On this, the day of Senator Arlen Specter’s return to his natural home, I want to share my experience with the honorable Senator from Pennsylvania. I was a wee tyke (ok, high school) in the mid-80’s and was a member of the Model Student Senate. As befits budding politicians, we took a junket to D.C. Amongst our action-packed fact-finding visits to the Smithsonian, the various memorials, and other locations of interest, each of us, having been assigned a specific Senator’s role in the upcoming Mock Senate, were to visit “our” Senator’s office. We were supposed to get a “feel” for our Senator, his personality, and his politics — and, if possible, get a copy of a bill he or she was sponsoring in the current session. Remember: we were all high school students from Florida. Not Pennsylvania, or South Carolina.
My friend “was” Senator Strom Thurmond. When he arrived at Sen. Thurmond’s office, the Senator invited him into his office, and spoke with him for five or ten minutes. Then, Sen. Thurmond’s Chief of Staff invited my friend to lunch on the Senator’s tab at some swanky restaurant. The Senator didn’t go to lunch with them, but the CoS and several other staffers spent a couple of hours with him. On returning to the Senator’s office, the secretary already had several different bills that Thurmond was currently sponsoring printed out, for my friend to take with him. How’s that for constituent service — to a high school student from a different state? Say what you will about Thurmond’s early years, he was a class act as a Senator.
I “was” Senator Arlen Specter. When I arrived at the Senator’s office, I asked to see the Senator — who was in his office. I explained who I was and why I was there. The gatekeeper’s response was, “So, you’re not from Pennsylvania?” I knew right then where this was going. I asked if there was anyone with whom I could talk about the Senator’s positions, voting record, and especially any sponsored bills. I was fobbed off on a (very) junior level intern who was maybe two years older than I was. After five minutes, he scribbled down a list of bill numbers and gave me a map. “The Government Printing Office is over here,” he said, circling the location. “Thanks for your interest in democratic government. Have a good day.”
Well, that told me all I needed to know about how to portray the Senator during the Mock Senate. And that’s my very own personal take on the good Senator from PA.