If Arlen Specter loses his Democratic primary bid to Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania today, Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings may be all the better for it.
Specter is already one of the few members of the Senate Judiciary Committee who takes seriously his duty to ask probing questions rather than offer partisan platitudes. This did not change with his party switch from Republican to Democrat last year and subsequent demotion in SJC rank for the Sotomayor hearings. If Specter loses today, however, don’t expect him to be a lame duck on the far end of the table: he may try to use the Kagan hearings as the perfect platform for a public capstone on his career.
This could mean that the Republican who helped sink Bork for saying too much will seek to correct a process that now values nominees who say nothing at all. This could mean that the moderate Senate Republican whose party he stopped recognizing may feel a special duty to speechify over Justice Stevens, who Specter may see as his Supreme Court analog. This could even mean that this time, Specter, with nothing to lose, rather than prod the nominee on her thoughts about cameras in the courtroom, will lead an insurrectionary C-SPAN army over to the Court to install them himself.
Of course, if he loses the primary, he may still run as an Independent, a la Joe Lieberman in 2006. But then again, that may not change anything about what I’ve already said.
UPDATE: Spector lost. For now, it appears he will not pull a Lieberman. The broken confirmation system better brace itself for an extra special series finale this summer of the Adventures of Snarlin’ Arlen.