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Arlen Specter: a Sty in the Public Eye

King George III asked an American painter what the victorious George Washington would do now that independence had been won.

The painter knew that, just like his patron, millions of people at home and abroad simply assumed -- and even hoped -- that the general would allow himself to be crowned the first king of America. 'Twas ever thus, no?

However, this painter also knew of Washington's actual plans, and so he told King George, "They say he will return to his farm" -- in the classical spirit personified by Cincinnatus, the Roman emperor whose example of reluctant (and temporary) harkening to the call of duty was greatly admired by the Founders.

“Why, if he does that,” George III famously replied, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

No one will ever exclaim such a thing about Arlen Specter.

Whereas Cincinnatus and Washington wanted to shrug off the heavy burden of public service and humbly return to something resembling private life as soon as they could, Specter is clinging to fame for as long as possible, like a sty in the public eye.

Other supposedly retired politicos have written memoirs (does anyone actually read these, by the way?) and undertake book tours to promote them. However, Arlen Specter is the first of these I'm aware of who is flogging his tome at comedy open mics.

You think I'm kidding.

In other words:

The closest Arlen Specter will ever get to emulating the father of your country will be if somebody opens a comedy club in Cincinnati and calls it "The Farm."

As various scholars have demonstrated, the distinguished signers of the Declaration of Independence had very different ideas about "fame" than we do.

To quote Adam Carolla: "If the Founding Fathers came back today, they would never stop killing themselves."