall another someone doing some flip flopping over the torture issue...hmmmm He must be in the right party...He should be comfortable there anyways. I wouldn't mind it if more jumped ship and then it might clean up the republican party and became the grand old party once again...

    April 29, 2009 at 5:00 am |
  2. brenda

    No news like good news! Now the Grand Old Party is falling apart!
    Happy 100 day Mr. President you will finally receive one extra vote!

    April 28, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  3. Annie Kate

    Specter started out as a Democrat and then during Reagan's administration switched to the GOP where he has always been something of a loner and outside the circle of true believers. Now he has gone back to the Democratic party – I'm sure they are glad to have him back since it helps them with the 60 seat magic number but where will he go next ?? Its certainly not boring watching him!

    April 28, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  4. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I seem to remember several Dems becoming Republican when it suited their political careers as well. Politics is nothing more than survival of the fittest at the expense of the constituents. Gotta love the "change" in DC.

    April 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  5. Lampe

    Sorry Kay: This has nothing to do with Limbaugh, Hannity, or Beck. This is nothing more than an old man, who is not willing to give up his political career. I live in Pa, and believe me we know a "SNOW JOB", when we see and hear one. Good Luck Spector, because you are reallly going to need it.

    April 28, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  6. Kay Wilhelm

    Thank you Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck. Just keep talking! YOU are destroying the Republican party.

    April 28, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  7. Larry

    Wonder if we'll see the lifting of the 22nd Amendment, while they're lifting the 2nd.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  8. Trav

    Specter has shown that he cares little for his principles and a great deal for getting reelected. He is nothing more than a pathetic old man who is doing his best to stay in power. Too bad we don't have term limits.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  9. Riaz A Hakeem - Sugar Land TX

    Regarding the wake up call for our Drug problem, here is the problem:
    The gravity of the Laws of Economics is not appreciated by most people, but its simplicity is pure elegance.
    Where there is Demand there Shall be Supply.
    We must be an addictive nation, because world drug prices are determined by their demand within the US.
    If we don't get cocaine or heroin we sniff glue or steal Allergy meds for meth labs.
    Its far easier to blast foreign cartels than to exorcise our addictions.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm |
  10. educlaytion

    Specter's philosophy is to not lose power. He would run for the Green Party if he thought he'd win.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:40 pm |
  11. Teresa, OH

    I think Mr. Specter is just trying to cut his losses and go with the best team that will help HIS political aspirations but he will tell a different tale to the public.

    Swine flu couldnt come at a worse time for the USA. I know I couldnt afford a hospital trip, much less a dr. visit, if I got the symptoms with a fever. The poor and uninsured must tough it out or die.

    Ummm.... I hesitate to ask, but are the 366 people who were kidnapped in Phoenix now accounted for? and alive?

    April 28, 2009 at 2:55 pm |