Self-Interest a Factor in Specter's Move

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 5, 2009 | Go to article overview

Self-Interest a Factor in Specter's Move


In a Q&A last year with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, former Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey was asked what book he wanted Barack Obama to read. The Republican quickly recommended the work of Adam Smith, the 18th century economist and philosopher who held that individuals promote the good of society when they pursue their self-interest.

Pat Toomey, you first.

Toomey is the man who launched a challenge from the right against Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2010 Republican primary but now has the race to himself. Specter would have probably lost that primary, since many of the Republican moderates who formed his support have left the party. Thus, he has declared himself a Democrat, a convenient label for the general election.

Specter is not unacquainted with self-interest. Hes pretty strong on self-regard, as well.

But when Specters jockeying for advantageous position threatened Toomeys happiness, Republican right-wingers predictably portrayed the senators self-interest as selfishness. Betrayal is another word that comes up.

Many Republicans have been shaky on the concept of self-interest. One recalls the big to-do over Rush Limbaughs usefulness to the party. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele got into hot water for calling the conservative talk-meisters rhetoric "incendiary" and "ugly." Limbaugh has a dedicated fan club in the Republican base, and Steele was forced to apologize. "There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or leadership," he said.

Actually, that was his intention, and it was a smart one besides. In his controversial remarks, Steele recognized that Limbaughs bread-and-butter comes not from helping Republicans but from gathering a massive audience for which he is royally paid.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer," Steele had said. "Rush Limbaughs whole thing is entertainment." To wit, it is in Limbaughs interest to say colorful things that turn off most of the electorate but that turn on his listeners. …

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