Joe Sestak On Specter: I'm Not Sure He's A Democrat Yet

From State of the Union with John King. Joe Sestak on his disappointment with the Democratic establishment for backing Specter. I hope he bucks them a
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From State of the Union with John King. Joe Sestak on his disappointment with the Democratic establishment for backing Specter. I hope he bucks them and gets in the primary race. Specter is never going to be a Democrat. He just became our newest DINO.

KING: So I want to put up a screen because I want you to address your answer to the president and those Democrats who say Arlen Specter is their guy, but also to Democratic primary voters in the state of Pennsylvania.

Do you think the person they want as their next United States senator for six more years is someone who, as Senator Specter did, voted yes on the bush tax cuts; yes to authorize force in Iraq; yes to confirm Chief Justice Roberts; yes to confirm Justice Alito; and just this past week voted no on President Obama's budget -- is that the kind of person you want to sell to the Democratic primary electorate in Pennsylvania?

SESTAK: No -- and the person who's sitting, as you and I speak, in Landmark (ph) Diner, in Upper Darby, Delaware County of my district, I think, would say the same thing.

Too many jobs have been lost for us to worry about somebody else's job who has switched parties. I don't know for sure it's about political survivability, but I know this. It's not about trying to maintain a legacy or somebody's job.

KING: Is he a good enough Democrat?

SESTAK: I'm not sure he's a Democrat yet. And that doesn't mean we don't want bipartisanship. My gosh, I won in a district that was 53 percent Republican, 36 percent Democrat. What I need to know is, what's the principles you're running for...

John Amato:

Joe Sestak was on with Blue America earlier today answering questions about Specter.

Full transcript below the fold.

KING: We appreciate your coming in, sir. The last time we had you here was to talk about the challenges in Iraq. This time we want to talk about your home state. Arlen Specter, a Republican senator, is now a Democratic senator. He switched parties.

He now wants to run for re-election as a Democrat. You are considering making that same race. I want to ask you on this day whether you will continue and possibly challenge Arlen Specter. And as you answer, I want you first to listen to Senator Specter this morning on CBS talking about he's more comfortable now as a Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "FACE THE NATION")

SPECTER: I was sorry to disappoint many people and, frankly, I was disappointed that the Republican Party didn't want me as their candidate. But as a matter of principle, I'm becoming much more comfortable with the Democrats' approach.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More comfortable as a matter of principle. Is this a principled decision or is this a political survival decision?

SESTAK: I don't know yet. I'm disappointed. First, I'm kind of disappointed in the Democratic political establishment in Washington, D.C. I think this last presidential election and certainly when I was swept in two years ago was about not reestablishing the establishment.

So I don't know what the deal is yet, but I do know this. We are very independent in the Keystone State. We want to make up our own mind of who should be running.

Second, with regard to whether he feels more comfortable, I think Arlen has to tell us not that it was too hard to run against someone and that he has actually left behind many good moderate Republicans in that fight to shape the Republican Party.

What I need to know is, what is he running for? And second, how will he use his leadership, which didn't seem to work in the Republican Party, to better shape us? If he has the right answer, so be it. We move on.

But I hate to tell you, we're in a very critical moment, John. Health care for everyone in an affordable, accessible way. Overseas, we are in a real challenge with Pakistan and Afghanistan as we redeploy from Iraq. Where is he on that?

Energy, education, is Pennsylvania -- it is such an elder state, how do we retain the youth there so we can be all we can be? That's what I have to hear. What are you running for? And that's what I got in for after I left the military three years ago.

KING: And as you -- listen, you mention you left the military, you're Admiral Sestak as well as Congressman Sestak, the highest- ranking former military official in the Congress.

You mentioned the establishment. President Obama ran promising to change the way Washington does business. He has now said Arlen Specter is my guy, I will raise money for him.

Senator Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, has said Arlen Specter is my guy, I will raise money for him. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which generally stays out of primaries, has said, Arlen Specter is our guy, we will raise money for him. Your governor, Ed Rendell, is a Democrat who says Arlen Specter is my guy, I will raise money for him.

Is that wrong? Is that politics as usual or is that President Obama's new way of doing things?

SESTAK: Here is what I know, I have respect for all of those men. However, I have to go back it my military experience of several decades. In it we always told the story of George Washington with the very small medal he gave, a small piece of purple ribbon, which later became the Purple Heart, was directed to be given only to an enlisted man, not an officer.

Because he wanted to demonstrate that the way to the top in this new American military, as our society, was open to anyone equally. There were no kings and there were no kingmakers.

So, my take is, I'll listen. I respect that. But when I got out of the military and wanted to get out of politics, someone said, you have got to tell the DCCC. I didn't know what DCCC was. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I called them and they said, Joe, we don't want you in it, we've got somebody. They called me back the next day, said, we don't want you in it. I said, I wasn't calling to ask, I was calling to inform, in a very polite way, and I respect you. So that's my issue, is, the president has said he respects Arlen's independence and to disagree.

He'll respect mine if that is the case, I know that.

KING: We're short on time.

KING: So I want to put up a screen because I want you to address your answer to the president and those Democrats who say Arlen Specter is their guy, but also to Democratic primary voters in the state of Pennsylvania.

Do you think the person they want as their next United States senator for six more years is someone who, as Senator Specter did, voted yes on the bush tax cuts; yes to authorize force in Iraq; yes to confirm Chief Justice Roberts; yes to confirm Justice Alito; and just this past week voted no on President Obama's budget -- is that the kind of person you want to sell to the Democratic primary electorate in Pennsylvania?

SESTAK: No -- and the person who's sitting, as you and I speak, in Landmark (ph) Diner, in Upper Darby, Delaware County of my district, I think, would say the same thing.

Too many jobs have been lost for us to worry about somebody else's job who has switched parties. I don't know for sure it's about political survivability, but I know this. It's not about trying to maintain a legacy or somebody's job.

KING: Is he a good enough Democrat?

SESTAK: I'm not sure he's a Democrat yet. And that doesn't mean we don't want bipartisanship. My gosh, I won in a district that was 53 percent Republican, 36 percent Democrat. What I need to know is, what's the principles you're running for...

(CROSSTALK)

SESTAK: This is about ideals.

KING: We're about out of time, sir. So when do you need to know that before you make your decision, in or out?

SESTAK: In the next few months. Look, I learned something. We're respected for the power of our military and the power of our economy around the world, but we're admired for the power of our ideals. This is about what's right, not politics as usual.

Congressman Joe Sestak, thanks for being back for the last word.

SESTAK: Thanks for having me.

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