Sen. Specter and Rep. Sestak At Netroots Nation

(11 am.

Hmm… is there something else going on? – promoted by ek hornbeck)

It seems there is too much to see and too many people to talk about (as well as too many Tequila and Coke’s to consume) to have time to post in a timely manner form Netroots Nation. So you are getting the news kind of a day behind. Sorry about that, the Dog is only one hound and he can only do what he can do.

Originally posted at

First lets get yesterday’s fan-boy moment out of the way. The Dog was leaving the DFA booth and heading to a panel, when he walks by a medium height woman in a nice dress. Being tired it took the wheels a couple of seconds to engage, but when it did this is the message which was sent “You just walked by Melissa Harris-Lacewell!!!!!” She is the Princeton Professor who was studying this moderately obscure State Senator, when he suddenly decided to become President. She is a professor of Politics and African American studies.

The Dog has learned to tone down the fan-boy-ness so Prof. Lacewell did not think the Dog was a crazy person as he gushed about her work and her TV appearances. She introduced a large man in a suit as her partner (the Dog loves she did not call him her boyfriend or anything like that!) who is also a candidate for the office of Mayor in New Orleans. The Dog would love to give him a shout out by name, but he was in fan-boy mode and could not absorb his name (the Dog will post a whole post about him to make it up). Prof Lacewell was more than willing to chat for a few minutes and just be another person who came to Netroots Nation.

Enough of this embarrassing look in to the Dog’s strange obsession with fame and what it makes him do. Yesterday start we had the opening salvo of Pennsylvania Democratic Primary for Senate. We had Sen. Specter and Representative Sestak. Think of it as Joe versus the Volcano II. They were not there together, but one after the other. Sen. Specter (?-PA) came out first. He was in a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, the standard dress for candidates for the last 50 years. The Senator looked tired, drawn, and thin. He was clearly concerned about the reception he was going to get in a room full of dirty hippies who are linked on the web and not afraid to say what they think to the world in real time.

He got a respectful reception, but he did get hard questions. The first one was why should we trust him as someone who changed party’s when it was clear he was going to lose the primary in his old party? He basic point was he was honest and candid and this was deserving of trust. He went on to give the parts of his CV which match with the progressive agenda. He touted his support of stem cell research, he highlighted the times he called out the Bush Administration.

Sen. Specter is a professional politician, there is no doubt about that. When faced with a question about his vote in favor the Military Commissions Act, which stripped habeas corpus rights for detainees, after being vocal in opposing that provision, he gave a good answer. He spoke about the other provisions (right to counsel, no evidence introduced which was from torture) which were important and his conviction the Supreme Court would overturn the habeas provisions. He was right, but to the Dog this is weaseling thing to do. If parts of a law are wrong enough you are willing to speak out as strongly as Sen. Specter did, then it should be enough to withhold your support for it.

The there were only two pieces of real news from this Q&A; the first you probably know, Sen. Specter promised to call Sen. Grassley and chide him on his New York Times Op Ed saying the public option would pull the plug on your grandmother. He did this right away when he left the stage, though he did not get through to Sen. Grassley. Who knows if he will try again? To the Dog the bigger piece of news was his admission that he did, in fact, date Betsy Ross (okay, the Dog made that part up, but Sen. Specter is old, like Moses kindergarten teacher, old).

Representative Sestak was up next. Just from an optics point of view Sen. Specter has a real problem. Instead of the campaign 101 dress code, Rep Sestak came out in a light blue shirt, with the cuffs turned up. He was wearing casual pants (not jeans) and looked relaxed and approachable. For those who don’t know Rep. Sestak is a retired Admiral. He commanded a carrier group as part of his career. The best way to describe the Rep, is he looks like a man in the prime of his life, he is trim energetic and exudes confidence and projects an aura of leadership. The difference between the two men was starling.  Any side by side appearance of the two is going to start with a presumptive positive for Rep. Sestak.

Rep. Sestak made a point of explaining how he was a dark horse in his House run. Where the Party was asking him not to run against their favored candidate, but he did it anyway. His reasons were not for pride or for glory, but because he felt he had a debt to pay to the people of his state and his nation, and public service was the best way. This is another stark difference between him and Sen. Specter. Rep Sestak articulated and said in a way that made it completely clear this was from the heart, that he wanted to do this for us. He believes in his skills, he has seen things where change needs to happen, and he earnestly wants the chance to do it. This is what every candidate should have as their core reason for running but far too few actually have.

This is not to say it was a love fest with Rep. Sestak. He was asked some tough questions on his vote for the FISA bill which basically gave the telecommunication companies immunity for their participation in the Bush Administration illegal monitoring of communications in the United States. Rep. Sestak explained the bill had provisions which he believed would allow the cases to be reviewed by the judge overseeing them; he would be able to look at all of the evidence and decide where cases were merited to continue. As often happened with the criminal Bush administration, what was intended is not what would happen.

All in all this primary is a good thing. There are two strong politicians involved and this gives the Democratic Party of PA a real choice. This is important as any time a sitting office holder changes party, the new party should have the chance to validate his candidacy. This also true of all sitting Senators, the time between their elections is so long it is important they understand they are just the office holder, not the Party base. Primaries remind them of this. Here in PA we will see this played out. This is how democracy is supposed to work.

The floor is yours.  


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