Benedict Arlen Learns That Traitors Never Prosper

While contemplating his move from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, Sen. Arlen Specter was promised not only that he would be allowed to keep his committee assignments, but that he would keep the same level of seniority as though he had been first elected as a Democrat back in 1980.

Sorry, Arlen. Only real Democrats get to be senior committee members.

Complaints by rank-and-file Democrats prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go back on his word and Specter is now the most junior Democratic member of the five committees on which he serves: Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Special Aging. Apparently the seniority question will be revisited after the 2010 election.

Specter rankled many Democrats with his stated opposition to their legislative priorities, including the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) -- legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions -- President Obama's budget, and his nominee to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen.

"But if he shows us he's with us on health care, on Supreme Court nominees, on EFCA, some other stuff, then maybe he gets a top or senior spot on some committees in 2011," the aide said.

In other words, they don't trust him.

Specter is far from being the first side-switcher to be treated thusly by his new teammates. Benedict Arnold, a brilliant officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, became bitter because he felt he was not promoted quickly enough and for being court-martialed and found guilty of using the army for his own personal reasons. He also faced tremendous personal debt. What's a sore loser to do? Switch to the other side. Arnold demanded £20,000 in return for delivering West Point to the British. The plot failed when one of his conspirators was captured and Arnold was only paid £6,000.

He eventually settled in London after the war, but didn't find the greatness and respect he so craved. Never really trusted by the British, he wasn't given the important military command he was promised and though he started several business concerns, died as a virtual unknown with little to his name. This sums his motives up rather well:

In the end, Benedict Arnold's "moral failure lay not in his disenchantment with the American cause" for many other officers returned to civilian life disgusted with the decline in republican virtue and angry over their failure to win a guaranteed pension from Congress. Nor did his infamy stem from his transfer of allegiance to the British side, for other Patriots chose to become Loyalists, sometimes out of principle but just as often for personal gain. Arnold's perfidy lay in the abuse of his position of authority and trust: he would betray West Point and its garrison "and if necessary the entire American war effort" to secure his own success. His treason was not that of a principled man but that of a selfish one, and he never lived that down. Hated in America as a consort of "Beelzebub ... the Devil," Arnold was treated with coldness and even contempt in Britain. He died as he lived, a man without a country.