May 9, 2009

Tom Ridge was on Hardball Thursday and made a few statements that the Grand Poobah of the GOP---Rush Limbaugh will not like. There's a fight for the heart of the GOP goin' on if you haven't noticed. It's the Limbaughs vs the Ridges and it looks like the wingnut-teabagger brigades led by Rush are winning.

Ridge says the GOP is much too shrill and should not be a party made of teabaggers alone. Then they got into Arlen Specter switching parties and the conversation turned into a surreal Villager comic strip. Apparently Specter should have acted like Davey Crockett and died at the Alamo instead of becoming a "turncoat" and switching his uniform to join the Mexicans. I'm not kidding. I'm no fan of the switch, but these two Villagers like to make believe they know all there is to know about politics, but how could they reasonably make the case that an old time politician is going to willingly lose his seat in the name of Davey Crockett?

So what happened? Was it the Iraq war? Was it Cheney's war over there? What did it to you?

RIDGE: Well, I think both -- I mean, I look at Pennsylvania as a frame of reference, and clearly -- nationally -- you know, there's certainly fundamentals that always guided us as Republicans, limited government, fiscally ethical government, competent government, outcome-based, and understand that government has no money of its own, so when you make an investment, make sure you get the outcomes that you need.

Our message became shrill. We became very divided over these social issues. And at some point in time, we're going to have to be a lot less judgmental...


RIDGE: ... and a lot more tolerant because we will always be the pro-life party. There's no question about that. But we have to...

MATTHEWS: Well, you're pro-choice.

RIDGE: That's right. But it's the notion of, Let's accept certain differences of opinion to understand that these are principled people who disagree with you, and let's treat them with greater civility and respect than, frankly, we have in the past.

MATTHEWS: Did you have any conversation with Arlen Specter the last couple days?

RIDGE: Did not.

MATTHEWS: Did you have any conversation with the governor of Pennsylvania, the current governor?

RIDGE: No, I did not.

MATTHEWS: Did you talk to any top Republicans about this? And what was your assurances -- what was their case that you could win?

RIDGE: Well, I mean, that several people ran polls, and some people even announced they were going to run some polls. And I said, Don't bother, save your money. I mean, if I had taken a poll, I'd have never run for governor and probably wouldn't have run for Congress.

MATTHEWS: But I have seen polls with you ahead.

RIDGE: That's right. But (INAUDIBLE) polls (INAUDIBLE) behind. And polls are a snapshot. You and I have had this discussion before.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but Bob Asher (ph) ran a poll up in Pennsylvania, Opinion Dynamics or whatever it's called, and you came out ahead.

RIDGE: Yes. And -- but it would have been a tough campaign, tough primary, tough general election. It's a contact -- it's a competitive sport. It's a contact sport. I mean, the biggest challenge for me in making this decision -- it was the toughest decision I ever had to make

-- was the fact that I had literally people -- and I haven't been in the political arena in a contest for 10 years -- who wanted to put on their helmet and go in...


RIDGE: ... and compete (ph) with me. And it's very humbling and gratifying at the same time. But at this point in time, I decided it's just not what I want to do.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of people that switch parties? I'm going through the list. I wrote about this years ago. First of all, it never turns out well for most of them.

RIDGE: I don't think any of them.

MATTHEWS: John Lindsey (ph) was one of the most attractive candidates who (INAUDIBLE) became a Democrat, nobody cared about him.

John Connally, a very attractive Democrat, became a Republican, went the other way, disappeared, got one delegate vote. People don't like turncoats generally, do they.

RIDGE: I don't think...

MATTHEWS: "Turncoat" to strong a word for Arlen Specter?

RIDGE: Well, no, I'm not going to use...

MATTHEWS: Is it too...

RIDGE: ... that because I respect Arlen's 30 years of service and...

MATTHEWS: Was it turncoat behavior?

RIDGE: Well, I think it was -- he made a decision that I think he may now regret, given what the Democrats did to him. But I don't second guess -- I mean, that's -- I'm not going to second guess or...

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think of people that change parties?

RIDGE: I would -- here's what I would prefer...


RIDGE: ... instead of answering that question. I would prefer that you stand your ground and fight, fight for what you believe in, in the context of the party that has supported you for 20 to 30 years. People go to the Alamo not because they won, they go because people stood there and fought for something they believed in.


RIDGE: And I would have preferred to see Arlen stand and fight...


RIDGE: ... and not hold -- and hold his ground.

MATTHEWS: I didn't see Davey Crockett putting on a Mexican uniform, did you?

RIDGE: No, I didn't. You know, these are tough issues for us.


RIDGE: And I do hope that my party, at some point in time, is less judgmental...


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