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Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has been showing his independence consistently since switching to the Democratic side of the aisle. But his latest display of unorthodox thinking is particularly eye-opening.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, the newly minted Democrat said he thinks Republican Norm Coleman should win his Senate recount court battle against Al Franken in Minnesota.
"There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner," Specter said, when asked how he felt about the lack of Jewish Republicans in the Senate.
Q: With your departure from the Republican Party, there are no more Jewish Republicans in the Senate. Do you care about that?
A: I sure do. There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner.
Q: Which seems about as likely at this point as Jerry Seinfeld's joining the Senate.
A: Well, it was about as likely as my becoming a Democrat.
Specter's defection was particularly impactful because, assuming Al Franken is eventually seated, the move gives Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Now the senator seems to be saying he does not want that to happen -- unless he was being sarcastic.
Even Republicans have admitted that they expect Franken to prevail.
The full interview is available here.
UPDATE 6:30 PM ET: From HuffPost's Sam Stein: A mild debate has erupted online and on television over whether Specter was joking when he claimed to surely care about a lack of Republican Jews in the Senate and said the Minnesota courts could still "do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."
Was the newly-minted Democrat trotting out a bit of Jewish witticism? Had he merely forgotten that there now was a D behind his name? Or was he still, personally, pulling for Coleman to prevail in the recount election against challenger Al Franken?
A request for clarification from his office was not returned. But if you look a bit further into the interview, it suggests that Specter was, in fact, dusting off his comedic instincts when he sat down with Deborah Solomon of the New York Times Magazine.
Asked, for instance, to talk about former Majority Leader Bob Dole, with whom Specter shares a hometown (Russell, Kansas), the Pennsylvanian offered readers this jarring bit of imagery.
Were his days with Dole "before [the one-time presidential candidate] was appearing on television in Viagra commercials?"
Specter: "From reliable sources, he did not need Viagra then."
Insert anatomical joke here ____.
For much more on Specter's humor, check out this piece documenting his comedic streak.
UPDATE 11:30 PM ET: CQ caught up with Arlen Specter on Tuesday evening -- he now says he "conclusively misspoke" in his Times interview. “In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates,” he said. “I’m ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I’ve made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke.” Asked who he’s backing now in elections, Specter said, “I’m looking for more Democratic members. Nothing personal.” Read the full CQ piece here.