In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Senator Arlen Specter has said he does not support sending additional troops to Afghanistan because he does not see the fight as central to national security and because such an effort "…requires a reliable ally in the government, and we we do not have that in [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai." The Senator concludes, "I'm unconvinced that it is sensible to add troops. ... there ought to be an exit strategy, and it ought to be geared to our expecations as to what we're looking to accomplish."
All very interesting stuff from the newest Democratic senator. But, when asked what would happen if the president proposed a troop increase -- "I don't think Congress would leap forward with plaudits" -- Specter gave the game away: "When you have Congressman [Joe] Sestak calling for an increase, a major increase, I think his view would be in the minority." Sestak, a retired Admiral, is the Pennsylvania Representative challenging Specter for his senate seat. Asked how much of his forward leaning statements were political positioning, Specter replied,"None, None," pointing to a statement he delivered in September raising similar questions about the war -- which also came after Sestak's decision to run.
Funny to see Specter, the former Republican, is finding ground to the left of Sestak in the Pennsylvania primary on an issue of major importance to progressives. Sestak probably has the advantage on almost every other issue among the Democratic base, but his support of increasing troops in Afghanistan could present a window of opportunity to Specter. It all depends on what the Obama administration chooses, and whether real congressional opposition emerges following that decision.
-- Tim Fernholz