After refusing to debate his opponent and insisting on strict rules for tonight’s Senate forum with Joe Sestak Sen. Arlen Specter stormed the stage while the Congressman was speaking and seemingly tried to confront and/or intimidate him while he was speaking at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. The rules Specter insisted upon said he would be sequestered while Sestak took questions and then the Senator would take the same questions. Arlen Specter insisted on then shredded his own rules tonight.
Obviously standing just off the ballroom listening not only to the questions but to Joe Sestak’s responses he cheated on the format. Then for some very strange reason he bounded for the stage and mounted it. Was he having a senior moment, was he trying to throw Sestak off his game on live TV or was he deliberately trying to sabotage what was a finely organized event? Only Arlen Specter knows for sure.
The Senator’s staff sat mortified after trying to stop his conduct and they also now have to answer why they cheated. Specter took the stage finally and began berating Congressman Sestak “for lying about my record.” How would he have known what was said when, by his own rules, he wasn’t to be listening to anything. Specter wound up hearing all the questions in advance and so had considerable extra time to formulate his responses. That’s cheating. He also had no opening statement and no closing statement. While charming the crowd with jokes he took a shot at his opponent by claiming he was being “more courteous” by standing throughout his session. Already towering over both the moderator (Chuck Williams did a fantastic job) and the crowd I found it a blatant attempt at control. Joe Sestak’s more relaxed, conversational approach was more appealing. Specter screwed up mightily tonight. I cannot see how his campaign can spin the fact he cheated.
It was bad enough the large crowd and PCN audience had to sit through a considerably longer event than if it had been a debate Specter took the stage and complained about wanting to rebut Sestak. He had that opportunity by doing a debate but refused. In fact he ran the organizers ragged with all his rules and refusing to debate after initially agreeing to do one. To come before the audience and immediately complain about HIS format is what I found rude and discourteous.
Arlen Specter did a Kanye West but was interrupted by Mike Morrill before he reached Congressman Sestak while he was speaking. Someone in the crowd yelled out to Specter “be a gentleman!” It appears Sen. Specter will have to make yet another high profile apology in less than a week. To his credit Joe Sestak, after he finished his closing statement, went up to Specter, who had still refused to leave the stage, and said “I’m sorry”to him. For what, for his rude, obnoxious and inexcusable behavior towards him? I can only imagine how furious the Sestak camp has to be after this fiasco and incorrigible behavior by their opponent.
Is Sen.Specter going senile or is he simply unfit now for office? This was abominable behavior.
Updates: I spoke with Mike Morrill Sunday morning and he said there’d been no hard and fast rule that Sen. Specter wouldn’t listen to the questions and Congressman Sestak’s responses. Eileen Connelly says that also. She says “There was miscommunication on a number of fronts and nothing more. To insinuate that it is anything else is just incorrect. ”
That isn’t entirely true either. It was understood by both the organizers and the Sestak campaign that this would be the format. This was due to the fact that Sen. Specter at first refused to debate. After the Congressman agreed to do the forum by himself Specter consented to follow him and take the same questions. Snarlin’ Arlen, who we clearly saw Saturday evening, demanded a “green room” because he refused even to share the room with Joe Sestak. The Sestak people understood that by going first the Senator would not gain “an unfair advantage.” By breaking the “understood rules,” yes, Sen. Specter did break the rules.
Eileen Connelly admits inviting Sen. Specter into the ballroom before 7 PM so he could mingle. He did go to every table and greet every person including me. The Congressman was not accorded this opportunity. (correction: The Congressman was invited to work the room) Based on the understood rules for the evening this should not have happened and Arlen Specter should have declined.
The Sestak campaign is justifiably angered over the course of events. They cooperated completely with the organizers and got screwed. Sen. Specter was allowed to mount the stage and disrupt the Congressman while he was speaking.
Talking Points Memo has the video from PCN: