... But there was another reason it resonated.
From a conservative perspective, at least, the Specter story was a classic archetype that has been re-played throughout human history -- and retold in the Bible (Judas), American history (Benedict Arnold) movies (Anakin Skywalker) ... and even in the less sophisticated world of ... professional wrestling!
Actually, the wrestling example is especially applicable in this case, inasmuch as Specter's surprise announcement was staged so as to arouse the maximum amount of attention and controversy.
The late great Republican operative Lee Atwater -- himself a wresting aficionado -- would have loved Arlen Specter's press conference, which had all trappings of a well-written pro-wrestling narrative (you know, the "acting" that sometimes took place outside of the ring).
So looking at it through that prism ... I figured I'd work with the analogy as a way of illustrating just how absurd this ridiculous politics can become. This is how the story might have read if the Senate really was a professional wrestling outfit (Chris Regal will, at least, enjoy this)... [# More #]
Until yesterday, Hulk Hogan probably held the record for the biggest surprise transformation. In 1996 -- after ten years as wrestling's leading "face" (or good guy) -- Hogan finally snapped and "turned heel" by attacking Randy Savage in the middle of Savage's match against two other heels. He then went on to re-christen himself as "Hollywood Hogan" and started an alliance of heels which he dubbed the "New World Order (nWo)".
That was definitely the biggest ever ... until yesterday.
We all knew something had been going wrong with the All-American "Snarlin' Arlen Specter", one of the GOP's most senior "faces". He had on-and-off confrontations with the other faces for years, not to mention a long standing feud with a fellow good guy -- "Toomey". However, as the forces of light increasingly started lining up in the Toomey's corner -- Arlen started seeming less and less "All-American".
Then, on April 28th, 2009, Snarlin' Arlen finally snapped. Stepping out in front of of the national media, he dramatically ripped off his signature American flag boxing robe to reveal not the red, white, and blue speedo we were used to -- but a ripped up pair of black jeans. As the world watched in shock, he completed the new ensemble by tying a skull-and crossbones bandanna on his head. Flying into a rage, he announced that "All-American Arlen" was dead, and that he was now devoted only to one thing -- the extermination of his nemesis, Toomey. From this day forward, he would be a a nameless force of doom known only as "The Spectre".
Instead of some reporter from The Hill or RollCall interviewing Specter, "Mean" Gene Okurlund might have fit in just as well at yesterday's presser. And instead of the Dems having Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Ed Rendell lure Specter over the the dark side, they might as well have employed Bobby "The Brian" Heenan.
While this version of the Specter defection may be patently absurd, it's really not all that far off from the truth -- or at least the truth as we like to see it. Stories like Specter's are so ingrained into our collective subconscious that we jump onto them every chance we get. Betrayal is a great storyline -- so we play it up. We make movies about it. We put it in TV shows. We even invent so-called reality TV shows to force real people to do it. And, of course, we always find it to be the most exciting part of politics. Before Specter, there was Colin Powell, and before him there was Joe Lieberman, Zell Miller, Jim Jeffords, and a long line of others.
I love a good fight as much as anyone, but I do have to say that our fixation on these dramas is a little sad. Part of me even wonders if we are encouraging the behavior by giving do much attention to the people who do it. Let's face it, Arlen Specter is a now a hero for Democrats, and Lieberman enjoys the same credibility with many Republicans. Heck -- being a defector (whether on principle or politics) -- can be pretty darn enjoyable.
With that in mind, all we can do now is stare in horrified disbelief as our once-proud hero marches into his apocalyptic confrontation with Toomey. So, LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!