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Monday, January 11, 2010

A profile of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter

From Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer: A profile of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter

Some excerpts:

Never an easy political race:
Specter has served in the Senate longer than anyone in Pennsylvania history, a milestone that would have seemed laughable when he was losing races for district attorney of Philadelphia, mayor, governor, and U.S. Senate. In 1980, he butted his head against the wall again and eked out a win by 2 percentage points. His secret weapon: visiting every wide spot in the road in all 67 counties, pushing, pushing, pushing.
Each issue on its own merits:
In this politically polarized time, Specter does not have a set of core ideological principles to rule his actions, friends say. He consumes facts, analyzes an issue, then makes a call and moves on. His philosophy boils down to: Do good. Government sometimes needs to step in to help people help themselves.
 His ideological core?
At heart, he is an advocate, reflecting his training as a lawyer and early career as a prosecutor. He reveres the Constitution and sees his function as making sure that things are done the right way, the fair way, that the system works. He can come off as pedantic, but process is important to him; it guards rights.
 What drives him:
"He knows how the system works," said lawyer Stephen J. Harmelin, a friend of four decades. Specter thinks "he can make more of a difference than any of the people running against him."
A former assistant says:
"Arlen will not tolerate anything less than excellence," said Arthur Makadon, the chairman of Ballard Spahr L.L.P., who was Specter's first assistant D.A. in the early 1970s. "I don't find it bad to demand excellence. . . . I learned more in the time I worked for Arlen than I learned in the rest of my life."
 Bottom line:
"I feel good, and I've got a lot more to do," he says. "I'm very anxious to keep going."

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