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Arlen Specter: 5 Ways He Helped to Change History
Posted By Patrick Kiger On October 14, 2012 @ 9:55 pm In Legacy | Comments Disabled
Love him or hate him – and some people, at various times, did both – former Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who died Sunday at age 82 in Philadelphia, was one of the most fascinating figures in modern American politics.
Specter served in the U.S. Senate from 1980 to 2011, the longest tenure in his state’s history, and spent most of it befuddling anyone who tried to stick an ideological label on him. From the start he was a Republican, but he frequently switched sides on issues, and near the end changed his party affiliation to Democrat, claiming – in the reverse of Ronald Reagan’s famous statement – that the increasingly conservative GOP had left him, rather than vice versa. In truth, though, it probably was equally tough for partisans from either side to embrace the notoriously cantankerous and unpredictable Specter, who exemplified the sort of freethinking, pragmatic moderate that’s an anathema in today’s ultra-polarized politics. “It may be that a senator cannot do his job without angering everyone, sometimes,” he once offered.
But Specter will be long remembered, in part because he played a pivotal – and provocative – role in some of the most controversial episodes in modern history. Here are five such moments in which he helped change America:
One of Specter’s more endearing qualities was his sense of humor. Other than Minnesota Democrat Al Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer, Specter was probably the most famous comedian ever to serve in the Senate. Here he is, performing at a Pittsburgh-area comedy club in 2009.
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