By outlining his near and long-term legislative priorities in a publication read by graying intellectuals and Left Bank expatriates, Arlen Specter may have been trying to tell us something.

His contribution to the May 14 issue of the New York Review of Books comes in at a hefty 5,432 words in which he takes a long slow aim at the executive privileges taken during the Bush administration. Wiretapping under the Terrorist Surveillance Program in particular raises Specter's ire. The future is not safe for democracy, he says, until we reign in executive orders, or "presidential power grabs," for good.

It's not a flag-burning manifesto but, in hindsight, indicative of his announcement on April 28 that he would officially switch to the Democratic Party.

Certainly, he sounded more like a broad-minded globalist--noting our slowness in getting "votes for the women"--than a life-long veteran of the GOP in an interview last year.