The Ransom of Red Chief is a short story written by O. Henry in the early 1900’s about a child kidnapped for ransom in a small town by two criminals. But the criminals did not know what they were getting into, as the exuberantly mischievous child (nicknamed “Red Chief”) drove the criminals so crazy that they keep lowering the ransom price. But Red Chief’s parents would have nothing of it; they demanded money from the kidnappers to take their child back.

I loved reading the story as a child, and learned many lessons from it (for example, don’t wish too hard for something, you might get it). Apparently not many Democrats read the Ransom of Red Chief, or they would not have hooted and hollered so loudly when Arlen Specter announced that he was joining the Democratic caucus.

Those of us on the right side of the aisle were familiar with the mercurial Specter, and while we didn’t like the fact that the Democrats might (I repeat, might) have obtained a filibuster-proof majority, we can’t say we were sorry to see him go. He drove us crazy.

Now the Democrats are sounding like the kidnappers of Red Chief. Senior Democratic Senators were upset to learn that Harry Reid had cut a deal allowing Specter (who has been in the Senate since the Ice Age) to keep his seniority. In a deliberative body in which seniority spells power, there must have been plenty of slamming doors upon learning that Specter instantaneously leaped towards the top of the Democratic caucus.

Now the nutroots are besides themselves after hearing Specter’s statement this morning on Meet the Press that Specter never pledged to be a “loyal Democrat” or to support Obama’s agenda:

Specter heatedly denied a Wall Street Journal report that he had told the White House that he would be “a loyal Democrat.”““I have shown, repeatedly, my independence — willing to cross party lines — when I thought the interests of the American people and Pennsylvania required it,” Specter said. “If I see that there are other issues where I feel as a matter of conscience, I will continue a filibuster against legislation.”

Top left-wing bloggers are beginning to sound like the regretful kidnappers of Red Chief. From Matthew Yglesias:

If Arlen Specter was trying to think of things he could say on Meet The Press this morning that would get progressives across the country read [sic] to urge Joe Sestak to mount a primary challenge, he seems to me to have done a good job.

Crooks and Liars was unusually self-reflective:

Here it comes. Been a Democrat for less than a week and already Arlen Specter is backtracking. Is it any clearer that this Faustian bargain made for those fabled 60 votes is no bargain at all for the majority party? …. Holy cow, where is the damn Senate leadership when you need it?

Think Progress noted that the warning signs were there even before the Meet the Press interview:

Specter immediately exhibited his loyalty by restating his opposition to Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel, and by joining every Republican in Congress in voting against the president’s budget.

Washington Monthly, though, got the award for the loudest teeth gnashing, terming Specter a DINO (Democrat in Name Only):

It’s quite a start for Specter’s career in Democratic politics, isn’t it? In the four whole days he’s been a Democrat, Specter has voted against the Democratic budget, rejected a Democratic measure to help prevent mortgage foreclosures and preserve home values, announced his opposition to the president’s OLC nominee, and this morning rejected a key centerpiece of the Democratic health care plan.

For years, Republicans criticized Specter as a RINO — Republican In Name Only. As is turns out, at this point, Specter appears intent on literally being nothing more than a DINO — Democrat In Name Only. Specter doesn’t want to do any of the actual work involved in being a valuable member of his new team, preferring to vote exactly as he used to, only now with a different letter after his name in parentheses.

If the stakes weren’t so high, watching Specter torment his fellow Democrats would be fun. Now, there remains just one more question:

How much will the Democrats pay us to take Specter back?

UPDATE: Harry Reid went back on his promise that Specter could keep his seniority. Can’t wait to see how Specter reacts to that stab in the back. This should be very, very interesting. I wouldn’t count on 60 just yet.

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