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The Mod Squad

Moderate Republicans have to keep it to themselves

Whenever I'm truly constipated I like to read about the Bush administration, because the nutty neo-cons scare the crap out of me.


But you know who's really afraid of the current crop of crazed Rumsfeldian cuckoos? It's that dying breed of misguided but nonetheless decent human beings called moderate Republicans.


I had coffee with a local elected official who happens to be one of those dinosaurs. I'll call this person Mod. I can't tell you Mod's real name or position because, even though politicians are the biggest publicity whores in the universe, Mod was terrified of being portrayed as overly moderate. To hesitate before backing the gutting of the Clean Air Act, invading oil-rich nations on false pretexts, or favoring a constitutional amendment to make sure gay people can't get the same rights as straight people, is death in the Republican party these days.


But here's where Mod really goes out on a limb. Are you ready?


Mod backs Sen. Arlen Specter for re-election.


I asked if I could write a column using Mod as the model for moderates supporting Specter, and Mod shrieked, "Oh, no, that's the last thing I need publicity on." When I compared the Bushies to the Mob, Mod did not disagree.


Mod is afraid of Mod's own party, or at least the wing-nuts running it. Mod understands that the silly Treasury Department investigation of Paul O'Neill, the moderate who dared to speak the truth about the inattentive shallow rich boy who somehow became President, is nothing more than payback. Since one document used to support O'Neill's views was marked "secret" and shown on 60 Minutes, the Treasury department is looking into whether O'Neill broke the law. 


O'Neill isn't stupid enough to publish classified material. But the Cheney-Rove revenge machine isn't going to take this lying down. When they fire someone, they're supposed to like it. They sure as hell aren't supposed to speak the truth about less-than-curious George.


Representative Pat Toomey, a right-winger's right-winger, is challenging Specter in the Republican primary. He's going to lose. Thank the good Lord above, there still aren't enough butter-churners in the middle of this state to force Specter out. Ironically, though, if Toomey actually won, there's an excellent chance a Democrat could beat him. But the irrational hatred of Specter by the crazies goes beyond their desire to hang onto the U.S. Senate. Specter had the intestinal fortitude not to back legendary conservative crazy Robert Bork when he tried to make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. And in another moment of actual sanity, he voted against the Clinton impeachment. These two sins are unforgivable for the true believers.


But how frightening is it that Mod is so terrified of the wing-nuts in Mod's own party, that any support for Specter must remain slightly below the radar?


There's a mean-spiritedness in the modern but less-than-moderate Republican Party that makes Dick Nixon look like Fred Rogers. They don't have to develop a Nixonian enemies list: The enemy is anyone who doesn't agree with them. And if they have the temerity to have differing views, they better keep their traps shut.


How can these forces, whose claim to fame is their fight against worldwide terrorism, be terrorizing their own political party? How can the hatred for a sure winner be so great that they would risk losing a Senate seat? How can their zeal for payback ignore the fact that George Bush's chances for winning Pennsylvania would be strengthened by a Specter candidacy and weakened by a Toomey candidacy?


How can Mod not be ashamed of a party that contains such hateful zealotry?


Perhaps one day Mod will come out of the closet. That's about as likely as Melissa if-I-only-had-a-Hart becoming an anti-war hippie who doesn't shave her armpits. (Although I've never seen her armpits.)


Bork came to stump for Toomey a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh. He said it wasn't payback: The most frightening thing these creatures do is lie with a straight face. Somewhere Arlen Specter, no slouch at the art of the payback, is thinking, "Bork me? Bork you."