It's nearly an hour long, but to get the flavor for it, you really only need to watch the first couple minutes ... so you can see Specter's remarkable display of chutzpah.
In answering the first question from moderator John Baer about why he was the best choice for Democrats, Specter talked a bit about how "I have stood with Democrats and the Democratic values on the big issues." Then Specter, who launched his TV campaign by faulting Sestak's service record, turned around and ... faulted Sestak for his ads denying the accusation:
"There is one item which needs to be cleared up: I want an apology from Congressman Sestak for his television advertisement which calls me a liar."
That pretty much set the tone for the debate. Specter is now attacking Sestak for, I guess, defending himself against Specter's attacks.
Repeatedly throughout the ensuing hour, Specter urged Sestak to release details of his service record. He also cited a Post-Gazette story which quoted an unnamed Navy officer who referred to Sestak as "tyrannical." That was a reference to this story, whose use of the "t" word relied on an anonymous source -- "who asked not to be identified speaking out against a former colleague."
Sestak quoted defenders of his record -- who actually attached their names to their assessments. And he denounced "[Karl] Rove-type attacks with anonymous sources." In fact, the heart of Specter's attack is another anonymous source -- this one quoted in the Navy Times faulting Sestak for creating a "poor command climate."
It seems pretty clear that Joe Sestak is a tough guy to work for. He's may even be as bad as, or worse than, Arlen Specter. But there is something pretty chickenshit about members of the military -- the guys we trust with our liberties each night -- doing each other dirt and not having the courage to attach their names to it. After three decades of military service, Joe Sestak's record is going to be judged on the word of two anonymous sources. That sucks, no matter who you're voting for.
To be sure, not every Specter attack was successful. He faulted Sestak for being a registered independent for much of his life, rather than a Democrat. That set up Sestak to observe that Colin Powell and other military leaders also chose not to register with one of the major parties, to keep the military non-partisan.
And Sestak could dish it out as well. He faulted Specter for switching parties "the next day after a poll is taken," and decried Specter's support for a regressive flat tax.
Sestak portrayed Specter as a patsy for the NRA, and faulted him for opposing an effort to ban assault weapons after the shooting of three Pittsburgh officers last year. It's true that Specter was endorsed by the NRA in 2004, and has receieved an "A" rating from the group. But in fairness, when the assault weapon bill came up last year, President Barack Obama didn't champion the measure either.For what it's worth, I thought Sestak held his own against an incumbent known for his street-fighting tactics. But it's sort of hard to imagine anyone feeling particularly galvanized by this weekend's debate. And that, of course, plays right into Specter's hands.