Specter Hits GOP "Cannibalism" in Goodbye Speech

Arlen Specter
Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In a farewell speech on the Senate floor today, departing Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said members of the GOP who backed Tea Party candidates over establishment Republicans this year engaged in "a form of sophisticated cannibalism."

The 80-year-old Specter, who has served in the Senate for more than three decades, said he was offering "not a farewell address but rather a closing argument." He complained that members of the Senate had grown too ideological for the good of the legislative body.

"Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone simultaneously out to defeat you - especially within your own party," he said. "In some quarters, 'compromising' has become a dirty word. Some senators insist on ideological purity as a precondition."

Specter said centrists like himself - along with Republican Utah Sen. Bob Bennett and GOP Rep. Mike Castle, who lost their primaries to more extreme candidates - were being pushed out by ideological bomb-throwers with little interest in working with their colleagues.

Specter, who had been seeking a sixth term, switched parties in the most recent election cycle in order to avoid a likely loss in the GOP primary. He subsequently lost the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter has faced numerous health scares over the years, including a brain tumor and two battles with Hodgkin's disease.

Unlike other departing senators who have given goodbye speeches this month, Specter offered a sharp and sometimes angry speech, one that lamented the direction of the legislative body in which he has long served. At one point he named a number of moderate Republicans who had a regular lunch together, almost all of whom are now gone.

Looking forward, the longtime senator pressed for civility despite the polarization of the Senate, calling it "a state of mind" that members must strive for.

"This polarization will make civility in the next Congress more difficult - and more necessary - than ever," he said.

Brian Montopoli is senior political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.