Joe Conason's Journal

GOP senators mostly keep mum about Santorum's antigay comments. Maybe the opportunistic Arlen Specter should keep his yap shut, too.

Published April 29, 2003 3:52PM (EDT)

Santorum's bonehead colleague
The dismal conclusion of the Santorum controversy suggests that gay people have few rights that Republicans of any stripe feel bound to respect. A United States senator compared homosexuality to bestiality, and strongly implied that anyone who flouts his archaic notions about "traditional" sexuality should suffer legal sanctions, including imprisonment. Reaction from his fellow Republicans has been an almost uniform silence -- in obedience to orders from the White House and the Republican National Committee to avoid commenting on the remarks of the junior senator from Pennsylvania.

So just as Howard Kurtz predicted, the gagging of GOP officials has caused the story to "peter out" within a few days. But not before Pennsylvania's senior senator, who can rarely keep his mouth closed, said something that I believe he will live to regret (and here I am hoping to amplify the work of notable bloggers such as Atrios and Oliver Willis).

Speaking about the prognosis for the Santorum flap, Arlen Specter told the New York Times:

"It depends on how it plays out," he said. "Washington is a town filled with cannibals. The cannibals devoured Trent Lott without cause. If the cannibals are after you, you are in deep trouble. It depends on whether the cannibals are hungry. My guess is that it will blow over."

A peculiar point of view for an allegedly moderate Republican, and a very interesting choice of words, as a black conservative friend noted when we were talking about this over the weekend. But perhaps not utterly surprising at a time when the opportunistic Specter knows he will face a primary challenge from the right next year.
[9:15 a.m. PDT, April 29, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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