The Good Kind Of Kabuki
This Arlen Specter/Joe Sestak story has evolved rapidly in the past 48 hours. Labor in particular has basically given Specter a choice - support our issues or we'll support somebody else. The famously ornery Snarlin' Arlen will have to decide whether he only responds to right-wing pressure.
On today's "Top Line," Richard Trumka, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, warned that union leaders may drop their longstanding support for Specter, D-Pa., if -- as he has promised to do -- he votes against them on their legislative priority, the Employee Free Choice Act.
"Those decisions will be made by people in the state, and our members in the state know who will stand with them. And if Arlen Specter -- he stood with them in the past -- if he continues to stand with them, they'll support him. If he doesn't, they won't support him," Trumka told us.
Sestak echoed this after a meeting with the SEIU's Andy Stern, saying bluntly, "I cannot see the unions across the board supporting Specter if he cannot support EFCA ... [Stern] let it be known that it’s very much on the top of their agenda.” And leading Democrats are hinting to Specter that his ability to stave off a primary challenge will be dictated by his record as a Democrat.
I'm wondering whether at least a little of this is kabuki. Sestak loses nothing from calling out Specter - even if he decides against running, he gains credibility as a Democrat enunciating Democratic principles. And if Specter does end up voting the right way on health care or EFCA, Sestak gets at least some of the credit. And given that Sestak has only grown louder in his criticisms, he certainly hasn't heard from on high - say, from the White House - that he might want to tone it down. It serves their interests to have a credible voice pushing Specter, or a chorus of voices.
Regardless of the theater at play here, Specter cannot exactly take the chance of not listening.