Here's a bit of good news for Sen. Arlen Specter on a day in which poll numbers and the Elena Kagan nomination likely have him in a foul mood. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., released a statement backing his Senate colleague, an endorsement that carries some symbolic significance as Rep. Joe Sestak has repeatedly said Specter is "Swiftboating" him by questioning his departure from the Navy -- linking Specter's attacks to those used against Kerry in his 2004 presidential campaign. The Kerry attacks proved to be false and were much nastier than what Specter's claiming -- which is based mostly on media reports, including one by yours truly.
This time, Kerry says he "cannot serve as referee" on this Swiftboating debate and vouches for Specter's character. This probably won't stop Sestak from making the claim, as he also likes to compare himself with President Barack Obama's candidacy against the Democratic establishment (read: Hillary Rodham Clinton) -- even though Obama is backing Specter. Full statement is below:
“I know Senator Specter and Congressman Sestak both on a personal level. They’re both my friends, and I was involved very early in supporting Admiral Sestak’s 2006 race for Congress. I’ve been reluctant to get involved in a primary between two friends, and even more reluctant to be drawn into arbitrating the definition of the term Swiftboating. I’d like to see us get to a better place in politics where the word Swiftboating is retired from the political vocabulary.
"What troubled me most about the 2004 smears was that lies were permitted to pollute the public dialogue even after they were thoroughly and publicly disproven by the Navy’s own records.
“Now, six years later, the term Swiftboating is back as an issue in the Senate primary. I cannot serve as a referee. That’s an issue for the candidates to address and the media to investigate. However, as the political season turns increasingly heated, I want to insist on a reality check about my colleague, Arlen Specter. I have known Arlen for 25 years and I know his character and the quality of his service to Pennsylvania. I’ve seen him beat cancer and seen in that fight a man who is guts and grit personified. I’ve worked with him on stem cell research and twenty first century infrastructure, and when he left the Republican Party he reaffirmed his independence once again.
“He’s a fighter and a friend, and I am proud to vouch for his character.”